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 Priesthood in Drelów

Ks. Karol przed ołtarzemThe Drelów Parish is well known among the people of the Międzyrzec region for its Uniate traditions. On the 17th of January 1874, the church was taken from the Uniate people and turned into an Orthodox Church. It was then that 13 Uniate Christians were killed for their faith. In the summer of 1915, after the tsar's army left the area, Drelów was occupied by the Germans; the church was turned into a granary, the presbytery into a dairy, other buildings on church grounds into different military devices. This lasted until 17th November 1918, when the Germans where disarmed. 

Ks. Wajszczuk przed śiątynia w DrelowieFather Karol Leonard Wajszczuk came to Drelów on Friday, 17th January 1919, in the morning, together with father Leon Wydżga, the parish priest of St. Nicholas' parish in Międzyrzec. The noble guests were greeted by the people of Drelów and nearby villages, who had gathered in front of the church, in the traditional way, with salt and bread. The parish priest of Międzyrzec presented father Wajszczuk to the gathered people as the person, to whom the bishop had given the task of rebuilding the Drelów parish. The villagers were moved to tears. At once, a "Temporary Church Council" was created. Michał Zieniuk, a respected Drelów farmer, became president of this council. RekolekcjeDuring the first few days, the presbytery was cleaned up, the furnaces, windows and doors were repaired, the wooden elements were painted, and the walls were whitened. Father Wajszczuk began living on the church grounds on the 20th of January and personally supervised all the work. This first work took over two months to do. During this period, father Wajszczuk visited every village, which was to become part of the newly organised parish. 

On the 4th of April 1919, the Drelów Roman Catholic parish was officially erected. On the 26th of April, father Karol Leonard Wajszczuk received an official designation from the Diocese for the post of parish priest. 

I Komunia Święta - lata trzydziesteApart from his duties as a parish priest, in the autumn of 1919, father Karol Wajszczuk took on the duties of a religion teacher in elementary schools in Drelów, Łózki, Żerocin, some time later - in Kwasówka. This work he continued until 1939. In the care for the parish's life, as well as for continuing the worship of St. Onufry, he brought up the idea of tidying up the abandoned church in Horodek. On the 12th of June 1919, on St. Onufry's day, the official consecration of the church was performed. The Drelów parish priest knew very well that leaving this temple in the open country would be thoughtless, so in the spring of 1920, he brought a "hermit" to live there, making a living from charitable donations. The man gave himself into God's service and took care of the place of worship without asking for pay. 

Ks. Karol na rowerze - przy plebaniiIn the autumn of 1920, in order to raise the effectiveness of the household and farm, he employed a farmer, Michał Strok, and a housekeeper, Franciszka Wisztel. The choice turned out to have been good, both of these two people stayed with the priest throughout the interwar period. In the care for the development of religious life in the parish, father Wajszczuk started organising a "rosary brotherhood" and the "third order of St. Francis - the tertiaries". scholka przyparafialnaIn order to do this, on the 25th of April 1921, he sent a letter to the bishop of Podlasie, asking for support in trying to get the proper authorisation in the Holy See. The church authorities agreed to do this. An important event of that period was the installation of a large bell, named "Stanisław", in the church belfry. The bell served the parish until 1940, when Ukrainian nationalists destroyed it. 

Dzieci szkolneIn the mid '20s, father Wajszczuk became friends with the Drelów school teachers: Leżyński, A. Kocukowa and A. Ząbkówna; he was also in good relations with the tenant of Drelów grange, Markowski. It was then, that, with father Karol's personal engagement, a youth choir at the Drelów church and theatre troupes in Łózki and Drelów were formed. During the first five years of the church choir's existence, father Karol was its main figure. He chose the repertoire for the specific occasions, took care of the vocal exercises and rehearsed with the whole choir. Ks.Karol Wajszczuk z zaprzyjaźnionymi kapłanamiIn 1929 he was replaced in this by the new organist, Antoni Patkowski. The choir he worked with received the second place in Voivodeship competition in Lublin in 1937. The older villagers of the Drelów parish to this day remember their organist of those times - Antoni Patkowski; he was a faithful friend of father Karol and, like him, died a martyr's death for his faithfulness to the Church and his country. 

Odsłoniecie pomnika POW w ŁózkachIn 1933, father Wajszczuk organised a restoration of the interior of the church in Horodek. In the same year, a chapel in Łózki was consecrated. At the same time, the parishioners began gathering money to buy an organ for the Drelów church. In mid August 1931 father Wajszczuk was given an important distinction. In accordance with a disposition of the president of the Republic of Poland, from the 7th of July 1931, he was awarded the "Independence Cross" for his doings in the area of regaining independence by Poland. Father Karol was deeply moved when he received this distinction, considering it a kind of social recognition. 

Odsłoniecie pomnika POW w ŁózkachOn the 8th of November 1936, a monument to the Polish Military Organisation (POW) was unveiled in Łózki. For many months during the First World War, father Wajszczuk had been army chaplain of the POW region Kąkolewnica - Turów. Later, during the Second World War, he also joined in the organisation of the underground armed forces. The monument in Łózki was particularly meant to honour members of the POW from the Drelów and Łózki region, which had been killed in the war. 

In the autumn of 1938, all of Poland got to know the Drelów parish. "Gazeta Świąteczna" no. 3009 from the 2nd of October 1938, wrote: The bishop of Podlasie, H. Przeździecki told the priests in his diocese to ask their parishioners to leave the following information in the parish offices: 

  1. Were they prosecuted for their faith by the Russian government in Podlasie, for example in Hołubla, Drelów, Pratulin or anywhere else?
  2. Did they see the torment of the Uniates? 
  3. Did they take part in the funerals of these people? 
  4. Did they hear anything about the uniates' torment from eyewitnesses? What, where, from who?
  5. Did they hear about funerals of killed uniates from eyewitnesses?
  6. If they called for mediation of the tormented uniates in their prayers did they receive any kind of graces from God, for example - coming back to health?

The call was to be repeated on four Sundays. The answers were to be sent to the diocese in Siedlce before 15.10.1938. 

Father Wajszczuk repeated the bishop's order three times in his church. The descendants and relatives of the uniates killed in the church cemetery in 1874 brought many different informations to the parish office. The parish priest sent all this material to Siedlce. However, the uniates' case was thrown into the shade by two events: the sudden death of bishop Przeździecki and the outbreak of the Second World War. 

The events that followed, connected with Hitler and Mussolini's aggression in 1939, brought anxiety to the Polish people. War was coming close. Facing the coming danger, the conference of bishops of Poland, organised in Warsaw, in April 1939, issued an appeal to priests and followers, asking for full readiness for sacrifice in the need for the defence of the country's independence. Father Karol Wajszczuk was very scrupulous in fulfilling this appeal. He conducted services for the welfare of Poland and for peace in the World. Afterwards, almost to the end of 1939, during German occupation, he concluded Sunday services by singing the supplication and "Boże coś Polskę".


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