The first confession and Holy Communion for children of my age was scheduled for June 29,1911 on the day of the feast of St. Peter and Paul. Father Horeczy our parish priest and his assistant chaplain taught us catechism for some time now in preparation for our first Holy Communion. Everything was going like clockwork, I could recite the Six Truths of Faith, Seven Sacraments, the Ten Commandments and all the conditions required for a good confession. It seemed to me that my confession will go very smoothly but in the end, I royally messed up.
Early morning, that fateful day, my mother woke me up, helped me wash up, get dressed in my festive clothes and combed my hair. She then took me by my hand and together with my father we went to Sykora chapel. On the way she was constantly telling me how I should be behaving in the church,
“You have to great the priest with, praised be the Lord Jesus Christ.”
Then she told me how to say my prayers and literally how to confess all my sins. I mean, ‘you did not listen to your parents, that you fought with Catherine, that you sneaked into the pantry and drank raspberry juice, that on Holy Thursday you stole and ate sausage’ and similar type sins.
Several children lined up in front of the confessional and I was the tenth in a line. I knew all my sins by heart for a few days now but I was recounting them all quietly in my mind. ‘Stole and ate sausage on Holy Thursday and I guess that was it!’ The line was slowly getting shorter and my pants were shaking from the fear of what will be next? Finally, it was my turn. I praised God and my sins began spilling like potatoes from a sack. The priest listened to everything I said and then he asked,
“Is that all?”
“Maybe there is something else?”
“No father, I do not have any more sins.”
“Do you smoke cigarettes?”
“I do not smoke, Father.”
“Were you stealing eggs to buy candies?”
“Oh dear mother, this sometimes happened.”
“Well, and you said that these were all your sins.”
“Now, in the love of God, that is probably all.”
“Wait, wait. Do you steal other people’s apples?”
“That is true, I was in Myndel orchard few times.”
“I give you few times, you rascal. One day for these stolen eggs and apples you will be thrown to the bottom of hell.”
He told me my penance, asked me if I was sorry for my sins and told me to beat my chest saying, ‘it is my fault, my very great fault.’ He then knocked as a sign for me to go. I kissed his hand and run out of the confessional, thanking God that it was all over.
Before we went to the chapel my mother gave me two baked dumplings and told me, “After the confession and Holy Communion, when you’re really hungry, go behind the chapel and there you can eat them.”
Maybe I misunderstood her or in all the excitement I forgot exactly what she told me, so soon after the confession without waiting for Communion, I began eating these dumplings. Janek Marciniszyn (nicknamed Gwoździk) saw me eating and asked me to give him some. So we finished these dumplings together. Just when I was finishing the last morsel my mother showed up and asked with anger, “What are you doing?”
In fear I said that it wasn’t me but Gwoździk who ate the dumplings.
“Open your mouth, and what is that on your teeth if not cheese.”
I would have probably got some beating but she was ashamed, besides I did not wait and took off running back home. What my mother then told the priest, I do not know, enough that on that day I never went to my first Communion.
My God, what have I done, I was asking myself over and over.
The Holy Mass ended and people were returning back home. I finally saw my parents near our garden just before the noon time. In fear of being punished I hid under a large jasmine bush in our yard. As a child, I did not realize that what happened, was done and that I will not sit under a bush indefinitely. The jasmine bush was huge with long branches hanging right to the ground. Beneath this bush an entire flock of chickens would hide from the summer heat and the hawks. My grandfather planted it when he was only sixteen years old. The bush burned down several times but always grew back with even more vigor.
My poor mother looked everywhere, asked children, but no one knew where I was hiding.
I sat under this bush the entire June day hungry as a dog. Evening came and parents were worried. As it was getting dark, I was getting increasingly more scarred. I saw visions of a witch flying on a broom, remembering the tales which I heard from old Mrs Nowak. Then, I was seeing a black cat sitting in Mrs Nowak chamber, then an evil spirit who was milling wheat with rocks for bread for naughty children. When my hair stood on an end, I decided to go back to the house. About that time my parents were returning from looking for me and I overheard them arguing. My father was saying that it was my mother’s fault that she gave me these dumplings and did not keep them herself. My mother just continued calling, “Janek come on home, no one will hurt you.”
I then got out from under the jasmine bush, crying. My mother hugged and kissed me, and seeing me crying, she started crying. My parents forgo of scolding me, knowing that sitting all day hungry under a bush was probably sufficient punishment for my offenses. I will never forget that moment where at eleven o’clock at night I had breakfast, lunch and dinner all together, not counting one dumpling eaten earlier.
The following Sunday, my mother again dressed me and led me through the meadows to the nearby Jezierna to confession and my first Holly Communion. This time everything went well. After communion my mother gave me a snack, bought some lemonade and gave me a few pennies to buy something memorable from the shopkeepers. I was thinking back then, how awesome and beautiful was my mother! Probably none of the children had a better mom.
This memory of my childhood was one more rosary bead that I cherished and kept in my heart like a dearest treasure. Although since that time many years have gone by. I was always curious about one thing however, that in my life I had two incidents that fell on June 29, the St. Peter and Paul feast. The first one was the one that I described above and the other after eight years in 1919 during the Ukrainian-Polish War, which I will describe in further pages.
Translated by John Janiga