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.