Polish pride, memorials at Constitution Day Parade

May 1, 2010 (CHICAGO) This year, the plane crash that killed Poland's president weighed on the minds of those who participated.

It was a day of remembering those who died in the plane crash, but also a day of celebrating Chicago's 50-year alliance with Warsaw in the Sister Cities program.

The weather cooperated on a day that meant so much to Chicago's polish community, although there was somber start to this year's parade.

"I still want to celebrate the tradition," parade attendee Agniesck Szunska told ABC7 Chicago.

Polish scouts carried the portraits of Poland's late president Lech Kaczynski, his wife, and the members of his delegation who perished in a fatal plane crash last month.

"There's a sadness, but also a celebration of the great commitment Poland has made to the world," Chicago's Mayor Daley said Saturday.

President Kaczynski was scheduled to attend Saturday's Chicagoland tradition, which honors the anniversary of the ratification of the Polish Constitution May 3, 1791.

"I'm only his substitute. He should be here with us today," said Zygmunt Matynia, consulate general of Poland.

Chicago artist Wojciech Seweryn-- who used his sculpture to highlight the Katyn Memorial-- was also remembered Saturday.

"They do know him and pay a special tribute to him, as well," said Hanna Kapica, Polish parade committee.

"We need solidarity, and that's why we are here," said Bishop Thomas Paprocki of the Catholic Archdiocese of Springfield.

The tragedy almost forced the cancellation of the 119th year of the event, but instead, parade-goers came together for a moment of silence before celebrating the parade's theme of 'Frederic Chopin: Poland's Gift to the World.'

"We started with just 12 floats, if I'm not mistaken, but now, we're up to 119 floats," said Ewa Siracki Kopec, event organizer.

"We celebrate this day so the young generations can know where we came from and where we are going," parade participant Sigmund Biernat said.

Polish flags, some draped in black memorial ribbons, lined the parade route as the ABC7 Chicago float and other entrants headed up Columbus Drive in the largest Polish parade outside of Poland.

"This is nice; this is good," parade-goer Edward Cwik said.

After the parade, another tribute to Poland marked the 50th anniversary of Warsaw becoming Chicago's first 'sister city.' ABC7's Alan Krashesky emceed the event, which included poetry reading and music.

Many of those who attended Saturday's events said it was just the beginning of the healing process for Chicagoland's Polish community members. Several groups are planning other activities to highlight the contributions of those lost in the plane crash and those of the Polish people.

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