Life in Poland


If you signed up for a university course entitled “Religion”, what would you suppose the course curriculum included? Perhaps an overview of religion and its influence on historical events? Perhaps a comparison of religions of the world and their belief systems? Perhaps a comparative religionslecture on Jesus and how he as the son of God died on the cross to save our souls? NO? You were with me up until the last one, right?

In case you do not know, “Religion” is a subject taught at Polish public schools. Except that it shouldn’t be called “Religion”, but rather “Catholicism” as the course it taught either by a Catholic priest (yes, a real live priest) or a Catechism teacher. My teenage students say that it should be called “Bore me to death” Class, but in fact, they don’t have to attend if they don’t want to. High school students should now have the choice of Religion or Ethics…but if the school doesn’t employ a teacher of Ethics…You get the picture.

I was shocked the first time I found out Religion was taught at public school. It was the 1st day of school back in the day when I first came to Poland. I was scoping out all the teachers in the teachers’ lounge and I spotted a pretty hot looking guy. He was seated resting his elbows on the table with his fingers intertwined, his chin resting on his hands. I was staring at him plotting how to get myself seated next to him,when he stood up to let someone pass behind him and I saw it – his collar and his robes!!! And I didn’t think, “Oh no, my potential love is lost”, but rather, “There’s a priest at school!!! What the what?!?” Anyhow, I continued to pine after the hot priest the whole school year and secretly for years later…until I ran into him in the City at a shopping mall. He was in his civilian clothes and I didn’t find him even half as attractive as I found him before in his robes and I realized that I am a perverted bugger. BenettonBTW, my class of all girls interviewed the hot priest for the school newspaper. One question they asked was why the robes had so many buttons. The hot priest responded that there were 33 buttons one for each year of Christ’s life. The girls giggled that they thought it was so he had to think carefully before taking off the robes. Nice!

I have not had contact with Polish public schools for so long that I had pretty much forgotten about thchurchandstatee lack of separation of church and state. We have decided to not baptize our children (I will discuss why in another post) and I thought that I had plenty of time to deal with the Religion class issue later. Unfortunately, we have had to deal with it sooner.

We were informed that Religion would be offered at Lizzie’s Pre-school, but to the children who were signed up only. So if you do not wish for your child to participate, you do not sign up your child and that’s it. Except that isn’t it. I discovered that my daughter would attend Religion class because we didn’t declare that we don’t want her to attend. And that in a nutshell sums up life in Poland. Life in Poland Rule #1: Tell somebody one thing. Do the opposite. Tell them another thing. Repeat. Life in Poland Rule #2: Provide something that somebody doesn’t want in the first place and require them to declare that they don’t want it. In the meantime, send them a bill for it 🙂

So now every Friday morning, my daughter and the Muslim girls and the Asian children and a few other Polish kids get a chance to play in another classroom. Lizzie is pleased because although her classroom has a killer toy kitchen, the other classroom has a top-notch wooden dollhouse. Add that to the fact that today was pierogi day at Pre-school and Lizzie was in 7th heaven.

PS We were told that the Pre-school Religion course is very general and full of fun and games for the children. We asked if we could see some lesson plans or curriculum for the year so we could see what they are teaching the kids and then decide for ourselves, but you cannot receive something which does not exist 😉

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  • Reply
    November 24, 2009 at 8:02 pm

    Religion is never fun in Polish schools. It is deadly serious. Declare you don't want to have anything to do with it – otherwise you're up to your ears with every-Sunday-mass attendance, tests on prayers and the burden od Jesus. Fun? No fun at all!

  • Reply
    November 25, 2009 at 4:47 am

    Donna,I agree with you about the no fun part. I also disagree with the Headmistress about the general part. At the first lesson, they learned the sign of the cross and that good little boys and girls go to church. How general is that?

  • Reply
    June 19, 2021 at 3:17 pm

    So I already know that I’m “living in the past”. Your past, in this case. Please forgive me commenting on something “old and cold”. But I need to share a story from some years ago. A Hindu woman who worked with me shared her horror story. In her family’s case it wasn’t the Catholics who were to blame. No. They had chosen a “Non-denominational” pre-school for their son. You see, they took the description at face value, that this was in effect: a “non-religious” school. (oh boy!) What seems obvious to most of us born here was clearly not obvious to them; and they did not investigate further, ahead of enrolling. A few months into preschool, the son sits down at the dinner table and asks “Do you know who loves me the MOST?” Mom – “Your Mother?” “NOPE!” “”Your Father?” “NOPE! ” was the reply once again. Puzzled, the parents then stated “No one can love you more than your parents, son.” He told them were both wrong, because he had learned in school that the answer was: … JESUS! They almost fainted. The next day at work we explored the nuances of the term “non-denominational”. You’ve gotta love American culture!

    • Reply
      June 21, 2021 at 2:58 pm

      Oh my goodness, what a mix-up. I’ve had my share of mix-ups too. I remember when I read that my child had to come to school in strój galowy. I thought, ok, a outfit for a gala so like a formal party dress…but for a kindergartener? It turns out that strój galowy is a dark bottom with a white collared top for formal assemblies, holidays, and exams in Poland. You live, you learn 😉

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