Poles formed one of Cleveland's largest nationality groups
in the twentieth century. Like may European immigrant groups they came
in several distinct periods, 1880s to 1921, and post World War II. The
first Poles to come to the area settled in Berea in the 1860s. However,
it was not until the 1880s that substantial numbers of Poles, largely
from that part of Poland then ruled by Germany, came to the southeast
side of Cleveland founding the community known then as Warszawaz and today
as Slavic Village. Substantial Polish immigration from the Russian sector
of Poland began shortly thereafter and helped boost Cleveland's Polish
population to 35,024 by 1920. At this time Poles lived in a number of
neighborhoods around Cleveland including Kantowa in Tremont, Barbarowa
on Denison Avenue, Poznan, near East 79th and St. Clair, and Krakowa,
on Cleveland's boundary with Cuyahoga Heights. Although there were many
small entrepreneurs within this large community, the majority of Cleveland's
Poles worked in the city's growing heavy industries.
The second wave of Polish immigrants occurred after World
War II when a number of refugees were admitted as displaced persons. Many
were highly educated individuals who were fleeing the Communist takeover
of their country.
By the 1990s, most Poles and people of Polish descent
lived in suburbs such as Parma, Garfield Heights, and Independence. However,
the oldest Polish neighborhood, centered along Fleet Avenue in Cleveland's
Slavic Village remained viable. In 1990, more than 136,000 people in Cuyahoga
County felt that their primary ancestry was Polish.