Poles in Massachusetts
One of the first Poles in Massachusetts was Hugh Laski (Laskin) who came to Salem in 1637.
Although the great immigration came in the 1880's, Poland's military heroes were long recognized here. These include Revolutionary War veterans in Kosciusko's Regiment in Massachusetts, and Felix Miklaszewicz, who with his two armed privateering vessels contributed to the War of Independence by sailing the coastal waters of Massachusetts beginning in 1782. Casimir Pulaski came to America aboard the ship Massachusetts and landed in Marblehead, MA in 1777. He then headed to Boston where an interpreter for the military directed him south to General Washington.
The Pulaski Guards were chartered in South Boston in 1836, and at the outbreak of the Civil War they joined the first regiment, Company E, and were the first to leave the state for three years of service.
In 1839 the 250 ton steam boat Kosciusko traveled the Connecticut River.
Early arrivals were often exiles. Such was the case for young Polish nobleman A. A. Tarnava Malczewski vel Jakubowski who came to Northampton in 1837 to teach French at Miss Dwight's Seminary for girls.
Dr. Marie Zakrewski organized the New England Hospital for Women and Children in Boston in 1863 and was the first woman physician in New England.
By 1850 there were 78 Polish immigrants in Suffolk County. Hampshire County reported 4 residents born in Poland/Russia in 1875 and 3 in 1885. By 1880 the Town of Chicopee reported its first Polish settlers, along with Sunderland in 1885, Northampton in 1886, Hatfield in 1890, and Ludlow in 1892. The peak of Polish immigration was 1907 when some 140,000 came to this country.
During those early years Polish talent touched the hearts of Massachusetts residents. Ignace Padrewski, world famous pianist, played recitals and concerts in 1892 to "standing room" crowds. Countess Helena Modjeska, the renowned Shakespearean actress performed in Northampton in 1894 at the Academy of Music. It was reported that she "arrived in her great private car and appeared before her fullest house of the year." Madame Marie Sklodowska Curie, winner of Noble Prizes in 1903 for Physics, and again in 1911 for Chemistry, received an honorary degree at Smith College in Northampton in 1921. General Jozef Haller, Commander in Chief of the Polish Army came to Northampton in 1923 to see President Coolidge's unassuming local residence.
Dr. Stephen Mizwa, an immigrant who founded the Kosciuszko Foundation in 1925, first lived in Northampton with his sister, and graduated from Amherst College.
More recently, Czeslaw Milosz, Nobel Prize winning poet, came to Mt. Holyoke College in South Hadley in 1985. He said, "Poles are inbued with a historical memory, an intense consciousness of their own past."
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