Helena Madej opened the restaurant in 1981, after arriving from Krakow at age 28. She told us her grandfather first came to Chicago in 1906, but returned to Poland in 1932. Madej's English is grammatically shaky, but perfectly clear.
"Everything is fresh," she said. "We cooking everything. And white borscht, this is recipe my grandma. I'm from big family, because I have four brothers and three sisters. This was hard time, after war, she don't have a lot of money. Just white borscht and bread, and give couple pieces everybody, and we go to school."
She laughed happily at the memory.
Writer Jamie Katz, who reports on arts and culture, lives in New York City. Photographer Brian Smale's home base is Seattle.