October is Polish Heritage Month – a month in which Poles try to remember their Polish roots. It is also time to notice the achievements of Polonia compatriots in the USA. In 2023, Polish Americans will mark the 42nd Anniversary of the founding of Polish American Heritage Month.
The movement began in Philadelphia in 1981 and became a national celebration of Polish history, culture, and pride. Designating a particular month to celebrate Polish heritage was the suggestion of Michael Blichasz, a Polish-American activist in Philadelphia.
During American history and culture, Polish people have played a significant role since 1608, when the first Polish settlers arrived at Jamestown, VA.
In October, the first Polish settlers arrived in Jamestown, Virginia, in 1608. “They came at the invitation of Captain John Smith, the first governor of Virginia, leader of the Jamestown settlement. As extremely talented craftsmen and specialists in producing glass, soap, and tar, they came to the new country to build a new, previously unknown sector of the economy. The factories were launched after just a month, and in December, samples of the first products were sent to England,” says Michael Blichasz. The names of several of the craftsmen are known: Michał Łowicki, Zbigniew Stefański, Jan Bogdan, Jan Mata, Stanisław Sadowski. The Poles opened glassworks and factories in Jamestown producing tar, tar, potash, and ship ropes. Documents record that in 1619, Poles were denied the right to vote and organized a strike in protest. The authorities bowed to the pressure and granted them the right to vote. In 2008, the Mint of Poland minted a commemorative silver coin with a face value of 10 zlotys to commemorate the Polish colonists in America.
Today, Poles are the sixth largest ethnic group in America, living in all fifty states and participating in every aspect of American life. Analysis of data from the Statistical Office shows that 3.3% of the U.S. community consider themselves Poles (9,292,875 people).
More than 20 million Americans share full or partial Polish heritage. Polish Americans are part of every aspect of life in America. They are well known for their contributions to the Arts, Music, Education, Politics, Engineering, Communications, Medicine, Religion, Travel, Sports, Research and Development, and community events.
During 2023, we will also mark the 244th Anniversary of the death of General Casimir Pulaski, Father of the American Cavalry, and the honor of American Revolutionary War Hero Thaddeus Kosciuszko, Hero of Poland and America.
The main point of Polish American Heritage Month is to highlight Poles and Polonia’s contributions to America and the world, celebrate various facets of our cultural heritage, and share its beauty with the community.