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The young years

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The young years

Karol Leonard Wajszczuk was born on the 3rd of November 1887 in Siedlce. His father - Piotr - was the son of a farmer from Trzebieszów, and his mother. Marianna of the Maciejczyks, born in Siedlce, came from a family of townspeople. Karol had a sister, Maria, and four brothers: Tadeusz, Edmund, Albin Lucjusz and Narcyz Zenobiusz. All of them, like Karol, received a very good upbringing and were well prepared for further life. In the Wajszczuk family home, there was an atmosphere of piety and patriotism. Memories of the January Uprising of 1863 were often brought up. Memories of the 1874 prosecution of the Podlasie members of the Uniate Church were brought up as dreadful. All this resulted in an interest in the religious life of the common people. 

One event that happened in Karol's childhood determined his further life. It took place in the autumn of 1893. For over a week he lay with a high fever, unconscious, and fought with death. The doctor who had been brought to cure him, stood helplessly, saying that he had done what was in his might, repeating "The only rescue will come from God". Then, the mother, kneeling at the bed of her dying son, started praying, and, with tears in her eyes, asked God's Mother to bring her son back to life and health; she pledged that, if he were to live, he would become a priest. The critical moment was over; the child slowly started getting better. The parents considered this miraculous recovery a visible sign of God's grace. That is why Karol was from his youngest years prepared to become a priest. 

At first, Karol was educated at home and, for two years, in the town school of Siedlce. After that, he attended the Boys' High School in Siedlce, completing his education there in June 1904. In June 1904 he began studying in the theological seminary of Lublin. He successfully completed his education in the Seminary after five years, in 1909, and on the 29th of June 1909, he became a subdeacon. In the autumn, on the 4th of November, he became a deacon. On the 12th of November, Karol Leonard Wajszczuk received the post of a vicar in the Lublin Diocese, in Radzyń Podlaski; Lublin bishop, Franciszek Jaczewski, signed the appointment. Karol Leonard took the post on the 21st of November 1909. The people of Radzyń gave a warm welcome to their new vicar and that is probably why, on the 6th of February 1910, he took Holy Orders as a priest. 

In the first years of his work as a vicar in Radzyń Podlaski, Karol also fulfilled the duties of a prefect in the town school; he took care of the church choir and was deeply interested in the life of the people. 

August 1914 brought a war on the European front for the three great powers which had performed the partitions of Poland. The commander-in-chief of the tsar's army, prince Nikolai Nikolaievich, wrote an appeal to the Poles, in which he gave the promise of a future Poland "united under the rule of the Emperor of Russia, free in faith, language and self-rule". Father Wajszczuk was very sceptical towards this appeal. In one of his sermons, in the autumn of 1914, he reminded that "in Podlasie, it is always to be remembered about the uniates, who gave their lives for the freedom of faith. At that time, father Karol was in danger of being arrested. But the situation on the warfronts determined a different sequence of events. The Radzyń region found itself under German occupation. 

The German occupation of Podlasie was extremely difficult for the people. Hunger and poverty became a common state. In these conditions, it was easy to catch diseases such as typhoid fever and cholera, both in the villages and in towns. The Germans panicked in fear of an epidemic. Father Wajszczuk, risking his own life, fulfilled his religious duties, visiting the ill and burying the dead. 

On the 11th of November 1918, after 123 years of imprisonment, Poland regained its independence. Father Karol welcomed this day by celebrating Holy Mass and singing the hymn "Te Deum Laudamus" and "Boże coś Polskę przez tak liczne wieki". ("Oh, God - You, who have protected Poland throughout so many centuries ...).

In the first days of January 1919, the Podlasie diocese bishop, Henryk Przeździecki, suggested to father Karol L. Wajszczuk that he should move to Drelów in the Międzyrzec parish, as rector in a church regained from a schism, so as to organise a separate parish, for the nearest villages. The young vicar accepted the proposal. After that, on the 15th of January 1919, he was officially designated for the post by the bishop.


Written by: dr. Feliks Olesiejuk 
"Wspomnienie o księdzu  Karolu Leonardzie Wajszczuku 1887-1942"

in Rocznik Międzyrzecki - Towarzystwo Przyjaciół Nauk 
w Międzyrzecu Podlaskim -  1987
Excerpts prepared by: Paweł Stefaniuk, assisted by Waldemar J. Wajszczuk
Translated by: Kamila Wajszczuk