Tag Archives: Polish priests

How to handle a priest?

No, I’m not talking about sexual abuse in the Catholic church!

There we were this evening, Zosia and I, not long in the home and settling slowly into an evening routine without mama who was at psycho-school for her one weekend per month training and the domofon rang. Strange, I thought, but answered it anyway and opened the door to see who was there. Our domofon is a bit of overkill really as the front door is all of 10 metres from the thing and it would be far easier if people just rapped on the kitchen window. Anyway, as I opened the door I was confronted with this tall guy dressed in a black cape with fancy attachments. Shit! I thought, Dracula!

Cursing myself for not knowing where we keep the garlic, I was about to shout “Zosia, run for it! I’ll keep him occupied!” when Dracula started making priestly movements, talking about ‘kolęda’ (or something) and I definitely heard the word ‘ksiądz’ (priest) with the correct declination. Realising my mistake I was at first relieved but then horrified as I realised that this priest was on my doorstep looking for an invite inside and I had absolutely no idea what the correct protocol was! Eeeek!

Something told me that “Not today, thank you.” was inappropriate and my command of Polish is not sufficient to embark on a doorstep discussion about the pros and cons of organised religion so I just invited him in, which seemed to be the right answer. Now, my first problem is what to be calling the guy, the word for priest (ksiądz) is dangerously close to the word for book (książka), certainly when you don’t really know what you’re doing with endings, so wishing to avoid calling him “Mr Book” for the evening I just avoided referring to him at all, like he was a sort of mysterious Holy spirit or something. I plied him with my full range of excuses about being English and not being Catholic although working hard on being a good one anyway for Zosia’s sake and because I’d signed all those papers when we got married and such forth. Can’t say he seemed to impressed although he did start making excuses about how his boss (the Pope?) was much better at English than he was!

As he stood awkwardly in the lounge I muted the Cartoon Network and he invited us to sit down and talk a little. Gawd! We sat and he gave a little speech about what he was doing there, which I think had something to do with “Kolęda wizyta duszpasterka”, as that’s what is written on one of the visiting cards he left behind. I’m completely at sea with this because as far as I know kolęda is something you sing at Christmas, Silent Night, The Holly & the Ivy and so on, so now I’m expecting him to break into a chorus of the Lu-la-lu-la-lay thing and expect us all to join in! Thankfully he didn’t.

Now we’re sat down, what’s going through my head is what I’m supposed to be offering him by way of either hospitality or a sign of my deepest respect for a man of the cloth. He’s clearly not Santa Claus so I suppose a mandarin, cup of milk and few walnuts is out of the question. Money perhaps? Churches like collecting money? In the end I settled for an offer of tea or coffee and he chose to use the toilet. (Yes folks, be jealous that OUR guest toilet is now operating with holy water!)

He opened his filofax whatsit, checked our address and noted something down, “Lost cause” is my guess. He then got out a few of those ‘made in China’ tarot cards with pictures of saints and stuff on them. One was an advert for the local church, from whence he came I assume. “Oh!” I said, “So there’s a church nearby? We’ll be sure to pop along sometime soon and join in the fun!”. Another card has a prayer on the back and the third one is the one that talks about kolęda wizyta…..

I was sensing that we’d just about exhausted our mutually possible interfacing and he was clearly of a similar opinion so he got up and mentioned praying. We all stood and tried to look suitably full of prayer. He said something about home and family and then shook a little silver thing. He then, I think, blessed Zosia, asked me to say something to my (clearly long suffering) wife and headed for the door. We said our goodbyes, him attempting English and me with a “Dobranoc! Catch you at the church soon!” and it was all over.

I know God was watching this whole sorry episode and I know I’m going to hell. Can someone tell me what the correct behaviour is just in case he’s mad enough to return.

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How to be a (Polish) Billionaire

US / UK quarrels about how much a billion actually is aside — there was a time when you could rather easily become a billionaire in Poland. A time when disregard for “drobne” was real. I mean, would you care about ‘small change’ when ‘small change’ could be a roll of notes to burn a socialist cigar with? (Of course, there were no cigars under socialism here. But there was Cuban music. Close, though no cigar. And I heard people saw Vietnamese cigs once, meant to repel jungle insects, not to pamper your smoker’s palate. But I digress.)

For nostalgic (to old local reader) and for educational (to our young expat reader) purposes, here goes a gallery of the banknotes of the times of plenty. See lifestories behind the faces! Reckon how many of these people were pure, genuine Poles. NONE!

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you…OUR MONEY!


Józef Bem

Born in Austria, a national hero in Poland and Hungary, a mathematician, burnt (not entirely) during artillery tests, wrote scientific stuff in German, a general, got Légion d’honneur from Napoleon, and Virtuti Militari for defence against Russians, adopted Islam and was a Turkish field marshal, died in Ottoman Syria.



Romuald Traugutt

Born in Russia, served in the Russian army, a sapper, commanded an uprising against Russia, got married to a Lutheran (but converted for him to RCC), fought against Bem (10 above) in Hungary, remarried, degraded and hanged in Russia (Warsaw, specifically).



Karol Świerczewski

From Warsaw working class, fought for the Bolsheviks in the revolutionary Russia. And fought against Ukrainians. Fought against Poles during the Polish-Soviet War. Fought against Franco forces in Spain. Shot POW’s and befriended Hemingway. Fought against Germans since 1941. Would give [fatal] orders drunk, a Stalinist MP in Poland, killed by Ukrainian fighters.



Ludwik Waryński

Born in Ukraine, a Socialist activist, arrested by Austrians, migrated to Switzerland, returned to Warsaw (in Russia), founded a workers party, arrested by Russians, died in Schlisselburg prison, aged 33.



Jarosław Dąbrowski

A noble born in Kiev Russia, awarded by Russians for fighting Chechens. Arrested by selfsame Russians for conspiring, he escaped from his Siberia-bound transport and got to France, where fought for the Paris Commune. Died and was interred in Paris. Mentioned in the Polish National Anthem he is not — another J. Dąbrowski is, being a British Queen(‘s peer), sort of.



Tadeusz Kościuszko

A noble, born in Polesia. Got a scholarship in Paris, a military engineer. Fought against Britain, an American national hero. Insurrected against Russia in Poland, leading nobles and peasants alike, sorely defeated, Sworn allegiance to the Russian tzar, emigrated to USA, then to Paris, died in Switzerland. Did I mention he’s mentioned in the name of the highest peak Down Under?



Mikołaj Kopernik

Born in Torun (Prussia, Poland, either Pole or German), wrote in Latin. An astronomer, a mathematician, a translator, a general, a diplomat, a businessman, he stopped the Sun and moved the Earth. In 2006 his skull was DNA-tested and certified to be his. [Watch out for a Polish insider joke: he was a woman.]



Mieszko I

The first ruler of Poland, when there was no Poland yet. His other wife was German. He got (t)his country baptised and religious. Sweet, huh? You bet!….
Real McCoy



Fryderyk Chopin

You’d brand him a pop musician today, somewhere betwixt Rubik and Doda. He was so Polish that his name is spelled French way. Adored, quite weirdly, in Japan. As is Vader. (Which is much less weird.) His “green” banknote – unlike 50 zlotych – was first to mean anything like a dollar.



Stanisław Wyspiański

Montypythons unwound it eloquently: Say no more! Say no more!




….If you go on with “Skłodowska-Curie”, you are pro-Polish.
….If you choose “Curie-Sklodowska”, you are a bloody French lover. Or worse, a French person.

She and her spouse (or the other sex round) used to be on a 500 French Franc banknote. Say: who valued her more? Anyway, the lady discovered polonium and radon.

[Watch out for a Polish insider joke: she was a woman.]



Stanisław Staszic

A middle-class man, a philosopher, a geologist, a scientist, a sponsor to others, including this Jew. Set up a coal mine. A Catholic priest. Well, naturally? Said to dislike wearing his cassock so much he did not wear it. Wanted general education and teology separated. [Ain’t that a shocker? Hardly lived in any Poland though.]


100000 ZLOTYCH

Stanisław Moniuszko

A noble, born in Russia (now Belarus), died in Russia (now Warsaw). His composer’s career set off in Berlin. Fathered Polish national opera. — It was, uh, blasphemised calculated there are 5 female names in Poland. The title of one Moniuszko’s highlit opera is Halka. “Halka” is a female name – and then it means “petticoat” in Polish (plus some scary things in some scary languages, possibly).

Below Jontek, a Highlander, Halka’s boyfriend, pines for his love. Halka dumped him for a landlordling, thus he pines. His first words: “The pines tremble on the mountain”. (Or “Roar firs”. Anyway, some trees near Zakopane. Anyone spots a bagpiper in second two below? Oh, and the voice comes from a Ukrainian.)


200000 ZLOTYCH

The front side is PRL. (You won’t understand.) The reverse shows Warsaw. (I don’t understand.)


500000 ZLOTYCH

Henryk Sienkiewicz

Born in tzarist Poland into a family of Tartar Lithuanians, died in Switzerland. The man who wanted to lift up Polish hearts, basically by means of heart-chilling stories about cruel non-Poles suffering defeats from not less cruel foes. One of his novels, Quo vadis, is about non-Poles suffering in Rome. A Nobel prize winner. Without him, Poland would be different, including some titles.


1000000 ZLOTYCH

Władysław Reymont

Born on the much hated 7th day of May, just like Hume, Brahms, Tchaikovsky and, well, others.

He got a Nobel prize for a lengthy dialect-laden novel about peasants. Thomas Mann did not get the prize then. Some say there were few good candidates “during the 1920s”.


2000000 ZLOTYCH

Ignacy Paderewski

Born in Russia (now Ukraine), died in New York, a composer and a triumphant piano virtuoso. His heart is interred in the USA. Married a baroness. Has haunted his own museum. They say he was a Sir of the British Empire. A skillful politician, in English, a prime minister, in Poland. Starred in a music drama, as pioneerly as 30 years prior to another music drama, “Yellow Submarine”.


A 5000000 zloty note was designed, with the Moustached Marshall
but people had started miscounting zeros already, so the powers that mint gave the idea up. (So, the highest ranking officer here is the Soviet 3-star general, I suppose?)






They don’t pay me for this.

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