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Czesław Kuliczkowski

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fr. Jarosław Nowak, PhD

My name is Czesław Antoni Kuliczkowski, I am 63 years old. I was born on 29 July 1952 in Stare Żabno near Nowa Sól on Lubusz Land in the house of my grandparents - Kazimierz Kuliczkowski and Kazimiera Kuliczkowska (nee Marcinkowska). For 40 years I have lived in the United States of America. My parents were Franciszek Kuliczkowski (1924-2014) and Helena Kuliczkowska (nee Horodecka) (1930-1953). Franciszek Kuliczkowski came from a small town Jazłowiec located in the district of Buchach in Ternopil region on the eastern territories of Eastern Borderlands of the Second Polish Republic; Helena Kuliczkowska came from Luzan near Kocman in Bukovina, i.e. in the region of present-day Romania and Ukraine.

After finishing elementary school and later technical school in Nowa Sól, I undertook studies at the Higher School of Engineering in Zielona Góra (at present University of Zielona Góra). After completing two years of studies, I went to the city of Mississauga, Ontario, Canada at the invitation of my father Franciszek’s cousin, Eugenia Jakuszyk. After completing the preparatory course, I got a student visa to the Savonarola Theological Seminary in Scranton, Pennsylvania, United States. After graduation, I was elevated to the dignity of the priesthood and began pastoral work and the missionary in the Polish National Catholic Church (PNCC). In 1978 I married Donna Beard, who comes from the city of Wilkes - Barre, located in the north-eastern Pennsylvania. Together we raised Nicole Brisk, who finished studies at Pennsylvania State College and received a master's degree at Bloomsburg University, Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania. In 1989-1994 I pursued higher education and received a master’s degree at Christian Theological Academy in Warsaw, majoring in Old Catholic theology. Two years later, at the same university I received a PhD degree in historical theology. After 30 years of pastoral ministry within the scope of the Polish National Catholic Church, I got retired.

During the martial law I was engaged in the actions of sending to Poland parcels with medicines, clothing and food; we sent over a thousand parcels weighing several tons. For 10 years I served as a coordinator of the Medical Bridge to Poland mission, personally cooperating with Prof. Religa and the Clinic for Cardiac Surgery in Zabrze, Hospital for Children in Litewska Street in Warsaw and Government Clinic in Konstancin. I planned and presided over five trips to Poland; more than 200 people born in North America had an excellent opportunity to get to know the heritage, culture and history of the country of their ancestors. I met with the Minister of Health and Social Welfare of the Republic of Poland and the First Lady of the Republic of Poland – Mrs. Jolanta Kwaśniewska. I wrote and posted in the church and local press, as well as in the press of the Polish community abroad many articles about the Polish spirituality, customs and traditions. I appeared in the American and Polish television and I took part in radio programs on both sides of the Atlantic.

I met three times with Pope John Paul II in the Vatican. I participated in conferences and meetings of the clergy and the faithful of the Polish Autocephalous Orthodox Church. I met Cardinal Gulbinowicz, Archbishop Prof. Nossol and representatives of the Roman Catholic Church in Poland, Canada and the US. I participated in the deliberations of the Polish Ecumenical Council and I met with the Bishops Superiors of Old Catholic Churches in Europe and North America. I held function of the Chaplain in the Rorantists Organization, at the District Office of the Sheriff, as well as in the Federal Hospital for War Veterans.

For my fruitful pastoral work, ecumenical commitment, activities for the Polish community abroad and aid missions to Poland I was awarded numerous medals and honors. In 1993 at the request of the Synodal Council of Polish Catholic Church I was decorated with Bishop Francis Hodur I Class Order. In 1995 Chapter of Lublin awarded my activities with the Heart for Hearts order. 5 August 1997 I was awarded the Knight Cross of Merit of the Republic of Poland by the President of the Republic of Poland. The list of other awards and honors includes: Orders from Polish National Union of America "Spójnia", Chapter of Scout Priesthood, District and State Council of Churches, the Ecumenical Council, Rorantists Organization and others.

Why did I leave Poland? Because from 1945 to 1975 Polish People's Republic was not an independent country; I always felt a deficit of freedom; the presence of the Soviet army (in Nowa Sól there was located so-called 'Hospital of the Soviet Army'), patrols of Soviet soldiers on the streets of the city were something normal. Nearby polygons and military bases confirmed the presence of supposedly "friendly", but at the same time foreign, troops! Part of my family was exiled to Siberia after the Soviet troops marched into the Eastern Borderlands on 17 September. The difficult economic situation of the country, the continued lack of basic everyday products needed to the society, the privileged status of members of the government and the elite of the Polish United Workers' Party at the expense of the entire nation, in the form of special shops, health centers or leisure centers, etc. These realities made me very upset, depressed and reminded that it was a regime without a future for people who wanted freedom, for people with my approach to life and my worldview.

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Another reason was my passion for voyages and traveling; I visited the Soviet Union, East Germany, Czechoslovakia - but I wanted to see other countries, i.e. those outside the area of countries covered by CMEA agreement or The Eastern Pact. From an early age I was interested in genealogy and history of my ancestors, their lives, repatriations, deportations and trips. Thanks to the stories of my ancestors, who came from the Eastern Borderlands of the Second Polish Republic I know that they lived in a country of a rich ethnic mosaic, in a multicultural and multi-faith country. My identity is just a mosaic of different ethnic groups, cultures and religions with a touch of Romany nature. Part of my ancestors were Poles, some of them came from Germany (Ashkenazi Jews), some came from Romania, and others were Ruthenians (not Ukrainian). Some of them were of Greek Catholic denomination, some Orthodox, and some Roman Catholics, Old Catholics; the remaining were neophytes who, for various reasons (voluntarily or out of necessity) converted from Judaism to Christian denominations. Most of my ancestors all the time and for various reasons had to leave their worlds and start everything from scratch. I also cannot stick to one place - for the last 40 years I have visited 48 countries on five continents; holding the US citizenship and passport really made it easier to make my dreams come true when it comes to hunger for travel and getting to know the world.

I want to emphasize that emigration is a very difficult decision! Everyone should have the right to choose and make a decision. However, decisions on departures from the homeland are never simple and have serious consequences. My life away from Poland was an opportunity to test my character, work ethic, patience, skills and perseverance. In my case, emigration, exiles and tours have been a tradition of our family for five generations. I would add that, unlike my ancestors, my departure was not the result of discrimination, humiliation, love, the gesture of hatred for Poland, or the result of a tragic financial situation. I love and appreciate the political freedom and freedom of choice, I love trips and learning about the world. In the US I live well, but it does not mean that I do not miss Poland, which since 1975 I have visited 25 times! I owe a lot to Poland and willingly come back here! I know that the blood that circulates in my flesh, the blood of my ancestors is the blood of patriots - honor to Their memory! I am aware of this and I know that you can love Poland living in another country and on another continent.