Forging a Polish America
Mieczyslaw Haiman spent his life forging the idea of the United States as a second Polish homeland. Born near Lviv in the former Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1888, Haiman emigrated to the United States in 1913. After years writing poetry and editing Polish language newspapers, he embarked upon a career mapping the historical connections between his ancestral homeland and the U.S. as librarian for the Polish Roman Catholic Union of America (PRCUA). As he grew the PRCUA’s collection, he became the founder, first archivist, and curator of the Polish Museum of America in Chicago.
As archivist and curator, Haiman seized an opportunity to physically link Poland to his new American home. In September 1939, five months into the New York World’s Fair, the cloud of war loomed over the festivities as Germany invaded Poland. Determined to preserve the Polish items at the Fair, Haiman and his colleagues purchased three-fourths of the Polish Pavilion’s exhibits. They remain in the Polish Museum’s collection where Haiman continued work identifying objects and writing to ensure the stories of Polonia were preserved and widely shared.
“Kolednicy” (“Carolers”) Sculpture
Sculpture by Karol Tchorek from the Polish Pavilion at the 1939 World’s Fair.
Courtesy of The Polish Museum of America