from "Die Gnatowskis. Die Geschichte einer masowischen Familie" by Alfred von der Lehr
ISBN-Nr: 3-00-005311-5

 

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A significant member of the family was Jan Gnatowski. He was a clergyman and at the same time a well known writer.

At the Collegium Canisianum in Innsbruck, where he had studied, today one can find his name as "Prelate Johann knight of Gnatowski" whereas his literary pseudonym was simply Jan Lada.

Jan Gnatowski was born on July, 10th or 20th 1855 in Skazenowka in Podole (Russia) as a son of farm owners. He died 1925 in Warsaw. He studied in Odessa and at the technical university in Riga. From 1877 till 1880 he studied at the Jagiellonian University in Cracov, attending the philosophical faculty of Prof. Tarnowski. Since 1882 he is in Warsaw, where the police surprises him because of his political activity among the students and 1884 he leaves for Innsbruck, where he ends his theological studies.

1887 he becomes his ordination to priesthood. During the years 1888 - 1890, nominated to the position of nuntial secretary by Pope Leon 18th , he has spent in Munich; there he prepared for the diplomatic service. 1890 he moved to Lemberg (Lviv) where he worked at the St. Anthony Church as religion teacher and vicar. He was a teacher at the 5th, since 1904 at the 4th gymnasium. Later he lived in Warsaw and died there on October, 9th, 1925. At the end of his life he was blind. He had been given the title of a prelate, pope's chamberlain and cathedral man of Zytomir.

The obituary of the Collegium Canisianum is naturally more interested in his curriculum vitae as a priest. One can find many details concerning the religious engagement of Jan Gnatowski: "As he felt his calling for the position of a priest, he continued his studies of theology at Insbruck from 1884 to 1888, against his father's will.

In 1887 he got his ordination to priesthood and worked from 1888 till 1890 at Munich's nuntiature. He was named the pope's chamberlain, later the pope's house prelate. In 1890 admitted by Lemberg's archdiocese, he was at the beginning the cooperate of St. Anthony's parish in Lemberg, later, 14 years long, he worked as a religion teacher at a middle school. In 1905 he retired and lived till his blessed end in Warsaw. For some years he was a very valued associate of Lemberg's church paper, thereafter he edited "The Faith" ( Warsaw) and "Catholic Revue" until the outbreak of the World War.

Till the last day of his working life he acted as a confessor, a preacher - he was also rector of the Holy Ghost Church in Warsaw - and a publisher, even after he had lost his eyesight, when he couldn't read or write himself anymore. As a result of the last, the essays of these years were not always without mistakes. For many years he was the president of Warsaw's St. Vincent Congregation. "He made his mind to study theology against his father's will and had schived some high ranking positions at the catholic church. Despite these positions, he later withdrew back to Lemberg, where he worked as a priest and teacher.

It's not quite evident if his decision was the result of his personal need or the consequence of his eyesight getting worse. Not evident is his political engagement, either, we don't know if it was the result or the origin of his turn to theology.

Remarkable is also his extraordinary engagement in the literature. He played a very important part in Lemberg's cultural life, he had a literary parlor, where representatives of the literary and theatre work met. Thanks to his trips to Italy and Turkey as well as his longer periods of life spent in Austria and Bavaria he was known as a sophisticated priest of high educational level.

Because of his complex, outstanding work, he was recommended as a Candidate of History of the Lemberg University. Unfortunately, his poor eyesight made it impossible. That's why he concentrated all his power on literature and writing, more so after 1890.

At the beginning Gnatowski was under a strong impression of prof St. Tarnowski. To him he dedicated his first work "The Realism of the New Literature". His second work was "My Beatrice, A Page from the Life of Zygmunt Krasinski". During his sojourn in Warsaw 1882 - 1884 he was a co-worker of the publishing house "Age" (Wiek) and W"Atheneum" (employed as a department manager after Henryk Sienkiewicz had left). Gnatowski opposed new currents in the literature. He also worked for different magazines in Warsaw, where he fought with critical realism the reviews concerning Konopnicka.

Significant are his memoirs in "Letters from Constantinople", "Letters from Adriatic Sea" and "Two Passions. Vorderthiersee and Oberammegau" (these are regions in Bavaria). His work at Munich's nuntiature has been reported in partly preserved memoirs "About the Past and People".

Na_smiercAfter his arrival at Lemberg, Gnatowski moved his focus to novelistic literature and fantasy, using his pen name Jan Lada. He showed himself as a productive poet, though he went a long way from his former originality. For example in "People's Martyrdom" in 1863, "Achieved" (1916), "On the Death"" (1916). The religious prosecution among the Prussians he introduced in his novel "Priest from Preisslau" and Russian annexation in the novel "Last Mass". Futhermore he was interested in historical themes of the 17th century. In his novel "The Hexed (Cursed) Castle (1925) he goes in the same direction as Sienkiewicz in "With Fire and Sword". He has also copied the style of other writes, like, for example, that of W. T. Loznicki in his novel "Magus", describing the last years of Siegmund the 3rd.LuciferLike in this one, Gnatowski touched spiritual as well as fantastical themes, for example in the novel "Lucifer" and "The OMANAntichrist" (1920). He also wrote fairy tales "Oman", one more charming story about the "Knight Ghost", "Water Nymph" and "Student from Padua". In 1913 he wrote a drama "How Leaves Plummet from the Trees". The first act of this piece was on the "Stage Pastel" in Cracov and several times at Lemberg's Theatre and has also been printed.

He was respected not only from the literary-artistic point of view, but also from the religious sight. So they say in "Correspondence": "Admirable is his poetic accomplishment, thanks to which Polish literature has a long list of longer and shorter novels. They are very interesting, full of precious idealism and deep feelings". "White and Black Ghosts", "From Grievous Days", "The Last Mass", "Magus", "About the Soul", "Antichrist"- in the last one he rivals with Benson.

The catholic church explicitly approved of his literary work, which is distinguishable in the funeral eulogy for the deceased: "The News of Warsaw's Archdiocese" report the funeral eulogy by the canon prof dr Szalowski: The speaker compares the deceased to St. Paul. He begins: "Non erubescam evangelium." Rom 1.16 - "These words of St. Paul are printed with gold letters on the casket of the deceased priest". Because they are the substance of his work, the crystallize his achievement, they were the burning torch for all the paces of his life". The speaker ends with "And you yourself were the luminary in our eyes, the solace of our lives; you were a light for us so we could walk surely on our life paths. You were for us an exemplar of priest virtue. From you we have learned faithfulness for the Holy Chair and for the teachings of the immaculate, roman orthodox church. You were a commander for the catholic thought in our nation and you have achieved the highest position by bringing the catholic publishing to a level so far unknown.

The "Correspondence" names another source, distinctly appreciating the deceased's work "Here the Lemberg's Church Newsletter": Maybe it's not yet time to write about the background of prelate Gnatowski's work, but only then can we understand his meaning for Warsaw and Congress Poland, only then we can see why he would suffice for a legion".

Even if we could not fulfil the expectation in "understanding why he could suffice for a legion", it was appropriate to revive the memory of this worthy priest and merited literate.