Chicagoland Polish Parade
Celebrates Freedom, Fairness, Justice

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The 126th Polish Constitution Day Parade in Downtown Chicago brought together thousands of Poles from all over the city and suburbs today to celebrate the Polish Constitution of 1791, the first democratic constitution in Europe and second in the world only to the United States Constitution. The parade gathered thousands of people, most of them Polish or of Polish descent, to celebrate, as one speaker put it, “freedom, fairness, and justice.”

Most Americans know little or nothing about why the “Third of May” Constitution is of any value or relevance to the United States today. Generally, we are taught little or nothing about it in public schools, and equally little about the vital role of Poles–particularly Tadeusz Kosciuszko and Casimir Pulaski–in the American Revolution and the creation of the USA. While dozens of Polish cultural and educational organizations parade through the streets of Chicago, they are largely preaching to the choir about Polish values, history, traditions, and culture. Too bad, since the parade is the largest of its kind outside Poland and shows the diversity of the Polish community, including everything from Polish motorcycle gangs to “Jesus loves you” proselytizers. However, at this parade “Polish” does not refer to a sausage, as food booths and restaurants are blessedly excluded.

One of the highlights of the day for me was seeing Anna Maria Anders, a senator and minister in the Republic of Poland, marching in the parade. She also represents Poland in the Women in Parliaments Global Forum, a global network of female parliamentarians that supports greater participation of women in politics and promotes equal rights of women worldwide. She is the daughter of the legendary World War II Commander of the Polish Forces at the Battle of Monte Cassino, General Władysław Anders. It was also heartening to see representatives of the World War II Polish Army Historical Association (pictured above) marching in full regalia and keeping alive the memory of Anders and other Poles who fought so bravely for the Allies in Second World War.

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Finally, I joined the Polish Museum of America contingent, wondering how the museum might be able to work with all the organizations represented in the parade to determine how the museum could play a more active and vital role in collecting and preserving the records of these Polish-American groups and their remarkable stories of service and endurance in the interest of American liberty. If it were up to me I would change the name of the celebration to “Polish Freedom Day: Celebrating Europe’s First Democratic Constitution.” Perhaps it would help non-Polish Americans better understand the Polish contribution to the republic we live in today.
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