What Casimir Pulaski Day means to Chicago
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This story was originally published on March 5, 2018.
Casimir Pulaski Day is a legal holiday in Illinois. It celebrates the birthday of Pulaski, a Polish-born soldier who made a significant contribution to American independence.
The day is traditionally celebrated within Polish-American communities with various events including group gatherings, street parades and public ceremonies.
Chicago is known for its large population of Polish immigrants who came to the United States during the 19th century. One of the city’s main arteries, Pulaski Road, is named after him.
On Feb. 26, 1986, Mayor Harold Washington introduced a resolution to designate the first Monday in March as “Casimir Pulaski Day.”
It was once said that Chicago had the largest Polish city outside of Warsaw, the country’s capital city. In 2015, WBEZ reported that wasn’t the case.
The observance of Pulaski’s birthday by the State of Illinois came about in 1983 when Chicago’s Polish population wanted a national holiday honoring one of their heroes in same way African-Americans honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
“There was a feeling the white ethnic community should also have a day, and in Illinois, it made sense to make it Pulaski Day, because the Polish community is so large in Chicago,” Dominic Pacyga, a Columbia College historian told WBEZ.
Pulaski was known as the “Father of American Cavalry.”
He met with Benjamin Franklin, who enlisted his help with the American effort in the Revolutionary War. Pulaski fought against the British troops at the Battle of Brandywine on Sept. 11, 1777. Due to his bravery in that battle, he was rewarded with a commission as brigadier general and the command of all American cavalry.
In 2009, Congress passed a joint resolution conferring honorary U.S. citizenship to Pulaski. President Barack Obama signed the bill on Nov. 6, 2009.