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A Brief History

Our organization began its fruitful work in the winter months of 1978.  Sister Zofia Zdybicka, a professor from KUL, visited with the Polish community in January 1978 and expressed the need for such an organization in Edmonton.  One must recall that at that time the Catholic University of Lublin was the only academic institution of its kind in Poland and all of Eastern Europe.  It was not supported by the communist authorities as it was a Catholic university and not a state one.  It relied on the support of churches and charitable organizations abroad. Thus the organization as we know it today was born on the eve of Sister Zdybicka’s visit in the basement hall of the Holy Rosary Parish.  It has been our desire from the beginning to make others aware of the Catholic University of Lublin- its role, its situation and how it functions.  Thanks to the great commitment and strong work ethic of the first president, inż. Piotr Czartoryski, as well as an outstanding first Board of Directors ( Zofia Wójcicka,  Janina Muszyńska,  Jan Chrzanowski, Sister Miriam,  Elżbieta Szynkowska,  Antoni Andrzejewski,  Irena Kościelak,and  Kazimierz Janiak), others became cognizant of the university and its needs.

Throughout its existence our organization has continued to support KUL.  The early 1980s were difficult and challenging years in Poland- politically and economically speaking.  With martial law having been declared on December 13th, 1981, and ration cards having been issued, many citizens struggled to survive.    To help ease the situation, our organization sent special parcels containing food and toiletries.  We purchased 100 small refrigerators towards the students’ dormitories, a special potato peeling machine which replaced the manual labor of 10 people, a beautiful church organ, and some photocopying machines.  We were also instrumental in the publishing of the Catholic Encyclopedia as well as the Lexicon of Polish Parishes and Churches in Canada.

A great supporter of our organization was Rev. Edward Klimuszko.  It was his grand initiative in 1985 to collect funds for the building of the educational center known as the John Paul II Collegium. Amongst the members in the collective committee was the Hon. Jean Forest, former Chancellor of the University of Alberta and Senator in Government for Edmonton, AB.  Jean Forest was the Campaign Committee Chairperson.  Fate has it that there is an educational program named after her- The Jean Forest Leadership Academy, an all girls’ Catholic school that shares its home with the Jan Paweł II Polish-bilingual program at St. Basil School here in Edmonton.

After Rev. Klimuszko’s departure, Rev. Teofil Szendzielarz competently took over the reins to continue gathering funds for the Collegium.  It should be noted that Piotr Czartoryski was extremely instrumental in supporting KUL.  Thanks to his wonderful efforts during these difficult years, he, the remaining board members as well as Ludwik Lechocinski, then President of Polish Combatants Association Branch No. 6 in Edmonton, donated $150,000.00 towards KUL - an enormous sum at that time.

The abolition of the communist regime in 1989 Poland saw drastic political and economic changes.  KUL no longer was abandoned by the state. Poland’s new found or rather regained freedom came with a price.  Matters of ethics and faith were put to the test.  One may ask why to this day KUL continues to receive assistance.  In a 1992 article published in an Edmonton newspaper entitled Kulisy Polonii, former Friends of KUL president, Aleksander Romanko, wrote on the situation in Poland at that time astutely stating, “while many other universities are under materialistic and atheistic influences, KUL continues to prepare students to the highest degree academically so that they are on par with contemporary studies and teachings.  KUL also strives to teach the truth as revealed by God” (1992).

It is this philosophy that the current board holds near and dear to its heart.  We wish to carry on the great work of our three past presidents: the late Piotr Czartoryski, Aleksander Romanko, and the longest reigning president, the late Bogumila Szulc whose commitment and dedication will be remembered and cherished for years to come.

If one is curious and would like to read more about the history of the Friends of KUL in all of Canada, they may refer to Father Tomasz Moskal’s book entitled, Złoty Jubileusz działalności Towarzystwa Przyjaciół Katolickiego Uniwersytetu Lubelskiego w Kanadzie (Lublin-Toronto 2006).