Two Pinkowskis Gave $25,000author: Edward Pinkowski, Copper City, Florida
to Heat Church in Poland
Jack Pinkowski and his father, Edward, the writer of this report, who came from warm Florida, didn't think twice after visiting St. John the Baptist Catholic Church in Wizna, Poland, where their ancestors worshipped since 1526.
The church had no heat. As soon as vespers were over, most of the bundled up children, who had squirmed on wooden planks in front of the visitors, rushed home to get warm. Shortly after, the Rev. Kazimierz Klosek, who was assigned to the large church five years ago, invited our entourage of five persons, including Jack and his wife, Kathleen, me, and two friends, to the rectory for hot tea.
Naturally the lack of a heating system in the church came up. Father Klosek said that he never had money to install one in the church. Then, in consultation with his father, with whom he has a joint bank account. Dr. Jack Pinkowski made out a check for $25,000 and handed it to Father Klosek.
It surprised the Florida philanthropists how quickly Father Klosek installed a heating system. In his latest report to the Floridians he wrote in Polish, "I am deeply moved by your human kindness. You are for me and for the parish good Angels, coming with concrete assistance. The help you gave us speeded up a much needed investment. The heating system will be in full operation by Christmas."
"We hope that this is being accomplished," said Dr. Pinkowski, Director, Institute of Government and Public Policy and professor of public administration, H. Wayne Huizenga School of Business and Entrepreneurship, Nova Southeastern University, Davie, Florida. "We are very grateful to have the opportunity to help you in this way."
The church in Wizna, which still faithfully rings the Angelus each day and wakes up the present population of 4,794 persons, has no records of the first settlers of Wizna in 1113. Wizna became a city in 1435. Whether there was a church in Wizna between 1113 and 1526 and exactly what kind is shrouded in mystery.
When the people set out to build the present Catholic church in 1526, in low Gothic style, the parish covered a group of villages, including Kokoszki, where a Pienkowski built a log cabin at the side of a brook and, faded as they are, Pienkowski names are written in the first birth, marriage and death records of St. John the Baptist church. Over the years, the records were kept in the Polish, Latin, and Russian languages. It is impossible to tell if Kokoszki is older than the church.
Following the third partition of Poland in 1795, Wizna's greatness waned. It lost the status of a city in 1870. Wizna suffered the most when 350 German tanks rolled into the town on September 2, 1939, with 42,200 soldiers and aircraft support behind them. Captain Wladyslaw Raginis was the commander of 740 Polish officers and soldiers in Wizna, most of whom were in fortified positions around the town and on a hill along the Narew River. The heroic defence of Wizna lasted for three days. Raginis was severely wounded. On September 10, 1939, in the last pocket of resistance, he took his own life.
The Germans closed the Catholic church and the synagogue in Wizna. The Jews were driven like cattle out of Wizna in 1941. When they reached Jedwabne, 6.7 km from Wizna, most of them were burned to death in a barn. Others fled like frightened animals to Lomza, 12.5 km from Wizna. After the war, parishioners volunteered their free time to rebuild the Catholic church.
FROZEN IN TIME
Had my grandfather, Andrzej Pienkowski, not left Kokoszki in 1899 after his first wife died, the cluster of minor gentry in the middle of cow pastures, pig pens, and potato fields would have remained the same as during his lifetime. He had to find work to support his children.
He went to work in a hard coal mine near Mount Carmel, Pennsylvania, and used the money he saved to start a chain migration. He brought his brother, Stanislaus, to Mount Carmel in 1900. Then four children, Laura and Felix to Mount Carmel, two years apart; Bronislawa, who became a housekeeper for a priest in Massachusetts, and finally Konstanty, who was sent by train to Mount Carmel, Illinois, instead of Pennsylvania, by officials at Ellis Island. One imagines that Kokoszki would have five less families in the future.
Working underground, Andrzej Pienkowski, written Pinkowski in his ship's papers, filled his lungs with coal dust over the years until he was unable to work. He had miner's asthma. His second wife, whom he married at Mount Carmel in 1906, pleaded with him to return to Kokoszki, where they were both from, and he died there in 1913.
Nobody then could have predicted that his grandson and great- grandson would visit Koskoszki more than a century later and find their Polish roots.
Years ago, another father and son team, Janusz and Tomislaw Paciorek of Poznan, Poland, scoured the church records in Wizna and found the presence of Pienkowski families continuously in Kokoszki from 1526. At one point, some of them were called counts.
Over the years, Edward Pinkowski has established himself as a diligent researcher studying General Pulaski, and particularly his death and two graves in Georgia. Jack and his wife made up a family of five that had a special viewing of Pulaski's bones in a morgue. The other Pinkowskis were Edward, Connie, and Marcel.
Not surprising, the people in Poland and the United States don't have all the facts on Pulaski. Due to a Pulaski conference at Warka, Poland, where a museum in his honor was established 40 years ago, Edward and Jack Pinkowski, who have expert knowledge of Pulaski, were two of the lecturers on the program and were decorated for their work.
In addition to showing slides of Pulaski's bones, the younger Pinkowski, now chairman of the National Polish Center in Washington, D. C., laid a wreath at the Pulaski statue at Warka and made a report on the activities of the cultural organization.
The expedition to Poland ended with a four-hour drive in an air-conditioned SUV from Warka to Wizna. The next day was spent in Kokoszki itself. it was not as daunting as going to church in Wizna over a bumpy, muddy road in a horse and buggy in all kinds of weather in 1526.
(l. to. r.) Kathleen and Jack Pinkowki at the church in Wizna
(l. to r.) Edward Pinkowski, Peter Obst, Rev. Kazimierz Klosek