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Polish Parade
Nowy Dziennik
October 7, 2002

By Marcin Szczepanski and Wojciech T. Mleczko

Nearly 100,000 people attended the 65th Pulaski Day Parade, marching through the streets of Manhattan last Sunday. Polish people like Ludwik Gil have been attending the parade every year for the last 55 years. [Casimir Pulaski was a Polish hero of the Revolutionary War, who was killed in the battle of Savannah in 1799.]

Sixty-two year old Ludwik Gil has marched ever since he was seven, and for the last 47 years has worn a tail coat and a high hat during the event. Gil, a teacher and a former council member in Passaic, New Jersey, was the Grand Marshall in 1980 and last Sunday wore the honorary Marshall’s ribbon across his chest.

Frank Kowalinski, another parade veteran, first attended the event in 1949. He missed only three parades over the last 53 years. "It was when they sent me to fight in Korea," he said.

This year’s Grand Marshall Stanislaw Trojniak pales in comparison to the two mentioned above, although this was his 17th parade. He has been waiting to be the march’s leader for two years, since the last year’s procession was cancelled due to the September 11 attacks. Trojniak and his wife Maria live in Passaic and always come to the event dressed as Gorals [people living in the mountainous region in the southern Poland who are famous for their unique attire and distinctive dialect].

Governor George Pataki has some experience as well when it comes to marching in the Polish parade. He has participated for the last two years, and in the past he had attended the Polish parades in Buffalo. "It’s an honor for me to be able to march in the Polish parade. I am glad that the strength of the Polish community in New York is growing," he told Nowy Dziennik on Sunday.

Among the honorary guests was another parade veteran Gienia Theresa Zagorek, who sat on top of a red Cabriolet with a sign: Woman-Grand Marshall of 1975 Parade.

Most people who marched on Sunday, however, have just begun practicing in the tradition of representing Poland on the streets of New York. This was the fourth parade for Piotr Habrzyk, the president of Polish Students Organization in New York, and the second one for Piotr Kszczot, an artist from New York Dance and Art Innovation, who has exhibited three of his collages in the city.

The parade was also an important event for Polish students, artists, scouts, war veterans, activists, and those who make up the diversified Polish community in New York. For many it was a great opportunity to meet with fellow countrymen and proudly march together along the most famous avenue in New York.

The Day Before

On Saturday night preceding the parade, over a 1,000 people attended a traditional mass in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, which began with a performance by a group of Gorals and a group of Pulaski’s cadets. The participants were greeted by Archbishop of New York Edward Egan and the Archbishop of Detroit Edmund Szoka, who is of Polish descent and is fluent in the language of his parents.

A large number of Polish clergy working in the metropolitan area of New York also attended the mass, which was directed by Father Peter Zendzian. The members of the Pulaski Parade Committee occupied the front pews, along with honorary guests like Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly and the representative of the Polish Consulate Agnieszka Magdziak-Miszewska. The excerpters from the Bible were read by Grand Marshall Trojniak and former Marshall Jacob Krowicki.

Festival Singers, a choir directed by Janusz Sporek, and soloists Halina Kalitka and Irena Jarocka performed during the nearly two-hour long ceremonial mass.

Translated from Polish by Joanna Sufin

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