The Church and Religious Life before 1990
After the war the church was still in place for some time. Later on the priests left, they must have scared them and they were afraid of their lives. Then, the people said masses on their own, and the church existed by 1949. At the church there was a paper warehouse. They completed that printing house and there was a paper warehouse. They destroyed altars, burnt [them]. There were elegant oaken benches, like in the church – they destroyed everything. They took some of them to the court, some of them somewhere else, and destroyed the rest of them. There was a museum of atheism; it was just before the return of the church, in 1987-88. They returned the church in 1989. The priest returned, and, in the early December, they returned the church. There was a lot of trouble with that giving back. At that time, the parishioners were writing letters but we didn’t get any answer. We chose a time, when one of the priests from Sambir were to go to the Holy Father; we wrote a letter and gave it through him. And then the Holy Father raised that question, how it was like with that giving back of the church. And then Gorbachev... A letter came from Moscow, I think, to give the church back. At first, they didn’t want to, didn’t know whom to give it back to, they wanted some money...They lost some money at that time to build that museum of atheism... There were such people among us who were engaged in that matter and said: You have destroyed more of our altars, benches, you have taken the organ somewhere to Georgia, how can you demand money for renovation then?
Zdzisław Baran
dotyczy także: Odrodzenie Kościoła i polskości po 1990 roku,
When the Bolsheviks took the church away, they put cakes, vodka, wine and the likes there. People got through the windows, they were hitting them, breaking them, and stealing. No way. Then, they tipped seeds there — linseed. And they cleaned that linseed from grass, from everything. But when the rain came, it was all full of holes, and it grew, that linseed. No way. Then they left it like that and pigeons, crows, or jackdaws were the hosts there. And it was standing like that.
Marian Bumblis
In our childhood we went to Chernivtsy only twice a year when we were taken to church. I received my First Communion in Chernivtsy. Father Krajewski gave it to me. I was 12 then. There were no religious instruction lessons at that time, only my grandma’s teaching. We had to go by train all night. We had to come to the station at midnight, the train was at 4.00 a.m., and in the morning it was in Chernivtsy. For children it was tiresome, but on holidays my uncle, mum, and grandma went to Chernivtsy to bless one egg. In hiding. They brought that egg in a pocket in a white napkin. How this egg smelled... How good that egg was... Because you had to share very small pieces of that one egg among all of us. Oh, how good it was!
Anna Hryńczuk
There were no ceremonies connected with taking the First Communion. Father Krajewski often came to us with my uncle. My uncle lived in Chernivtsy and the priest was friends with him and he came to the village. My grandma’s confession had to be heard, because she was already sick. He tried to come to us to the village with my uncle. We came to him to Chernivtsy with my mum, asked him and he opened the church for us, and it was in hiding. With no mass. I only had to stay with my uncle for the following day to come to the church and receive the First Communion. There were no other children, I was the only one. Here in Chernivtsy it was all organized, the Fifars stayed with us, two twin sisters who taught the children Polish, and the priest gave them religious instruction lessons in secret. So, they had their First Communion and I didn’t. I had no white dress, I had nothing. We went into the church through the side door and there was the first confession. And the Communion was on the following day. I attended a mass and there was the Communion and that’s it – my First Communion.
Anna Hryńczuk
When there was a Mary Mass nobody could carry the cross but the people held in high regard. Or to sing the rosary, or to recite a litany. In the middle f the village there lived such farmers held in high regard, they had a large family. The cross was always standing in their house. When there was a Mary Mass, they went from one end of the village, and people would come up and sing. Then, closer to the other end, there was a woman, such a rich old lady held in high regard. She was so beautifully dressed, so clean. She would go out and start the litany and they would sing that litany until they reached the cross. There is such a prayer: “Oh, our hope, our escape! Pristine and Immaculate Mother. Mother of Jesus, Mother of sinners! Who shall we call to on this earth, we – the banished ones, who will dry the tears of sufferers, who will save the poor? Oh, Mother! Your name keeps recurring to our lips.” It is a long prayer, it was always said under the cross. And then the angelus. And they would go and sing songs. Until they reached the end of the village. And when you came by your house you walked away, so that ten, fifteen people remained at the end.
Stefan Jodkowski
We tried to save the church the best we could. We each time looked for someone to help us, someone who had some influence in the State, in the Board, and we tried to save the church like that. They came, they wanted to make a sports hall in the parish church, in our church. But the keys were … The priest was so scared that he was afraid of his own shadow. It was father Krajewski, he is dead now, he is gone. There were priests who did not leave this place. They did not leave for Poland, and they stayed here to keep the church in Polish, and they did. When they came to take the keys away, because they wanted to make a sports hall, and the keys were with a woman, she is no longer alive, they were with Fiferka. Olga Fifer had the keys. Olga Fifer was ready to give things away, but not the keys.
Leopold Kałakajło
My father was a Greek Catholic. And my mother was Polish, Roman Catholic. My father’s name was Iwan, but they called him Janek, nobody called him Iwan. He was always called Janek. We went to the Greek Catholic Church. But we also went to the Roman Catholic Church. Father Urbański was a religion teacher and father Kasperowski was a parish priest. There was such a struggle of sorts. One Sunday they took me to the Roman Catholic Church, the other to the Uniate Church. But I do not care, there is one God in the world, there are no ten gods. In my class at school there were three Ukrainians, three Polish girls and 26 Jewish girls. I was the oldest sibling, with five brothers behind. In 1940, my mother went to hospital to give birth to another child, and I said: — Mum, if it is a boy, don’t come back home! I delivered an ultimatum. I took care of those kids. With nappies, and I was making all their clothes. They said you had to have seven professions under communism — I probably have more than seven.
Barbara Medyńska-Michajłow
dotyczy także: Kresy przed 1939 rokiem,
And the wedding, when my son was getting married, the priest married the young couple furtively. They were not allowed to marry in church. The priest came to us, and we say: – Father, what about the wedding. And he says: – I will come to the church in the evening, at that hour – I do not remember whether it was ten or nine, because it was January already – and will marry them. And we came. He was already waiting for us. As we entered the gate, they locked the door right away, the door to the church, too, and he married them in the church. There were only me, my husband, son and daughter-in-law at the wedding. Both my sons married in this way. He also baptized children. My daughter-in-law had twins, so he came here and says: – I will baptize them at home. He came home, we drew the curtains, lit the candles and he blessed everything. Because we were not allowed to go to the church then. School children were not allowed to go to the church at all. And how the children received the First Communion? I prepared my sons ay home. I taught both of them at home. He knew the prayer, I read the catechism to them and that was it. We went to the church, we sat in the front pews. When the priest started giving the Communion, my son stood up together with me, came closer, and received the Communion and back. We were afraid. Not so much about ourselves, but about the priest not to get into trouble.
Albina Smołko
We were going from cottage to cottage. The priest was celebrating the holy mass in the cottage, people gathered. I was travelling with the priest; I was also going to the sick ones. The priest was hearing confessions at one home, and I would go to another one and say that the priest came and who wanted to make confession, who was sick, where it was needed. And people would come and say that there was a sick old lady somewhere. And when we came to one sick old lady, she didn’t even think that a priest would ever come, so when she saw the priest, she kissed the ground, she kissed the priest on his legs and me on mine. And she made her confession. We were there on Sunday, and she died on Friday. We were going far away, some 70 kilometres, riding a motorcycle. I was travelling with the priest to the sick. And the priest heard confessions then, and I was gathering people and preparing them for confession. Sometimes the priest was there, and a man didn’t want to make a confession. The priest would say: Go and persuade him. So, I went there to persuade. I went far away, such snow banks. I went away and persuaded that man. He agreed to make a confession, the priest rode in such a sleigh. At that time, the priest could not be brought as he should. He was like a kolkhoz member, but he heard that man’s confession. So, we went through villages like that and prepared those people for confessions. We went to hospital at night. If I knew that someone I knew was in hospital, dying. I would go quietly with the priest at two o’clock at night. The priest would hear the confession quietly at night. I remember we were going to Pohost during the day. The priest in civilian clothes, he heard a confession, and I guarded, and we went. People who were making confessions didn’t confess for 20, 30 or 40 years. The priest went to the sick at night and day, to all of them, to members of the Orthodox Church, too. He was such a batyushka [priest] that he liked vodka and would say: Spowedovay moikh otiets Jan. Meni premia and you confess. And now members of the Orthodox Church are coming to the [Roman-Catholic] church sometimes, those who cannot get to the Orthodox Church on time. At that time many members of the Orthodox Church came. And the priest was going everywhere.
Teresa Szymko
When these priests were murdered, others came. It was father Urban who belonged to Biała. When he came, when he went on foot, he was still young. He always went on foot, when there were Mary Masses, he came on foot every day. Otherwise farmers brought him. My father brought him, too, on Sunday. But he is dead now, father Urban. He was here a few times. We did not even manage to take the church back yet when he came here in secret. And then we started taking the church back. In 1989, I think, they gave us the church back. It was father Reginald then. There was a storehouse in the church at that time, they stored grain there. No, it was not grain, usually these were such things for the shops, like flour. The altar survived, but not all the altars, because there were also side altars. So they put figures there now, but there were side altars there.
Maria Witwicka