October is Polish-American Heritage Month, but it wasn’t always so.
Early celebrations were held in August at various gatherings, travel events, and culturally-significant locations in Pennsylvania.
The Polish American Cultural Center and the Polish American Congress lobbied politicians at the state and national level to make August the month for Polish heritage.
In 1984, House Joint Resolution 577 passed, making August Polish American Heritage Month. President Ronald Reagan urged all Americans to join in the celebration honoring Polish heritage in the United States.
The month was changed to October in 1986 to aid participating schools in organization during the school year, and October holds significance as the month when the first Polish settlers came to Jamestown, Virginia.
From the Library of Congress: “At the turn of the 20th century, Polish immigration exploded. Imperial repression, land shortages and chronic unemployment made life more and more untenable for the Poles of Europe, and as the 19th century waned they left for America by the thousands, then by the hundreds of thousands.
Exact numbers are difficult to come by, given the many different routes Poles took to the U.S., but the 1910 census found more than 900,000 new immigrants who spoke Polish.
After World War I, Poland regained its independence, and immigration began to slow. Even so, it is estimated that more than 2 million Poles had immigrated by the 1920s.”