GARFIELD, N.J. – Donna Koch-Kapturski has come a long way.
“Both of my parents were factory workers, so,much of my early life was spent being raised in a modest home with my grandmother, who enriched our lives in customs and traditions of our Polish heritage,” said Koch, now a doctor with a successful practice in Garfield.
On Sunday, Oct. 2, Koch will lead thousands of people down 5th Avenue in Manhattan as grand marshal of the 79th Annual Pulaski Day Parade. The parade is held each year to commemorate Gen. Casimir Pulaski, a Polish hero of the American Revolutionary War.
Koch, nominated to the post by State Sen. Raymond Lesniak and then elected by the tri-state area’s Polish community, is the 9th female grand marshal in the parade’s history.
“Who would have thought that a daughter of two Polish migrant farm workers, who came to America in the late 1960’s looking for a better life, leaving behind their memories of a war torn Poland in the face of poverty and destruction, would have come this far,” Koch said in her speech at a recent banquet for the parade.
Koch was born in Passaic, and grew up in Wallington, Clifton and Fair Lawn. She said her parents believed hard work, commitment and determination were fundamental to success. She graduated from Fair Lawn High School, and went on to earn degrees from Rutgers University and the University of Medicine and Dentistry.
Growing up, she was heavily involved in the Polish community and learned to fluently read, write and speak Polish – a language she still uses today, with both her family and patients.
The theme of this year’s parade is “Celebrating Polish-American Youth in Honor Of World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland.”
During her banquet speech, Koch extended an invitation to young people to march beside her.
“This country has offered you so much choice and freedom, the freedom that our young Gen. Casimir Pulaski fought and sacrificed his life for … always be cognizant of the meaning of this parade,” she told them.
For more information, visit www.pulaskiparade.org.