POLISH CONSTITUTION DAY IN CHICAGO
The Polish Constitution of May 3rd,
1791 has been commemorated every year in Chicago since 1891. The Polish
National Alliance took the initiative and ever since that time there is a
parade which lasts several hours. At first the parade was downtown but in
1910 when the General Thaddeus Kosciuszko monument was erected in Humboldt
Park the parade proceeded along Division Street to the park on the first
Sunday of May.
This celebration has brought the meaning of the Polish Constitution to the
people of the city of Chicago and pride to the Polish community. Since
Chicago is the home of the headquarters of the PNA, it tries to make the May
3rd celebration one of the biggest holidays of the year by informing the
public about the Polish heritage and the accomplishments of the Polish
When the Kosciuszko monument was moved to Grant Park to a more beautiful
place next to the entrance to the Planetarium, the parades were again moved
downtown. There is always a wreath laying ceremony by the monument on the
actual day of May 3rd.
The parade itself takes place on the first Saturday in May and generally
lasts two hours. The general chairman of the parade is the vice-president of
the PNA, who has made it one of the best parades in the city. In the past,
following the parade there was a program where important national figures
would address the people who gathered for the parade. In the past years, the
format was changed due to the fact that many participants of the parade
found themselves such a long distance from the reviewing stand that they did
not participate in the rest of the program. The organizers felt that a
proper way of commemorating such a solemn occasion was to have a banquet in
the evening, whereby the main speaker could deliver a really meaningful
address and have the attention of all those in attendance.
The following day, on Sunday there is a Mass at Holy Trinity Church as it is
the Polish custom to give thanks and pray on behalf of all members of the
PNA for a free and independent Poland.
Now, the parade is televised and there are always numerous pictures and
articles in the newspapers, as well as announcements on the radio. All this
re-awakens the city to the existence of Poles in the community and draws
special attention to their culture and history.
“On Saturday, May 2, 1891, the PNA sponsored a spirited parade through
Chicago’s near northside Polonia that culminated at the city’s Central Music
Hall. There, Zbigniew Brodowski, John Smulski, Frank Gryglaszewski and
Casimir Zychlinski delivered remarks on behalf of the Alliance, Teofilia
Samolinska contributed a reading of her poetry and several patriotic choral
groups provided musical entertainment.
The event also included speeches by several local non-Polish politicians and
civic leaders. They in turn praised the inextinguishable Polish spirit ,
compared the Poles’ aspirations for independence with those of the Irish,
and expressed the hope that by 1991 tyranny would be eliminated throughout
The event concluded with the showing of a series of blown-up slides
“magically” projected onto the wall: pictures depicted personages and events
in the Polish-American history. All in all, its planners considered the 1891
Constitution day observances a great success and in 1904 the event was
repeated, one which continues to this day under PNA sponsorship”
(From “PNA: A Centennial History of the Polish National Alliance of N.
The parade took place on Saturday, May 7th. It begun on the cross-section of
Wacker Drive and State Street at 12 Noon and marched south on State Street
to Van Buren St.. Immediately after the parade, the attendants gathered at
Richard Daley Center Plaza for an additional patriotic program.
The main speaker of the parade was Senator Adlai E. Stevenson, an Illinois
Democrat.William C. Scottt, and Michal Bilandic, Mayor of the City of
Chicago also spoke to the Polish community. Bishop Alfred Abramowicz made
the invocation and Bishop Francis Rowinski performed the benediction. Mrs.
Helena Szymanowicz, the president of the parade, led the opening ceremonies
and Bruno Zielinski, a former congressman, narrated the parade. Roman
Pucinski was the Honorary Marshall of the parade and Ted Fijalkowski was the
The parade was extremely patriotic and spirited, with about 10,000
Participants. It was especially significant, given the fact that such
celebrations were still prohibited in Poland.
[May 3rd Constitution EN]
[May 3rd Constitution PL]
[Before the Constitution]
[The era of reform]