Polish Immigrants’ Impact on New York’s Culture

During the earliest wave of Polish immigration to America, two notable Polish-Americans come to mind that have made their mark in American history and culture.  The first one was Kazimierz Pu?aski of ?lepowron or the more familiar name of Casimir Pulaski.

He was born March 4, 1746 in Winiary, Poland, now a suburb of Warka, Poland.  Pulaski was born to a notable family and he was raised as a noble and loyal member of the confederates trying to oust the Russian invaders in Poland.  He was later banned from any country in Europe because of his revolutionary fervor.  Being a skilled war commander, he was subsequently recruited for services in America while in a brief stay in France.  Hence from 1777, up to his death on October 1779, he fought in the American Revolutionary War for the United States’ independence from British rule.  Being a noted cavalryman, he trained other recruits to fight while riding horses and he was later conferred the title “Father of the American Cavalry”.  The “Pulaski Legion” was created on March 28, 1778 under the command of Casimir Pulaski and participated in the following battles: Little Egg Harbor Massacre, Siege of Savannah, and the Siege of Charleston.  After Pulaski’s death in October 1779, the “Pulaski’s Legion” was disbanded in November of 1780 and merged with “Armand’s Legion” (Answer.com).

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Another key figure in Polish-American history is that of Rev. Jan Pitass.  Reverend Pitass was the pioneer and Parish priest of the Polish American Community in Western New York – particularly that of Polonia in East side, Buffalo, New York.  He served as a Polish-American key figure, both as a spiritual and religious leader for 39 years, and also as a pioneering community leader in Polonia, Buffalo, New York.  He established a parochial school and parochial cemetery.   He also brought over the Felician sisters to Buffalo in 1882.  He co-founded a national fraternal organization for Polish Americans and was the convener of the first Polish Catholic Convention in America.  Despite the working class characteristic of the parish, the Rev. Pitass was able to build the magnificent Cathedral type church in 1882.  It remains to be of the lasting testimonial to the greatness of his indomitable spirit and legacy not only to the Polish-American community but also to the whole East side community of Buffalo, New York.

How all polish immigrants overcame diversity to become Americans?

Polish immigrants came in “waves” from the first Polish settlers in 1608 in Jamestown, Virginia, to the second wave of Polish immigrants during 1830 to 1920 and then again after World War 2 and the Immigration Act of 1965.

However, whatever batch of Polish settlers they belong to, they all have an intrinsic love and passion for independence and their utmost respect for human dignity.  It ingrained in every Polis that has left their homeland distributed among three European Invaders – Germany, Russia and Austria.  Their tenacity to maintain freedom at any cost brought them here – and also for economic independence too.

Polish immigrants would at first live in Polish-American enclaves, just like any ethnic immigrant groups when they first land in America.  But soon enough, they would easily assimilate; learn the language – despite extreme difficulty because of the wide disparity with their own native tongue.  However, they persist, keep some old tradition but they always go forward with new skills, assimilate themselves with new cultures and tradition while sharing with others their own.  Most of the Polish immigrants were predominantly male and single or unmarried.  Intermarriage with women from other cultures also enhanced and facilitated their assimilation into the culturally diverse American community.

Polish immigrant’s historical relevance to New York City and what areas they settled in with in New York City


The first Polish immigrants came to America in 1608 and settled in Jamestown Colony in Virginia and also in colonial New Amsterdam and in Pennsylvania. Later on the next batch of Polish immigrants settled in Western New York in Polonia, Buffalo and established one of the biggest Polish American community in the United States.

Through the years of settlement, the Polish community built about 800 Catholic churches, one of the biggest of which was built in the Eastside of Buffalo, New York (Lopata, 68).

The least known contribution of Polish Americans that has historical significance is their conduct of the first labor strike in 1619 in Jamestown, Virginia when they simply stopped working when they learned that they were disenfranchised by the company.  The company management later capitulated and the first labor strike was recorded a success.

A well known Polish American, Thaddeus Kosciusko, figured prominently during the revolutionary war and was given the rank of Brigadier General.  He was even made famous by what was written in his last will and testament – that of bequeathing his whole estate to help abolish slavery and discrimination by purchasing the freedom of Negro laborers and slaves and giving them their liberty and freedom in his name.

The Polish American immigrants have figured prominently in the Americans fight for independence and they also shaped the values and fierce love of democracy not only in defense of the Motherland but also in other nation’s and people’s fight for freedom and liberty.

In conclusion, to quote from a speech of President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964 during his address of Polish Americans in the Virginia Military Institute.  It is in reference to international affairs and the American’s participation and assistance to other people from other nations in their struggle for freedom and democracy, and I quote:

“I hope that each of you will understand that their struggle is your affair, too. So let us make it our cause as well…”.