When I moved to Illinois and began teaching in the public schools I was blessed with this additional holiday added to our school calendar – Casimir Pulaski Day. I couldn’t pronounce it but, whatever, no school on a Monday? Fine with me! I realized he must have been some big wig guy in Illinois ’cause there is a street named after him and everything.
Today is Casimir Pulaski Day. We had school. I was bummed. Also, it was the beginning of PARCC testing (so not fun) and I was bitter that I didn’t sleep last night. All of these forces combined to create an aggravated Google search of this Casimir fella, what makes you so special my Polish pal?
I found a non-Wikipedia source to spill the beans about this guy and his Polish/Midwest accomplishments. I settled in my computer chair, arms crossed and a scowl on my face. I was ready to be unimpressed, unmoved. After all, I’ve just spent 3 weeks reading countless biographies on kick-ass women in preparation for Women’s History Month! This guy’s got nothin’ on Eleanor and Anne.
Well, turns out he was a pretty cool guy. By the time I was halfway through the mini-biography I was trying to tell myself to stay in character, stay bitter. So what? He led a couple great battles in the Revolutionary war – it’s not like he stopped it or anything. I kept reading, expecting the next paragraph to divulge how he was really a womanizer and a drunk and a racist. Oh, no? He helped pay for war supplies for his men when Congress wouldn’t approve it? I can relate. So basically this guy was recruited by Benjamin Franklin to help in the Revolutionary War. He won a bunch of battles and was appointed Brigadier General. He died at age 34 in the Battle of Savannah. He never stepped foot in Illinois.
So, what the h-e-double hockey sticks? Why did I used to have a day off of school because of this guy? And a better question lingers – why do I not STILL have a day off of school because of this guy? Well, back to the Google Machine.
I stumble upon an article dedicated to the rise of Casimir Pulaski Day in Chicago. Turns out we are the only place that does this thing. In the 1970’s the Polish American Congress in Chicago took up the cause and finally won a day dedicated to this dude who’d never been in Illinois but stood for having contributed to making our country great. It was all a part of the ethnic pride movements. Each ethnic group and racial group needed a person or persons they could be proud of for having developed our nation.
So, alright, hats of to you Mr. Pulaski. But, to you Illinois Government, I’d like my Monday off of school back. The Polish community deserves it!