Life in Poland

Don’t give up.

Poland is often called a Catholic country. I am not even sure what that means exactly. In my experience it means that some people are devout believers in god and church, others believe in god but maybe not the church, some just go with flow because it is easier, a few believe in something else and the rest, like me, don’t believe at all.

I believe in something. I believe that potato chips are evil and are out to get me. I believe that the chance of rain increases on days I wear suede shoes. I believe the severity of traffic congestion is proportional to how late I already am. I also believe that all religions are made up. Religious arguments, religious wars, families broken up over religious issues – I understand them, but they are at the same time ridiculous for me. It’s like when my kids argue over who is better – spiderman or the pink powderpuff girl.

Anyhow, I figured that even if I am not religious and my children are raised in a non-religious household, we should still know something about world religions ‘cause you know, if people are cutting off other people’s head over something, you should probably try to figure out what is going on. So I’m still not exactly sure what’s going and there will not be any Kielbasa Stories post What’s the hubbub? ISIS, but I know more than I used to know.

For our girls, we bought a book that outlines the beliefs of a few different religions based on a year in the life of a child. It includes beliefs, holidays, restrictions, what’s different, what’s the same – it’s a cool book.

Another thing I believe is that children should not receive religious instruction. I do what I can to follow that belief with my own children, but as you may know, my girls’ school doesn’t support us in that issue. Anyhow, after our last meeting in June which took place after the zillionth time one of our children was forced to go to catechism (catechism is taught in Polish public schools), we demanded a new procedure, a procedure that has teeth, a procedure where you sign up for catechism not sign out, a procedure which if not followed has consequences for the teachers who fail to comply.

Previously each year we had to sign our children out of catechism. The school operates on the assumption that all children will attend. We complied and each year we signed our children out of catechism. Additionally we verbally reminded the teachers on the first day of school each year that our children do not have permission to attend catechism – because that is basically how the signing out process worked. Parents have to not give permission, to withdraw permission. I know it’s a weird formulation. You don’t “not give permission” when you don’t send your kids for extra French lessons. You just don’t sign them up and that’s it. But anyhow, legal or not, we still did it. And the effect? Our kids were forced to go to catechism as recently as June.

This year, on the first day of school, parents were asked to sign up. No one was asked to sign out. The teacher informed the parents that they will compile a list of kids who attend catechism not a list of kids who do not attend. Catechism still takes places smack in the middle of the day, sending our kids to the day-room to spend time with the coloring books, doll houses, Legos, the day-room teacher, and a handful of other kids who do not attend catechism.

I know it seems like a small step. I suppose it is a rather small step, but a step in the right direction. This is from a school where I was asked to declare in writing that my children will not attend catechism –one copy for the classroom teachers, one copy for the principal, and another copy for the catechism teacher. A school where I was put in my place with the explanation that catechism is fun and I am just making problems. A school where I was asked what my religion is. A school where the catechism teacher demanded to know our names and addresses so she could inform the parish. A school where my children were forced to attend catechism, one school year on 6 separate occasions for one child. A school where my children sit 2 extra hours a week in the day-room making their school day an hour longer. A school with a crucifix hanging in every classroom, not just in a special room for catechism. A school where priests and nuns are employed to teach catechism paid from the public budget. A school where the nun blessed the children’s heads on the first day of school yesterday. A school where the nun told me “All children are God’s children”. A school where I feel like some kind of criminal for demanding that my rights as a parent and the rights of my children not be violated. But hey, it could be worse.

There are public schools in Poland which started the school year as they do each year which a Catholic mass before the official opening of the school year. Some schools started from mass at church and then proceeded to school for the first assembly of the year. The answer to parents’ questions of when they should come to school for the assembly was that it depends how long the priest’s sermon takes. Other schools cut out the middleman and just invited the priest to school. In one school there was a full mass in the gym, in another just an Our Father and some words about the creation of the world, while in another the children were taken out to the parking lot to be blessed with water by the priest. I know about all the cases from the media and from support groups such as and

To the parents of children from those schools, please don’t give up. I know you have a long way to go and that you feel helpless, but know that with each small step we are getting closer to our goal of a secular education for our children.

You Might Also Like

No Comments

  • Reply
    September 3, 2014 at 7:56 pm

    Hi Chris,can I ask you for the tittle of that book?Ps. It's crazy how much religious influence there is in polish schools, it just doesn't seem right at all.

  • Reply
    September 3, 2014 at 9:16 pm

    Greetings Northern Sky – I will get you the title this weekend. We're in the city right now and it's on the shelf in the country. I can't remember the title and my master googling skills bring up nothing. It doesn't help that the empik filter category \”wiedza ogolna -dzieci\” brings up books such as Biblia and The life of Christ for kids.I always complained about our school but after reading some parents' stories today, I see that we have it easy. Also I can always rely on the excuse that I am foreign. It helps with the social pressure.

  • Reply
    September 3, 2014 at 11:05 pm

    Fakt opisany w tym artykule wynika z pewnej umowy .Dużo osób krzyczy ,że to kościół jest zły ,księża to pedofile uczących dzieci i wiele innych .Może tak trzeba popatrzyć na to z innej perspektywy .Kiedyś ,czyli za czasów PRL-u nie było religii w publicznych szkołach ani po 1989 roku .To co obecnie widać ,to wynik konkordatu z 1993 podpisany przez rząd i Watykan .Aby zmienić tą sytuacje to trzeba by było wprowadzić zmiany w konstytucji ,a z tym już tak łatwo nie będzie .Co do krzyży w miejscach publicznych ,to nikomu one nie wadziły i nie wadzą .Robienie problemu z powodu krzyża to tylko robienie szumu by nie robić nic konstruktywnego(w większości przypadków) .Warto wspomnieć ,że to nie religia jest zła ,tylko fakt jak się ją interpretuje .Mógłbym dużo więcej napisać , ale czy to potrzebne ??Link do źródła :

  • Reply
    September 4, 2014 at 5:57 am

    W- I agree that the core problem is Konkordat. Our \”victory\” that our child is not forced to attend catechism is a won battle in the wrong fight.

  • Reply
    September 23, 2014 at 10:15 am

    Northern.Sky – The title of the book in Polish is \”Jest wiele wiar – O co pytają dzieci\” by Monique Gilbert. The original is French. I think I will write a short post about it 🙂

  • Reply
    bilbo bagginski
    October 22, 2014 at 6:58 pm

    \”Rzeczpospolita\” had a series a couple of years back on Mythology. We managed to get our hands on most of them. Really cool stuff, hard covered, full color… super nice. It's what we use to educate our monkeys on myths.Wojciech – yes, there is something fundamentally wrong with religions, but I don't think this is the place to discuss this. “Religion is excellent stuff for keeping common people quiet. Religion is what keeps the poor from murdering the rich.”― Napoleon

  • Reply
    October 23, 2014 at 1:28 pm

    Now we are at the Santa Claus exists / Santa Clause doesn't exist crossroads. Our kids view all religions has mythology so they have a healthy skepticism to \”made up\” stuff, but presents under the tree are pretty tangible even if Santa Claus is not. My kids are slowly figuring it out for themselves. We never even taught them the Santa Claus story – they just absorbed it. I mean we talked about giving and receiving and all that.So our kids not believing in any religious figures have now pretty much figured out that S.C. doesn't exist which is in keeping with our family's belief system. My religious friends are having a more difficult time with it. They have to explain how S.C. does not exist but Jesus Christ does.My friend said that I was cruel to tell my children that there is no god. I didn't tell them there in no god. I just never told them that there is a god.

Leave a Reply