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PANI ANIELA STEPAN
(1922 – 2023)
W głębokim smutku żegnamy Panią Anielę Stepan, która przez długie lata związana była blisko z Fundacją i Katolickim Ośrodkiem Wydawniczym Veritas więzami wiary, społecznego działania i przyjaźni.
Przez dziesięciolecia Pani Aniela i jej mąż, Pan Olgierd Stepan, wieloletni prezes Instytutu Polskiego Akcji Katolickiej, byli filarami polskiej społeczności katolickiej na emigracji. W tym czasie zmagań o niepodległość Polski i o dusze Polaków, kiedy trzeba było przemawiać zwłaszcza konkretnym działaniem i świadectwem, dawali oni przykład ofiarnej i skutecznej pracy dla dobra Kościoła, polskich wspólnot w Wielkiej Brytanii oraz dla spraw polskich.
Pani Aniela zasłużyła sobie na szczególną wdzięczność naszej społeczności swą pracą w dziedzinie oświatowej: jako wieloletnia nauczycielka z powołania, która ofiarowała swą wiedzę i energię kształceniu i wychowaniu polskich dzieci i młodzieży, oraz jako działaczka Polskiej Macierzy Szkolnej.
Z naszą Fundacją Pani Aniela współpracowała przede wszystkim w dziedzinie charytatywnej. Kierując Akcją Miłosierdzia “Gazety Niedzielnej”, wraz z gronem swych współwolontariuszek wytrwale niosła przez długie lata pomoc wielu chorym i najbiedniejszym ludziom w Polsce. A jednocześnie zawsze wspierała naszą Veritasową wspólnotę swą silną wiarą i wielkimi zaletami serca.
Pozostanie w naszej pamięci i modlitwach.
“Błogosławieni miłosierni, bowiem oni miłosierdzia dostąpią.”
Redakcja “Gazety Niedzielnej” wraz z KOW Veritas
Pani Aniela Stepan w pamięci swej rodziny
Przed Mszą świętą pogrzebową w polskim kościele pod wezwaniem NMP Matki Kościoła, w Londynie, 10 lutego 2023, syn Pani Anieli, Michał Stepan podzielił się tym wspomnieniem z wiernymi wypełniającymi świątynię na Ealingu.
“My dearest Babcia” was the way many of you referred to our mother, your babcia and prababcia. That was what she meant to you.
She was born just over 100 years ago on 1st August, 1922 in Tarnogrod, spent her childhood on her parents small farm in Horochow, Wolyn (now Ukraine). There were 6 children in the family (3 boys, 3 girls) – life was hard but happy on the farm. At the age of 17, on 9th February 1940, her father and brother were arrested by the NKWD, a search was conducted on 10th February, Polish patriotic texts were found and the entire family was arrested and deported that same day. Along with millions of teenagers, her childhood ended, and her life irrevocably changed overnight. Barely 3 weeks later, they were living 2400 kms away in Wostocznoje Archangelsk, in temperatures ranging from -9°C to -45°C, in barracks for 35 people. Our mother was forced to work in the Siberian forest from early morning to night to contribute soup and bread for the rest of the family. The heavy physical work, difficult conditions and lack of vitamins resulted in Babcia developing severe ulcers, resulting in her being assigned to distributing food. She only prayed that her horse would not collapse under her in this frozen world as she distributed the food.
After 20 months in Siberia, in September/October 1941, the NKWD came to inform the family to immediately start packing to join the Polish army. The total journey was 9000 kms through Russia, Kazakhstan, Tashkent, Uzbekistan, Iran, Syria and Palestine (a distance equiv. from London to Brazil). After suffering typhus, dysentery, malaria and living off food gathered from garbage, the family was forced to split up in Teheran to survive when our great grandfather died there. Our great grandmother went with the 3 youngest to Rhodesia, the two eldest brothers joined the army, while our mother joined a convoy to Syria and Palestine on her own. Christmas 1942, she spent alone, (aged 20) in the Syrian desert, no longer knowing where her family was. On reaching Palestine, Babcia decided to restart her education in 1943, reducing her age by 2 years to qualify for the Matura. She finally joined the school in Nazareth with 2000 other Polish girls. Every year only 2 girls were selected to study at the American University in Beirut. Babcia was one of these two. There, she studied History and Philosophy and met our father, married in December 1946 and Kazik, Marysia followed, Beirut was one of the happiest of times for them, It was the most vibrant city in the Middle East, shaped by latest French fashion, culture and climate. Our parents developed deeply their religious faith within the small French catholic community and these French links followed them and us all our lives.
In 10th July 1950, our parents restarted their journey, together with Kazik and Marysia catching the HMS Oxfordshire from Beirut to Hull (their names are on the ships manifest). They started in army barracks in Wichford, near Ely before moving to council housing in London. Lighting was powered by gas, boxes were used for furniture and a tin bath was filled from the kettle to wash the children. Life was not easy, my brother and myself were also born increasing the family to six – Babcia did all the house work. She was incredibly hard working and conscientious about what she did, setting up and becoming the first president of the Alumni organization to support girls from the school in Nazareth, teaching Polish language and history from 1956 to 1983 in Polish School, working in the Polish Charitable organisations for 15 years (Akcja Miłosierdzia) and similarly in Polish Catholic organizations like IPAK and Veritas, where her love of history led her to lead many pilgrimages around Europe. For this, her work was recognized with medals from the President of Poland, from the Pope and Polish Catholic organizations.
For many of you, listening to our Babcia was like re-living history – her life was so extraordinary. At the same time, she was modest, for her the two most important things were her faith and her love for her family, not the possessions of which there were precious few when she passed away. She was inordinately proud of us and our achievements, never happier than watching the latest photos of her children on the IPAD, intensely curious of the latest news, views and achievements of the children. At the same time, faith, mass, her religious life and the chapel was extremely important to her, she would slip down after breakfast and spend a few hours in there in prayer for us, for you all.
She was prepared to say her views, be “seriously naggy” as someone said, sitting upright in her armchair, unrelenting in questioning, but genuinely curious to hear your views. Such strong values, you could sometimes/often disagree with those values in a modern age, but you often felt that her curiosity, thoughts and views were there because she wished the best for you. We will not forget her 100th birthday this last summer, determinedly walking into the house to take her seat at the centre of the family, taking photos with each of you and wanting to see each great grand – child and join in the champagne. That was just 6 months ago. She had become an institution in the family, her favourite term of endearment for each of us as we left “kukis” will be sorely missed.
In the end the last few years were becoming just too tiring, she was sleeping more and more and so she died at peace in her sleep in the home that she had loved. Joining Dziadzio at last. I want to thank you Sisters for what you provided to our mother on behalf of our family. More love, care and affection, you could not provide, you welcomed her and us every day in your midst with much warmth We cannot imagine a better nicer care home then what you provided in these last 9 years. Thank you.
In the end, Babcia would wish to leave you with two messages, “severely naggy” but full of love: never give up the search for your inner faith, it may seem faint at times, but having it there helps guide and protect you even when you don’t realise it. Secondly spend time visiting each person in the family. There was nothing that made Babcia happier than hearing of family reunions, the family coming together and taking care to help each other.