City Cast

Why Does Chicago Celebrate Pulaski Day?

Sidney Madden
Sidney Madden
Posted on March 6   |   Updated on May 28
An illustrated portrait of Casimir Pulaski

Count Casimir Pulaski, 1747-1779. (Hulton Archive / Getty)

Who’s Casimir Pulaski?

Wonder why city offices, libraries, and county courts are closed today? It’s Casimir Pulaski Day.

The Polish soldier is best known for saving George Washington’s life — but he never set foot in Illinois. So why is there a holiday in his honor? Thank Chicago’s large Polish community, who pushed for recognition of Pulaski for much of the 20th century before Illinois adopted the holiday symbolically in the ‘70s and officially in the ‘80s, WBEZ reported.

But Pulaski Day Isn’t What It Used to Be

In 1995, the Illinois General Assembly made the holiday optional for schools to recognize. CPS stopped recognizing Pulaski Day in 2012. Why? The city’s Polish population has declined, journalists Mary Wisniewski and Joanna Marszalek told the City Cast Chicago podcast last year.

But organizations like the Polish Museum of America keep the city’s Polish history alive: The group has a virtual Pulaski Day celebration at 10 a.m.

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