People tend to forget that we are a nation founded by immigrants. Few of us can claim our ancestors were native to this land. Everyone here came from somewhere else, whether that be Britain, Czechoslovakia, Germany, France, Poland, Ireland, Japan, or any number of countries that gave us a booming population of hard working and innovative people.
The Statue of Liberty welcomed the masses with her symbol of hope and freedom. New York was the gate keeper for decades of immigration, but eventually the masses disseminated throughout the rest of the country. In Minneapolis, they arrived into downtown by train and no sooner than they were off the platform were they directed towards the neighborhood settled by people sharing their nationality. Upon arrival, Polish, Lebanese, Czech's, and Ukranian's were directed towards Northeast Minneapolis. Their influence on the development of the area is still visible today among the buildings and businesses still operating.
One of the most fascinating stories is represented at 207 East Hennepin Avenue, home to Kramarczuk's Sausage opened in 1954. Wasyl and Anna Kramarczuk emigrated from their homeland of Ukraine to the United States in the 1940's, escaping persecution under Hitler's reign. Anna had fled originally to Austria where she learned how to bake the breads she sold at Kramarczuk's. Their legacy is still alive today in the scratch made piroshky and baked goods created by the family's third generation.
The Melzer Block (308 and 310 East Hennepin Avenue), owned by Leo Melzer, is another Northeast treasure made possible by an immigrant. Leo Melzer fled the Nazi invasion, landing here in Minneapolis. He purchased the buildings one at a time until he owned the entire block. The buildings are now filled with local businesses serving the northeast community.
The oldest continuously operating house of worship in Minneapolis was built by immigrants. Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church was built as the Universalist Church in 1857, but purchased in 1877 by the Catholic French Canadian community who kept it going for many years. Despite almost being closed in 1968, the buildings history and character inspired a fight to save it. They make meat pies, a symbol of their heritage, to raise funds for continued building renovations and restoration.
Taking some time to consider the foundations of this country, we realize immigrants built and shaped each of our communities into what we see today. The buildings still standing, the restaurants still operating, and the churches offering Sunday services were all begun in another time with another generation of immigrants. We must look forward to and welcome the next wave of immigrants that will help our country expand and grow even further.