The latest census data tells us that Cook County has 900,000 inhabitants of Polish origin in Cook County. about one in seven. Every October America celebrates Polish Heritage Month, a time when American Poles and Poles around the world take time to reflect on Poles’ contributions to our daily lives through the world. story.
Beginning in 1619, Polish immigrants to Captain John Smith’s Virginia colony brought the principle of human dignity to these shores when they staged a non-violent work stoppage to gain the right to vote and land ownership. Dr Alexander Kurcyusz founded the first university in New Amsterdam (now New York) in 1659.
Our independence was greatly aided by the contributions of two Polish warriors: Tadeusz Kosciuszko played a pivotal role in the success of the battles of Saratoga and West Point, where he is honored with a statue in his honor. More significant, perhaps, was his will in which he left money for the education of freed slaves. General Casimir Pulaski, the father of the American cavalry proudly proclaimed: “I come to risk everything for the freedom of America.
And every time we look at the sky, we can’t help but see our solar system, first described by Polish astronomer Nicolai Copernicus.
Frédéric Chopin has offered us compositions which still evoke the beauty of complex music, and which have inspired countless popular songs, including “Till the End of Time”, “Could it be magical? and “I’m still chasing rainbows.”
Ralph Modjeski, known as America’s greatest bridge builder, gave us the San Francisco Bay Bridge and the Detroit-Windsor Bridge.
During World War II, it was Polish mathematicians Marian Rejewski, Jerzy Rosycki, and Henryk Zygalski who first broke the German Enigma code; Henry Magnuski, while working for Motorola, invented the first “mobile walkie-talkie” the precursor to our ubiquitous cell phones; Lieutenant-Colonel Matt Urban was the most decorated American soldier of World War II.
We are all inspired by the dedication of Irena Sendler, honored at Yad Vashem, to her work helping to save Jews from the Nazis in WWII.
These x-rays that you get are the result of Marie Sklodowska Curie, a Polish physicist and chemist who discovered radium.
Newer Poles have also contributed to the life we live.
Martha Stewart continues to give us great recipes, cooking and decorating tips.
AJ Pierzynski was one of the fan favorites for the World Series White Sox.
Stephanie Kwolek developed Kevlar, which to this day serves and protects police and military personnel around the world.
Paul Baran was an Internet pioneer, who developed the first version of the Internet. Edward Rosinski was the co-inventor of our modern essence. Thaddeus Sendzimer is known as the inventor of modern steel.
Steve Wozniak, a brilliant mathematician, was the co-founder of Apple and with his friend Steve Jobs developed the first modern personal computers.
Pope John Paul II, Karol Wojtyla, showed leadership in demanding the fall of the Iron Curtain, freeing millions of people from the tyranny of communism. Lech Walesa has shown that a brave ordinary electrician can restore human dignity to millions of people.
Andrew Pietowski, professor of mathematics in Carmel, New York, identified the source of the Amazon River.
And, my favorite (and my dad), former US Rep and Chicago Ald. Roman Pucinski, without whom we would not have these “black boxes” in all commercial planes.
We are entertained by men and women of Polish heritage including Billy Wilder, Stephanie Powers, Lauren Bacall, Nina Siemaszko, Casey Siemaszko, Jonathan Lipnicki, Samuel Goldwyn, Bobby Vinton, Marilu Henner, Loretta Swit, John Krasinski, Leelee Sobieski, Christine Baranski, Jerry O’Connell, Jared Padalecki and the Wachowski brothers (“The Matrix”) who have all brought us stories worth telling.
In October, we recognize and are grateful for the contributions of those who share our Polish heritage.
Aurelia Pucinski is a judge of the Illinois Court of Appeal and a lifelong Chicago resident.