General Pulaski Day Ceremony at City Hall

Photo by Catherine Pikul

On Saturday, approximately 25 people turned out to celebrate General Casimir Pulaski Day at Amsterdam City Hall. The event was organized by life-long resident Tom Pikul and Director of Economic and Community Development and City Historian Rob Von Hasseln. The ceremony included distinguished speakers, an honor guard from the Amsterdam Polish-American Veterans and the V.F.W.’s John Wyszomirski Post 701, a dual Polish-American flag raising accompanied by Soprano Genie Marie Callahan singing both the American and Polish national anthems. The speakers included Amsterdam Mayor Ann Thane, Congressman Paul Tonko, County Executive Matt Ossenfort, and Julia Caro, Liaison for State Senator Cecelia Tkaczyk.

Matt Ossenfort said, “There’s two points that I would like to make today. First, these events serve to bring awareness, as teaching moments to those who might not know the story about General Pulaski. I encourage those in attendance today, who are going to read about this event in the paper on Monday, to share the story and learn the history of this fabulous and inspiring person. But also today, why I personally get so excited about the day is, I think of other contributions of Polish-Americans, people like my grandfather who served in World War Two, who came back and served as an Amsterdam firefighter for many years. He was an amazing human being and is one of many unsung heroes. So, yes, this is the day to honor General Pulaski, but if we could keep in mind all the contributions of other Polish Americans in this community…I still live in the house that was built by the Polish immigrants in my family. It’s a source of great pride and there is a lot of great history in this city. Let’s give the general his due, but let’s take some time to celebrate the accomplishments of people like my dziadziu who inspired me to get into public service and try to give back to the community. So, with that said I would like to formally present the P.A.V. with a proclamation where I, the County Executive, proclaim that Saturday, October 11th, 2014, in Montgomery County, is an official date to pay tribute, sincerely appreciate and most gratefully remember General Pulaski. Thank you.

Julia Caro said, “It is a humbling experience for me to represent [State Senator Tkaczyk] and even more humbling to be here and share a couple of words with you, as friends. Living in the City of Amsterdam has been a nurturing and beautiful experience, because I have been able to share with so many different people from so many different walks of life. I take great pride in this. But even more, to stand here to recognize Brigadier Casimir Pulaski, and all that he has done for us to stand here freely and to be able to congregate as one. Those are the simple things in life which, many times, we take for granted. Today we remember those moments and events…On that note, the Senator has a proclamation… I will share a couple of points, I won’t read it all, I promise. It says, “Whereas each year, October 11th we honor the legacy of General Casimir Pulaski, for his courageous spirit on the battlefield and selfless sacrifice for the cause of freedom, and whereas it is the sense of this legislative body that an individual of such noble aims and accomplishments are brought to our attention, they should be celebrated and recognized by all citizens of this great empire state. Now, therefore be it resolved that I, State Senator Cecelia Tkaczyk, am proud to join the Polish-American community of the 46th Senatorial District to pay tribute to the memory of General Casimir Pulaski and to help commemorate General Pulaski Day on October 11th, 2014. Thank you.”

Rob Von Hasseln closed out the speakers by saying, “At this time, I’ve been asked to make some comments as the City Historian…It’s about stubborn, and one of the things that Polish people have been stubborn about through the years is about liberty, whether it’s ours or their own back in Poland. Before Pulaski came to assist in our revolution, he was sentenced to death in Poland for fighting to prevent the Russians from taking over in Poland. And it’s not just a case of the American Revolution. If you look later on, there were Polish regiments from New York that fought to end slavery and preserve the Union; there was the Polish National Army in World War One that was formed to fight against the totalitarianism of the Kaiser; there were the Kościuszko squadrons, made up of many American fighters, in World War Two, fighting Nazism before we entered the fight. This is a long and great story, and what I think Pulaski means to me is that unity of those who love freedom, standing on either side of the ocean, assisting each other, because when people who love liberty work together liberty prevails.”

I talked with Tom Pikul the day after the event and asked him how he felt it went.

He said, “I was very impressed by all of that. I went home [last night] and said to myself ‘You’re the one who caused all this.’[Laughs] I felt flattered that the people came out…they had a great moment with all those speeches.”

He also mentioned that the diorama and monument to General Pulaski will be in the lobby of City Hall until this the end of this week for viewing.

Jay Towne

Jay Towne is a resident of Amsterdam, has published six books and is the writer and director of a radio drama, Any Good Thing, that currently airs on WOPG.