The Tatra Eagle
FATHER TISCHNER, THE GORAL PHILOSOPHER
Dr. Tadeusz Gromada
The death of Father Jozef Tischner, the great Polish philosopher and spiritual leader, was expected because he was suffering from cancer of the larynx for several years. Yet when it finally came on June 28, 2000, it came as a great shock and engulfed all of Poland in grief and great sorrow. One only needs to review the long obituaries in the Polish media and ponder the reaction of thousands of people in Krakow who bade him farewell. But in Podhale, (the Tatra Mountain Region) and among the „górale ” in America, Father Tischner’s death was felt even more profoundly since it was a death of a family member.
Of course, Father Tischner was above all a patriotic Pole but he also was something more, he was a „góral”, a fact that he emphasized all the time. He always stressed that his roots were in Podhale, on the banks of the Dunajec River, in the mountain villages of Rogoznik, Jurgów, and especially Lopuszna where he grew up. His grandfather on his mother’s side, Sebastian Chowaniec, influenced him the most He often said that he continuously heard his grandfather’s voice speaking in the „góral” dialect, in his ears. No one loved Podhale, its people and its folk culture more than Tischner. He loved to dress up in the traditional „highlander” garb: white tight woolen trousers embroidered with ‚parzenica „, a broad leather belt, a „kapelusz góralski ” with an eagle feather. On special occasions he even celebrated Mass in the „goral ” outfit. One of the honors he treasured most was to be named chaplain and honorary member of the „Zwiazek Podhalan ” (Polish Highlanders Union). Though he was a world class philosopher (Adam Michnik compared him to Erasmus of Rotterdam), spiritual leader of the Solidarity movement, Professor at the Papal Theological Academy in Krakow, President of the prestigious Institute for Human Sciences based in Vienna, Tischner remained a proud „goral”, a man of the people, who never put on airs or tried to impress others with his erudition. He was not a „Pan” but a „góral „.
No „goral” ever doubted that Tischner was an authentic goral. He spoke to us in the „goral” dialect which he learned from his grandfather and mother and mastered like very few people. Only Kazimierz Przerwa-Tetmajer, author of „Na Skalnym Podhalu ” could be regarded as his equal.
Tetmajer’s literary works written in the dialect were very often cited in his homilies in such a penetrating and perceptive way, that it emotionally moved his listeners. This „goral-priest” declared that „if a particular truth cannot be expressed in the góral’ dialect, then it cannot possibly be a truth „. No doubt, one of his greatest achievements as far as we „górale ” are concerned, is his „Historia filozofii po góralsku” published in 1997. It is a collection of humorous but profound essays expounding the philosophical truths of the Ancient Greek thinkers from Thales to Aristotle. Once Tischner reminded us of the story of „Zwyrtala the Fiddler” from Tetmajer’s „Na Skalnym Podhalu „. „When you die, and your soul approaches the heavenly gate, St. Peter will ask ‚Who is it?’ You will have to reply like Zwyrtala ‚It’s me’ (To jo!) And not the philosopher, or editor, etc. ” Tischner’s religiosity, his fervent Catholic faith were shaped, as he himself admitted, by the experiences in the wooden churches of Jurgow and Lopuszna.
Many others recognized the importance of the „goral” dimension of Tischner’s personality that made him so unique. Jan Karski, just a few weeks before his own death, wrote an obituary about his friend, Father Tischner in the „Gazeta Wyborcza ” (July 4, 2000) entitled „Orzel Kosciola, góral Pana Boga ” (The Eagle of the Church; God’s Highlander’). In this article Karski wrote that Tischner „remained forever a ‚góral’; God’s `góral’,- and a ‚góral’ among his own ” (.. na zawsze pozostal góralem. Góralem Pana Boga. I góralem posród swoich) For Tischner and his fellow górale, the greatest value was freedom („wolno, 96′)
The Tatra Eagle editors mourn the loss of a friend, a loyal supporter and reader, sometimes contributor of our goral publication. It was our great privilege to know him and meet him several times both in Poland and America. Not since Witkiewicz and Tetmajer at the beginning of the 20′ century has anyone done more to articulate the beauty and the value of „goral ” folk culture than our dear Jozef (Jozek) Tischner from Lopuszna. Górale in Poland and America must find a way to appropriately honor his memory.
Significantly, Pope John Paul 11 in his emotional telegram bidding farewell to his friend cited the goral song that ended his „Historia filozofii po góralsku „. „Kie pódziemy z tela to nos bedzie skoda; po górach dolinach plakac bedzie woda „. Men we shall leave here, it will be a great loss; in the mountains and valleys, the waters will cry for us).
Tadeusz Gromada Góral z ” Hameryki”