Rev. Jacek J. Tylzanowski, O.S.A. (1913-1967)
Rev. Jacek J. Tylzanowski, O.S.A. entered eternal life on January 27, 1967.
Jacek J. Tylzanowski was born on January 10, 1913 in Wielgomlyny, Poland to John J. and Alexandra Tylzanowski. After graduating from the local high school in 1932, he entered the Augustinian seminary in Krakow, Poland to begin his studies for the priesthood. He was received into the Augustinian Novitiate on August 15, 1933 and he professed vows in the Order of St. Augustine on August 28, 1934.
In 1939, Jacek completed his studies and was preparing for ordination as a priest when the German Nazi army invaded Poland on September 1 of that year. Along with the other friars at Krakow, he was ordered to flee to eastern Poland. They went to Kowel, about 70 miles from the Russian border. A few weeks later, the Russian army invaded Poland.
After the Germans and the Russians divided Poland at the Curzon Line, Jacek was arrested by the Russians for refusing to vote for the Russians in the one-party "free" elections. He managed to escape after a week of confinement without food or water. He made his way to Lwow, 250 miles away in southeastern Poland. A brief stay with friends there was interrupted by his arrest again. He spent 18 days in confinement, but, en route to the Doniec coal basin in Russia where he was being sent to work, he escapted from the train. He managed to hide in another train headed west toward the Curzon Line.
Following several harrowing encounters with Russian soldiers and hiding in haystacks, Jacek and two companions were led across a wooded section of the Curzon Line by a brave 16-year-old boy. They reached a neutral zone only after being pursued by Russian dogs and gunshots in the dark night of the woods.
In the first week of December 1939, Jacek returned to the Augustinian monastery in Krakow. He had been missing for three months and his fellow friars feared that he was dead. When they saw him, they greeted him enthusiastically. On December 22, 1939, he was finally ordained a priest. Unfortunately, his parents were not permitted by the occupying forces to leave their sector of Poland to attend the ordination ceremony.
Shortly after ordination, Father Tylzanowski was assigned to a large parish in the Krakow area, where he soon became active in the Polish underground Resistance. After four months of parish ministry, he was transferred to the Augustinian monastery in Krakow, where he continued his Resistance work. Before long he was arrested by the Gestapo and sent as a political prisoner to the Auschwitz concentration camp in southwestern Poland. Four other Polish Augustinians, including the Polish Provincial (regional superior), were killed while imprisoned there.
One of the few happy events that Father Tylzanowski recalled at Auschwitz was the forbidden Midnight Mass in 1941, which was celebrated despite the watchful eyes of the Nazi guards. Because of the grave danger involved, only the most trustworthy prisoners were invited to participate. Of the 47 present, seven were priests.
In June 1942, after two years of imprisonment at Auschwitz, known as the Camp of Living Death, the young Polish friar was transferred to the equally infamous Dachau prison camp in Germany. Father Tylzanowski remained at Dachau until 1945. Fearing the arrival of the United States Army, the Nazis planned a mass execution of all prisoners in 1945. However, the U.S. troops came unexpectedly early and liberated the prisoners before their captors could carry out their plans.
After being freed from the Dachau prison, Father Tylzanowski ministered as a priest in the camps of Polish Displaced Persons. From 1945 until 1952, he was Chief Chaplain of the International Refugee Organization at the Immigration Imbarkation Center, Bremen, Germany.
In 1952, Father Tylzanowski came to the United States and was assigned to St. Rita High School, Chicago, Illinois. He spent all his remaining years teaching German and theology at St. Rita, except for one year (1961-62) spent as Assistant Pastor of St. Augustine Parish, Detroit, Michigan. He earned an M. Ed. from DePaul University, Chicago, in 1964, and did additional studies at Villanova University, Villanova, Pennsylvania.
Father Tylzanowki died on January 27, 1967 of a cerebral hemorrhage.
He is buried in the Augustinian plot at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery, Alsip, Illinois.