Surviving The Nazis And The Communists: The Story Of A Polish Priest

Marian Michael Kencik


Marian Michael Kencik was born in 1937 in Kraczewice, Poland, near the town of Lublin. His father and mother owned a small farm with one cow and one horse. Marian’s younger sister was born in 1947. Marian was about two and a half years old when World War II began and eight when it ended. His family was scared when the Germans invaded, and they soon had a German Officer quartered in their tiny two-room house. The Kencik family moved from the main living room / bedroom into the kitchen to allow the German to stay in the larger room. Marian remembers the German being nice to him and offering him sweet buttered bread. He recollects a fight between the Polish underground and the Germans near their house, and an incident when the Germans rounded up 161 men from the village following the discharge of a weapon near the German camp. The Germans locked the men into a school building to question them about who fired the weapon. When no one responded, the Germans executed all of the men. His great aunt went to retrieve her husband’s remains before the bodies were incinerated. She found her husband and carried him out of the building on her shoulder. After moving far away from the Germans, her husband whispered to her that he had not been shot. He remembers the smells from the chimney at the Majdanek concentration camp. After World War II ended, the Soviets occupied Poland, and Marian remembers the Soviet Officer quartered in their house as having also been nice. The communist occupation, however, was restrictive. He remembers chapels being closed, and resorting to building illegal chapels where church services were conducted in secret. Whenever Father Kencik held a mass, he was issued tickets for holding illegal church services. He was later given amnesty for his “crimes.” At one point, he was granted permission to take a vacation to other communist countries, and he was amazed how much more restrictive the situation was outside of Poland. In 1970, his widowed aunt returned to Poland and asked him if he would come to America to live with her and take care of her since she did not speak English. He was granted permission by the bishop and came to the United States, where he began serving in a Polish parish. Eight years later, he earned his citizenship and has been a Priest in America ever since. In this interview he talks about his childhood during World War II and the Soviet occupation, and his service as a priest. He describes his road to the priesthood beginning at the time of his first communion. He explains that although he wanted to be a priest, his father wanted him to be a farmer, and his mother wanted him to be a tailor. One day, he and his mother prayed for his future, and he knew that his mother would relent, allowing him to pursue an education and eventually become a priest. He shares his experiences in America living in Detroit, Cleveland, and Brooklyn. Finally, he describes studying under Saint John Paul II, and reflects on what his service as a priest means to him.


conflicts World War II Cold War
topics Civilians Rules of War
interviewer David Siry
date 26 August 2021


name Marian Michael Kencik
specialty Priest