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Florian Catholic Church. Russell Industrial Center. The Murder Mystery. Polish Art Center. But now, after decades of decline, that has plummeted to about 10 percent, as Poles have moved up and out to the suburbs and Yemenis and Bangladeshis have replaced them. Many of those former Polish residents still flock back here each week for the Polish language Mass at St.
Florian Roman Catholic Church. It's a majestic neo-Gothic structure, with beautiful stained-glass windows and an elaborate turquoise spire that rises high above Poland Street. It's a cathedral. It just speaks to you," explains parishioner Alek Fidler — "like the one on the roof! Fidler and his wife both immigrated to Hamtramck from Poland. They met while working minimum wage factory jobs, cutting leather to make seats for cars. Their children were born in Hamtramck, but five years ago, the family moved to a nearby suburb, looking for better schools and a different environment.
The Hamtramck they knew had changed. That loss of identity can be uncomfortable. Florian's priest, Miroslaw Frankowski, recalls his first impression of this city when he arrived in Hamtramck about 10 years ago.
Yeah, it seemed like I'm working in Middle East. In Hamtramck streets, it's common now to see women fully veiled, with only their eyes exposed. The amplified Muslim call to prayer was a source of controversy here some years back, and still can raise hackles. The sound, it's not from our culture," says Frankowski. The year-old priest can draw on his own experience as an outsider. He came to the U. That's why I do understand the immigrants.
I know that they face difficult times. Not only because it's a totally different culture here, but because there's still love for the homeland. The Poles live side by side with Muslims, explains Father Frankowski: friendly, but mostly separate. He says he loves trying interesting fruits he's never seen before, and he's a big fan of hummus. Hamtramck is now closing in on a majority Muslim population, with Bangladeshis and Yemenis making up the largest immigrant groups. There are more than a dozen mosques around the small city, one of them in a surprising spot: the former American Axle factory.
The factory closed down — thousands of jobs, gone to Mexico — and t he Abu-Bakr Al-Siddique Islamic Center opened up in one of the bright blue cavernous warehouses still standing there. Right across the street from that mosque, we stop in at the home of the Hadwan family. They live in a new, three-story brick house, big enough for three generations of Hadwans to live comfortably. Salah Hadwan, 27, takes us inside to meet his family, and right away, his mother is brewing tea for us and his brothers get busy ordering takeout Yemeni food for lunch.
On the refrigerator, right next to Arabic script reading "God is the greatest," there's a red, white and blue oval sticker printed with two words: "I voted. Salah Hadwan's father put that sticker there. My dad wakes us up as soon as the polls open. And if you're not at home, he'll call you all day. Soon, we gather — sitting cross-legged on the carpet — to talk over plates of chicken stew, roasted lamb and wedges of sweet, flaky bread.
Salah, who goes by Sal, has invited two Yemeni friends over to join the conversation: Nabil Nagi, 32, and Yunus Wasel, All of them are the sons of proud autoworkers. Their fathers or grandfathers spent decades working the assembly lines for the Big Three. No one's gonna pick on you, and it was a good paying job at the time.
Here's a signpost of just how shared the immigrant experiences can be in a place like Hamtramck: it turns out that Salah Hadwan's father cut leather for car seats in the very same factory as Alek Fidler, the Polish parishioner we met earlier at St. And just as we heard Father Frankowski profess his fondness for hummus, these young Yemeni men excitedly describe their love of a Polish delicacy: custard-filled paczki, the doughnuts that are a famous Hamtramck tradition.
Food is, as always, the great uniter. As we talk in the Hadwans' home, our conversation turns to the sharp, anti-Muslim rhetoric that has erupted around the country and the Trump administration's travel ban, which specifically targets Yemen. Salah and his friends are all U.
Manual Hamtramck (Then and Now)
But it still stings, they say, and creates fear. They all start talking at once: "a traditional Yemeni way of communicating," Hadwan tells us with a smile. Hadwan is a registered nurse, working in the intensive care unit of a nearby hospital. He tells us about a patient he took care of who mistakenly thought "Sal" on his nametag meant that he was a fellow Italian.
Assuming he had found a sympathetic ear, the patient started bashing Muslims, saying that Arabs are all terrorists and should all be deported; that Islam would doom the world. Salah held his tongue until it was time for the patient to be discharged. Only then did he tell him that he is Muslim. But at the same time, it was hard. It was like betrayal in a way.
It shouldn't have bothered you and hurt, because we know who we are. Yunus Wasel jumps into the conversation: "OK, we're all proud Americans. From Day 1 to right now. Some of the best street parking options are on Jos. Campau south of the race start, and Holbrook west of the race start. Please be aware that residents have driveways and alleys and access to both of these must remain clear at all times.