Posted: 09/30/2022 17:11:12
NORTHAMPTON — October is Polish-American Heritage Month, and while the Pulaski Day Parade has yet to return, the public will still have the opportunity to celebrate in the city.
The Polish Heritage Committee is holding a ceremony Monday at 1 p.m. that begins with a flag raising outside the memorial building on Main Street before moving to adjacent Pulaski Park for the laying of a wreath at the monument to General Casimir Pulaski.
Mayor Gina-Louise Sciarra plans to issue a proclamation in honor of the occasion. Joanne Gruszkos, Chair of the Board of the Chicopee Polish Center for Discovery and Learning, will deliver a keynote address.
Fred Zimnoch, committee member and president of the Polish Genealogical Society of Massachusetts, said the community has been an important part of Northampton since the late 19th century and several local mayors and legislators have Polish heritage.
“It’s a way of reminding people that we’re still here,” Zimnoch said. “We have contributed to the country since the time of the Revolution.”
He said the ceremony and other celebrations served as a reminder of Pulaski’s life and ultimate sacrifice. A freedom fighter in Poland, Pulaski sailed to the United States to fight in the Revolutionary War and is often called the “Father of the American Cavalry”. He was wounded in action and died in October 1779.
For 30 years, the committee organized the Pulaski Day Parade on what is otherwise known as Columbus Day or, in Northampton and other communities, Indigenous Peoples Day.
The parade was suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but Zimnoch said the hope was to bring the event – which he called “unique in Massachusetts” – back to the city l ‘next year.
Instead, on October 10, the public is invited to a memorial mass in memory of Pulaski at St. Valentine’s Polish National Catholic Church, 127 King St., beginning at 10 a.m.
Governor Charlie Baker plans to issue a proclamation honoring the lives of Pulaski and other Polish-born figures who have had a major impact on Massachusetts and the country. The proclamation notes that New England’s first female physician, Dr. Marie Zakrzeska, founded a hospital for women and children in Boston in 1863.
“Polish Americans continue to be a vital part of the rich diversity of the Commonwealth by contributing meaningfully to all aspects of daily life,” according to a copy of Baker’s proclamation provided by the heritage committee, “including education, medicine, commerce, agriculture, public service and technology.”
Brian Steele can be contacted at [email protected]