Life in Poland

I think he’s on to me.

I never say “dzień dobry” to the priest at school and now I think he is on to me.

As you may have read somewhere before here on Kielbasa Stories, I am a non-believer. You may also have read  here that I support separation of church and state and do not approve of catechism being taught in Polish public schools. Yes, it is true that my children can opt out of “Religia”, but even using the phrase “opt out” illustrates what is considered the norm in Poland.

You may even have read somewhere here how my mother-in-law has cut off all ties with us because we have not christened the kids. That’s still the current situation, in case you were wondering. Soon it’ll be a year with no contact. Rosie accused us of not telling her that Babcia and Dziadek died and that’s why we’re not visiting them. It is sad that she thinks that. We’ve explained to her why we are not visiting them. Lizzie shouted, “Don’t you remember? Babcia kicked us out of the house!” Sadder, but true.

You may recall how I expressed my displeasure in the crucifix being placed in each classroom in Rosie’s pre-school. Not even a cross, a big, beautiful crucifix. Nobody cared, just me. In Lizzie’s school, they just have a cross.

This is what Lizzie has drawn under the title – Ja i moja klasa.


You may remember how my neighbors shared their displeasure in our partaking of a little gardening on the day of “the Lord”. Who really cares about the day of their lord if on the day before they called the cops on the other neighbor for blocking the road for all of 60 seconds. I wonder what their lord thought about that.

I don’t remember if I have written about Easter here on Kielbasa Stories. My girls know the Easter story as well as the Passover story. I found some helpful coloring pages on the internet to help illustrate the stories. I take my duty as religious educator seriously. About Easter they were most interested in the crucifixion and the resurrection. They decided that the crucifixion was overkill and that the resurrection must have been some kind of misunderstanding. About Passover they had only one conclusion – how odd it was that there was a holiday celebrating that some babies got killed but some other babies didn’t.

I have come to terms with the fact that I’m not going to win the battle against religia in Polish public schools. I don’t like that the priest opens the start of each school year. I’m angry that my daughter wastes her time in świetlica while the other kids have catechism lessons during regular school hours. I’m angry that rekolekcje will also probably be during regular school hours and once again my child will be relegated to the no-man’s land of substitute teachers or all day świetlica.

But let’s face it, there’s nothing I can do about it.

So my small protest is that I don’t say “dzień dobry” to the priest at school. I see him every time I go to school. Every time. Sometimes I see him on the way on his bike. Sometimes I see him waiting for his lessons. The worst is when I see him in my child’s classroom when he shouldn’t be there. I see him when he is leaving at the end of the day.

If I saw him at church, that would be cool. I am not religious but I can respect his choice to become a priest and work at church, to teach catechism at church or in a private Catholic school. But when he is at public school, proselytising  under salary paid in part with my tax money, my blood boils. I have no respect for a priest, nun or catechism teacher in this position. If that priest said, “You know what? Public school isn’t my place. I shouldn’t be teaching here and I definitely shouldn’t be drawing a salary from the school budget” then I would respect him. As it is, I don’t.

I just look him in the face and say nothing. C’mon, I cannot say something unpleasant. Well, not out loud. Anyhow, some curse words cannot express why I don’t agree with his presence in my child’s school, so why bother.

But I think he is on to me. How many times can you pass the same person on the street and in the hall, say hello to them and get back an expression that says “feck yourself off to church, vicar”? After awhile he was bound to catch on.

And whoop-de-do. That’s the most I can do.

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  • Reply
    March 4, 2013 at 10:25 pm

    I can relate to that. I'm lucky because when my son was attending \”przedszkole\”in Poland – there was no religion class. I got \”matura\” in religion, but I had to go to the classes AFTER school, in my parish. It was my decision. I didn't have to. Since 1990 we live in Canada and my son went here to catholic elementary school, but public high school. HE Never expressed any interest in continuing his religious education after elementary school – and I'm glad that we did not stayed in Poland after 1990… I don't think I would be so nice as you are.;-)Kasia

  • Reply
    March 5, 2013 at 2:34 am

    It wasn't always like this. Until 89,when communism fell in Poland, there was no religion in school. But since the church played a significant role in getting rid of communism in Poland and elsewhere in eastern Europe, it demanded pay-back once it \”won.\” Pay-back included outlawing abortion, vacectomy, tubal liagation, easy access to contraceptives… you name it. The church got quite brazen: a Polish friend, director of her village elementary school, tells me the town priest would ask her why she missed mass on Sundays she decided to sleep in. It got so bad, she boycotted the town church altogether, preferring to go to a church in the neighboring village when she had to. It's hard to be an atheist in Poland, but it's even harder being openly anti-clerical. Kudos to you for standing up for your (non)beliefs, you brave woman you 🙂 Dorota in Colorado

  • Reply
    Wózki rehabilitacyjne Wrocław
    March 5, 2013 at 5:30 am

    Ciekawy wpis. Znalazłem Twojego bloga w google.

  • Reply
    March 5, 2013 at 9:53 am

    Dorota, not elsewhere. Not in Czech Republic, not in East Germany, not in Balkans, so please don't overestimate the church's role. Living in a small village in Poland, before moving to the UK, seen all public events being attended by local priests, and all new developments (including wastewater facility) had to be blessed. That always made me laugh – imagining how our local fat Jack was standing and praying over liquidized poo :DDDI wasn't attending Sunday services, very occasionally others, i.e. funerals.Nobody ever dared comment on it to me (as I was the god of life and death there, not the priest;) but probably there was lot of gossiping behind my back.Sincere respect for standing up, Chris.

  • Reply
    March 5, 2013 at 6:44 pm

    Well, I am a proud (or not so proud) student of lower secondary school. Public school, I schould add. I live in a small town, where everyone knows you, and your teacher ar \”you-know-this-friend-of-my-cousin-Marta\” how my grandmom says. And I'm sure thet if people won't react in some ways many of students will choose anything but not religion. Me too. Many times I wonderd why crosses are in every classroom, but, as a student, I cannot do anything. In every school higher than primary for students this lessons are wasting of time.And for any who is positive to idea of teaching religion at school – nearly half of my class became atheists after some years with our teacher. So what's the sense of it?Shinigami

  • Reply
    March 5, 2013 at 6:48 pm

    Kasia – I'm nice now. I've been tamed 😉 Futility will do that to a person. I, too, went to private Catholic elementary school and public high school. In high school I attended catechism classes Sunday evening at the church's recreation center. Even if I wanted my children to attend catechism, I wouldn't want them to go to catechism in public school. I know it is convenient and it is what the majority wants, but I think it is not right.Dorota- Thanks for the kudos. My bravado comes and goes depending on my mood. Giving the priest the evil eye isn't exactly brave, but I haven't the energy for more. You are so right about how the priest stirs the pot (my father says stirs the shit) in village society. I don't conform but the neighbors just say it is because I am not tutejsza.Wózki – What can I say? You are robotic spam, but since I have a soft spot for wózki and for Wrocław, I won't delete you ;)Czar- I forgot about the Czech Republic. I was teaching in a Czech company and one of the employees was amazed by the number of nuns she regularly saw on the street here. Priests at the opening of everything, even the waste water plant, gives a whole new meaning to the expression \”holy shit\”. I loved how in Katowice the priest blessed the new shopping center standing next to another holy soul, Paris Hilton. She's the patron saint of bad quality home sex tapes, isn't she? Hmmm, Czar, you were the god of life and death there….Here are some of my ideas: you worked in the tax office, you gave out building permits, you were a doctor, you owned the only 24 hour monopol? Tell us!!!! Please!!! Oh and thanks for the szacuneczek 🙂

  • Reply
    March 5, 2013 at 6:55 pm

    Shinigami- Hello and thanks for the student's perspective. It is very interesting what you have written especially because it reiterates the same point one of my friends likes to make. He says the best enemy of the Catholic church in Poland is religion class at school. So maybe I should consider all the wasted time of my children in świetlica as a small price to pay to fight against the church 😉 As far as the church goes, you are right, where's the sense in that? Thanks again for joining the conversation 🙂

  • Reply
    March 5, 2013 at 9:43 pm

    I wish I'd worked in a tax office or given working permits. Even 24hr monopol would have been OK.No, I was the least respected and the least paid profession from your choice – the local family doctor 😉

  • Reply
    March 6, 2013 at 5:49 am

    I knew it!

  • Reply
    September 3, 2013 at 10:29 pm

    To say \”good morning\” (or – afternoon) to a priest is considered impolite, as the proper greeting goes \”bless god\” (\”szczęść boże\”), so perhaps you should utter that \”dzień dobry\” after all!

  • Reply
    September 4, 2013 at 5:45 am

    Considering every time I see the priest in school a series of very impolite phrases come to mind, it's better that I say nothing at all. I mean better for the priest 😉

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