by Christel T. Maass
Roman B.J. Kwasniewski, son of Polish immigrants, used his camera to document life in Milwaukee’s Polish community during the early decades of the twentieth century. His images transform the particulars of everyday life at local businesses, in homes and classrooms, and at cultural, social, and recreational events into powerful depictions of the immigrant experience. With an introduction by well-known Milwaukee historian John Gurda, this book offers rare insight into the daily lives of a proud people struggling to maintain their heritage while living in a time of rapid change.
While Kwasniewski’s camera captured the sights and sounds of Milwaukee at the turn of the century from the perspective of a single ethnic group in a single neighborhood, his photographs resonate far beyond Milwaukee’s Polish South Side. They illuminate the particulars of American life during the early decades of the twentieth century. “What we see, reflected in the distant mirror,” says John Gurda, “is ourselves.”