Vol. 9, Issue No. 27/2002


The 4th of July - Polish-American style
by Robert Strybel

The vast majority of Polish Americans have celebrated the Fourth of July in various ways for generations. At times of heightened anti-Polish and general anti-foreign sentiment (late 19th/early 20th centuries), the occasion provided our immigrant ancestors with an opportunity to demonstrate their loyalty to their adopted American homeland. To this day, Polonians observe the Fourth of July by holding their own parish or club festivities as well as family picnics and outings. The Scranton, Pennsylvania-based Polish National Catholic Church holds a major annual Fourth of July celebration that begins with an open-air Holy Mass under a tent, followed by refreshments, folk-dance performances, music, games and other attractions for the entire family.

A fitting tribute to the occasion might be a Polish-American patriotic commemoration which could showcase the contributions of Kazimierz Pulaski and Tadeusz Kosciuszko to America's independence and honor other Polish-American soldiers who gave their lives in America's defense. Such an observance could include wreath-laying at Kosciuszko, Pulaski or Revolutionary War monuments or war memorials, a dual Polish and American flag-raising and the playing of both countries' national anthems. If your community has the choral capacity, an interesting twist might be the public performance of a Polish-language version of the "Star Spangled Banner."

The only known translation of the American national anthem into Polish was the work of Chicago lawyer and life-long Polish National Alliance activist, Walery J. Fronczak (1893-1886). The text, published by Chicago's Polish-language "Relax" magazine (March 28, 1987) and reprinted in Wojciech Bialasiewicz's "W kregu Chicagowskiej Polonii", went as follows:

Gwiazdzisty Sztandar
O, czy widzisz Ty - wczesny swit spedza mrok.
Sztandar, co duma nas napawal przy zorz sklonie
I czarem swych barw, gwiazd, gdy go przez wa_ strzegl wzrok,
Lsnia, chociaz krwawy boj nikl w wieczora oslonie?
Przez cala noc ryk dzial, i blysk rakiet wiesc slal,
ze jeszcze ten nasz pelen sily znak stal.
O, czy gwiazdzisty sztandar powiewa jak wprzod,
Kedy wzrosl wolny kraj, gdzie wzniosl dom dzielny lud?

O, niech tak bedzie wciaz, gdy stanie wolny lud,
By uchronic swoj kraj od zniszczen wojny, glodu!
Niech z niebios laska kraj triumf swieci przez trud,
Niechaj slawi te Moc, ktora Stra__ Narodu.
W proch pasc musi nasz wrog.
Bo prawa bronim drog.
To haslo tkwi w nas:
"Wiara! Z nami wciaz Bog!"
O, niech gwiazdzisty sztandar powiewa jak wprzod,
Kady wzrosl wolny kraj, gdzie wzniosl dom dzielny lud.

(Note: Two additional stanzas of "Gwiazdzisty Sztandar" are found in Bialasiewicz's book "W kregu chicagowskiej Polonii".)

Apart from organizing their own events to observe the Fourth of July, Polish-American groups also have the option of joining, contributing to and culturally enriching existing community-wide celebrations. That might include:
- supplying a Polish contingent (marching group, band, folk dancers, float, etc.) to take part in the local Fourth of July parade;
- making a Polish cultural contribution (orchestra, chorus, dancers, craft demonstration, book exhibit, etc.) to local Fourth of July festivities such as fairs, picnics, festivals, etc.;
- manning a Polish goods stand (books, recordings, crafts, souvenirs, ethnic novelties) and/or Polish food concession at a local Independence Day festivities;
- setting up on or around July 4th (at the city hall, a museum, school, public library, local festival, etc.) an exhibition highlighting the achievements of American Revolutionary War heroes, Tadeusz Kosciuszko and Kazimierz Pulaski.

Vol. 9, Issue No. 27/2002

The Summit Times

© Copyright 2002 by Andrzej M. Salski