Today’s father



 

I have already discussed motherhood[i] in this website and now it is time to look at the situation of fathers in Poland - Anna Domini 2019.

We are all aware that in our cultural sphere, both motherhood and fatherhood have changed enormously in recent decades. For centuries, being a father was one of the basic roles of a man, unless he followed the voice of a religious or priestly vocation. It's not that obvious today. A contemporary Pole, as shown by research[ii] commissioned by the Mother's and Father's Foundation (Fundacja Mamy i Taty), escapes from everyday life by travelling and enjoying the world, likes good food, classy alcohol and entertainment, and realizes themselves at work. Having children means losing the comfortable, pleasure- and self-development-oriented life and not everyone is ready for it. For some people, the desire for fatherhood comes at a later age, but not for all. The number of singles and people living in informal relationships is constantly increasing.

Today, even marriage does not necessarily mean children. Much has changed since the time when the begetting of offspring was universally recognized as the obvious task of a marriage, the undeniable goodness and sign of God's blessing. The very institution of marriage, once concluded "until death do us part", is in crisis. According to the Central Statistical Office,[iii] 36% of marriages end in divorce, and in cities this percentage reaches 44%. Nearly 60% of young children are brought up in divorced families. Currently in Poland, every fourth child is born in an unmarried relationship. The number of children (0-14 years old) is gradually decreasing and today it is less than 15% of the population[iv]. This is a trend that is characteristic of all countries of the European Union. Our world is ageing, while African countries have growing and very young populations - in Niger, the leading Nigerian country, children aged 0-14 represent nearly 50% of the population[v]. and the fertility rate is 6.89[vi].

 

Who are those men who risked losing their comfortable life and freedom as singles and became fathers? Why did they make such a decision? How do they see their fatherly mission and how do they carry it out today, despite the adversities and sometimes the lack of a model from the family home?

 

TRUE STRENGTH

 

Marek Skalski is an only child. His mum, a teacher, worked two jobs. His father drank and was devoured by a sickly jealousy of his wife. He did not hit, but used psychological violence, sought evidence of unfaithfulness, forced confessions of betrayal. Mum tried to protect her son's innocence, but he heard and saw much, even though he could not understand it at the time. Finally, his father left the family and moved in with his parents. Marek was less than 5 years old at the time. Since then he’s shown no interest in his son. Peace returned to the family home, although financially it was a struggle.

Marek studied at the elementary school in Płock, where his mother worked. Every day he would come home from school on his own, walking 2 kilometres across fields and watching out for tractors. He was taught how to chop wood and how to light it in the oven, how to make sandwiches - he had to cope until his mother's return from work. On Sunday at 7:00 a.m., would go to Mass. It was a peaceful life. Things changed when he went to high school. He found himself alone in a completely new environment. There, his need to be accepted, strong and noticed by others, resulting from a lack of a father, grew in strength. He decided to join the school elite - a group of boys who were passionate about football. He asked mum for a Reebok club shirt with Petrochemia Płock on it. It worked. He was spotted. It was during breaks spent in the company of new colleagues that he learned how to smoke and play truant, and with time how to con people out  of money in the murkier districts of the city. Having the shirt meant something, so went to Petrochemia Płock games and became an "active" supporter - he took part in brawls, fights and trips with a lot of alcohol. This has had a great impact on his personality, deepened his need to be strong. He failed the year at school. He sat his A-levels late and at a different school.

He was 20 years old when he and his gang went to the first of the Astigmatic electronic music festivals. "We went to one of the squares and there I got a pill. I was told: Marek, we're not drinking today. Today we’ll have a pill and we'll fly, we'll have fun. After the pill I had a great time, there was no aggression, no hangover, the I became completely submerged in music. We danced till morning, I just needed a bottle of water. But the party's over. "He started looking for similar experiences and similar music. There was a disco near Płock that had these. It wasn't expensive, he got a pill and had a great time. They used to go there every Saturday with a group of friends. One tablet wasn't enough anymore - he had to take two, three, five. He started using marijuana and soon switched to amphetamine. He wasn't just partying on Saturdays anymore. He took a job to pay for his entertainment. But there wasn't enough money so he took it from his mum. In the end, he achieved his goal - he was someone: he ruled the clubs, sold drugs, commanded respect in the city. On the other hand, he hit the bottom: "I became a walking zombie. When I was coming down, that is when the drugs stopped working, my brain was numb. And so for two, three days. I acted intuitively like an animal, but there wasn’t even an inkling of cohesive thought in my brain. For half a day I could stare at one spot on the wall." His mother was then the headmaster of a school and everyone knew who her son was: "nothing", "garbage", "junkie", "bald hoodie". Everyone, except for his loved ones, wrote him off.

When he met Anna at a concert, he had swallowed eleven pills, a dose that was almost fatal. They would run into each other from time to time, and he started to care about her quite a lot: "She was a strange girl. She was in the last form of high school and had permission from her parents to go out once a week. I was very upset about it. It was a good three months before she invited me to her house where I met her family. During one of our first conversations she asked if I was a believer like her. In order not to spoil the atmosphere I said yes, although the Lord God and the Church meant nothing for me at that time. It turned out that Sunday's Eucharist could be an occasion for an additional meeting: "It was an hour of torment for me. I stood, sweated, felt weak, stuffy, sometimes I felt dizzy. But after those fifty minutes we left the church, went for a walk, and that was enough of a reward for me. He grew his hair and changed his style for Ania: "Jeans, green polo shirt and black sweater. It was so embarrassing to go out in the street... but I let myself get dressed in it." She suggested they go together to the Evening of Glory organized in a Salesian church in Płock. He promised to pick her up. People stayed in the church for so long that impatient he went in. Just as the priest with the Blessed Sacrament was passing between the benches blessing those present. He knelt in the back, between the benches, so no one would recognize him. "Unfortunately, the priest came towards me. When he was 2-3 meters away from me, I - I always describe it physically, because it was a physical experience - flooded me with love, joy and peace, which I have never experienced in my life. It was so strong, I burst into tears. I cried into my sleeve so no one would recognize me. I experienced some catharsis, tears were pouring out of my eyes so that I couldn't open them. One thought came to my mind: Jesus is here. It was the moment when I realized that I could open my eyes and when I did it, the first thing I saw was a priest standing in front of me with the Blessed Sacrament. "That was the moment that turned his life upside down. He went for a three-hour confession of his whole life, during which he cried like a beaver, and he and his confessor. He began to regain his freedom - from cigarettes, drugs, alcohol, pornography and the sick envy he inherited from his father. He cut off the unhealthy relationship. He completed his studies (which he considers to be one of the miracles in his life, given the destruction caused by drugs in his head), began to work normally, today he is the leader of the Charismatic Renewal community in Płock.

On the hottest day of July 2010 hew and Ania got married. At the beginning of January 2014, shortly after Christmas, when they heard many wishes to finally have a baby, Marek went to Mass. A pericope from Samuel's I Book about Anna, ridiculed for her infertility, was just read. He was struck by the coincidence of names with his wife and was glad she wasn't with him, because she would be sorry to hear that reading. When the next day he heard the rest of the story, in which Anna receives a blessing and promise that she will give birth to a son, he had the feeling that these words were addressed to them. He thought it was impossible, but on his way home he bought two pregnancy tests. They both came out positive. The third, bought in the morning, came out the same. They counted that their son Tymoteusz  should be born on December 25th, Christmas Day. He was born on 19 September 2014. Exactly three years later, on 19 September 2017, their second son Miłosz was born. "They say it's a coincidence, and I say Coincidence is a secular name for the Holy Spirit."

 

 

Marek Skalski z rodziną 

 

 

 

By the same "accident" he ran into his father on the street and after years he established a relationship with him and his grandparents. He had a chance to say "I forgive". Thanks to this meeting, my father, after years, reconciled himself to God. Life went so smoothly that soon my grandfather died, then my grandmother, and finally Marek laid his father to rest.

"Now, in fact, every day is a new formation, because before I take my son to preschool, I have mediations, negotiations, three conflict situations and difficult questions already over and done with. I have to adapt all my roles to the fact that God comes first, and family comes second. This is insanely difficult and I don't think I'll ever be able to handle 100% of it. I know that the Lord God will give me the strength and skills that will be needed. I've got my whole life to do it. This is my story. ”

 

THE LAW OF THE FATHER

 

Mikołaj Urbanowski became famous when in 2010 the press got to know that his team of archaeologists from the University of Szczecin had found the first remains of a Neanderthal in Poland. In 2012, Mikołaj, who shared his life between Szczecin, where he worked, and Warsaw, where he lived with his wife and three children for most of the week, started working on his habilitation. He spent more time in Szczecin now, but his wife did not reproach him for it. It was from the children that he found out that a man came to his mother and stayed the night. It turned out that the wife met a friend of the neighbours and fell in love with him. Mikołaj was shocked, but ready to fight to save his marriage, especially since the children were small - his sons were 7 and 5 years old and his daughter was only 3. In the first conversations, his wife declared her will to break up with her lover, but at the earliest opportunity, when her husband left for Szczecin, she took all the documentation out of the house - property deeds, contracts, documents of an  IT company they run together. His wife told him later, in a moment of honesty, that she had planned to make him move out of their apartment, where she would live with the children and her new partner. But he did not want to leave the apartment which he had bought, nor did he want to leave his own children. Then the wife brought her mother to the apartment. Both women made him feel like an intruder in his own home. He never let himself be provoked, but his wife reported him to the police and he was entered into the  domestic violence register. Eventually, after seven months of  interviews, he managed to get his name off that record. The police visited their apartment many times, and his wife's family invaded it. It was like a nightmare and he watched with pain how hard this domestic war was on the children.

One day, after returning from Szczecin, he found an empty flat, stripped of everything except his things and what could not be dismantled. The car had gone. He didn't know where the kids were either. He began his search. It turned out that together with their mother and her new partner they lived in a rented apartment, not far from home. He bought what was necessary for the functioning of the house and began to spend time with the children, despite the dissatisfaction of his wife. He always had very good relations with them, and now he cared even more about strengthening ties, so having them visit them was not a problem, because they liked him . In fact, they functioned in a system of alternate care, but without a court order. Then my wife filed a lawsuit to establish the children's place of residence. Mikołaj behaved like any other father who is in court for the first time. He thought he would be heard if he made a reasonable argument: "Why do we need to establish the residence of the children, Your Honour? First of all, we're still not divorced. My apartment is the children’s family home, my wife tried to take them away, but it is not for their own good. If the wife wants to divorce, we will determine the place of residence. When he heard the verdict, he felt like he had been hit on the head with a sledgehammer: "The place of residence of the children is at the mother's place of residence." My wife got exactly what she wanted. But it was only the first of a long list of demands and related court hearings - a battle which, he did not know at the time, was to be fought for a long five years.

He quickly realised that his wife had professional help and strong support - his neighbour, who was a friend of her new partner, was, as it turned out, working in court.

The issue of alimony came up with a settlement. As an archaeologist, Mikołaj’s take home pay at the time was two thousand eight hundred zlotys. He was burdened with alimony in the amount of one thousand eight hundred zlotys. Maintenance of the apartment cost him a thousand zlotys, and the loan in Franks consumed another seven hundred, but the court did not care about the facts. He found himself in a desperate financial situation overnight. He had to resign from his job in Szczecin immediately. Commuting and accommodation alone was a cost he could no longer afford. He left the University with full knowledge of how little chance he had of ever returning to scientific work. He could not find a permanent job in Warsaw and began to work as a computer scientist. He was unable to pay child maintenance or even give his wife the same amount of money as before.

 

Mikołaj Urbanowski 

 

Cases brought against him never seemed to end. The children still spent half the time with their father. The boys even ran to him, contrary to the mother's prohibitions. Then the woman applied to the court for visitation rights for him. During the trial, Mikołaj tried to explain that he did not want to be a visitor for his children, only a father, but the judge did not want to listen to him. Again, the wife got everything she wanted. Mikołaj was to take care of the children a few hours a week and every other weekend. Right at the end, the judge instructed the wife that she should demand higher alimony because she was forced to rent a flat. The boys were still running to their father. So their mother brought a case against him for not adhering to his visitation rights. He was financially punished for spending more time with his children than was stipulated in his visitation rights. He had already had his account seized for unpaid child maintenance and barely made ends meet. His life had changed drastically within a few months. He watched with disbelief how he was losing the case after case. It happened until, as he says himself, "he got a little wiser". He started to study on his own the codes of law, jurisprudence and studies, reports and results of international research, which clearly indicated that if such a disaster as family breakdown occurs, alternate care is the most beneficial for the child. He began to prepare well for the trial, to control his emotions. An important change occurred when he called his neighbour working in court as a witness, who was such a support for his wife. Something started to happen around the case, and two ladies of the judge gave up running it one by one. The case was taken over by a third party, who looked into it very closely and talked to both parents for a long time. It was her decision in November 2017 to grant Mikołaj and his wife alternate custody of the children as security for the duration of the parallel divorce trial. Mikołaj tried to reach an agreement with his wife about the maintenance debt, which has grown to 50 thousand zlotys. But the wife wasn't willing to make any concessions. The situation changed a year later. In the divorce process, the woman tried to prove that Santa Claus was to blame for the breakdown of their marriage. He, in turn, sought a divorce with a ruling on his wife's guilt. During the trial, when her wife realized that the witnesses were not in her favour, she offered her husband a divorce without guilty verdict in exchange for resigning from the bailiff's execution of the debt. Santa Claus agreed to that.

Today, the life of the mutilated Mikołaj family is slowly returning to normal - children are calmer and happier, because their lives are in order and their parents show respect for each other. Nicholas returned to his beloved archaeology to some extent and in the summer months he excavated, although the career path of research in this field seems to be closed to him. Together with a group of other fathers, he founded the "Children's Law" Association, whose basic mission is to change the law in order to improve the situation of children whose parents have parted, and indirectly to strengthen paternity. The means to achieve this is to introduce alternate care as a preferential system. The association works with parliamentarians to change the law, supports parents in their efforts to contact children and participates in court proceedings as a social partner.

“Life surprises us sometimes. I never imagined I'd be in this situation. I thought I'd have one marriage for the rest of my life. But, well, it wasn't like that.

I asked for us to part culturally. I wanted childcare to be shared. I got it all, but after five years of total shit. I'd like to know why, but I don't really have anyone to ask. Maybe this will result in something good in the form of a change in the law in Poland? This is how I feel a little comforted, because it is good to rationalize various things that happen to us.”

 

 

I MADE AN ADVENTURE FROM WHAT I HAD

 

Konrad Grzybowski met his future wife Iga when they were during their formation in the Pure Hearts Movement. It was within this fraternity that they began to give the first short testimonies, then to lead the retreats. Years later, their ability to speak out in public and their conviction, supported by experience, of the value of family life and responsible living of love, resulted in the establishment of the Steer for Love Foundation. They gave lectures in schools and parishes, talked to young people, fiancées and married couples. More and more invitations were received. Their activity was developing. With time, Konrad, a production engineer by profession, gave up his job in a large cosmetics factory to work 100% with his wife for Steer. Working for a foundation is not the same as working full-time in a factory. Konrad admits that entrusting financial matters to God was difficult for him, because a man should take care of his home and his family's financial security.

The Foundation went full steam ahead in 2016, and in October this year they received a crushing diagnosis of Józia - their one and a half year old son. The boy suffered from spinal muscular atrophy - a severe, progressive, incurable and genetically conditioned disease. There was no cure for it, there was only little hope for it, because clinical trials on the drug were in progress. Every subsequent child was at risk, and Isia was expecting a second child. They were offered an abortion. They refused, but the diagnosis of Józia and the prospect of another child being ill knocked them off their feet. "It's hard for me to remember how I felt and thought then. All I remember is that my wife was crying, so I couldn't afford to break down. I had a moment of crisis. I've read dozens of books about being a father, being a man. I read Jacek Pulikowski, Josh McDowell, John Eldridge, Szymon Grzelak so I knew what kind of father I would be - I would take my son on a trip to the mountains and it would be for him an initiation into masculinity, I would teach him to ride a bike, we would play football. And suddenly it turns out that I won't teach my son how to ride a bike, because he can't, or play football, because he doesn't walk, I won't give him a medal for putting on and tying shoes, because maybe he won't be able to do it... I didn't imagine fatherhood like that. I had it all sorted out, I had my vision. It was a difficult moment for me, tears appeared, I am not a man of iron. I had to change my expectations. I no longer matched my son to my vision of fatherhood, I matched fatherhood to my son. I thought maybe we wouldn't ride a bike together, but we'd play chess." Józio's illness taught him love, self-denial and sacrifice. There was no cure, so they had to be rehabilitated in order to slow down the disease as much as possible and either wait a few years until a cure was invented or keep the child fit for as long as possible. There was a time when Konrad was back at work. He was at work until noon, and then went home to rehabilitate his son. Colleagues asked: "Why are you leaving work so early?" and he said he had a second, more important job at home. "My relationship with my son is very deep. We've been through a lot. A lot of trips, hospitals, difficult moments. My son is now five years old. His whole life should be fun. And I have to teach myself how to encourage him to rehabilitate, so that he doesn't feel lost, that other children run around outside and he has to sit here and exercise. From what I had, I created my adventure. I had to make my son happy, make him like rehabilitation. He once said to me such powerful words: Dad, you're my friend. Thank you for exercising like this with me. A four-year-old boy. How could I not fall apart? I never imagined I'd hear anything like that from him."

 

Konrad Grzybowski z rodziną 

 

 

 

The younger sister Józia - Terenia came to this world in February 2017. Right away with all the great energy that she epitomises. The birth was so sudden, there was no way to take Iga to the hospital, she gave birth at home, and Konrad received the baby. It was a powerful experience for him. When Isia was still pregnant, they found out that research into the drug had speeded up considerably, and that clinical trials in Italy were looking for infants who had not yet experienced any symptoms of the disease. Thanks to the kindness of Polish doctors, they diagnosed her very quickly - unfortunately, she was ill like her brother. They called the professor from Rome to hear: "I'm so sorry. The last one, twenty-fifth infant was admitted to the program a week ago. I can't help you." They're on their knees. In the end, Terenia got into treatment, because the professor found a way to put her in another research program. They landed in Rome with their little boy in a wheelchair and a two-month-old daughter, not knowing how long they would have to live in the Eternal City. Pallottine sisters were their hosts then are still now. Konrad emphasizes that God has taken care of their family in these difficult moments: "If it weren't for Terenia's disease, the Italian doctors wouldn't have found out about Józio. Thanks to the fact that he was with us and he got his medicine after a year. Much faster than it could have happened in Poland. It was the last moment, because he was so weak that he could hardly do anything. It was hard to watch him trying without success to crawl on the floor. Terenia saved her brother, and he saved her, they helped each other. When people tell us: Mother, you have two sick children! I'm telling you, it was God's plan. It is often the case that something happens in life - a tragedy, a disease, a misfortune - and God has a plan for it. Maybe not right away, but in time it will turn out that it made sense. "Terenia, previously treated in the Bambino Gesù Hospital, will soon be taken care by by the Children's Health Centre in Międzylesie. With time Józio will also stop using the hospitality of the Gemelli clinic and the drug will be administered in Poland. The activity of the Steer for Love Foundation is also slowly picking up. It cased when Iga and Konrad went to Italy with their children for an unforeseeable period. "We used to think that Steer was such an irreplaceable activity for God, but it turned out that God without Steer did a great job. There was a lot of interest and we felt that we were doing something good, but Steer didn't work for two years and the world didn't collapse. This is such a strong lesson for us. The phones started to ring back and we started to work. We have a completely different experience and view of life. We used to be told that when everything goes perfectly, just like we do, everyone would want it. Now, after two years of struggling with the disease, when we move from this "sweet" part of our testimony to this difficult one, everyone says: Oh, it is not so great, and yet you are satisfied, smiling. How do you do that? I can tell you that without God, I couldn't have done it. Without my wife, I couldn't have done it. For me, our marriage is a space where I can rest and recharge. I only pray to God that he will not take my wife away from me quickly, because I can imagine everything as long as it is with my wife. It's great fun having a super wife." Iga and Konrad are awaiting the birth of their third child and due to be born at the beginning of 2020.

 

FATHERHOOD MATURES WITH AGE.

 

Andrzej Kwasowiec is a mathematician and works in a large insurance company. He met Maria during their pilgrimage to Jasna Góra. They've been married for 16 years. When they were thinking about the shape of their family, they had two, maybe three children in their plans. Today they are the parents of six: Gosia (15 y.o.), Wojtek (12 y.o.), Asia (9 y.o), Kasia (7 y.o.), Karol (3.5 y.o.) and a year old Clara. Andrzej's parents, who come from Podlasie, are very proud of their grandchildren. Grandpa shows them off in front of his friends, especially since they are grandchildren who like to visit grandparents and spend time with them, whether in their Warsaw apartment, where sleeping on the floor is a great attraction, or in a house in Podlasie, where they come on holiday.

The corporation, where Andrzej works, employs 700 people. Multi-children families are not a standard or a norm here. Apart from him, one father of seven children and one father of five, or at least that’s how many multi-children  families Andrzej knows about in the company. The other employees have at most three children. It is well known in the company that Andrzej has a large family. When new products are launched, targeted at families or children, he is asked for feedback. He knows how to say what he thinks and sometimes wonders if he is in the company for something important. "Once, when introducing a new project, a schedule was established that did not provide for holidays. I was not at that meeting and at the next one I said straight away that I had 26 days of leave, that holidays were approaching and that I had to take my children somewhere. There's was some dismay. Then it turned out that I wasn't the only one who had to provide holidays for the children. After all, all those who needed it took a leave. The work was organized in such a way that it was possible. This incident happened a few years ago, when people were more afraid for work. Perhaps if I hadn't said what I thought then, no one else would have dared to take a vacation. Andrzej notes that the approach to parental responsibilities and fatherhood is changing. His company has recently introduced an additional 2 weeks of paid paternity leave, in addition to that guaranteed by labour law. He stresses that his boss understands that parents with children are more stable employees because they are less likely to give notice than people who are single or have no dependants. But he knows it's not like that in every company.

 

 

Rodzina Kwasowców

 

From the beginning of their marriage they were thinking about living out of town with Maria. They bought land, built a house near Warsaw. Their life is still connected with the city, where children attend schools and kindergartens, where Andrzej works. Maria, who is a nurse, does not work professionally, but takes care of the house and the children. Andrzej is involved in bringing up children, but stresses that his wife devotes much more time to them than he does. "Every man has some free time at his disposal. One reads books, another runs or rides a bike, travels around the world, or meets his colleagues over a beer. We, with so many children, devote this time to them. A man always has a choice. You can have six children and not take care of them, or you can devote all your time to them. You have to divide time wisely - for children, wife, yourself, for work." Andrzej stresses that a large number of children forces a better organization of time for the whole family and greater independence of children. "The independence of our children helps us. I remember such scenes from kindergarten: two parents come with a child - dad takes off his shoes and mom takes off his jacket. I didn't feel like I had to help my child change clothes, and because it was taking a long time I read something on my cell phone. When my wife picked up the child from the kindergarten she listened to how insensitive I am because I play with my mobile phone and my son has to change by himself. Surely it would be faster if I would help him, but looking at the long term it is better to give him this time to learn." In any case, the children themselves, as they grow, demand independence. Older children return home from school by bus, and pick-ups by car are rare. Maria only takes their heavy backpacks from school.

"With more children you have more tolerance for the fact that not everything is perfect. Last year I went on a holiday school retreat alone with five children. Marysia was already at the last stage of her pregnancy and stayed at home. Everyone was surprised that I came alone, but 14-year-old Gosia could take care of herself, 11-year-old Wojtek didn't need my care, because he knows how to do everything around himself, 8-year-old Asia didn't need much and the 6-year-old Kasia could dress herself, only the 2.5-year-old Karol needed the most attention. On the first day, it was Sunday, Kasia chose the prettiest dress for herself. On Monday she wanted to look pretty too, so she wore the same pretty dress. She ended up wearing the same dress for a week, which probably wouldn't have happened if our wife had been with us, but I didn't have a problem with that. Nothing happened from my point of view.”

 

When asked whether Poland is a pro-family country, Andrzej answers that state support for families is not insignificant. His family has a large enough income, but he knows about many who, thanks to 500+, have repaid their loans. They themselves benefit from tax exemptions, which in the case of their numerous families give quite a large amount of money on an annual basis. "We also use the Large Family Card, although it's just little things, it's nice. For example, in the Tatra National Park we show our Card and enter without standing in line, because we do not pay to enter.”

The social approach is different. "There are people who reluctantly say that 500+ is a pathology. These are unpleasant conversations." But on the whole their experience is good. Andrzej says that he has heard from his co-workers many times that they admire him. The private dentist they go to gives them discounts on services, even though they have never asked for it. And when they go on holidays to Italy, there's a whole bunch of bonuses from having many offspring: they happen to get double ice cream at the price of a single ice cream and discounts in restaurants. "In Assisi we lived in one of the Catholic centres. During meals we sat at a table together with a group of elderly people who looked at us with interest and smiled. It was very nice, but we felt like we were in a zoo. At the end of the stay, the friar taking care of this group asked us if he could give our children sweets as a thank you for the nice company at the table. Italy is very friendly towards families with children.”

"In the U.S. it is said directly that if someone has many children, he or she is a Catholic, Amish or a Mormon. Or a Muslim. Generally speaking, for people who believe in large numbers of children, it is a blessing. My approach to fatherhood grew with my children. At the beginning I was task-based and upset that we were always run off out feet. And now I appreciate the time spent with the kids more. It's more of an age-related change than a change in the number of children. With time I started to listen to various conferences (Father Szustak, Father Pawlukiewicz), which has had an impact on my perception of masculinity and fatherhood. I don't have much time, so I listen on the metro. The most important role of a father is to set an example. I don't always do that, but I try. I explain things to children and encourage them to do faith-related activities. Raising children in today's world is difficult, especially in a big city. You have to watch and pray. ”

 

Marta Dzbeńska - Karpińska 

 

Photos: Marta Dzbeńska-Karpińska and private archives of the Skalski, Grzybowski and Kwasowiec families.

 

 

 

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