While there is no evidence that the workers arrived in Poland before World War I, it is known that quite a number of workers were in Poland between the wars. Some of their names were:
Published June 17, 2017
While there is no evidence that the workers arrived in Poland before World War I, it is known that quite a number of workers were in Poland between the wars. Some of their names were:
Tom Alexson (born in Ukraine, professed in Manitoba)
The years and order in which these men went to Poland is not known for certain. A letter mentions that Tom and Jack went to Poland in the spring of 1925, but it is not known if they were the first to go there.
Willie Evanov went to Poland in 1927. At some point in the 1930s, Willie MacDonald and Bert Todhunter went to western Ukraine which was under Polish occupation. When WW2 broke out, Willie was trapped there alone by the war. He never left Ukraine, and continued there alone until his death in 1957. A few friends from that time were still living when Ukraine was opened to the workers again in the 1990s. Now there are quite a number of workers, several conventions and several Ukrainian workers.
Shortly after WW2 in 1947, a Polish sister, Mila Gargas, started in the work with a Swiss companion named Marie Heiniger. Apparently there was a short time when there was a little bit of movement there permitted by the communist government. Marie eventually had to leave and Mila was left alone. She died in 2005, but wasn't active as a worker during the last years of her life. Of course, everyone had to hold registered jobs under communism.
A Polish man named Eduard Podgorski, was able to leave and go to Switzerland where he started in the work in 1960. Two years later he returned to Poland. He was in the work there by himself under communist rule for 20 years. He had to hold a registered job, but was generally able to get out to visit East Germany and to Switzerland for convention every few years, and even came to Canada for conventions one year--probably in the 1980s.
During the interwar period, it seems that a number of the Eastern European countries -- Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Czechoslovakia -- worked together during those years, so the men’s names listed above were moving back and forth from country to country, and would not all have been in Poland at any one time. From letters, it seems that visas were a major problem, and often they could only get a few months permission at a time before having to leave and be out of the country for at least several months before returning. So with a number of them divided between those countries, they were able to rotate in and out as visas were available.
Russia, of course, was already closed by communism. One Russian brother, Konstantin Petrochuk, had professed in Germany in the early 1920s, and by the mid 1920s had returned to Russia alone, where he worked in Leningrad and had some converts. As far as can be determined, he was never able to leave the country again, and it is a bit uncertain if he survived World War 2.
When WW2 broke out, Bert Todhunter was in Switzerland for some meetings and was trapped there. After the war, he spent most of the rest of his life in Austria, being Overseer there for a number of years. He returned to the British Isles in his very old age, where he died in 2008 at 102 years old. During his years in Austria, there was a relatively large group of workers. Most of them learned various languages so they were able to make visits into the countries then under communism. Outside workers might visit Poland for a few weeks at a time when they could get a visa, but for the most part Mila and Eduard were the only workers there during the communist years.
Perhaps in the late 1980s or early 1990s, Loran Skaw and Jeff Evans, both from Iowa, and had been in Romania and Austria, were able to go and stay longer on some sort of student visas. Then Jeff returned to the States and Domenic Enrietta (from Colorado, and had been in Italy), went to be with Loran for several years. Eleanor and Arlene Leszewski (biological sisters from Wisconsin) went in the early 1990s.
At present (2009), there may be either six or eight workers in Poland. Loran Skaw is now Overseer. Among the workers there is Ian Simpson from Indiana, grandson of Virgil Simpson, former worker from Indiana who labored for a time in Italy. Eleanor Leszewski is there and also Tammy Carr from Montana. Since Romania and Ukraine have both had a number of native-born workers in recent years, there are some from those countries who work in Poland. Evidently there is good freedom of movement between Poland and Ukraine without a lot of visa complications, so there is a lot of movement back and forth between those countries. No native-born Poles have gone in the work since the fall of communism, and not very many young people have taken an interest there.
When did the workers first arrive? Probably sometime between WW1 and WW2
Who were the first brother workers? (in random order) Tom Alexson, Jack Annand, Vasyl "Willie" Evanov, Carl Leonhardt, Willie MacDonald, Frank Patrick, Bert Todhunter, Tom Turner. It is known that Tom and Jack went to Poland in the spring of 1925.
Who were the first sister workers? “Shortly after the war, a Polish sister, Mila Gargas, started in the work with a Swiss companion named Marie Heiniger.”
Who was the first native to go in the work? “Shortly after the war, a Polish sister, Mila Gargas, started in the work.” In 2010, a 26 year old young lady started in the work in Poland, the first one to do so for 50+ years.
When & Where was the first meeting?
When & Where was the first baptism?
Where have subsequent conventions been held?
Where is the convention currently held? Held for the last several years in a rented facility in Wisla.
Who have the Overseers been? Bert Todhunter (died March 31, 2008 in England); Loran Skaw
TTT Editor's Note: Corrections or additions are most welcome; as well as other historical accounts for other countries.
Undated Account by Emil Hegg and Horace Todhunter
We had a visit from Emil Hegg ( Switzerland) and Horace Todhunter ( Scotland) last evening and I want to share with you before I forget.
Horace [Todhunter] told us when his mother went for confirmation in the Church of England, she looked a little older than her fourteen years and the minister said to her, "Of course, you are old enough to know that not all the Bible is true. The books of Job and Jonah are fairy tales." She was surprised and said to him, "I always understood the Bible was the word of God and it was all true." Horace said it may have been the best thing that ever happened, because she always had the niggling feeling that man does not believe the Bible.
After they were married they left the Church of England and joined the Methodists. His father was made a lay preacher and his first sermon was from Eph. 2. "And you has He quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins." That was the way he felt. But two years later, when the true servants of God came to their part, they accepted the Truth. The eldest child was then 10 years old. Out of a family of nine children; six have gone into the work.
Emil [Hegg] has been to Poland and East Germany a number of times and had wonderful things to tell us of the friends there and their experiences.
A young man that was professing had permission from the government to leave Poland and go to work in Switzerland for 2 years. If a young person can leave Poland, they never go back. But Eduard [Podgorski] worked for a short time in Switzerland and then he went into the work. When the two years were up he decided to return (to Poland). They have to have a job and he got work in the hospital. It seems it was on the administrative side. It is not always so easy for Emil to express himself in English, but he said Eduard had to keep track of everything that came into the hospital and pay.
Eduard visits the friends and has meetings where and when he can. We have heard of him through Ilse Kock's letter also.
The authorities wanted to honor Eduard and make him a great person in the Communist party because of his good work. His boss told him they were to make a great feast and give him this honor. Eduard said he would not be able to accept it because he served God and would not be able to take the oath to become a member of the Communist party. His boss told him he would loose his job and would have to accept very humble work, maybe even cleaning the lavatories. But Eduard could not be moved.
The weekend of the party, or feast, came and went without Eduard attending. On the Monday morning he went to work as usual not knowing what would take place. W hen he got there he found nobody sitting in his chair, so he went about his work. Later the boss came in and told him to carry on as usual. He said that out of a 100 employees, Eduard was the only one he could trust. None of his privileges were to be taken away from him. Every two years Eduard has permission to visit Switzerland . Not even the party members can get this privilege. Yes they can go to Moscow or East Germany, but not to the West. It has never been denied Eduard.
A young man started attending meetings in Poland. Everyone was so pleased. He even went to Sunday morning meetings. After three months he spoke to Eduard and told him he was a spy sent by the government to find out what went on in the meetings. He told Eduard. He was sending his report and that it would be favorable. The meetings could continue. What had impressed him very much was the fact that in every meeting one or more would pray for the government and no one ever said anything against them.
A family of friends were taken from Riga, Latvia, to Russia during the war. The parents were killed. The daughter, who was a little girl when they left their home, remembered the meetings and some hymns. She grew up and married a very nice, man. Back in Riga another family wondered what had become of this girl and continued to make inquiries from anyone who came from Russia. A soldier was asked if he had ever encountered her. He said no, but he also w ould make inquiries, which he did. He found her and put her in touch with the friends. She made a journey of 4,000 km, attended the meetings in Riga and then she knew these people were indeed her parents people.
Emil told us that Eduard said they suffered most in Poland just after the war. Weeks went by and they had no bread. Nine men were sharing one room. One day one man was given a piece of bread and told to divide it amongst the others. Eduard said it was stale and as the one broke it, the rest of them reached out their hands, 16 of them, and held it under the bread that not a crumb would be lost. Emil spoke of the bread of life and do we value it as we should?
Emil had permission to visit East Germany for one month. He had to return on Su nday before midnight. On Friday one of the friends asked Emil to go for a walk with him. They walked for half an hour and came to a little lake, approximately 20 meters by 30 meters. Then the brother said, "Emil, can't we have a baptism? Some of the friends have been professing for 20 years and have never had the opportunity. ” Emil was afraid and knew if he were caught it could mean prison for him. The man said he would take the blame, but Emil said he would pray about it. It was the 16th chapter of Acts that came to his mind, verses 31 and 35. Then he knew God showed him His will. "He took them the same hour of the night, and washed their stripes; and was baptised, he and all his household."
That same night at midnight the friends gathered together in the home and had their little meeting. Took the half hour walk in the thick fog to the little lake. The five people who were to be baptised were already in the clothes they were to go into the water in and they hid their other clothes in a bundle. Not a word was spoken. They got to the lake. Emil said he wondered where he would put his coat so he would be able to find it again when he was finished.
When he went to the water's edge, all five of the people were in the water waiting. He had noticed during the day that the water went down slowly and then gave a drop. When Emil cautiously entered, his foot went ever the ledge and he went completely under. He told us he was the first to be baptised that night. After he was finished and they all changed their clothes, getting into the dry cloth ing they had brought with them, he walked back to the water's edge. The fog had lifted, and the moon was shining brightly. Walking back no one spoke. Incidentally, there was ice in the water and the temperature was 5 degrees below freezing. No one suffered from the cold.
Other friends heard about the baptism and they also wanted the privilege. So in another place also in the night, 2 o'clock in the morning, I believe it was, they went to a lake. On the one side trees came down to the water's edge and a deep shadow went out over the water for approximately 10 meters and that is where they had the baptism.
They had a Meeting early on the Sunday morning and one in the early afternoon, then Emil made it back to the West before midnight that Sunday.
He told of three women, German and Polish, who were professing. They met in Russia. With the war and all they had to suffer they lost touch completely with the Truth. However, they never failed to have their meeting on Sunday morning, also the Bible study in the evenings. This went on for thirty years and they said one to another, "One day we will again meet the true servants of God and this will confirm to us that this is indeed the only way."
When the border was opened between Poland and Russia they made their way back to Poland and found the friends again. He said their joy was wonderful to behold. They were in their 80's and only one is still living.
We heard too of two boys finishing school in East Germany and they had the highest marks in the class. All the pupils were to have a trip to Moscow, but they all had to become party members before leaving. Many religious were represented in the class, but the other churches had made concessions so that they could still enjoy the benefits of the communist party. When the boys heard the "Ten Commandments according to the party", they said they could not agree because the 9th one read something like this - they had to swear that they thought the party was the greatest power, the almighty power in the earth, and that one day the party would rule the world.
All who did not agree with this were to stand to their feet. Those two boys w ere the only ones who stood up. Persuasion was used, but it did not change them. They were told not only would they not be able to go to Moscow, but as punishment they would have to clean the whole school from top to bottom. The next morning the principal of the school come to the boys ' home and he told the parents that he had interceded for the boys so they did not have to clean the school. He said they are the best boys in the whole school, Of course, no jobs are available to them except the very meanest work, However, the one is in a factory and wrote Emil and said he is glad to have work and more glad because he did not have to deny his God,
The grandparents of these boys also had a terrible, wonderful experience, during the last war. I think we have heard something of it before, but Emil told it like this:
The man was asked by the Captain to swear to Hitler and he refused because of his belief. The Captain, being a personal friend of these people, wanted to make things as easy as he could, but he also had his duty to do. He said no one needed to know what took place inside this room - just take the oath and forget about it. The man could not. He was sentenced to death.
The Captain gave him leave to go home to his family to say good-bye. Then he went to fetch the man. The wife and two children, 7 and 8 years, were allowed to walk part of the way with him. He told the man that he could have one half hour to say good bye to his wife. They were in a beautiful park and they decided the best way they could spend their time was to pray together. When it was time to part they kissed each other good bye and the wife said, "Be true to God, I would rather see you die than deny." The children professed when they were 17 and 18 years old,
Getting back to the prison the man was told in three days time you will be shot. Three times a day, his friend the Captain came in and tried to get him to take the oath. The last day, the man was taken from his cell thinking he was to go to his death. He was taken to the door of the prison and told he could go free.
Some years later, when the Americans were trying to sort out the "good" from the "bad" this man was called in and asked what he knew about this captain. Did he ever know that he had done anything against the Hitler regime? He said, "Yes, that is the man who gave me my freedom. I was condemned to death. I held the papers ordering my execution in my own hand. He got me free - how I do not know."
In East Germany if more than 10 persons gather they had to have permission from the local authorities. But, for birthdays permission was easily obtained. So, from the smallest child to the grandparents, every birthday is remembered. Permission is given for the birthday party. It is at such times they arrange their union meetings and special meetings. A cake is on the table, cups set around and their Bibles on their knees. So they have fellowship together.
Horace Todhunter died in Scotland October, 2003, age 88
Emil Hegg died _____
Eduard Podgorski died January, 2005 in Poland.
Edward Podgorski's Last Days and Funeral
An Unforgettable Day - Poland Date: Wednesday, 26 January 2005
It was a VERY cold winter day today in Warsaw as 10 workers: Werner L. (Germany) Vasyl S. (Ukr), Dan S. (Rom) Elfrieda E. (Germany), Karen E. and Trude B. (Ukr) plus we 4 on the Polish staff, 15 friends and 6 contacts said a final goodbye to our dear native brother, Edward Podgorski. He had cancer surgery December 28th and suffered a major heart attack sometime after that. It was a privilege to help with his care his last days before being put in ICU January 7th. He finished his journey thankful and faithful January 14th at almost 84 years old. There have been many heartfelt impressions made these last weeks...
Edward had over 20 yrs alone as a worker in Poland during the communist years. His experiences, some very difficult only made him a more "thankful" person. One of the last things we remember Edward saying is, "THANK YOU."
The husband of our friend Elzunia, Henryk (so close to professing...) brought tears to our eyes yesterday as we stood to view the body. There were just a handful of us as the casket was opened. He touched Edward's arm and said, "Goodbye, friend... Thank you very much!" We all felt like we could utter the same words. 50 years he has cared for the few here in Poland...
Loran [ Skaw] and Domenic [Enrietta?] walked behind the hearse to his final resting spot and we with them... I couldn't help think... they had lost a companion of 20 years! Edward is missed here, but he lived for eternity. There is nothing more encouraging and heart strengthening then to see a worker finish faithfully. I feel like my purpose has been strengthened and I don't want to forget all I have seen and felt these weeks. We have all been so thankful for all the care shown in various ways these past days.
Your "polish" sister,
A nation with an ancient cultural heritage, Poland can trace its roots back over 1000 years. Almost exactly in the center of Europe, it has had a turbulent history. There have been periods of proud independence, as well as times when it was totally wiped off the map -- in 1795 Poland was completely divided amongst Russia, Austria, and Prussia, not to be revived for 123 years, until after World War I. It regained its independence as the Second Polish Republic in 1918, but two decades later in September 1939 it was occupied again by Germany and the Soviet Union, a major factor in the start of World War II. Poland lost over six million citizens in the war, half of them Jews, and emerged several years later under communist government as the People's Republic of Poland.
During the country's long decades of foreign domination, Polish scholars, politicians, noblemen, writers, and artists (many of whom were forced to emigrate) became the revolutionaries of the 1800's, as desire for freedom, independence and liberty became one of the defining aspects of Polish identity. This has continued until the present, so it is hardly surprising then that Poland became the first of the communist satellite nations to finally overthrow its communist government. Soon after the Revolutions of 1989, Poland became what is constitutionally known as the "Third Polish Republic." This encouraged the great collapse of communism all across Eastern Europe. Poland is now a democracy, with a president as a head of state. The equivalent of a Congress is called the Council of Ministers, led by a prime minister. The president of Poland, Lech Kaczynski, died in a plane crash in April of 2010. While he was president, his identical twin brother was prime minister.
In May of 2004, Poland became a full member of the European Union, along with 9 other countries -- Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Hungary, Malta, and Cyprus -- but Poland is larger than all the other nine put together, with a population of almost 40 million (larger than that of Spain, or of California). So it has the potential to be a very important country in Europe. The geography is quite varied, with a large coastline on the Baltic sea, several mountain ranges, over 10,000 lakes, and even one of the few deserts in Europe. More than half of the land is devoted to agriculture, and 29% is covered by forest. Poland has more of its land protected in national parks than any other country in Europe.
Until World War II, Poland was a religiously diverse society, in which substantial Jewish, Protestant and Orthodox minorities coexisted with a Catholic majority. As a result of WW2 and the subsequent flight and expulsion of German and Russian populations, Poland has become overwhelmingly Roman Catholic. In 2007, 88.4% of the population belonged to the Catholic Church. Poland remains one of the most devoutly religious countries in Europe. Religious minorities include Orthodox (about 500,000), Protestants (about 150,000), Jehovah's Witnesses (125,000), Jews, and Muslims. Freedom of religion is now guaranteed by the Polish constitution
The Polish language has the reputation of being one of the most difficult in Europe, having seven declensions, five genders, formal and informal address, no articles, and full conjugations with dropped pronouns. Even though the spelling looks quite bizarre to an English speaker (Miedzyrzecz, Władysławowo, Szczuczarz, Przybiernów, and Pielgrzymowice are typical names of towns in Poland), the pronunciation is quite regular, and the language has a pleasant sound to the ear. Four Polish authors have won the Nobel Prize for literature.
Poland's economy is the healthiest of all the ex-communist countries. It is the only member of the European Union to not have a decline or contraction in its gross national product during the late 2000's recession. In 2009 Poland had the highest economic growth in the EU. Right after joining the EU, over a million Polish citizens left to work in other countries, particularly Germany, Ireland, and the UK; the billions of dollars they sent back to Poland greatly helped its economy, and now more Poles are returning to the country than are leaving, bringing a knowledge of Western European standards and languages with them, which will be of great help in furthering the advance of their country.
Tourism is becoming very popular and important in Poland. Much of Warsaw was obliterated in WW2, but the old central city has been rebuilt as exactly as possible to match old city maps, blueprints, and photographs. Some cities just stagnated during the communist years, receiving little development or improvement, which has proved to be an advantage now, since their historical centers and architectural monuments were hardly touched for most of the 1900's and have only needed some refurbishing to reveal their charms. The cities of Torun, Lublin, and Gdansk are known for their magnificent architecture. The amazing salt mines of Wieliczka include 300 miles of rooms and tunnels, dug over the last 800 years, which can be visited, including its underground church built entirely of salt. But the great royal city of Krakow is perhaps the most beautiful and best-preserved city of this fascinating country. Still little-known to the masses of European tourists, and therefore not overrun yet with visitors, this city, perhaps more than any other, will give one the amazing feeling of being transported back in time to a golden age.
TTT Editor's Note: In the absence of a written account, the above information has been compiled by the TTT Editor from various sources. Corrections or additions are most welcome; as well as other historical accounts for this country Email TTT