Who the &@#$ is Casimir Pulaski?
Granted, Polish-American Casimir Pulaski’s name is plastered all over Chicago, and we’re one of the few cities that (since 1977) officially celebrates Casimir Pulaski Day on the first Monday of March. (Only areas with high populations of Poles celebrate the holiday, and Chicago is known as Polonia, in part because it has the largest population of Poles outside of Warsaw). But who was the guy?
Casimir Pulaski was a cavalry officer born March 4, 1747 in Poland. At 15, he joined the resistance movement when Russia tried to interfere in Poland’s political affairs, eventually leading Polish troops against Russian forces. As his heroism and military genius spread throughout Europe and the world, he was quickly cast as an outlaw by Russia, and exiled to France.
There, he met Benjamin Franklin and wrote to George Washington volunteering his military services saying “I came here where freedom is being defended; to serve it, and to live or die for it.” He went on to fight brilliantly in the Battle of Brandywine Creek and others, and joined
Abe General Ben Lincoln in the successful siege to recapture Savannah from the British. After his death from injuries in that battle, he was named the “Father of the American Cavalry.” He remains one of the well-known figures of the Revolutionary War and represents the legions of non-U.S. born military heroes.
On Sunday, March 2, the Consulate General of the Republic of Poland in Chicago is holding a variety of events at Navy Pier to commemorate the day.
First, there are opening ceremonies with the Polish Scouting Association of Illinois singing US and Polish anthems and a speech by the Consul General of Poland, Zygmunt Matynia. At 2pm, there’s a folk band; then the smoky-voiced Polish jazz singer (and Green Mill regular) Grazyna Auguscik will perform at 5pm with her ensemble.
On Monday 3, the Polish Roman Catholic Union will have an “Official State of Illinois Pulaski Day Celebration” at 10am at 984 N Milwaukee Ave. It’s open to the public and will include "speeches by civic and Polonian leaders, entertainment, awards, wreath laying ceremony and reception."
BTW, this holiday is not to be confused with General Pulaski Memorial Day, which marks his death at the Siege of Savannah on October 11, 1779 and is a U.S. holiday (via presidential proclamation, GW Bush, weirdly), honoring him as a hero of the American Revolution. That one commemorates his death, not life, ya see? Also, there's a whole fiasco about his being exhumed a few years ago, and then given a huge military burial and second funeral in 2005. But anyway, happy Casimir Pulaski Day! Don't forget to eat some Polish food. (Editor's note: And drink some Polish booze!)