The Kowalski Story: An Oral History and My Memories of the Great Depression

This is a narrative of a particular Kowalski family; one that started with the 1882 emigration of first John Kowalski and then in 1884, his wife-to-be Marya from Prussian occupied Poland to Nanticoke, Pennsylvania.  This is also the narrative of my consciousness from my birth in 1929 until 1942 when the Kowalski family emigrated from Scranton, Pennsylvania to Philadelphia.

John Kowalski was born about 1860 in the province of Posen (Poznan), Poland.  His wife, Marya Henke was born in the same province about 1867. At that time, and until 1918, there was no Poland.  Poland was partitioned since the late 1700’s by Russia, Austria and Prussia.  Posen (Poznan) was in the Prussian area.

John and Marya married about 1889 in Nanticoke, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania.  According to the 1900 census, they lived at 24 Slope Street in Nanticoke.  They had five children: Elizabeth, the oldest, born in 1893;

Constantine born in 1899; Sylvester, my father, born in 1902; Edward, born about 1904: and Joseph, born in 1907 (6 months after his father’s death).  Elizabeth likely married Stanley Janczak in 1910, and they had three children: Regina – born in 1911; Leopold – born in 1914; and Rose – born in 1917.  Sylvester married Sophia Sysko in 1928, and had five children: Sylvester – born in 1929; Vincent – born in 1930; John – born in 1932; Ronald – born in 1936; and, Joseph – born in 1941.

Regina Janczak married Carl Heinrich in 1943.  Both were living in Scranton.  Rose married John Forconi somewhere between 1940 an1942.  The most probable date is 1940.  Leo married Modesta Goltz in 1946.

The Janczak family, from the time of my earliest consciousness, lived on Cedar Avenue near Brooks Street in Scranton which was quite close to where we initially lived on East Locust Street.

Sylvester Kowalski married Rita Rizzo in 1952; Vincent married Dolores Kersavage in 1963; John married Sally Leahey;  Ronald married Jeanette Kennelly in 1956; and Joseph married Joyce Dare in 1961.

Most of what I would consider facts about the Kowalski’s is what I absorbed over the years from my father, who was an excellent conversationalist.  A little comes from my memory.  Most of what is in this story about the Sysko/Kosciuk family is what I and Brother Ronald learned from our cousin, Theresa Bohenek.  She is an encyclopedia of knowledge in regards to my mother’s side of the family.  Brother Ronald’s research and talking to the Janczak family provides insight on this important part of the family. But, a great deal of what is in this story is what the environment hammered into my consciousness.  A number of blows made up this environment.  The death of my paternal grandmother was, even though I was quite young, very difficult for me.  I bonded to her, and there was nothing to take her place after her death. Her death was extremely difficult for my father, and he needed a number of years to make peace with her death. After my grandmother’s death, my father was my guardian angel.  The period of my father’s involvement with the United Anthracite Miner’s of Pennsylvania (UAMP) was stressful.  The meetings of my father’s local took place in our home.  I overheard the violent and dangerous nature of the various strike actions. Later, after UAMP was disbanded, my father had neither employment nor income; he was black-balled from working in the coal industry.  I was well aware of all this.  When he was able to join the Works Project Administration, I was aware of its importance. Some money would be available for food. I can still remember his obtaining rubber boots with felt liners so that he could work outside in the extremely cold winters of that period.  In 1937, when he was able to get a job as a miner in Taylor, Pennsylvania, the only thing that could be said was that he had private rather than governmental employment, but we were still in poverty.  He was twice in mine cave-ins, and, in the second one, was covered with rock and coal for two hours.  Only later, after his employment with Manor Farms as a mechanic, was a reasonable stability reached.  During this entire period, the country, and especially, Scranton, was in a vicious depression.  We, who were born during this period and which is called The Fourth Turning (see The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecyby William Strauss and Neil Howe) were called the Silent Generation.  The authors suggest that a Fourth Turningis analogous to winter.  Fourth Turning’s are periods of revolution, and in the 1930s, the country had a far-reaching revolution: Franklin Delano Roosevelt and the New Deal.  We had destitution, homelessness, hunger, and little hope.  We had Wall Street thieves stealing from everyone – from the rich to the poor.  We had large corporations who controlled the country.  FDR and the New Deal was indeed a revolution.

 As we currently are experiencing in the United States, and globally, the 1920s economy was dependent on the increasing amount of debt.  As Carroll Quigley states in his Tragedy and Hope:

“The stock market crash [the 1929 stockmarket crash] reduced the volume of foreign lending from the United States to Europe, and these two events together tore away the façade which until then had concealed the fundamental maladjustments between production and consumption, between debts and ability to pay, between creditors and willingness to receive goods, between the theories of 1914 and the practices of 1928.  Not only were these maladjustments revealed but they began to be readjusted with a severity of degree and speed made all the worse by the fact that the adjustments had been so long delayed.  Production began to fall to the level of consumption, creating idle men, idle factories, idle money, and idle resources.  Debtors were called to account and found deficient.  Creditors who had refused repayment now sought it, but in vain.  All values of real wealth shrank drastically.”

“It was this shrinkage of values which carried the economic crisis into the stage of financial and banking crisis and beyond these to the stage of political crisis.”

Another insight of the Great Depression is The Great Depression: An International Disaster of Perverse Economic Policiesby Thomas E. Hall and J. David Ferguson gives a sense of that era.

“The Great Depression in the United States occurred from 1929 to 1941.  The worst of it was during the first three and a half years when virtually every single indicator of economic prosperity reflected the disaster.  The falling levels of economic output resulted in widespread human misery, the extent of which is measured by the rising level of unemployment, increased poverty, and high rates of default on debt by both firms and households.  The Depression was so severe that the human perspective and drama of events cannot truly be shown through these numbers.  It led to huge changes in our social fabric.  Large migrations of people occurred from the dust bowl areas of mid-America to more prosperous places like California, and from the rural south to the industrial north.  There were food riots, violent labor strikes, and widespread discontent that made many fearful that the socialist or communist political parties might enjoy great gains in popularity or even rise to power.  Some might say that such a revolution indeed happened – through Franklin D. Roosevelt and the New Deal.”

Poverty exploded. With no jobs available, many became hoboes and roamed across the country.  The homeless population exploded.  Hunger and malnourishment was very prevalent.  We must keep in mind that in the early 1930s, the country had no safety nets: no food stamps; no unemployment compensation; no welfare to speak of; and, no retirement pay.  The elderly were a sorry lot.  In Scranton, many had serious occupational diseases from working in the coal mines, and therefore, unable to work.  Their children were also living a meager existence, and the elderly were continuously shuttled to live with different family members.  The Socialists and Communists found many individuals who were susceptible to theithat Carlr message.  A fear arose that the country would go “red.”  Workers were being ruthlessly exploited, and, in defense, joined labor unions and fought the enterprise owners.  Frequently, these labor activities were quite bloody.  The 1932 election of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his subsequent New Deal was a major revolution.  He saved the country from revolution and civil strife, and also saved capitalism from its own aberrant behavior.  Roosevelt had weekly radio “fireside chats” with the people, and, through that medium, gave them hope that they would soon live in a better social environment.  He succeeded. While the latter 1930s were not prosperous, the people had reasonable lives.  I lived in this environment until I was thirteen years of age.

In 2019, examining “hints” to my Ancestry.com family tree, I learned of the plight of the Heinrich family.  Carl Heinrich was Regina Janczak’s steady boy-friend during the late 1930s.  They married in 1943.  The 1940 U.S. census shows that Carl, his mother and father, and his younger sister were living with Carl’s married sister.  The report further showed that Carl was unemployed for the entire year of 1939.  Carl later enlisted in the U.S. army, and he and Regina could get married.  This vivid example shows that, in spite of the improving national economy in 1940, the improvement did not reach Scranton.  In the Heinrich’s case, Carl’s brother-in-law was supporting the entire Heinrich family.

In 1942, when we permanently left Scranton, I knew that I was being reborn, that the darkness was being left behind, and that all of us Kowalski’s would enter a better life.  And, so it was!  But first, we had to live through the Great Depression.

 John and Marya lived in Nanticoke, Pennsylvania where all of the children were born, and where John died on October 24, 1906.  Marya later remarried to Stawni, and, relocated to Scranton, Pennsylvania about 1917 (date of move unknown, but this date is reasonable) where Sylvester, Sr. completed two years of high school education. After marriage, Stanley and Elizabeth lived in Butler Township, probably the Butler Township located in Luzerne County.  This was the southwestern part of the anthracite coal region, and Stanley likely was a coal miner.

From what our father told me, John had at least several brothers back in Poland.  One of brothers was in the Kaiser’s army.  Another was a classical musician. John was the owner of a saloon in Nanticoke.  In the early 1910s, John sold the saloon and took the family west by train to visit relatives in Kansas.  They likely visited my father’s great-uncle George Henke who was a farmer in Kansas. My father told me that his uncle wanted him to stay and live with him on the farm.  Shortly after they returned to Nanticoke, John died leaving Marya a widow with four children.  She was pregnant with Joseph.

The best information that we have regarding Marya’s Polish background is through her sister’s Constance’s birth certificate.  In 1995, as part of a trip to Nova Scotia, I was able to visit Constance’s daughter, Connie MacKinnon of Truro, Nova Scotia who shared with me the information on her mother’s birth certificate.  From this document we know the following:  Constance’s father’s name was Joseph Dywelski and her mother was Antonina Kolodziej.  She was born January 1, 1889 in the city of Rogozno, the District of Obernicki, in the Province of Poznan, of the Republic of Poland.  Marya Kowalska’s maiden name was Henke.  This suggests that Marya and Constance might be half-sisters.  Marya’s second husband’s name was Stawni.  My father, Sylvester Kowalski, related that his mother’s sister, Constance, was secretary to Eugene Debs during World War I. Debs was an American Socialist leader, pacifist, labor organizer and Socialist candidate for US president five times.  During World War I, Debs was sentenced to ten years in jail for his pacifist beliefs.

Sylvester married Sophie Sysko in March of 1928.  In 1929, the year that I was born, my parents lived in Brooklyn, and my father worked for a Westinghouse lamp plant located in Brooklyn.  Since I have a Brooklyn birth certificate, this is where I was born. Shortly after I was born, I developed rickets, and, for health reasons, was sent to live in Scranton with my paternal grandmother while my parents remained in Brooklyn.  To the best of my knowledge, my mother came to live with my paternal grandmother when she was expecting Vincent.  While I was young, I can remember some scenes of when Vincent was an infant.  We lived on Locust Street between Prospect and Webster Avenues.  Everything was placid until my grandmother passed away about 1932 when I was three years old.  Obviously my father immediately came back to Scranton.  My father asked a co-worker to advise his boss that he would return as soon as possible after his mother’s funeral.  Whatever happened, when my father returned to Brooklyn, he was told that he no longer had a job.  He returned to Scranton and again became an anthracite coal miner.  When he and Mom married in 1928, his occupation was listed as “Miner”; therefore, again becoming a miner was perfectly natural. Our placid life ended.

After my father resumed coal mining, he became president of his United Mine Worker’s local.  My father, humanitarian that he was, entered the fight against John L. Lewis, the president of the United Mine Workers (UMW), and the mine owners because of labor exploitation and John L. Lewis not respecting the union’s negotiating committee’s remedy when he signed a new contract between the UMW and the mine owners.   In 1933, John Maloney, a forceful and idealistic insurgent, was thrown out of the UMW, and shortly thereafter formed the United Anthracite Miners of Pennsylvania (UAMP).  The movement grew, and my father, with his members approval, changed his local’s allegiance from the UMW to the new UAMP.  The result was that the entire anthracite coal region experienced violent and widespread strikes.  Slowly, a number of mine owner’s signed contracts with the UAMP.  My father’s local was one of them.  In October of 1935, Judge W.A. Valentine ruled that the UAMP was not entitled to the union dues amassed as dues coupons.  This effectively bankrupted the UAMP, and led to its demise.  As Monroe Douglas Keith states in his dissertation A Decade of Turmoil: John L. Lewis and the Anthracite Miners 1929-1936: states:

“Lewis’ UMW, with the heavy-handed support of the federal government, and local police and court system, had finally destroyed the UAMP, and in private, Lewis and Gorman were jubilant in victory.”

And, further:

“The question which remains is not whether the cards were stacked against Maloney and his mine workers.  They clearly were and under the conditions which were imposed on the new union, it was destined to fail.  More important, however, is whether the UAMP’s failure wasgood or bad, and whether it had any impact in its brief life.  In retrospect, the first question is fairly easy to deal with.  Maloney was an idealist and in many respects a true radical, a man who was captivated by a strong sense of right and wrong.  He was convinced that the UMW was corrupt, inefficient and lacking in the ideas needed to better the conditions of the anthracite workers.  In this regard, he cannot be faulted.”

Even after the UAMP was destroyed, the viciousness did not stop.

“Maloney, his son Thomas. Jr., and Hanover Township School Director Michael Gallagher were all killed when packages sent to Maloney and Gallagher exploded on Good Friday, 1936.” My father, as previously mentioned, was “black-balled” from working as a miner, and, because the Great Depression was raging and jobs in Scranton were non-existent, the family sunk into deep poverty: A sobering experience.  Needless to say, we lived in poverty.

I remember three pleasant activities from that period after the demise of UAMP.  My father bought a 1928 Dodge sedan for $16.  It was previously owned by his barber who purchased it for his two sons to drive.  It was inoperable, and thus the low price.  Pop found that the timing chain was broken, and replaced it.  Pop didn’t have enough money to pay for the license fee, and he operated the Dodge illegally, and, always, on the un-policed dirt roads. There was ritual, and both Vince and I participated.  I would go to the Richfield gas station at Locust street and Prospect avenue, and purchased enough gas which would fill two one-gallon jugs.  Pop would drive toward East Mountain and get on the back roads which were in the general area of the Laurel Line intercity rail train. We would enter Minooka on the road adjacent to St. Stanislaus cemetery and after skirting all of the cemeteries and more dirt roads, we would get to Grandma Kosciuk’s home in Greenwood.  Pop always turned the engine off when driving downhill in order to conserve gasoline.  On those back roads, we saw stark Appalachia poverty. On those back roads were a few coal mines, and the few area residents lived in poorly constructed and poorly maintained sun-bleached wood houses.  The children were all without shoes.

Another pleasant activity was to take a Sunday trolley excursion to Greenwood, and spend a pleasant Sunday with the Sysko/Kosciuk family.  Grandma Kosciuk always fed us well.  A third pleasant diversion was a sleep-over at Ciotka Janczak’s home. Along with treating us well, Ciotka’s house had central heat.  Oh, what luxury!

In 1937, Pop was able to work in the Moffat Coal Company coal mine in Taylor, Pennsylvania on the condition that he would not participate in any way with the union.  Later, in either late 1938 or early in 1939, Pop was able to get a job as the mechanic for Manor Farms, a milk bottler and milk retailer.  From this point, the family’s economic situation became more stable, and the Kowalski family went from poverty to just being poor, as where most people in the Scranton area.

When Pop worked in the Taylor coal mine, we lived on Loomis Avenue in the town of Taylor.  The Scranton-Taylor boundary was a few streets away.  From here, Pop was able to walk to the coal mine.  We continued our schooling and other activities at St. Stanislaus.  Vince and I walked the two miles from Loomis Avenue to St. Stanislaus each day.  The route that we used was about ¾ miles shorter than walking all the way on city streets.  Our short-cut was through the mine and colliery property.  And, we learned a little about coal mining.  The route was next to the mine access, and we would see the low coal cars being pushed into the mine by the small, low electric locomotive. Further, we passed the “breaker” where the coal was crushed and sorted, the coal loaded onto rail cars, and the separated rock carried to the top of a huge culm pile by conveyors.  This was the era of coal-fired steam engines.  After the colliery, we crossed a number of railroad tracks, and walked along the tracks until we reached Luzerne Street.  From this point, we walked on city streets to school.  When we had to go to Stanislaus at night, we used the same route, and for illumination we used lit candles placed inside of discarded tin cans.  We frequently saw the Waszko’s  who also attended St. Stanislaus.  The eldest was in my grade, and she had the same job of looking out for her siblings as I did.  Her father had a truck, and one of his ways to earn a little money was to illegally mine coal at what were called boot-leg mines.  The Waszko’s were very poor.

Vince and I spent most of our spare time exploring the wooded areas of Taylor when we lived there, and towards East Mountain when we lived in Scranton.  These areas had a lot of huckleberry bushes, which we picked, and, in Taylor, bootleg coal mines.  With Pop, Vince and I did go into one of these mines with our miner’s hats and carbide lamps, and mined coal for home.  Separately, Vince and I would screen the tailings from these mines again for home fuel.  When we lived in Scranton, without telling anyone, Vince and I would go “skinny-dipping” on the first warm day in May in a mountain stream.

Starting in the fifth grade, I attended Loomis Elementary School which was located roughly half way between where we lived and where Theresa now lives.  My teacher was Miss Bahler – one of the few teacher’s names that I do remember.  She had tremendous influence on me in getting me to take school seriously.  Our fifth grade was very much Appalachia.  One of my classmates was Cock-Eye.  True to his nickname, he was cross-eyed.  His family had a cow, and his job was each day to take their cow from the barn to the adjacent field and tether it.  The cow would munch on the grass all day, and Cock-Eye would bring it into the barn after school.  Another classmate was from a Russian family who lived diagonally across the street from the Gutowski family.  He was a terror, and acted like his older brother who frequently was AWOL from the army.  This was our education environment, and Miss Baihler wisely placed Francis Kowalski and I (we were not related) into desks in the unoccupied part of the room, and gave us special assignments.  The rest of the class was unruly, and demanded a lot of Miss Baihler’s attention. This was the beginning of my interest in reading and education.

Early in the sixth grade, about October or November of 1939, we moved back to Scranton about a block away from St. Stanislaus.  Until our relocation to Philadelphia, we did not experience the comfort of central heating, a hot water system, or electric refrigeration.  Refrigeration was an ice-box.  Also, when we lived on Loomis Avenue, out toilet was an outhouse. Since, Pop was on call, his company, provided him with a telephone – the first one for us.  A little later, Pop received from Manor Farms, Blue Cross hospitalization.  We were now living like millionaires.  The major Kowalski entertainment was the radio programs: Amos ‘n’ Andy; Buck Rogers; Fibber McGee and Molly; Flash Gordon; Green Hornet; Jack Armstrong – The All American Boy; Lone Ranger; The Jack Benny Show; and, The Shadow.  The branch library was only two blocks from Brooks Street, and Vince and I voraciously read their books – on average, three books per week.  Before we left Scranton, we graduated from the children’s section to the adult.  When we had the 11 cents admission, we would go to the Saturday double-feature matinee.

In Scranton, I attended Public School #8 located on Cedar Avenue nearer to central Scranton.  Scranton’s elementary and junior high schools were first class with first-rate teachers, and my educational aspirations flourished.

During these years, I was fortunate to have several anchors which immensely helped a youngster get through this period.  These were: our church, the Janczak family, and the Sysko/Kosciuk family.

The first was the Polish National Catholic Church, and, in particular, St. Stanislaus in Scranton, Pennsylvania.  It is here in St. Stanislaus that the Polish National Catholic Church was founded in 1897 by The Reverend Franciszek Hodur, a young priest born and educated in Poland. In the Biographical Note of Hodur: A Compilation of Selected Translationsby Theodore L. Zawistowski we find:

“As in many Roman Catholic parishes throughout the United States, a protest movement developed at Sacred Heart [a Scranton parish that Father Hodur was a vicar in 1895 but was subsequently transferred to Nanticoke, Pennsylvania] in 1896, leading to the building of a new church, St. Stanislaus.  Father Hodur accepted the invitation of the dissident parish to become its first pastor in 1897.  The date of his arrival, March 14, has become the traditional date marking the beginning of the Polish National Catholic Church.”

My education through the fourth grade was in St. Stanislaus parish school.  Until we left Scranton, Vince and I were continually active in the church: school; altar-boys; summer camp at the church property in Minooka: Pennsylvania; summer camp at the Spójnia camp located next to Waymart, Pennsylvania; May Day parade from St. Stanislaus to the above mentioned church property in Minooka; and, on and on.  While quite young, Mr. Wysocki, the executive-director of the Polish National Union, first arranged for my tonsillectomy, and, then later, for my first pair of glasses. Joseph Nieminski became a good friend while we lived on Brook Street.  He also participated in the above mentioned church activities. Later, he entered the PNCC seminary, and after ordination was assigned first to the Buffalo parish, and then later, to the Toronto parish. Nieminski was consecrated as bishop in 1968, and became the Bishop of the Canadian Diocese.  While always grateful, the full significance of St. Stanislaus became much clearer much later.  Bishop Hodur passionately worked to bring the Kingdom of God to St. Stanislaus and to the Polish National Catholic church.

When Father Hodur was assigned as pastor of Holy Trinity Roman Catholic Parish in Nanticoke, Pennsylvania in 1894, our paternal grandparent’s lived in Nanticoke, and undoubtedly knew him.  Our father always stated that his mother was a charter member of the PNCC

Vince and I, as altar boys, were intimately aware of Bishop Hodur.  We heard many of his Friday evening sermons at Vespers, although since they were in Polish, they were difficult for us to completely understand. Later, when Bishop Hodur was unable to leave the Rectory, Vince and I would participate with Auxiliary Bishop John Misiaszek in a mini-procession from Church to the Rectory and Bishop Hodur with his Holy Communion.  A lot of wonderful memories remain with me.

The second, and equally important, anchor for me were the two extended families that we, the Kowalski’s, were part of: the Janczak family; and, the Sysko/Kosciuk family.

My mother, Sophie, was the oldest of the four Sysko children.  Their parents were Joseph Sysko – born in 1885 in Russia, and Bronislawa Lewandoska – born in 1889 in Bialystok, part of Russian occupied Poland.  They lived on Greenwood Avenue across the street from their Roman Catholic Polish-speaking parish.  Sophie, my mother, was born in 1907; Anna in 1910; Joseph in 1912; and Jean in 1913.  Sophie attended the Moosic Borough public school and completed five grades.  Cousin Theresa was George Bohenek and Jean Sysko’s eldest child.

Joseph Sysko, our grandfather was a coal miner and died at an early age (in the year 1913) as did the typical coal miner of that period.  Our grandmother’s second husband, Joseph Kosciuk, was also a coal miner. He was alive when we were young children, but, he also died at a young age.  Our grandmother’s maiden name is Bronislawa Lewandoska.  Some records indicate that her last name was Lewkoska.  The Kosciuk family consisted of seven children; John, born 1916; Bertha, 1919; Florence; Edmund 1924; Eleanor, 1927; Christine, 1931; and Henry, 1934.

Our grandmother was a kind, gentle woman who had a very strong Catholic faith, and was a survivor. She was born March 22, 1889 in Bialystok, Poland.  Her entire life in Poland was under the extremely harsh Russian occupation rule. Bialystok is in the extreme eastern end of the  1918-1939 Polish-Soviet Union borders.  It is just across the border from Minsk, Belarus.

As a young lady, she participated in the annual pilgrimage to Our Lady of Chestochowa.  The pilgrimage was and still is a walking pilgrimage.  The pilgrims walked together, prayed together, and sang as they walked.  This pilgrimage is still traditional today and typically one would start in the capital Warsaw and walk to Chestochowa, which is slightly west of Krakow.  In our grandmother’s case, she had to walk first from Bialystok to Warsaw and then to Chestochowa.  When the church bells tolled for the evening Angelus, Grandma, regardless of whatever she was doing, knelt and prayed the Angelus.

Her grandchildren loved her.  We were frequently at her house on Sundays.  She always had a feast of fried chicken, her own fresh sausage and plenty of fixins’.  Dessert was her homemade pie, apple or strawberry-rhubarb all from her own yard. When Mom was young, Grandma raised, at times, a cow or a pig.  When we were young she would have chickens and ducks besides having an ample vegetable garden.

One interesting facet was that she insisted on listening each Sunday to Father Coughlin on the radio. Father Coughlin was an extreme reactionary who was rabidly against Roosevelt.  So much so, that he joined forces with the two most powerful Protestant reactionary clerics and tried to prevent Roosevelt from being reelected in 1936.  I also had the opportunity to help her with English so that she could take her citizenship test.  Grandma Kosciuk was a wonderful person.

The Janczak family was the third leg of our support system, and provided the young Kowalski’s with much love and support.  Ciotka, our father’s sister Elizabeth, and her three children, Regina, Rose, and Leo, provided us with sleep-overs, treats, such as, ice cream, and, at times, the only Christmas presents that we received.  My father and Elizabeth were very close.  She lived on Cedar Avenue near Brooks Street.  A number of factories were located across Cedar Avenue from Elizabeth.  There was a button factory, a silk mill, and a casket manufacturer.  Regina and Rose, at times, worked in the first two factories. Later, when my father began working for the Manor Farms, he was able to arrange for Leo to be his assistant, and both traveled to the three Manor Farms business locations: Fleetville was the main office.  Scranton and Wilkes-Barre were distribution locations for dairy products.  During the summer, Vince and I were able, at times, to accompany our father and Leo to the Wilkes-Barre location.

Elizabeth Janczak was a wonderful person, but had a taciturn personality.  She kept her thoughts to herself.   As a result, about the only thing that I knew of the Janczak history was that, at one time, she lived in Glen Lyon which is a community in Luzerne County.  From this, one can assume that since the three Janczak children were born in Butler Township and since Elizabeth spoke of Glen Lyon, a reasonable conclusion is that the three Janczak children were born in Luzerne County.  Likewise, little is known other than the fact that Elizabeth married Stanley Janczak.

In 1941, Pop went to Philadelphia to work for the Baldwin Locomotive Works.  War for the United States was imminent (December 7, 1941-Pearl Harbor) and the defense industry was mobilizing.  Pop was hired by Baldwin to work on their army tank contract.  The Kowalski family moved to Philadelphia in October 1942.

Life for those living and working in the anthracite coal region was harsh and brutal.  The immigration from the anthracite coal regions was similar to the migration of Okies to California and the rural south to the industrial north.  We from the anthracite coal regions were referred to maliciously as coal-crackers. In reality, we were no different than the 19thcentury European immigrants who were seeking a better life in the New World.  The coal-crackers migrated to: Schenectady, New York where General Electric had large industrial facilities; North Jersey which had considerable industrial activity; a few to Connecticut; and, a large number to Philadelphia.  This was a huge social revolution.  Many who came to Philadelphia, such as our family, moved to Bartram Village, a federally constructed residential project which is located at 54thStreet and Elmwood Avenue.  We were a Philadelphia sub-culture.  Those living in Bartram Village were all seeking a better life, and they were good people.  We were very friendly with Frank and Bessie Kersavage.  When in high school, I worked after school at the Whitman chocolate factory with Betty and Peggy Kersavage.  Later, brother Vince married Dolores Kersavage.  Sally Leahy was from Lilly, Pennsylvania, and came to live in Bartram Village with her older sister.  Sally married brother John.  Mike Bobelick and his family came from the Tower City area of Pennsylvania, and we both started Tilden Junior High School on the same day.  Others can add to this list.  All were seeking to escape the 1930s exploitation.

A final thought: When we entered our spanking new Bartram Village apartment having central gas heat, a Servel gas refrigerator, a gas range, and a domestic hot water system, magically the Great Depression stench left me, and I could “smell” the potential for a better life.  And, better it was.  The twenty five years post-World War II period was the most prosperous for ordinary Americans of any period in the country’s history.  Ordinary people went from the depressing 1930s to a new era of hope and accomplishment.  And, so did the Kowalski family.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The People in the Chimney and The Perfect Mothers by Donya Kowalski

Donya’s Poem The People in the Chimney and her essay The Perfect Mothers

 Donya Noudoshani Kowalski is an 8th grade student at St. Mary of the Lakes in Medford, New Jersey. In the fall of 2016, she plans to enter Bishop Eustace Preparatory School which is located in Pennsauken, New Jersey.

 In my opinion, her poem, The People in the Chimney, is powerfully insightful regarding the German people and its un-forgetful and un-forgiving twentieth century crime against humanity – The Holocaust: the genocide of millions of Jews, Slavs, and Roma. The Germans always considered these three groups as the untermenschen – the sub-humans.

 What we see in Donya’s poem and essay is humanity. Humanity appears to be a characteristic which is sorely lacking in the Germanic psyche.

 

 The People in the Chimney

By: Donya Kowalski

 

Darkness overtakes Auschwitz

as people in striped pajamas filled the camp

 

The smoke of my people

filled the once clear sky

 

I look out past the barbed wire

at the world I used to live in

 

I push a wheelbarrow full of dirt

and imagine that I am doing yard work

 

As the list of numbers for the showers was being called

I heard

Vier und fünfzig drei hundert ein und neunzig

My life

was going to go up a chimney

 

The German guards barked orders

The people in the striped pajamas

marched to the shower

 

Thousands of us squeezed into the chamber

The door was bolted shut

 

The gas began to fill our lungs

We slumped over into piles

 

We did not deserve this fate

We did not deserve to end our life

by going up a chimney

We did not deserve to be killed like

an infestation of bugs

We did not deserve this at all  

  

The Perfect Mothers

By: Donya Kowalski

           All my life my mom has gone to the ends of the earth to make me happy. When my best friend passed away, I was devastated. My mother knew exactly what I needed to hear. Mary shared the same maternal instinct with her son. Mothers always know what their children need. Mary knew that Jesus needed her to stay by his side and my mom knew I just needed a hug from her.

My mother has shown her endless love for me all my life. When I get sick, she cares for me. My mom brings me food and medicine and helps me to feel better by simply loving me. If I am scared, she will embrace me in a tight hug. I automatically know that she loves me so much that she wouldn’t let anything hurt me. Mary showed the same love to her son, Jesus. As he was carrying the cross that he would soon die on, Mary followed by his side. Mary loved her son so much that she stayed with him through his suffering. I see that same love from my own mother.

When I have doubts that I am able to do anything, my mom encourages me to do my best. She knows that I am capable of doing anything I set my mind to. The night before the entrance exam for high school, I became very worried. Thoughts of not being accepted filled my mind. Without me saying a word, my mother could tell I was worried. She told me she knew I would do great and that I had nothing to worry about. I knew that if she thought I could do it, then I really would do well. Like my mom, Mary encouraged her son. Even though Jesus did not feel ready to perform his very first miracle, Mary knew he was ready. Jesus changed water from a well to an abundance of the best wine at a wedding with help from his mother’s encouraging words.

My mom is patient with me when she asks me to do my chores. I usually respond with, “I will do it in a minute.” My mom knows that I really mean that I am not going to do my chores. She is patient with me and calmly tells me to do them. After a while, I give in and do them. Without my mom’s patience, she would have a hard time when I need to do chores. When Mary and Joseph were leaving Jerusalem after the Passover, they discovered that Jesus was missing. They searched everywhere for him. Mary was patient and did not get mad at Jesus when they found him sitting in temple with the teachers. That took a lot of patience and bravery not to worry about Jesus.

Out of all the people I know, my mom is the bravest one. She always manages to smile, no matter what the situation. When my grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer, my mom went with her to all of her chemotherapy and radiation treatments. After spending a long day at the hospital with my grandmother, she would come home with a smile. Although my grandmother was going through harsh treatments, my mother made sure I knew everything would be alright. Like my mom, Mary was also brave. When the angel Gabriel came to Mary, she took on a great challenge. The angel told her that she would be the mother of God’s son. She knew it would be tough, but Mary accepted it.

I am so grateful to have a mother as loving as mine. She always believes in me and I know that she will always keep me safe. I see Mary in my mom everyday. Mary loved her son so much that she stayed by his side during his suffering. She was brave enough to take the challenge of being his mother. Both my mom and Mary are the perfect example of a mother who would do anything for their child because they care about them so much.

 

 

 

SCRANTON: The Prosperity of Coal; The European Immigrants; The Polish National Catholic Church; The Kowalski Family.

SCRANTON: The Prosperity of Coal; The European Immigrants; The Polish National Catholic Church; The Kowalski Family.    Sylvester J. Kowalski, May 6, 2015.

 Three important Scranton issues.

Scranton’s nineteenth and early twentieth century prosperity was due to its extensive anthracite coal seams. Most of the coal miners were poorly paid European immigrants who, eventually, wanted better pay and working conditions. Labor turmoil ensued. Concurrently, the Polish coal miners were experiencing the same type of language and culture repression as they did in Poland by the Roman Catholic Church. Rebellion against the Roman Church became frequent, and, out of this rebellion, the Polish National Catholic Church (PNCC) was born. The Kowalski family was intimately involved with coal mining, the labor turmoil, and the PNCC.

The 1st Industrial Revolution and Scranton’s prosperity.

John Kowalski, my grandfather, came to the Pennsylvania anthracite region from Poland because of the abundance of jobs which contrasted with their scarcity in Poland.

The technological innovations of converting the energy of coal into the mechanical energy of steam-driven engines ushered in the 1st Industrial Revolution. The northeast Pennsylvania 19th century economic boom was propelled by this region’s abundant supply of anthracite coal. It was an extension of the 1st Industrial Revolution.

Steam-driven engines permitted: the de-watering of coal mines; the powering of textile manufacturing machinery and machine tools; the building of steam-driven locomotives for transportation; the development of steam-driven marine engines for ship propulsion; the construction of steam-driven farm implements and tractors; and, when electricity became practical, the development of steam-driven electrical generators.

Pennsylvania had an abundance of coal and northeast Pennsylvania had the bulk of the country’s anthracite (hard) coal. The anthracite coal region required immense numbers of workers. Most of them came from Europe. The worker’s nationality were: England/Wales – 21%; Germany – 12%; Ireland – 16%; Poland/Russia – 26%; and all other – 25%.

The Kowalski family, Nanticoke, and Scranton.

John Kowalski is the patriarch of Kowalski family. He was born in 1857, and emigrated from the Polish Province of Poznan (western Poland) in 1882. His parents are Lorenz Kowalski and Elizabeth Zbiarwony.   Maria Henke was born in the same province in the year 1863.

Kowalski, in Polish, means the son of a smith or blacksmith. Polish surnames frequently depicted the father’s occupation. John’s father likely was a blacksmith. A blacksmith “manufactured” gates, grilles, railings, light fixtures, tools, agricultural implements, cooking utensils, etc.

According to the 1900 census, John arrived in the US in 1882.  In 1900 he and Maria lived at 24 Slope Street in Nanticoke Pennsylvania.   John and Maria had 5 children: Elizabeth born 1891; Constantine born 1899; Sylvester born 1902; Edmund in 1904; and, Joseph 1907. John’s employment was as a coal miner. In 1903, John owned a saloon located at Broadway and Lee in Nanticoke.

The 1900 census tells us that Maria Henke emigrated to the US in 1884. She certainly came to find a husband. Why Nanticoke? Likely, she came to Nanticoke because her mother’s first cousin lived in Nanticoke, Pennsylvania. Maria’s mother’s first cousin, Vincent Kołodziejczak, lived nearby at 286 West Union Street.

A huge number of men emigrated from Europe to the United States.  This gave mothers, such as, Antonina Kolodziej Henke a problem: How can they marry-off their daughters, such as, Maria Henke?  The most practical solution was to send them to the United States.  But, where, and who would watch over these young ladies?  If one had a trusted relative already in the United States, perhaps that individual would help.  Possibly, Antonina trusted Vincent and arranged for Maria to go to Nanticoke.  Vincent and his wife would help find a boarding establishment if they themselves could not board her.  Until Mary married, she would have the support of her Nanticoke extended family.  Mary was single for 5 years after arriving in the US.

King coal and life in the 1930s Scranton.

Life in Scranton in the 1930s must be viewed, first and foremost, from the coal miner’s perspective. This will first be done. Secondly, I will look at life in Scranton through my perspective for the years 1930 to 1942.

Labor turmoil in the anthracite coal region.

What follows chiefly comes from:

  • A DECADE OF TURMOIL: JOHN L. LEWIS AND THE ANTHRACITE MINERS 1926-1936, Douglas Keith Monroe’s Dissertation. (Georgetown University)
  • The Face of Decline: The Pennsylvania Anthracite Region in the Twentieth Century Thomas D. Dublin and Walter Light

The immigrant coal miners were exploited by the coal-mine owners. Waves of immigrants, particularly in the 19th century, provided cheap labor for these coal mines. The disparate immigrant groups were simply exploited, paid low wages, and forced to live in communities which were fragmented by ethnic barriers and without adequate socialization and integration opportunities. The living conditions were a form of apartheid. But, was very profitable for the mine owners.

In the year1918, 121 million tons of anthracite coal was mined. This was the peak for the entire coal mining cycle. In 1928, only 75 million tons were mined.

The reduced coal production created labor turmoil. A series of disruptive strikes led anthracite customers to seek alternative fuels. The 2nd Industrial Revolution based on oil and the internal combustion engine already had began, and became a significant rival to coal. Customers began to use oil for heating.

Four issues affected the long-term fate of anthracite.

First, by 1926, the easily mined coal was depleted. Second, Domestic coal faced stiff competition from oil and natural gas. Bituminous coal was much cheaper for the steam coal electrical generating market. Third, waterpower electrical generation was becoming a more serious competitor. And, fourth, the western market shrank and Northeast industrial market became stagnant.

The consequence of anthracite coal’s shrinking market share was labor turmoil not only between coal operators and the UMW, but also between the coal miners and the UMW.

The coal operator’s reaction to the coal industry decay was, first, to cut costs in any way possible to improve productivity, and, second, to discontinue the operation of collieries that were the least profitable. Employment dropped from 165,386 in 1926 to 101,500 in 1937. Annual days worked dropped by 24%.

The consequential unemployment brought poverty to the coal miners, and encouraged miners to steal or “bootleg” the coal needed for their homes and to sell to the public. The UMWA/coal operator relations became extremely turbulent.

In the aftermath of the 1925 strike, the coal miners warred with both the UMWA and the coal operators. Many violent local strikes occurred. With the onslaught of The Great Depression in 1930, the unemployment and underemployment brought misery to the coal miners.

The coal miner’s believed that the UMW ignored the poverty stricken coal miners. The coal miner’s realized that the reduced coal mining meant reduced total working hours. What they saw was that insider-favored miners were working full time, while others considered themselves fortunate if they were able to work five days per month. The coal miners wanted an equalization of days worked. This didn’t suit the coal operators nor the union insiders, and from 1930 to 1933, the coal miners warred against John L. Lewis and the UMW. Local strikes and violence were frequent.

On August 1933, John Maloney led the angry coal miners into a new union – United Anthracite Miners of Pennsylvania (UAMP), and in October 1933, UAMP struck the Glen Alden Company and its 19 collieries.

John Maloney became the leader of UAMP. At this time, my father, Sylvester C. Kowalski, was president of his UMW local, and, with membership’s approval, led it into the UAMP. Their meetings took place in the Kowalski home on East Locust Street. As a four-year old, I met the members and listened to their discussions from the second floor. My father’s UAMP local participated in the very violent strike against Glen Alden’s Baker Colliery located in Scranton.

The strike started “a reign of terror”, one with bombings and shootings commonplace. Battalion’s of miners blocked roads and gates in order to close collieries. Fights broke out frequently. Hundreds were hospitalized. Houses and cars of both UAMP and UMWA were sabotaged. Local and state police were unable to maintain order. The Wilkes-Barre area resembled an armed camp. But, the strike itself was very effective.

UAMP’s betrayal by FDR’s administration

Pressure by FDR’s administration resulted in the National Relations Board (NLRB) and Senator Wagner becoming involved in resolving the UMW/UAMP/Glen Alden strike. The Administration wanted UAMP to submit to NLRB arbitration.

Maloney and UAMP reluctantly agreed to NLRB arbitration. Since John L. Lewis and the UMW had tremendous political power, the final decision was politically motivated and favored the UMW. The second blow that UAMP received was Judge W.A. Valentine 1935 ruling that UAMP was not entitled to the union dues amassed as dues coupons (from dues check-off). UAMP was effectively bankrupted. The combination of the NLRB ruling and Judge Valentine decision meant the demise of UAMP.

In the aftermath, John Maloney, his son, Thomas, Jr., and Hanover Township School Director Michael Gallagher were all killed when packages sent to them exploded on Good Friday, 1936. Even after UAMP was destroyed, the viciousness continued. My father was “black-balled” from ever working for a coal company.

Douglas Keith Monroe states:

“The question which remains is not whether the cards were stacked against Maloney and his mine workers. They clearly were and and under the conditions which were imposed on his new union, it was probably destined to fail.”

“… whether the UAMP’s was good or bad, and whether it had any impact in its brief life.”

“Maloney was an idealist and in many respects a true radical, a man who was captivated by a strong sense of right and wrong. He was convinced that the UMW was corrupt, inefficient and lacking in ideas needed to better the conditions of the anthracite workers. In this regard he cannot be faulted.”

Maloney more than anyone dramatized the equalization issue. Since the onset of the 1918 coal mining slowdown, the coal miners insisted on an equalization of hours worked by all UMW members. Instead, the privileged few, such as, UMW insiders were working full time while many at the opposite end of the spectrum were working less than five days per week. Maloney forced the UMW to re-organize and give the mine workers a voice in policy making, and he forced John L. Lewis to stop his arbitrary decision-making.

The post-UAMP Kowalski family sunk into deep poverty. The East Locust Street home’s mortgage was defaulted, and the family needed to move. For a time, my father “worked” with the Federal WPA (Works Project Administration. In 1937, the “tide” changed. My father was able to get employment as a coal miner at the Moffat Coal Company in Taylor, PA, on the basis that he would not participate in any union activity. Even better, in early 1939, my father obtained a mechanic’s position at the Manor Farms of Fleetville, PA. He repaired dairy equipment and serviced its truck fleet.

The saving grace for the Kowalski family was that it had three wonderful extended families.  the Janchak family (my father’s sister); the Sysko/Kosciuk family (my maternal grandmother), and St. Stanislaus PNCC Cathedral.

The Janczak family provided the young Kowalski’s with much love and support. Ciotka, our father’s sister Elizabeth, and her three children, Regina, Rose, and Leo, provided us with sleep-overs, treats, such as, ice cream, and, at times, the only Christmas presents that we received. Later, my father arranged for Leo to be his assistant at Manor Farms.

My maternal grandmother, Bronislawa Lewandoska, was, in my opinion, the 1st Polish feminist. When she was 16, her father pressured her to marry a Russian soldier. This was not what she wished, and, secretly, left her home, emigrated to the U.S., married Joseph Sysko, and both lived in the Greenwood section of Moosic Borough for the rest of their lives.

The Sysko/Kosciuk family.

Joseph Sysko died at the age of 29, and his family needed to find a survival strategy. Family survival for the European immigrant families meant remarriage when the coal miner father experienced premature death which was frequent. Death from mine explosions and cave-ins were frequent. The coal miner’s surviving family had no financial resources. Benefits, such as, Survivor’s Benefits, relief payments, or food stamps were not available. For survival, the young widow had no choice other than to remarry. Likely, the coal region’s had a deficit of marriageable females, and surviving widows had no difficulty finding a second husband. Likely, there was a shortage of marriageable females.

Bronislawa’s grandchildren loved her. We were frequently at her house on Sundays. She always had a feast of fried chicken, her own fresh sausage and plenty of fixings’. Dessert was her homemade pie, apple or strawberry-rhubarb, all from her own yard.

The Sysko/Kosciuk family was the second of the important extended families.

Our third extended family was Saint Stanislaus PNCC. Why was PNCC an important extended family? St. Stanislaus Cathedral showed: love; security; consideration; assistance in time of need; education; a Christ-like holy culture; love and understanding of the Holy Spirit; and, companionship. It had a traditional Slavic communitarian culture. Here in Scranton, Bishop Hodur nurtured St. Stanislaus’ to be the “Kingdom of God here on earth”.

A PNCC May Day parade took place on the first Sunday of May. The parade started at the St. Stanislaus Cathedral and ended in the recreation area adjacent to the PNCC cemetery. My brother, Vincent Kowalski, is in the foreground and on the extreme right. Such celebrations provided us with pride in both our Polish culture and pride of being Americans.

The Polish National Catholic Church: Its Origin; Why it was Founded; The Organizer – Prime Bishop Francis Hodur; The theology of Bishop Hodur .

The Organizer – Bishop Francis Hodur

“Franciszek Jan (Francis John) Hodur was born in Poland in the village of Zarki in the country of Chrzanow, a coal minig region in what was then the Austrian section of Upper Silesia, on April 1, 1866, the son of Maria and Jan Hodur, a country tailor and farmer. He completed his secondary education in Krakow in 1889 at St. Anne’s Gymnasium of the 300 year old Nowodworski Lyceum, perhaps the fines prepatory school in the country, where he was one of the highest ranking students. Entering the Vincentian theological seminary, at that time affiliated with the Jagellonian University, he continued as an excellent student. However, his budding career was cut short in 1892 and he came to America early in 1893, where he entered the Roman Catholic seminary in Betty (now Latrobe), Pennsylvania. On August 19, he was ordained a priest by Bishop William O’Hara in Scranton, Pennsylvania.

“At first, a vicar in Sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary Parish in Scranton, in 1895 he was appointed pastor of Holy Trinity Church in not-far-distant Nanticoke. As in many Roman Catholic parishes throughout the United States, a protest movement developed at Sacred Hearts in 1896, leading to the building of a new church, St. Stanislaus. [Sacred heart of Jesus and Mary and St. Stanislaus are a distance of one block from each other.] Father Hodur accepted the invitation of the dissident parish to become its first pastor in 1897. The date of his arrival, March 14, has become the traditionaldate marking the beginning of the Polish National Catholic church.” (From the Biographical Note in Hodur: A Compilation of Selected Translations by Theodore L. Zawistowski.)

“Bishop Hodur was a brilliant and complex priest who devoted his life to God and building the Kingdom of God here on earth.

“Why did Bishop Hodur organize the PNCC? This is how Bishop Grochowski, Bishop Hodur’s successor responded:

During the observance of the 60th Anniversary of the founding of St. Stanislaus parish and the Polish National Catholic Church, a logical question prods the mind: What were the fundamental causes for bringing into existence the Scranton parish in general? A clear and truthful answer must be given for our own assurance and for the assurance of the future of the Church which depends on the proper knowledge and preservation of our ideology and our aims.

“THE FIRST AND THE MOST IMPORTANT REASON FOR THE ORGANIZATION OF THE ST. STANISLAUS PARISH AND OF THE POLISH NATIONAL CATHOLIC CHURCH, HAD BEEN THE DESIRE AND DEEP CRAVING FOR THE IDEALS OF THE RELIGION OF JESUS CHRIST. THE ORGANIZER OF THE POLISH NATIONAL CATHOLIC CHURCH CARRIED AND NURTURED THESE IDEALS IN HIS HEART AND IN HIS SOUL, because he lived according to the teachings of Jesus, and he knew how to evaluate their blessed worth. Unfortunately God’s truth was neither applied in the life of the Church, nor in the social or national life. The foremost Polish philosopher and Christian, August Cieszkowski, who knew that danger lay in the spiritually degenerate condition of the European nations, sounded this warning:

“Holy God, what is happening in the world! So much hostility and so much repulsiveness. Everywhere truth is on the decline and falsehood in ascendancy. The world is attiring itself for a marriage feast amidst the cries of hungry nations and those being murdered. A sea of pleasure and an ocean of pain, pleasure accompanied by weariness, despair and pain. Vanity prances while virtue idles. The arm of the flesh is lascivious, the arm of spirit is decrepit. The Word of God is on the lips of all, abused, it doesn’t live in them, nor do they live by the Word. Brotherhood of peoples and nations proclaimed, but the crime of Cain passes on from people to nations.”

“The Polish philosopher saw the moral decline of the Roman church and of the nations. The Organizer of the Polish National Catholic Church wrote and taught the same. He cautioned and pleaded with the highest authorities of the Roman Catholic Church, but he met with rejection and anathema. The only road left, was the road chosen by the Son of God, Jesus Christ, and he has taken it.”

THE SECOND IMPORTANT FACTOR IN BREAKING WITH ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH WAS ARDENT PATRIOTISM AND THE FERVENT LOVE FOR POLAND, ITS LANGUAGE, CUSTOMS AND CULTURE.

Our Organizer was an expert historian. He studied the misfortunes which Poland experienced at the hands of Rome. On this continent, he had foreseen a slow death for Polish culture under the Irish-German ecclesiastical domination. It had been the aim and scheme of the Roman Bishops to bring about this regimentation. The motto coined by Bishop Tierney of Hartford, Conn., was “ONE GOD, ONE FAITH, ONE LANGUAGE AND ONE CHURCH JURISDICTION IN AMERICA.” This motto was adopted by other Roman Catholic Bishops. Some of them, such as, Richter, Messmer, Katzer, Ireland and Tierney prohibited singing Polish hymns and prohibited the Polish language in the churches and in the parish schools.

“The emergence of the Polish National Catholic Church has to a large degree slowed down these anti-Polish schemes of the Irish and German bishops. The Polish Press, both in Poland and America has written extensively about the merits of culture-preservation by the Polish National Catholic Church through the untiring efforts of its founder, Bishop Francis Hodur.

IT IS DESIRED THAT IT SHALL PREVAIL AGAINST THE BESIEGING HOSTILE FORCES.”

“A certain anonymous writer who understood the importance of the role of Bishop Hodur stated:

“His work arose from a fervent religious and national longing, nourished by the eternal elements of God’s goodness and justice. Through him and by him had spoken the spirit of a true priest, a Pole and Emancipator of our times. He has delved into the deepest layers of Christian tradition, those which affect man’s morale. He has shown how collective religious life and activity must be organized and sustained in order to contribute to the moral, social and national growth.

“He has regained for the Church of Jesus, light and liberty. He has liberated his people from the bonds of a lifeless, dogmatized faith and has pointed to the unlimited possibilities of growth which freedom of religion offers to the individual and the nation.

“In this manner a new religious organization came into being. It is full of vitality and is ready to serve God, nation and man.

“He measured the greatness of the Polish National Catholic Church by the magnitude of its aims and by the degree of the moral and religious regeneration of its communicants.”

THE MERITS OF THE SCRANTON CONGREGATION

“We cannot overlook the merits of the Scranton people in this historical sketch. They stood firmly by their good shepherd. They felt intuitively that they were in the presence of a man of God. They believed that the work that they began with their leader would be blessed by God. Their feelings and beliefs did not deceive them. We must marvel at their courage and gallantry with which they triumphed over the numerous obstacles and discrimination directed at them. We must marvel at their faith, their brave stand and Christian courage. Newly arising parishes of the Polish National Catholic Church received not only able assistance of the Organizer but of the whole St. Stanislaus Congregation. They visited even distant towns to strengthen and comfort those who dared to break the shackles of Roman slavery. No other parish has borne greater sacrifices for the Church. The members of the first parish always were and still are the most numerously represented at the General Synods, Conventions and religious or patriotic demonstrations. They are ready at all times to undertake and perform any service for the good of the Church.

GUIDED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT

“The influence of the Holy Spirit was clearly experienced during the many important events which took place in Scranton, Pa. To the delegation of the people from Scranton wronged by the Roman Bishop, in 1896, Father Francis Hodur said:

“ALL WHO ARE DISSATISFIED AND WRONGED IN SCRANTON SHOULD ORGANIZE AND BUILD A NEW CHURCH, WITH FULL CLAIMS TO PROPERTY OWNERSHIP.”

“The advice was very stirring. The organizational work was undertaken immediately and the activity was not stopped until full success was assured.

“Father Francis Hodur, then made a trip to Rome to see what could be done to help those who were wronged by the Roman hierarchy. He returned early in March of 1898. Ammeting of St. Stanislaus Congregation was called for the second Sunday of March at which Father Hodur presented the results of his efforts made in the “eternal city.” They were negative, nevertheless they were blessed with far-reaching consequences. Father Hodur had discovered that no just solution of any problems presented in Rome on behalf of the Scranton Congregation could be expected. The rebuff which Father Hodur met in Rome contributed to the organization of the Polish National Catholic Church for which we should perpetually thank God and bless His Holy Name. Upon notifying his congregation of the refusal which met their just petition, Father Hodur said:

“It is for you to decide now what steps we must take in the future. If you think that the spirit of the decisions of the Baltimore Synod are binding as just laws, and that by accepting those decisions, you can serve God in all peace and tranquility and live happily, tell me now, so that I may notify Bishops O’Hara and Hoban, and through them the Apostolic Legate Martinelli, that you are willing to recognize their jurisdiction.”

“At this moment, an ardent and active parishioner, Michael Szczyglinski stood up and asked, “What will happen to you, Father, what do you intend to do?”

“I shall not return under the jurisdiction of the Roman Catholic Bishop. I shall not return to the Roman Church,” replied Father Hodur firmly and distinctly.

“Then we shall not return either,” replied Michael Szczyglinski, he was supported by thirty other participants of that meeting. A holy ardor overwhelmed the gathering. They all stood up: men and women, raised their hands to show their indomnitable decision and repeated: “We shall not return!”

“It was a holy and decisive moment. It was the moment when the Free Polish National Catholic was born. That holy ardor – the gift of the Holy Spirit – imparted itself to all present. A similar ardor enveloped the Apostles and people gathered together with them during the great day of Pentecost.

“The Scranton people became an instrument in the hands of God by transforming into action a holy and great task. On that day the people of Scranton, led by their pastor, and inspired by God, set the foundations for a free Polish Church.

“When Bishops O’Hara and Hoban were informed of the decisions reached, Father Hodur and the Scranton Parish were excommunicated. Father Francis Hodur read the document of excommunication from the pulpit to acquaint his parishioners with the diatribe. He then burned it and the ashes were thrown into the brook which flows beneath the hill upon which St. Stanislaus Cathedral stands. While excommunication terrified even kings, the Scranton Congregation refused to be bullied into Roman submission!

“The burning ceremony of that un-Christian and barbaric document generated an indescribable enthusiasm among those present in church. Some toiled the bells, some sang, some prayed aloud, some embraced and kissed each other, while others approached the pulpit to greet Father Francis Hodur who was descending from it as though he were returning from another world. Others jumped over the communion railing, crowded into the sanctuary and cried out loudly: “God is with us Father. He will not forsake us, his children. God is with us!” They were transformed. The spirit to Power, of Faith, and of Valor descended upon this inspired congregation, which was starting a new, free and dangerously expendable life.

“God was with us, He is with us and shall continue to be with us as long as we remain united with Him in our hearts, minds and souls.

“The un-Christian excommunication of Father Hodur and of the Scranton Congregation, set loose a storm of abuse. In a land of brotherhood and freedom of religion, the Roman hierarchy and its faithful conducted a veritable “holy” inquisition. Against the Polish National Catholic Congregation of Scranton, every evil abuse was employed: discrimination in mines and factories, good names besmirched, beatings and cruel treatment – all this, in the name of the “One, True, Church” which is not willing to practice the Fatherhood of God nor the love of the Son, Jesus Christ.”

Bishop Francis Hodur was, without doubt, an important religious reformer. His life’s work in bringing the word of God, the teachings of Jesus Christ, and his work in bringing the Kingdom of God to St. Stanislaus compares him favorably with an earlier Roman Church reformer, Jan Hus. Jan Hus, the founder of the Hussite movement, was one of many reformers who tried to get the Roman church to reform prior to the Reformation. He was asked to go to Rome to defend his views, which he did, and his king gave him assurance of safe passage. The evil Roman Church burned Jan Hus at the stake ignoring his safe passage. Hus and many other reformers of that period failed to get Rome to change, and the outcome was the Reformation.

We need to take cognizance of the environment from which the Polish immigrants came from. Since the latter part of the 18th century, Poland no longer existed. Poland was partitioned by Prussia, Russia, and the Hapsburg Empire. Prussia, in particular, aggressively Germanized their part of Poland. German was the only acceptable administrative language, and Polish was forbidden to be taught in schools. For these immigrants, having their language and culture marginalized after coming to the “land of brotherhood and religious freedom” was an insult. The Polish language and culture had to be embedded into the new Church.

Bishop’s Grochowski’s history is almost equivalent to the Acts of the Apostles in the New Testament. My association with St. Stanislaus from 1st grade to 9th, gives me confidence to state that the Holy Spirit indeed protected St. Stanislaus and the Polish National Catholic Church.

A PNCC reference library.

The following are good references to the Polish National Catholic Church, and can be readily obtained from St. Stanislaus Cathedral on East Locust Street. The APOCALYPSE is a must read.

  • A CATHECHISM of the Polish National Catholic Church.
  • 1897-1957 ALBUM: 60th anniversary of the PNCC.
  • MAN of DESTINY: A Pictorial History.
  • HODUR: A COMPILATION OF SELECTED TRANSLATIONS.
  • APOCALYPSE: The Revelation of the XXth Century.

The Fundamental Beliefs of the Polish National Catholic church.

The beliefs of the Polish National Catholic Church are in the A Cathechism of the Polish National Catholic Church, in the The Six Truths of Faith as found on page 7:

The Six Truths of Faith.

  1. That there is but one God, who created, preserves and governs all things.
  2. That God is a righteous judge who rewards the good and punishes the wicked.
  3. That there is but one God in three Divine Person: The Father, The Son, and The Holy ghost, or the Holy Trinity.
  4. That the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, out Lord Jesus Christ, became man and died on the cross for our salvation.
  5. That God’s grace is absolutely necessary for salvation.
  6. That the soul is immortal and will never die.

Belief 5, “That God’s grace is absolutely necessary for salvation.” comes from the teachings of Martin Luther. In Bishop Hodur’s APOCALYPSE or The Revelation of the XXth Century, written in 1930, stated, that in his opinion, Martin Luther was a great Christian thinker. Hans Kung wrote the following about Martin Luther in his Great Christian Thinkers:

“So the starting point of Luther’s reforming concern was not any abuses of the church, not even the question of the church, but the question of salvation: how do human beings stand before God? How does God deal with human beings? How can human beings be certain of their salvation by God? How can sinful human beings put right their relationship with the just God? When are they justified by God? Luther found the answer above all in Paul’s Letter to the Romans: human beings cannot stand justified by God, be justified by God, through their own efforts – despite all piety. It is God himself, as a gracious God who pronounces the sinner righteous, without any merits, in his free grace. This is a grace which human beings may confidently grasp only in faith. For Luther, of the three theological virtues faith is the most important: in faith, unrighteous sinful human beings receive God’s righteousness.”

The Two Commandments of Love.

  1. Thou shall love the Lord, thy God, with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.
  2. And thy neighbor as thyself.

Prayer.

What is prayer?

Prayer is the lifting up of our minds and hearts to God. It is our talking to God and listening to God.

Why do we pray?

We pray:

  • To adore God, expressing our love and loyalty to Him.
  • To thank Him for his gifts to us.
  • To beg His pardon for our sins and shortcomings.
  • To ask His blessing and graces for ourselves and others.

For what should we pray?

We should pray for God’s help and guidance that we may live and work according to His holy will and attain salvation.

Who was Bishop Hodur?

The book APOCALYPSE: The Revelation of the XXth Century, informs me of: Who Bishop Hodur was. It has two parts: Historical-Sociological; and, Evangelical-Prophetic. In the first section, Bishop Hodur tells us:

“In the first section of the Apocalypse or the Revelation of the XXth Century, called historical part, I moved before the Reader’s eyes the thoughts and sayings of great theologians, excerpts from the Holy Scriptures, as well as eminent personages who played a conspicuous role in the 19 centuries of drama in the Christian church.”  

“I have given an unusually harsh assessment of the Roman catholic church. I have done this not because of hatred or from ill will, for I hate no one and least of all the Roman church, to which, as a priest, I owe so much; but because the Roman church to a high degree is responsible for much of the derailment of Christianity in the past. In the 11th century the Roman church caused the final break with the Eastern and Western churches, in the 16th the Roman church caused the religious revolution called the Reformation and at present impedes the unification of Christianity and thereby prevents the strengthening of its influences on human life and the course of world events.”

And, further:

“In the second part, in the Apocalypse proper, I have undertaken a tremendously difficult task. I wish to remind the Reader of the unique program of Christ’s mission. “

“The primary objective of the messianic life of Jesus was the spiritual regeneration of man and the establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth.”

“This is why, though I am an unworthy man, only a poor and humble Polish priest, I consider it my greatest obligation, a direct Divine command, to remind my Brothers and Sisters of everything that Christ Jesus foretold about the salvation of man and of the Divine Kingdom.”

Christianity as seen by Hans Kung.

Hans Kung wrote two books of especial interest: Om Being a Christian; and, CHRISTIANITY: Essence, History, and Future.

In the book, CHRISTIANITY, Father Kung wrote in “The Aim of This Book” as follows:

“Christianity should become more Christian – that is the only possible perspective for the third millennium, too. The Roman system, Orthodox traditionalism and Protestant fundamentalism are all historical manifestations of Christianity. They have not always been there, and one day they will disappear. Why? Because they are not of the essence of Christianity.”

These are powerful words. Father Kung unequivocally states that the three major “Christian” groupings are devoid of the essence of Christianity. They are not followers of Christ.

In contrast, Bishop Hodur built the Polish National Catholic Church on the foundation of Christ’s teaching. Specifically, that each person has the right, and the duty, to develop a personal relationship with God, and that each of us have a responsibility to assist in the development of the Kingdom of God here on earth.

Bishop Hodur’s faith and brilliance informs me that he is the greatest Christian leader since the Reformation.