Monday, March 7, 2016

Happy Pulaski Day

I am of Polish descent. I also am a fan of history - particularly little known aspects of it. So I found this article especially interesting.
Casimir Pulaski was a talented military leader and brilliant battlefield tactician who, in the 1770s, had to leave his native Poland after participating in the unsuccessful wars to oust Stanisław II, a king put in place to rule at the behest of the Russians. While in exile in Paris, Pulaski met and befriended Ben Franklin, who recruited him for the American Revolution's cause.

After initial resistance from Colonists reluctant to place a foreigner in an important military post, Pulaski, serving informally, proved his mettle at Brandywine and Germantown. George Washington was so impressed that he made Pulaski a Brigadier General and the first Commander of the American Cavalry. Soon after this recognition, in 1779, Pulaski died from wounds sustained at the Siege of Savannah.

Flash-forward a century or so to Chicago, which, by the late 1800s, had become a worldwide capital for Polish emigration. In the 1930s, Polish citizens in the city, who had faced discrimination, had taken to championing Casimir Pulaski as an example of a great Polish-American hero in the name of cultural integration and understanding. Tributes to the general sprouted up around town—most notably the renaming of a major thoroughfare "Pulaski Road."

Pulaski's profile in Chicago grew, and in 1977, the Polish American Congress successfully lobbied for a law in Illinois designating the first Monday of March as “Casimir Pulaski Day.” At first, it was merely a commemorative holiday, meaning schools and other institutions stayed open, but in 1985, Pulaski Day became a full public holiday for schools. Depending on where you were in the state, other government offices and some banks would also choose to close on that Monday.
Sadly, as the years passed and and Polish influence in Chicago waned, Pulaski Day became less celebrated. Today, schools and government offices no longer close. However, one notable Chicago resident still  pays homage to Casimir Pulaski.
... in 2009, former Chicago resident Barack Obama signed a joint resolution of the House and the Senate to make Casimir Pulaski an honorary United States citizen.
It's the only worthwhile thing he's done during his time in office.

For more detailed information on the rise and fall of Pulaski Day go here.


Bag Blog said...

I had a good friend when I lived in McAllen, TX who was half Mexican and half Polish. Her husband teased her lots.

CenTexTim said...

Was her last name Gomezski...?

Old 1811 said...

Illinois made Pulaski Day a holiday to pimp the Polish vote, and for no other reason.(Chicago has more Poles than any other city in the world outside Poland.) If you think any politician in Illinois gives a rat's ass about any ethnic group beyond its votes, you're delusional. Always remember the immortal words of the great American philosopher, Alphonse Capone: "Nobody's on the legit."
Pulaski was mortally wounded when he was hit in the thigh by a cannonball at the siege of Savannah, GA, in 1779. He was believed to have died aboard ship while being evacuated to Charleston, SC, and been buried at sea. In Savannah there's a square called Pulaski Square with a marble column bearing a bas-relief of old Casimir on his rearing horse, just before he got hit by the cannonball. A few years ago, in order to repair the column, they removed it from the square to work on it. In excavating under the column, they discovered the skeletal remains of a man in a Revolutionary War uniform, with a smashed thigh. There is, of course, no proof that it's Casimir Pulaski, but . . .

Old NFO said...

Ah... Polacks... Gotta love em! :-)

Well Seasoned Fool said...

One of my "getting to trouble with" buds in the Army was a "ski". Had a Masters in Applied Mathematics. The Army made him a cook.

CenTexTim said...

Old 1811 - Great story about Casimir's skelton. It has to be him, right...?

NFO - no doubt!

WSF - I had a background in computers. The Army put me in the motor pool...