Grzegorz Pisarski & Anna Katarzyna Dubowska



                As for Polish conditions, the tradition is very antique. A baptismal act of Poland has been  treated not only at the same time as an accept of Christianization of a new established Central European country in 966 A.D., but also as formation of a new being of the Polish nation. One of the crucial beliefs began then – faith of transcendentalism, i.e. an eternal life after believers’ deaths. Earlier traditions of cremation were replaced by burials what in fact was a public laying human bodies into graves at the presence of Catholic priests. Bodies, which were laid in, usually wooden,  coffins were then placed in ground caves, covered up by earth that formed a pile. As to see, over a buried person’s head the funeral servicers until now drive a cross-pales into the ground. Nowadays, on the crosses there are plaques with a written a title: ŚP [Świętej Pamięci [pron. ‘shvjentey pam’yentshi, Eng.: Of holy memory], a deceased full name, dates of her or his life, likewise one of appropriate formulas devoted to adults either in Polish or Latin, e.g. Spoczywaj w pokoju [to pronounce: spo’chyvay fpo’koyu, in English: Rest in peace, or the same in Latin: Requiescat in pace as abbreviated RIP]. When it refers to a married couple the plural form is used: Niech spoczywają w pokoju [to pronounce: nyekh spochi’vayon fpo’koyu, in English: Let them rest in peace]. Very often you can find another phrases: Pokój Jego/Jej duszy (pron.: poh’kooy yegoh/yey ‘dooshi Eng.: Peace to His/Her soul); Bądź wola Twoja (pron. bontsh ‘vohlah ‘tfoyah,Eng.: Be Your will) or in Latin Ave Maria(Eng.: Be greeted, Maria). On the children’s grave you can find such inscriptions as: Powiększyła grono aniołków [to pronounoce: pohvyenk’sheewa ‘grohnoh a’nyowkoof] (for girls) or Powiększył grono aniołków [to pronounce: pohvyen’sheew ‘gronhnoh anyow’koof] (for boys) what is to be translated as She/He aggrandized the circle of cherubs or cherubbim.

                The prevailing part of the Polish population are Roman-Catholics. Each year’s day in the Roman-Catholic calendar is a recollection day after a saint, that is an eminent and faithful person from the past who was sanctified as a believing Christian, often who had been martyred for faith. In Poland people celebrate these recollection days very personally by having their name-days. All have though their first or second names in front of their surnames. A name-day is an occasion to organize name-day parties, to getting presents, and receiving personal greetings. Anyway, the special day, for that reason is the Nov. 1 – the All Saints’ Day. It seems a name-day of all the people but, truly, that a remembrance of all have died but who live still in our minds and hearts. The Roman-Catholic church is of opinion that it is a Christian feast to homage all saints known to God, especially not canonized officially and – wider – all who attained redemption and are present in Heaven. In the Eastern Churches the idea of such association has been known from the 4th and the Western one from the 7th century. In the 8th century all righteous were included to this idea’s formula. Eventually, the Pope John the Eleventh in 835 A.D. instituted a separate feast-day in homage to all the saints, appointing the Nov. 1 to this purpose. At present, this day is an official holiday what means that the people, excluding emergency services, do not work and pupils or students do not attend their schools.

                On that day Poles visit graves at cemeteries, sometimes cry, light candles, and leave flowers on the graves, they pray and connect in spirits with the dead. As a matter of fact, all necropolis, commemorative places as monuments, cross-way chapels, and homicide or genocide as well as car or plane accidents’ sites are overcrowded by people who frequently travel hundreds of kilometers throughout Poland, or thousands of them abroad to be with their deceased family members, relatives, and friends. We all are united at the All Saints’ Day and we hope not to be forgotten by our successors after our deaths. Poland is said a state of tolerance because in there have lived since the Middle Ages  many nationalities that received signs of peace and tolerance. A big interest is given to the Gypsies (Romany or Roma) who also visit graves of their compatriots. That are not as sorrowful meetings as amongst the Christian visitors. They treat a grave plate as a treatment table, from there to eat and drink, and smile to be happy with the dead in common. The Poles do comprehend that and accept with no prejudices.

                An important and practical knowledge is to remember that a cemetery payment is valid for twenty years. If an interested payer does not pay this obligatory fee, the grave will be liquidated by the cemetery administrator automatically. Until the 19th century burials were made at churchyards, i.e. around maternal parochial churches. Later, because of lacking places, the cemeteries were arranged in the suburbs or ranges of smaller localities. On one hand they were administered by individual churches or – on the other - by communes not seeing denominations of the deceased. The organizers of funerals should take into consideration the fact, what parochial church the deceased had come from not order other parochial services and to avoid service’s refusals or not needed conflicts. Throughout the ages the Polish tradition showed anyway refusals at burying suicides and the not baptized. At critical situations one of parents can self-baptize own child by own will. The first notice is announces during the holy mass at the domicile parochial church. A minister announces names of the parish members who went away to eternity. A priest says: the eternal rest you might deign to them, Lord and the participants of the mass answer in common: and the  eternal light may be lit to them. So all church community members unite in a short prayer for them.

A novelty since more or less two decades of years is in Poland is cremation. It could be carried out after the closest family member’s consent or the last will of the dead. Having burnt the body, a funeral enterprise organizes a solemn  farewell ceremony, if wished, with participation of a priest. Then the ashes in a small vessel are usually buried in a cemetery’s grave similarly to the bodies themselves. It looks quite clearly that the Poles have changed vividly their associations with cremation at all, having in their minds Nazi Holocaust cremations at the concentration camps during the Second World War. At the cemeteries there is also place for secular burials neither without a special location nor distinguishing that they were atheists. The inscriptions written on graves are almost identical: Cześć Jej pamięci [to pronounce: ‘chests’ yey pa’myentsi] (for females) or Cześć jego pamięci [to pronounce: ‘chests’ yegoh pa’myentsi] (for males) what means Respect to Her/His memory.    

Mass visiting cemeteries is used as an occasion for collection of money aiming to restore old destructed, usually antique, tombs and graves run by famous actors, artists, or politicians what was created as a new social tradition thanks to Mr. Jerzy Waldorff – an eminent music writer, publicist, and critic until 1990’s. At the biggest Warsaw cemetery Powazki these VIP’s have collected free contributions for 35 years. A culinary association to the All Saints’ Day in the city of Poznan is a pie called “ Poznan pipe” -