October has been recognized as Polish American Heritage month since 1981. It is a time to consider the contributions Polish men and women have made in the United States and throughout the world. The first Polish men came to America 410 years ago. They were instrumental to the success of the colony of Jamestown, Virginia in 1608. Almost 200 years later, two Polish military men played critical roles in the American Revolution. In addition, Polish scientists, artists, and politicians such as: Nicholas Copernicus; Frederic Chopin; Marie Curie; and Lech Walesa have had significant impact around the globe.
General Casimer Pulaski and Colonel Tadeusz Kosciuszko are individually honored in the United States this month in commemoration of their deaths on October 9 and 15, respectively. Pulaski, considered “Father of the American Cavalry,” died as a result of wounds suffered during the Siege of Savannah in 1779. He is one of only eight honorary citizens of the United States. Kosciuszko’s contributions were essential in a pivotal battle in defense of Saratoga, N.Y. in 1777. He was made Chief Engineer of West Point, N.Y. (home of the U.S. Military Academy) in 1778.
If you are of Polish descent, there are several ways to observe Polish American Heritage Month. One is to learn about your Polish ancestors and their customs. This is a good time to start or rejuvenate a family tree. Sit down with your Babcia or Dziadek to look at old pictures and ask them what they remember about their family members. Please write the stories down and share them.
There are a couple of ways to celebrate the Polish American Heritage with others. An option is to attend a Pulaski Day commemoration on 5th Avenue in New York City on Sunday, October 7 or, more conveniently, in Northampton, Mass. on October 8. Another is to enjoy a polka party on Sunday afternoons at the Polish American Citizen’s Club in Ludlow, Mass. Closer to home, stop by Kent Memorial Library to take in a special exhibit that will highlight some Polish arts and key people in Polish American history. Also, the Polish Heritage Society, which keeps the culture alive, meets in Suffield at 10 a.m. on the first Wednesday of each month from September through June. See a separate article below for details about the meeting on October 3.