A Polish and American military hero, like his comrade-in-arms Tadeusz Kościuszko, Kazimierz Pułaski is almost ubiquitously immortalised on monuments and place names in both countries, but especially in America where several cities (namely Chicago) actually celebrate Casimir Pulaski Day as an official bank holiday on the first Monday of every March. Despite the high-profile patronymic, Kazimierz Pułaski himself has been largely forgotten in both countries, his legacy enduring in Poland as the mustachioed portrait on bottles of Warka beer, and in Wisconsin as a day when the kids don’t have school for seemingly no reason. Who was this man to whom some lucky Midwesterners owe an extra day off each year? We explain.
Born March 4th, 1745 to Polish nobility, Pułaski was educated in Warsaw and then served as page to a vassal of the Polish King in the Duchy of Courland. The Duchy (in present day Latvia) was occupied by Russia and the nobility expelled in 1763. As Russia forced the Polish parliament to pass resolutions of complicity weakening the power of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1767-68, Pułaski joined his father Józef and other nobles in founding the ‘Bar Confederation’ – a military association opposing the capitulating home government, dedicated to defending the Commonwealth from Russian aggression.