Are these only memories?

Alina Czerniakowska

The atmosphere of Christmas extracts unordinary pictures, memories extraordinary events from memory, especially those which are difficult to understand and felt by others. On these days of Christmas I return to books of Witold Szolgini, to other volumes of 'That Lvov'. Every volume devoted to a different topic, everything about beloved Lvov. Streets and beaches, life of the city, temples, buildings, monuments, inhabitants of Lvov - everything described in prose and rhyme, some in street slang, the slang of Lvov. It is difficult to present the richness of the content and style of this absolutely incredible literature, it needs to be read, it is needed to return to it in memory, and it is necessary to and learn about Lvov, the only place on the earth, a lost place. Witold Szolgini's return to his family home in Łyczakowska street, to the church of St. Anthony, visited on the way to school, memories of teachers, professors of the junior high school and the first years of studies at the Architecture Faculty of the Lvov Polytechnics….

I was lucky to know Witold Szolgini, an architect, a scientist, an author of many scientific books and works, but, first of all, Lvov inhabitant, lover and an expert of the continually faithful city. In my case everything started with a lecture at my Warsaw University. When leaving, I read an interesting advert near a gate - 'A lecture of the Associate Professor Witold Szolgini entitled 'Flowers of Lvov, that is, a friendly landscape'. I came to listen and it was how I became 'a woman of Lvov by choice' - as the author wrote in a dedication to me. I could not believe that it was possible to love so much and speak about the city! Now I return to selected fragments of books, to meetings in a Warsaw flat of the Szolgini, full of Lvov, to Christmas eve dishes, friendliness, hospitality, the unique atmosphere. Guests knew about it, who visited this Lvov house in Warsaw, knocking by a knocker in the shape of a lion's head, as it had been in the family house 'under an iron lion' in Łyczaków. Lvov exiles from the whole world were arriving here, and they were unusual, known pre-war artists of the Joyful Wave of Lvov - Szczepko and Tońcio, Włada Majewska and others, had guests' place here, filled with beloved Lvov, and made inscriptions in the 'Great Book of Pilgrimages in Lvov'. Witold Szolgini was "primus inter pares, an absolute rebe, infallible in the issues of Lvov in the papal sense' - once another inhabitant of Lvov, Jerzy Janicki, admitted. And Zbigniew Herbert called Mr. Witold 'a guardian of the city and graves'. When in 1996 Witold Szolgini died suddenly, his wife Wanda, a Warsaw inhabitant, a graduate of History at the University here, continued the activity of her husband with great pietism and engagement, from love to Him and Lvov. I will never forget my last meeting in the Warsaw house 'under the iron lion'.Mrs. Wanda, being very ill, greeted me very cordially, was controllably looking at the hospitably laid table by her son and her daughter-in-law this time, and, finally she asked me to sit next to her in silence and read selected fragments from her husband's books. She was listening with closed eyes, peacefully, as if she was walking with her beloved husband, admired Tol from Łyczaków, 'among rich greenness of trees in the middle promenade of Wały Hetmańskie to the Great Theatre'.

Later the return home….'Łyczakowska, my Łyczakowska…how to describe it, what words to use - which would be the most accurate and also the most sensitive, so that to present everything faithfully , which composed my nearest, the nicest the dearest home street….At Christmas they were walking with the Christmas crib and singing carols in streets and houses of Łyczaków, and at the New Year - they were walking with the New Year pumpkin, and on the Day of Three Kings - with the Three Kings' star. Whereas, they were singing carols from their whole heart and all their breath - with as much strength as they had in their lungs. At that time there were so many groups of them that….'Doors would not close'….I was reading other fragments, with great emotions, because in this house, difficult to describe, also I learned the pride and love to 'that Lvov', to the whole borderland, to the lost land.

Now, when also Mrs Wanda died, there is a task to do - maintain and tell next generations about the Truth about six centuries of the Polish city near Wysoki Zamek, Lvov - Semper Fidelis, a bastion of Poland and Christianity, the only city distinguished by the Marshal Józef Piłsudski with the cross Virtuti Militari.

Alina Czerniakowska - an author of documentaries: 'My heart remained in Lvov' and 'Semper Fidelis'


"Niedziela" 51/2013

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: