Polish American Heritage Month – October more info
Poles first came to prominence in American life during the Revolutionary War. The colonies’ battle for independence from Britain fired the imagination of adventurers and freedom fighters from around the world, and more than 100 Poles came to fight on the side of the rebels. Two of them—Count Kazimierz Pulaski and Tadeusz Kósciuszko—had experience in the independence struggles of their homeland and were recruited by Benjamin Franklin to help lead the fledgling American army. Both played pivotal roles in the colonists’ victory and were hailed as heroes of the new republic. Towns and counties throughout the U.S. now bear their names, and Pulaski Day celebrations are held every year in Polish American cities.
The Polish people’s own fight for independence was less successful, and their national identity came under harsh attack. By the 19th century, the ancient state of Poland had been conquered and divided up by three imperial powers—the Russian, Prussian, and Austro-Hungarian empires. Although they were separated by distance and political barriers, Poles were unified by a belief in their own independence, in their freedom to worship as Roman Catholics, and in their distinct identity as a people. The difficulty of maintaining this identity under hostile imperial regimes led many Poles to seek freedom overseas.
One of the earliest permanent settlements of Poles in U.S. sprang up on the Texas plains, where a few hundred men, women, and children from Silesia founded the town of Panna Maria in 1854. The small farm community grew and thrived, and soon more and more Poles were making their way to the shores of America.