People of Zwoleń. Maria Życzyńska (1889 – 1973)

Our Grandma, brave woman.
Were there many widows with history like hers…?

It is worth to present women, who ostensibly didn’t stand out in the crowd with anything special, but however, it was they – often lonely, widowed, without any help from their husbands – who had bravely given support to their children and loved ones for many many years. I guess, that my grandmother Maria Życzyńska was such person.


She was native-born citizen of Zwolen, daughter of Józef Michalski and Julia nee Sułkowska. She had two siblings – sister Zofia, later married to Mr. Drozd, and brother Stanisław, who was a notary in Opatów. Maria’s father, Józef, was a farmer, like most people in Zwoleń. He also appreciate efforts to educate children.

Maria was clever girl, she wanted to learn. However, at the turn of the century, under the partitions, women had very low chances to gain knowledge at schools. Education ends at three or four classes of primary school. Ms. Janina Czaplińska from Sycyna organized secret teaching for smart girls and boys from Zwoleń. Unfortunately, Maria never fulfilled her educational plans. As a young woman she had married well-known social activist Jan Życzyński and dedicated herself to take care of family and home.

Since her husband died in 1937, Maria on her own take care of teaching and raised up her children: Urszula, Tadeusz, Janina and Stanisława. Tadeusz graduated medicine on Warsaw University, he became phthisiologist and cure people from tuberculosis all his life. Janina graduated pharmacy at Poznań University whereas and worked in chemist’s in Szczecin until she retired.

Home for everyone

It’s worth noticing, that among all of the things, which Grandma Życzyńska achieved, is creating a home, which was great support for all in need. This building located by Piłsudskiego (later Szkolna) Street stands till nowadays, but during 2nd World War was already very important point at town’s map. In this house, in little room in the attic, under German occupation took place secret teaching. One of the people, who initiated secret teaching in Zwoleń at high school level, was Maria’s son – Tadeusz, at that time young student. Education gained in Życzyński’s Family house for many young people was first step to start studies after war.

Tough time of occupation and great role of Maria Życzyńska’s home was presented by Klemens Oleksik, writer from Zwoleń. In volume of his short stories titled “The Relatives Of My Mother” there is a story “We Will Come Here At Night”. We can read there:

Mr. Tadeusz lived with his mother and two sisters in a little home near school. Small, brick house, where secret teaching often took place. We all know each other very well. With Janka, Tadek’s sister, we make the same class.

Therefore, history of this home connects with history of Zwoleń’s intelligence inseparably, but not only because of secret teaching. Before 1939 there were newsrooms of “Zwoleń’s Bell”, also in there articles to Stanisław Podrygałło’s “Voice of young countryside” had been written. In Maria Życzyńska’s home lived teachers, for example headmaster Stanisław Kulawik with his wife, and priests.

Thanks to Grandma Maria Życzyńska attitude efforts for common good was possible.


I remember Grandmother Życzyńska as tall, dark-clothed and venerable woman. She was respected. As a little girl I used to kiss only her hand. No one persuaded me to do that.

I think Grandma achieved what is most important in life – she raised her children for valuable people.