O’HARE — A Polish-American organization is looking for Chicago-themed piggy banks to add to a growing collection that recently made its debut in a Polish museum.
The Polish American Congress Illinois Division — which is based in Park Ridge and meets at the Roman Catholic of Our Lady Mother of the Church at O’Hare every month — is rounding up the piggy banks on request from the mayor of Stepnica, a small town in northwest Poland. A new museum called Piggy Bank recently opened in the Polish town, displaying 1,800 of the banks.
The collection was donated by Stepnica resident Irena Kaliska, who has been amassing piggy banks for more than 30 years, Mayor Andrew Wyganowski said in a letter to the group. Before retirement, Kaliska worked as a hairdresser in a salon she owned, through which she received piggy banks from the United States, Canada, Peru, Mexico, Cuba, Brazil, Taiwan, Japan and China.
Kaliska decided to donate the collection to Stepnica due to health issues, according to the mayor’s letter. The collection is believed to be the largest in Europe.
“We would like to constantly increase our collection,” Wyganowski wrote. Michael Niedzinski, president of The Polish American Congress, translated excerpts of the letter for Block Club Chicago. “I kindly ask you to send us piggy banks from your region. We would especially be grateful for piggy banks with an interesting regional shape.”
Niedzinski said anyone can submit a piggy bank. Having Polish connections or heritage is not necessary. His organization is asking anyone in Illinois and Chicago to donate piggy banks that represent the area and its culture.
Niedzinski sees the Chicago-Poland connection as an indirect networking opportunity that can help people expand their perspectives. It’s also an ode to the city’s Polish population, which largely resides on the Far Northwest Side.
“It’s an interesting concept, and potentially people can communicate with other parts of the world,” Niedzinski said.
Anyone who wants to donate piggy banks can bring them to the group’s office, 110 Higgins Road, Unit 2 in Park Ridge.
Illinois Treasurer Michael Frerichs donated a piggy bank to the collection: a blue bank with the Illinois State Seal.
“As an honorary member of the Polish American Congress’ Illinois Division, I’m glad to do my part and assist in this effort to strengthen the bonds between Illinois and Poland,” Frerichs said in a statement to Block Club.
The call for piggy banks falls in line with the long historical connection between Chicago and Poland, said local author and historian Daniel Pogorzelski, who works for Frerichs.
“During Poland’s many struggles for independence, Chicago’s Polonia has done what they can to help, which often meant sending care packages, sometimes on an epic scale such as during World War II and the rise of the Solidarity Movement,” Pogorzelski said. “This ties into that longstanding tradition, albeit in a more jovial way.”
Pogorzelski said Chicago also benefitted from similar charity. After 2-3 million books were lost in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, people from all over sent books to Chicago, which launched the Chicago Public Library’s collection.
The Polish museum is accepting piggy bank donations. For more information, email Niedzinski at Michael.firstname.lastname@example.org.
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