Poles flocked from all over the tri-state area to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in an eagle’s swoop of red and white to strut their Polish Pride Oct. 14 at the Pulaski Day Parade.
The Drexel University Polish Society marched in the parade as the largest represented Philadelphia college Polish presence. The DUPS keeps Polish culture alive at Drexel by hosting traditional events, such as trips to see popular Polish musicians, religious celebrations, volunteer work, and of course, eating Polish food.
“My favorite part of the parade when I was little was getting to wave at the TV, but now I think it’s seeing just how many Polish-Americans there are out there and that they’re not embarrassed to show off their heritage,” Dominique Gnatowski, a chemistry major who is the society’s president and founder, wrote in an email. “I also enjoy walking alongside my alma mater, St. John Cantius Polish School. It’s almost like when I look at those kids with their bored expressions, knowing that they were forced to be there by their parents and their teachers just like me so many years ago, and then, here I am today, organizing a group from my college to go out of their own free will to promote our heritage,” Gnatowski continued.
Although most people know October as Breast Cancer Awareness Month, it is also Polish-American Heritage Month. During this month there are many activities to celebrate Polish-American culture, including special religious services, music and dance recitals, events to honor noted men and women of honor in Poland, and coloring contests.
Every year, the parade is held in memory of Kazimierz Pulaski. According to the Pulaski Day Parade Website, Kazimierz Pulaski was a Polish general who immigrated to North America as a soldier of fortune. He saved George Washington’s life in the Revolutionary War and became a general in the Continental Army.
The parade crowd included local Polish families, members of local Polish societies, string marching bands, scout troops, dancers, and hundreds of students from local schools.
Many of the DUPS members have been going to the parade for years. For Piotr Jurgielewicz, a pre-junior biology major who is also a member of DUPS, this was his second time walking in the parade.
“It’s a nice feeling to be part of a big community such as this one. I also get to catch up with friends that I haven’t seen in a long time,” Jurgielewicz said.
October isn’t over yet, so there is still some time to drink vodka, eat pierogies and celebrate your Polish-American heritage. For those Poles who are interested in joining DUPS, keep your eyes open for their upcoming events, including ice skating at Penn’s Landing with Temple’s Polish club and an Andrezejki party to celebrate before the beginning of Advent.