Before moving to Illinois, I never never heard of Pulaski Day. But it's a celebrated day in Illinois, with public schools closed, many private schools closed, libraries and some other state institutions closed as well.
Pulaski was a household name for us living in Maryland. Pulaski Highway, the Pulaski monument in Patterson Park (in Highlandtown, where a once thriving Polish American community used to reside by the thousands).
But, we never had off from school for him. In fact, unless your Polish parents made it a point to tell you who he was, you didn't know.
So, who was Kazimierz Pułaski? Or, his Americanized name, Casimir Pulaski?
He was a rebel. A criminal. A man on the run. An idealist. A life saver. And much much more.
Pulaski was born in Poland's Warsaw, where my Dziadek's family comes from pre-WWII. He lived through the Partitions.
He fought bravely against the Russians, thus becoming a rebel and outlaw.
When he fled to France, he met LaFayette and Benjamin Franklin, whom he befriended. Franklin highly recommended him to George Washington. He moved to the USA, where he saved Washington's life in Brandywine.
He is considered "the father of American Cavalry". His efforts in the American Revolution are considered to be extremely important. He died in service at the Battle of Savannah.
Today, on Windy City Live, he was remembered. Lech Walesa made an appearance along with a Polish immigrant fitness trainer who prepared a Polish influenced dish. Polish music was played and the episode presented Poland in it's positive and modern light.
Except for one element. I saw no mention of the train accident that had occurred over the weekend in Poland, which claimed the lives of 16 individuals (may they rest in peace) and injured 58 others. (See also: TVP article in Polish)
All in all, I think it was a fitting tribute and great way to keep many inspired to stay connected to their roots. And to remember how diverse Chicago, and American history, really is.