Northampton’s Polish community honors Casimir Pulaski with parade

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  • Sharing flag duties, Nadia Conrad, 9, of Monson, far right, and Lucy Gomes, 6, of Belchertown, followed by Nadia's brother, Philip, 5, cross Main Street into Northampton's Pulaski Park during the Pulaski Day parade on Sunday. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • A likeness of Gen. Casimir Pulaski on a monument in his honor gazes over the shoulder of Frank Chmura of Holyoke, right. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • State Sen. Jo Comerford addresses the Pulaski Day celebration in Northampton's Pulaski Park on Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Sisters Christine Majewski, left, and Carol Landry, both of Easthampton, march in the 33rd annual Pulaski Day Parade in Northampton on Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019. Their parents, Casimir and Caroline Kuczynski, founded the Polish Heritage Committee of Northampton which organizes the parade and celebrations. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Sen. Ed Markey says a quick hello to Carly Liquori, the reigning Miss Polonia Massachusetts. Left, the Rovatti Family Polka Band plays in the parade. STAFF PHOTOS/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Nadia Conrad, 9, of Monson, and her brother, Philip, 5, hidden just behind her, share one end of a banner for the Polish Center for Discovery and Learning, in Chicopee, before Northampton's 33rd annual Pulaski Day Parade steps off from Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Catholic Church on Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • U.S. Sen. Ed Markey said a quick hello to Carly Liquori, left, of Southwick, the reigning Miss Polonia Massachusetts, during a brief visit by the junior senator from Massachusetts to the start of the 33rd annual Pulaski Day Parade on King Street in Northampton on Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Iwona Poznansky accepts a plaque on behalf of her father, Pulaski Day Parade Marshal Wieslaw Olszak, who was unable to attend due to an illness in the family. Photographed in Northampton on Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Gabriella Kukwa, 9, left, Thea Slota, 8, of Ludlow and Ava Cowles, 8, of Wilbraham watch the Pulaski Day parade in Northampton's Pulaski Park on Sunday. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Ron Lech, associate director of the Polish Center of Discovery and Learning at Elms College, gives the keynote address at the 33rd annual Pulaski Day celebration in Northampton's Pulaski Park on Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Sisters Christine Majewski, foreground left, and Carol Landry, both of Easthampton, lay a wreath at the General Casimir Pulaski monument in Northampton's Pulaski Park during the 33rd annual Pulaski Day Parade on Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019. Their parents, Casimir and Caroline Kuczynski, founded the Polish Heritage Committee of Northampton which organizes the parade and celebrations. At right, holding the Polish flag, is Frank Chmura of Holyoke. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Ron Lech, associate director of the Polish Center of Discovery and Learning at Elms College, gives the keynote address at the 33rd annual Pulaski Day celebration in Northampton's Pulaski Park on Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Ava Cowles, left, 8, of Wilbraham and Thea Slota, 8, of Ludlow watch celebrations in Pulaski Park after marching in Northampton's 33rd annual Pulaski Day Parade on Sunday, Oct. 20, 2019. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 10/20/2019 10:17:56 PM

NORTHAMPTON — A sea of Polish flags, people in colorful traditional Polish clothing and several marching bands filled the downtown streets on Sunday.

Hundreds took part in the 33rd annual Pulaski Day parade, marching from St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church on King Street to Pulaski Park to celebrate Polish heritage and General Casimir Pulaski. 

Pulaski came to the U.S. from Poland to fight in the Revolutionary War after he was exiled from Poland. He became a general and was known as “the father of American cavalry.” He died in battle in 1779 and is remembered as a celebrated general. In 2009, he was named an honorary U.S. citizen — a distinction that has been given to just eight people.

October is Polish American Heritage Month, and on Sunday, Mayor David Narkewicz declared Oct. 20, 2019, Gen. Casimir Pulaski Day in Northampton. 

“He’s a hero not only to the Polish but to the U.S. — he’s the father of the American calvary,” Robert Gibowicz, chair of the Polish Heritage Committee of Northampton, said of Pulaski. 

Gibowicz wore a colorful cape that is the traditional dress for those in the mountains of Poland, he said. Noting that he is a second-generation American from Poland, Gibowicz, said, “Polish blood is running through my veins. It’s a special day for all the Polish celebrating … and appropriate of the contributions that so many Polish people have made in the U.S.”

Marchers including groups representing the Polish Genealogical Society of Massachusetts, the Polish Center of Discovery and Learning in Chicopee, and the Polish National Credit Union. 

Bands in the parade included students from Hopkins Academy and the Marquis of Granby Ancient Fyfe and Drum Corps, a group of youth that recreates an 18th-century military unit. 

Miss Polonia Massachusetts, 18-year-old Carly Liquori, carried a bouquet of roses and waved at parade watchers from a convertible. Liquori is from Southwick and won a statewide pageant for people of Polish descent, but had never been to the Northampton celebration. “I have to say, I’m blown away by how beautiful the celebration is,” she said. “It’s absolutely incredible to see the strength of the Polish community in the state of Massachusetts.”

Public officials including Sen. Jo Comerford (D-Northampton), Northwest District Attorney David E. Sullivan, and City Council members Gina-Louise Sciarra and Jim Nash attended the event. U.S. Senator Ed Markey also made an appearance. 

Wieslaw Olszak was the grand marshal of this year’s parade but was unable to attend due to a sick family member. 

Olszak was imprisoned for his work in the Solidarity trade union, a group that fought communist rule in Poland, and then immigrated to the U.S. with his family first living in Georgia and later in the Valley. 

“Casimir Pulaski is one of my greatest heroes,” Olszak said in a statement read by James Kwiecinski at the celebration following the parade. “Just like me and my family, he was exiled.”

Gibowicz spoke at the end of the event about the importance of Polish immigrant ancestors. “They are the foundation of our roots in America. Our lives would be much different if they did not endure the challenges of immigration from Poland,” he said. “Their names will not appear in history books, but their efforts impacted American history and without their sacrifices, our country would not have developed as it did.”

Greta Jochem can be reached at gjochem@gazettenet.com.


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