Yep, break out the kielbasa, it’s Pulaski Day. What, who, huh, you ask? Casimir Pulaski, I reply: the great Polish leader who did a lot of noble things and is the only Pole I know of who has his own holiday in the U.S.
Still not ringing a bell? OK, I’ll try and break it down for you.
I was having a heated debate the other night with a friend over who had a richer wealth of achievements, my Polish forebears or his ... well, let’s keep this about the Poles.
Friend: So, what have you guys contributed to the greater good of humanity?
Me: Hm, well every culture has some form of stuffed dumpling. The Polish version of this is pierogis, which are unquestionably the best stuffed dumpling around. Can’t argue with that. Then there’s kielbasa, galobki and of course, vodka. The Russians completely stole the idea of vodka from us and now take all the cred. In fact, those mink hat-wearing—
Friend: OK, OK, but outside of your country’s irrefutable culinary prominence, what have the Poles done for society? I can’t even think of a famous Pole ...
Me: Sure. Let’s start with Copernicus. Great astronomer. Did a lot of big things to further the field of astronomy. He was the first person to realize the universe doesn’t actually revolve around us. Not only was he a genius, but he was humble. Copernicus—topnotch astronomer. Great guy. We also had Chopin.
Friend: OK, I’ll give you those, but what about world leaders? Lech Walesa was alright, but he wasn’t exactly JFK.
Me: That’s an easy one. Caz the Great.
Me: Casimir Pulaski. Great Polish leader. Probably the greatest of all great Polish leaders. In Chicago, where I’m from, and where our Polish population is second only to Warsaw in numbers, Pulaski Day is a big-time holiday. Kids take off of school. There’s a huge parade. Everyone drinks vodka all day and sings “Sto Lat.”
Me: Well, no, not really. At least not the part about the celebrating. But still, Pulaski—great leader.
Friend: So what did he do?
Me: [Long pause.] Think he was a general. Did some big things during a revolution a long time ago. Anyway, Pulaski—a great Pole. Can’t argue with that.
1543 – Copernicus dies. He died the same year his major work was published, saving him from the outrage of religious leaders who later condemned his heliocentric view of the universe as heresy. By the 18th Century, the Copernican view of the solar system was almost universally accepted. Heliocentric, I like that.
1689 – The English Parliament passes the Act of Toleration protecting Protestants. Roman Catholics are intentionally excluded. We only tolerate the peeps we already tolerate, or something.
1819 - Queen Victoria was born in London. English Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland (1837-1901) and Empress of India (1876-1901)
1883 – The Brooklyn Bridge in New York City is opened to traffic after 14 years of construction, and 27 deaths. This magnificent bridge spans the East River, connecting the cities of New York and Brooklyn for the first time in history. At 5,989 feet it was the longest suspension bridge in the world until 1903, and the first steel-wire suspension bridge. It was dubbed the "eighth wonder of the world.”
The two granite foundations of the Brooklyn Bridge were built in watertight chambers, sunk to depths of 44 feet on the Brooklyn side and 78 feet on the New York side. Compressed air pressurized the caissons, allowing underwater construction. Which is cool, but nobody understood the whole “bends” problem. More than a hundred workers suffered from cases of compression sickness. Basically, it is when nitrogen bubbles kick it in the bloodstream. It doesn’t sound like much but, it fucking sucks. Several died, and Washington Roebling (chief engineer dude) himself became bedridden from the condition in 1872. Other workers died as a result of more conventional construction accidents, such as collapses and a fire. Which were fatal, but not terribly interesting.
1844 – Samuel Morse sends the message "What hath God wrought" from the Old Supreme Court Chamber in the United States Capitol to his assistant, Alfred Vail, in Baltimore, Maryland to demonstrate the first telegraph line. over-dramatic. Gawd.
1941 – Robert Allen Zimmerman, American singer and songwriter, is born.
1941 – In the Battle of the Atlantic, the German Battleship Bismarck sinks the pride of the Royal Navy, HMS Hood, killing 1,500 crewmen, with the exception of three. None of the three go on to do anything worthwhile with their lives.
1943 – Auschwitz, receives a new doctor! Oh, wait it is Josef Mengele, a man who will earn the nickname "the Angel of Death."
Upon arriving at Auschwitz, he began experimenting on live prisoners. In the guise of medical "treatment," he injected thousands of inmates with everything from petrol to chloroform. He also had a penchant for studying twins, whom he used to dissect or conjoin while still alive. ugh, it is Monday, so onward.
He escaped to South America, and became a citizen of Paraguay in 1959. He later moved to Brazil, and assumed the id of Wolfgang Gerhard, another Nazi turdface. They think he died while swimming in 1979. How lovely.