Greater Lowell's Polish-American Community Celebrates Europe's Oldest Constitution
On Sunday, May 6, Greater Lowell’s Polish-American community raised Poland’s national colors over City Hall in Lowell.
This year’s ceremony marked the 221st anniversary of the 1791 signing of the Polish Constitution. This historic document is the first democratic constitution in Europe and second in the world, following the United States Constitution. The Polish Constitution was banned during the Nazi occupation in World War II and later by the Soviet Union during the Cold War. Only after the rise of Lech Walesa’s Solidarity movement did Poland acknowledge and embrace its 18th-century constitution.
Polish-Americans have played a prominent role in Greater Lowell civic life since the late 19th century, when many Poles began to leave Poland due to religious persecution, military conscription, and poor economic prospects. Many Polish families went directly to Lowell after passing through Ellis Island, as they were drawn by work opportunities here. Others also moved to Lowell – particularly to Belvidere, Centralville, and Back Central – from southern New Hampshire and nearby Chicopee and Holyoke, Massachusetts. Today, Polish-Americans are present in all of the city’s neighborhoods, as well as many of the surrounding towacross the Merrimack Valley.
The Polish flag-raising program was run by the Dom Polski with Melissa Olenick, member of the board of directors, as the emcee. Participants this year came from the Holy Trinity Polish Parish on High St., St. Casimir’s Polish Parish on Lakeview Ave, St. Margaret’s Parish on Stevens St., the Polish American Veterans State Department of Massachusetts, the Dom Polski, the Lowell Polish Cultural Committee, and the Polish American Veterans of Lowell.