Boleszyn, Where Busia Was Baptized

Boleszyn, Poland

Boleszyn, Poland

St. Martin’s in Boleszyn is the parish to which Sugajno belongs. It’s a long walk or a short buggy ride away. The wooden church there was built in 1721 and 1722, only a few years after the so-called Silent Sejm of 1717, in which Peter the Great of Russia imposed a protectorate over Poland, leading to the first partition, in 1772, when portions of the country were annexed by Russia, Austria, and Prussia.

The church doors are open this morning, and a telltale pail sits at the entrance. I’m in luck. It will be an old cleaning woman, I imagine, who will know all the people in town and love to talk.

Boleszyn, Poland

Boleszyn, Poland

I peer in and instead see a young woman, perhaps still in her twenties, with a mop, giving the floors a speedy scrub. It is the cleanest church I’ve yet seen in Poland, I tell her. In its simple, rustic style it’s beautiful–the freshly painted white ceiling, the brightly colored statues, and the stations of the cross.

“These parts are very old,” she says, smiling and pointing to the timbers to the right and left of the entrance. The inside doors have been meticulously stripped and restored so as to show the damage the wood has endured and to reveal their construction, even the flat-head nails. Very old hinges have also been carefully retained. On the wall hear the entrance is posted a list of all the parish priests, the first being Jakub Kowalkowski in 1644. It is a stunningly short list–only twenty-six lives leading from then to today.

Excerpt from A Polish Son in the Motherland: An American’s Journey Home by Leonard Kniffel, Chapter 7, “Like Grandma in the Back Seat”
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