Thousands gather to celebrate Chicago's Polish heritage

16:23, May 08, 2011      

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Young Polish Americans wave to the crowd in Chicago, the United States, May 7, 2011. The city's large Polish American population celebrated Constitution Day, attracting thousands of participants, spectators and top politicians. With an estimated 1.1 million Polish Americans, Chicago has the largest Polish community outside of Poland. (Xinhua/Ted Regencia)

A sea of red and white dominated Chicago's Grant Park Saturday as the city's large Polish American population celebrated Polish Constitution Day, attracting thousands of participants, spectators and top politicians.

Retiring Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley and U.S. Senator Mark Kirk marched alongside other elected officials and leaders of the Polish community in a festive parade, which first started in the Humboldt Park neighborhood 120 years ago.

"The city has been founded by immigrants and that's the strength of this great city," Daley said in paying tribute to the Polish immigrant community who first settled in Chicago starting in 1837.

As someone who grew up in the Polish neighborhood of Bridgeport, Daley said his relationship with the community during his 22 years as mayor has "always been good."

Daley said he is also encouraged to see younger generation Polish Americans honoring their heritage.

With his impending retirement on May 16, this year's Polish Constitution Day parade is one of the last public events Daley is attending as mayor. He said being part of community parades throughout the years gave him "the opportunity to meet people."

"This is all part of being mayor. It isn't a 9 to 5, Monday to Friday (job)," he quipped.

Northside Congressman Mike Quigley, whose district encompasses a significant Polish population also joined in the festivities this year.

"The polish community is just extraordinary, a vital part to the vibrancy, the economic growth, the cultural growth of our city," Quigley told Xinhua. "I love working with the community."

Quigley, who has traveled to Poland, said he is working on the legislation to extend visa waivers to Polish citizens to enter the United States.

"First it's a question of fairness. Poland is one of our greatest allies, unwavering," Quigley said. "I think we will pass the visa waiver program."

At present Poland is the only member of the European Union, whose citizens are not able to travel to the U.S. without an advance visa. President Barack Obama has promised to work with Congress to remove that restriction.

For parade organizer Hanna Kapica celebrating the Polish Constitution Day every year in Chicago is a constant reminder for Polish Americans to remember their heritage.

"We are absolutely very proud of our roots," Kapica told Xinhua. "As Polish Americans, we want to continue this tradition for our future youths and our future generations."

At the parade, young and old alike were dressed in various regional Polish costumes, mostly in red and white, the official colors of Poland. Students from different Chicago suburbs waved the flag of Poland as they marched along Columbus Drive, while different bands play Polish folk music.

Different Polish American businesses also participated highlighting their role in the economic life of Chicago.

With an estimated 1.1 million Polish Americans, Chicago has the largest Polish community outside Warsaw, the largest city and capital of Poland. Chicago has been a sister city of Warsaw for 51 years.

Chicago's significant Polish population also made it a must-stop for political and religious leaders.Source:Xinhua
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(Editor:黄蓓蓓)

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