I was taken on a very special tour of Buffalo yesterday: the old Polish neighborhoods on the East side. Churches and butchers. Sacred and profane. Spirit and flesh. Just how I like it.
While not as horrifying as the cracked-out rubble of the once bustling neighborhoods of Detroit, Polonia is a melancholy place, marked by all the signs of decline and poverty. But with my charming tour guide — a third-generation local –the boarded-up windows, pawn shops, stretches of painted concrete and empty lots became corner bars and sausage factories and shoemakers and polka palaces again.
I would urge you to find someone who can give you a tour of your city. The architecture, even overwritten by generations of changes and decay, tells fascinating stories of how we shape space into communities and barricades. And if you can still get gołąbki, pirogies, and a side of czarnina with a chrusciki chaser, all the better.
I’ll be flying back to Eugene this weekend, and I’m glad to be returning to the town that I love, but I’ve grown fond of Buffalo in the month I’ve spent here. Great libraries, Polish food, fascinating history. Not too shabby. Luckily, I get to return in June!