Northampton to mark Polish-American Heritage Month with Monday ceremony

  • Chris Majewski and Bob Gibowicz of the Polish Heritage Committee help raise the Polish and American flags in front of Memorial Hall in Northampton in 2021 during a ceremony to mark October as Polish-American Heritage Month. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 9/30/2022 5:11:12 PM

NORTHAMPTON — October is Polish-American Heritage Month, and although the Pulaski Day Parade has not yet made its return, the public will still have opportunities to celebrate in the city.

The Polish Heritage Committee is hosting a 1 p.m. ceremony on Monday that starts with a flag-raising outside the Memorial Building on Main Street before moving over to the 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 honoring the occasion. Joanne Gruszkos, board chair for the Polish Center for Discovery and Learning in Chicopee, will deliver a keynote address.

Fred Zimnoch, a 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 mayors and local lawmakers had Polish heritage.

“This is one way to remind people that we’re still here,” Zimnoch said. “We’ve contributed to the country since the time of the Revolution.”

He said the ceremony and other observances serve as a reminder about 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 battle and died in October 1779.

For 30 years, the committee held the Pulaski Day Parade on what is otherwise known as Columbus Day or, in Northampton and other communities, Indigenous Peoples’ Day.

The parade has been on hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but Zimnoch said the hope is to bring the event — which he called “unique in Massachusetts” — back to the city next year.

Instead, on Oct. 10, the public is invited to a memorial Mass in remembrance of Pulaski at St. Valentine Polish National Catholic Church, 127 King St., starting at 10 a.m.

Gov. Charlie Baker plans to issue a proclamation honoring the lives of Pulaski and other prominent people with Polish heritage who have made major impacts on Massachusetts and the country. The proclamation notes that the first female physician in New England, Dr. Marie Zakrzeska, founded a hospital for women and children in Boston in 1863.

“Polish Americans continue to be a vital part of the Commonwealth’s rich diversity by contributing significantly 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 reached at
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