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Father and Shepherd #1 | Childhood

Family News Service / 29.11.2021
Muzeum lat dziecięcych Stefana Wyszyńskiego, fot_Autorstwa Robert Wielgórski - Praca własna, CC BY-SA 3.0, httpscommons.wikimedia.orgwindex.phpcurid=33317014
Muzeum lat dziecięcych Stefana Wyszyńskiego, fot_Autorstwa Robert Wielgórski - Praca własna, CC BY-SA 3.0, httpscommons.wikimedia.orgwindex.phpcurid=33317014

Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński the Primate of Poland has remained in the memory of Poles as a statesman, defender of faith and freedom of the homeland, advocate of unconditional human dignity. In the pages of this little princess, we will see him primarily as a human being. We will get to know his life better, full of toil and struggles, which he overcame with love.

Stefan Wyszyński was born on the 3rd August 1901 in the small rural settlement of Zuzela, on the border of Podlasie and Mazovia, on the Bug River. Poland was then under partitions. This area was under Russian rule. According to the order of the partitioning powers, his birth was recorded in Russian. Only Stefan’s father, who was drawing up the birth certificate, because as an organist he also kept parish books, signed himself with Polish letters. He also wrote in Polish in the text of the birth certificate the name of his son – Stefan and his first and last name: Stanisław Wyszyński, as well as the details of his mother – Julianna née Karpiów.


Stefan’s family home was a refuge of security and warmth. There he learned faith in God, respect for man and love for his homeland. In the evenings, local residents used to come to his father – Stanisław Wyszyński, an organist, talking for a long time, and they sang patriotic songs. As a child, he learned to love the Mother of God and pray the rosary:

“In my house, there were two pictures hanging over my bed: Our Lady of Częstochowa and Our Lady of Ostra Brama. And although at that time I was not inclined to pray, always suffering from pain in my knees, especially during the evening rosary, which was a custom in our house, after waking up I looked for a long time at this Black Lady and this White Lady. I was just wondering why one is black and the other is white? These are the most distant memories from my past. ”

At home, he learned to respect bread. He clearly remembered that he had to pick up and kiss the crust of bread that he accidentally dropped: “I remember that once a crust of bread fell to the ground, my Father told me to pick it up and kiss it. I didn’t really want to do it, but I had to. I also remember being praised for kissing a crust of bread. Each gift of God must be respected in this way, because it is a gift from the homeland, the fruit of God’s work and His blessing. ”

Little Stefan’s parents taught to be sensitive to humans. On Christmas Eve, after supper, he and his father visited an old man to whom they brought food from the family table.

At night, little Stefan was taken by his father to repair the graves of the January insurgents in the surrounding forests. His father was a man who prayed a lot. For hours he was kneeling in front of the painting of Our Lady of Częstochowa at the church in Zuzela. Stefan also remembered the first lessons in Polish history that his father gave him from the book 24 Pictures from Polish History. This “forbidden” book could not be taken out until late in the evening, when the Cossack patrol rushed through the village on horseback. Years later, the Primate recalled that it was in this book that he first saw the Gniezno Cathedral, which later became very close for him.

Stefan had a great love for his mother – Julianna. Probably running a house and raising five children did not allow her to have too many moments of affection towards her children. Therefore, Stefan fondly recalled the day when he had acquired a scab. His mother then took him in her arms, put a cold knife on him, and held him in her lap. Remembering this moment, he said: “I was ready to collect bumps and scrapes more often, if only my mother would hold me on her lap”. His mum sometimes took him to Urla, where she had the house that she had received as dowry.

Stanisław and Julianna Wyszyński came to Zuzela after their marriage in Prostynia. The first daughter was Anastazja (born 1900), the second was Stefan (born 1901), then Stanisława (born 1903), Janina (born 1905), then Wacław (born 1908), who died at the age of 11, probably for meningitis. The last, sixth child – a daughter, Zofia, was born in Andrzejewo, where the Wyszyński family moved in 1910. She only lived a month. After her birth, her mother died.

The death of his mother was a most painful experience for little Stefan. The dramatic days of waiting were deeply engraved in his memory. His mother was dying for almost a month. It was a very difficult time. Stefan was always listening to hear if the bells were ringing. It would be a sign that his mum had died.

He sat in school in suspense, awaiting the most difficult moment. Suddenly his sister entered the classroom and, turning to the teacher, said: “Papa asks for Stefan to come home”. Stefan, thinking that his mother was dying, did not wait for the teacher’s permission, but jumped up and was already at the door. The teacher shouted: “Sit down, you are not going anywhere.” Stefan replied: “Oh, I’m just going to go.” “Then you will not come back here” – threatened the teacher. “Very well, I will never come back to this school again. I’m fed up with the your teachings, “replied nine-year-old Stefan. And so it was. His wise father did not force his son to return to the Russian school. After two years of private education at home, he enrolled him in the Wojciech Górski Middle School in Warsaw.

The solace for little Stefan was – as he recalled years later – the thought of the Holy Mother. His family home, both in Zuzela and Andrzejewo, was close to the church. In order to serve at Mass, Stefan quickly learned to be an altar boy using Latin. He had been aware of his calling since he was a child. At the age of eight, one morning he woke up crying. Julianna his mum asked, “why are you crying?” Stefan replied: “because I dreamed that you married me, and I am supposed to be a priest.” He’s known it forever. As one of the most important experiences on the way to discovering his vocation, he recalls the night vigil on Good Friday in the church in Andrzejewo: “Almost the entire parish gathered for the last Lenton Lamentations. All three parts were sung as was the custom then, and the Way of the Cross was prayed in-between the parts of the lamentation. I stayed all night in the church, curled up by the confessional that stood at the entrance to the sacristy. I remember strongly this prayer at Christ’s tomb. The experiences of that night sculpted my boyish soul, helped me discover the beauty of the path I was going to take. I believed that this was the only way for me, there cannot be any other way. ”

In 1912, Stefan, at the age of 11, entered the Wojciech Górski Middle School in Warsaw. Fortunately, he did not enter the Russian state Middle School. He was proud to be a student of the Polish Górski School. He lived with his uncle in Mariensztat and travelled through Nowy Świat on his way to school every day. These were his first steps in Warsaw. “the way I remember, is that the Górski school had such great social and national authority that it evoked a kind of school patriotism. Especially in a city that had a strong state education. Passing a student in a state school cap on the street always mobilized a spirit of superiority and satisfaction. ”

In middle school, Stefan was an ordinary boy, capable of various, sometimes incalculable, feats. One day, he and his friends walked over the spans of the Poniatowski Bridge which was under construction to Saska Kępa. He also did not avoid children’s fights with Russian boys over a pile of gravel in the Saski Garden. When, years later, someone was praised that he was so decent from the beginning of his life, the Primate said simply: “I was not so decent, because I cheated and copied in school”.

The coming of World War I interrupted Stefan’s education in Warsaw. As early as 1914, when he was sitting in a school bench, he heard the roar of cannons. In 1915, the front cut off travel from Andrzejewo to Warsaw after the summer holidays. Stefan continued his education in Łomża, at the Private Male School of Commerce, where he finished his education at the middle school level. He lived in a boarding house with Professor Kęsicki, near the Franciscans monastery.. It was a very difficult time: war, violence, hunger. The occupying authorities forbade affiliation with the scouting movement. Stefan did not obey the order. He proudly recalled that when he was caught by the Germans during a collection in the Drozdowskie Forests, he was flogged. These were, as he later said, “the first sufferings for the Fatherland”.

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2024-07-20 23:15:14