Władysław Śmiałek

Władysław Śmiałek 7.01.1914-18.02.2003

Władysław Śmiałek was born on January 7, 1914 in Jezierna, district Zborów [present day Ukraine]. He died on February 18, 2003 in Tarnów.  He is laid to rest in Radlana graveyard near to Tarnów.

Władysław Śmiałek a master’s degree holder, was a scoutmaster, a pedagogue, an instructor, a lecturer, a community worker and First Podhale Rifles Infantry Regiment [I pułk Strzelców podhalańskich] Officer in Nowy Sącz. In 1939 he fought on a front line with Nazi Germany invaders  as a commanding officer. He has been awarded Poland’s highest military decoration for heroism and courage at war, the War Order of Virtuti Militari. In 1942 he was arrested by the Gestapo for conspiratorial activity and later sent to Nazi Germany concentration camps in Oświęcim [Auschwitz-Birkenau], Flossenburg and Dachau. After the war he was arrested by the Security Service of the Polish People’s Republic [Poland under the rule of the Soviet-backed communist government]. Władysław Śmiałek was an alumnus of humanities at the Jagiellonian University and Psychology at University of Warsaw and a long-term lecturer at the National Higher Teacher Training College [Wyższa Szkoła Pedagogiczna] in Cracow. He was in charge of  the State Youth House [Państwowy Dom Młodzieży] in Krzeszowice for over 20 years, where he fostered and educated thousands of children and youth tragically affected by the war. He has been awarded the Medal of the National Education Commission [Medal Komisji Edukacji Narodowej, a prestigious accolade granted by the Ministry of National Education for an outstanding performance in the field of education, child and youth care and pedagogy].

After the war Władysław Śmiałek co-created  World War II veterans cemetery:

the National Sanctuary of Stary Sącz and organized ceremonies commemorating veterans and former prisoners in Stary Sącz. In the course of all his life Władysław Śmiałek was engaged in community works, scouting and local history promotion. He has received a Honorary Citizenship of Stary Sącz. In the ‘60s and ‘70s he was in charge of organizing Teachers College [Studium Nauczycielskie] in Krzeszowice and later in Tarnów as well as a subsidiary of Warsaw Institute of Pedagogical Sciences [Instytut Nauk Pedagogicznych] in Tarnów.


Władysław Śmiałek joined Polish Scouting and Guiding Association [Związek Harcerstwa Polskiego – ZHP]   in 1928 and took the Scout Oath in 1929. He took part in various scout and trekking camps in the area of Beskid Sądecki, Pieniny and Spisz. Władysław Śmiałek headed the First Stanisław Witkiewicz Scout Troop in Stary Sącz from 1932 to 1935. He obtained Eagle Scout [Harcerz Orli] rank in April 1932 followed by sub-scoutmaster rank in February 1933 and finally was appointed to head the “Błękitna Jedynka” scout troop in Stary Sącz. In 1935 he took the position of scout troop instructor in Nowy Sącz. In 1936 Władysław Śmiałek graduated from Teachers College [Seminarium Nauczycielskie] and Reserve Officer Cadet School [Szkoła Podchorążych Rezerwy] in Nowy Sącz and in 1938 he served as a commander of Nowy Sącz Scout Troop in Szymbark. After being liberated from Dachau concentration camp in 1945, Śmiałek started to work in the Polish Committee in Munich where he organized Polish Scouting and Guiding Association in Germany. In 1945 he has been appointed a district commander of the “Wisła” scout troop in Munich and in December the same year he came back to Poland where he started to work as a teacher. During the course of his career he was engaged in scouting. In the summer of 1946 he has organized scout camps in Siemiałowice and Maszna Dolna which were the first camps that have been held after the war. From 1947 he was responsible for managing the scout troop unit in Nowy Sącz.

World War II

Władysław Śmiałek took part in the September Campaign as an officer and a commander of the First Podhale Rifles Infantry Regiment. He has been awarded the Silver Cross of the War Order of Virtuti Militari for heroic defense Bircza town against the Germans. Włdysław Śmiałek had participated in military actions until September 19th 1945, when he and the regiment under his command has been arrested. By the end of September the same year he has fled from transport of prisoners and came back to Nowy Sącz in order to take part in a resistance movement against the occupying power. He conspired as a commandant of the Union of Armed Struggle [Związek Walki Zbrojnej – an underground army formed in Poland after the German invasion of 1939] called “Zofia” in Zawada town where he used various nicknames such as: “Sawa”, “Szaweł” or “Szawłowicz”. On Noveber 7th 1942 Śmiałek got arrested and jailed in Nowy Sącz and Tarnów and later was sent to the concentration camp of Oświęcim [Auschwitz-Birkenau] from where he finally reached  Flossenburg and Dachau concentration camps. He was forced by the Germans to work at the camp’s post office, where he had access to the radio. Being a fluent German speaker, Śmiałek took advantage of  the SS men  listening to the radio by sharing the overheard news with fellow prisoners while endangering his own life by doing so. By all possible means he tried to help others by giving them emotional support and providing with medicines that he found in destroyed mails for prisoners who already had lost their lives. He assisted prisoners who suffered from typhus whom nobody wanted to take care of and this is how he has contracted this terrifying disease and almost lost his life. On April 29, 1945 when the Americans have liberated the Dachau camp, Śmiałek weighting 42 kg at the height of 185 cm, being seriously sick and unconscious  was hospitalized. He came back to his homeland, Stary Sącz in December 1945.  Few days after his arrival, the communist Security Service came to get him. The reason for that was Śmiałek’s half-year stay in Germany. He was detained in a jail in Cracow and Warsaw where he was interrogated as if he had been a criminal to be finally released after few months. At this point Władysław Śmiałek has immediately engaged in post-war activities.


State Orphanage in Krzeszowice

In 1947 Władysław Śmiałek became a pedagogical leader of  the State Pedagogical and Educational Center [Państwowy Zakład Wychowawczo-Naukowy, an orphanage which provided education and care for orphans and semi-orphans] which later was called Tadeusz Kościuszko State Youth House [Państwowy Dom Młodzieży – PDM] that was located in the Potocki Palace in Krzeszowice near to Cracow. Stanisław Jedlewski who was the first director and initiator of the facility soon left for pedagogical position in Warsaw. As a result Władysław Śmiałek had undertaken responsibilities of the director and as such has managed the institution on his own for over 20 years.  He has implemented an education and care system based on proved methods borrowed from scouting. There were about 300 orphans and semi-orphans from Lviv and Warsaw who lived in the State Youth House located in the Potocki Palace in Krzeszowice. Śmiałek has divided all youth living in the facility into ten groups where each group was headed by a leader and his/her assistants called “pisarz” [a writer].  This kind of organization was inspired by scouting where scouts are divided into troops headed by troop leaders and their assistants. Everyday solemn assemblies were observed according to the scouting tradition. While the model of organization constituted so called “exterior”, an appropriate atmosphere was much more important and was a feature that the director of the facility has been consequently working on. The idea of respect for others even the youngest ones, rules of fraternity, tolerance and mutual assistance were the fundamentals of cooperation. Children and youngsters were taught to be truthful, appreciate resourcefulness and autonomy. Director Śmiałek, called “Tatuńcio” [Daddy], “Chłopczyk” [a little boy] was very liked  and appreciated by the youth. Being an outstanding storyteller with a good sense of humor, he used to spend time with the youth on talking about various life matters and his own experience. The youngsters talked with him as if he had been their own father. The Youth House in Krzeszowice provided sense of safety,  so lacking during the war. Taking care of beauty and aesthetics of the Palace’s interior was an important part of educational process.  A large library in the State Youth House constituted a substantial place for spiritual development. Invitation of interesting people representing the world of culture and music as well as travelers etc. was a customary activity. There were also numerous hobby-related groups available. A beautiful park surrounding the Palace played an important role. The youth was often engaged in taking care of the park and gardening  and thus was able to develop affinity for the nature. During holiday season summer camps were organized in various towns including Kosarzyska and Sucha Struda (in Podhale region) as well as in other parts of Poland. Sport was considered to be important. Upon completion of maturity exam all alumni commenced to live on their own. Majority of them graduated from university while others stuck to their profession learned in high school (there was a High School [Liceum Ogólnokształcące], Wood Technology School [Technikum Drzewne] and Pedagogical High School [Liceum Pedagogiczne] in Krzeszowice).  The youth who stayed in the facility have treated the State Youth House as if it had been their own family home and their fellow friends as siblings. Director Śmiałek worked with well integrated group of tutors and other employees who constituted an outstanding team that was able to make the youth feel at home.

Ms. Janina Znamirowska, an alumnus of the Youth House, in her farewell speech after Władysław Śmiałek’s death stated the following: “There was a strength and something else which was emanating from him, that made one trust and be fond of him. This impression was enhanced by the way he expressed himself (he used to be a talented story teller), he had a pleasant voice, particular half-smile, high intelligence, and what is important a sense of humor as well as an ability to listen to people. He represented a rare type of man: a true pedagogue who was capable to resonate with others. He was completely opened to people. Having sort of a “key” enabled him to reach anyone among his students irrespective of the situation, whether in private conversations or during the assemblies while addressing the community and where everyday issues and serious problems were discussed. He always taught us to perceive our difficulties from broader perspective, not only as “I” and “my experience” but as “we” and “our” issues, successes, defeats or “our common worries””.

Former students highly valued and respected education system designed by the Director who has created a youth community where everybody kept together. Friendships that last until now prove it best.  Students considered Władysław Śmiałek to be a visionary pedagogue. He became a lifelong Friend and Master for many of them.


Teachers College

In the ‘60s, there was a multi-department Teachers College operating next to the orphanage headed by Władysław Śmiałek in the Potocki Palace in Krzeszowice. Childcare and Early Childhood Education preparing for work with children in orphanages was one of the majors in the college. Teachers College students had their lecture rooms and dormitory rooms in the Palace. Many lecturers who came to teach there were professors from various universities. The Krzeszowice State Youth House’s tutors worked as teachers in the college. Władysław Śmiałek, a master’s degree holder, moved to Tarnów in 1967 where he took the position of the head of Teachers College which later had its name changed to Teachers Professional Development Center [Centrum Doskonalenia Nauczycieli] being a subsidiary of Warsaw Institute of Pedagogical Sciences. Simultaneously he worked at the National Higher Teacher Training College [Wyższa Szkoła Pedagogiczna] in Cracow giving lectures on Pedagogy of Care and Upbringing and as such having educated many outstanding child and youth care service tutors. He has been awarded the Medal of the National Education Commission.


Memories of children of the Krzeszowice Orphanage

Former students of the State Youth House in Krzeszowice stayed in touch with Władysław Śmiałek, their Tutor and Friend, until his death. They visited “Tatuńcio”, wrote letters  to him that he always replied to, asked him for advice regarding various issues the way one approaches his/her own father. Director Śmiałek knew their family stories and treated the children as if they had been his own children and friends.

In 1984 former children of the Krzeszowice orphanage, Ryszard Abramowicz, Stefan Bratkowski and Roman Wójcik edited and published a book “Mieliśmy kilkaset sióstr i braci” [We Had Few Hundreds of Sisters and Brothers]. The book was published by Książka i Wiedza publishing house in Warsaw.

In 2007, former children of the State Youth House have unveiled a commemorative plaque in a courtyard of the Palace in Krzeszowice to express their gratitude.

Another book “Nasz Dom w Krzeszowicach” [Our Home in Krzeszowice] was written by the Koło Byłych Wychowanków Państowowego Domu Młodzieży i Państwowego Domu Dziecka [Cirice of former children of the State Youth House and State Orphanage] and edited by Mr. Marek Szaszkiewicz. The edition of the book coincided with the 70th anniversary of the facility’s creation which fell on September 26, 2016.

On September 26, 2016 thanks to the effort of former students of the State Youth House, one of the streets in Krzeszowice has been named after Władysław Śmiałek.

Edited by Ewa Zientara née Śmiałek
Citations of former students of the Krzeszowice orphanage were taken from various compilations and personal memories.

Photos are from the family album.

Warsaw, November 2017.

Translated by Katarzyna Wawdysz