Home Page of Stefan Banach

Home Page of Stefan Banach

"Recollections of Stefan Greczek".
Monika Waksmundzka-Hajnos
It is a translation of an extended version of the letter on "Defending grandfather. Niece of Stefan Banach sheds some light on history of the family of the great mathematician" published in Focus No. 11, 2006, page 16.
(posted on this web-site with the written permission of the Author)
I would like to provide additional information and set the record straight concerning the person of Stefan Greczek, the father of Stefan Banach. Reading about him in various papers and articles about his famous son one can come away with an inaccurate, or even quite false, impression regarding his descent, financial and family situation.
Stefan Greczek, father of Stefan Banach, circa 1930
Stefan Greczek was born in November, 1867, in the small village of Ostrowsko situated in the Dunajec River valley near the Tatra Mountains in southern Poland. He was the first-born son of Joseph and Antonina who were poor farmers. He had four younger brothers and sisters. As a young boy he helped graze cattle and sheep and helped to look after his parents' small farm. He attended elementary schools in Ostrowsko and in the nearby small town of Nowy Targ but was unable to continue his education there because at that time Nowy Targ did not have a grammar school. His family did not have the financial means to send him for further education. Consequently, as a mere youth barely in his teens he set off in search of work to Budapest, which at that time was a favorite and common destination for many young people from the same largely agricultural area of Poland, some to escape difficult conditions and all looking to improve their economic prospects. His journey to Budapest (a distance of more than 250 kilometers) was entirely on foot walking the whole way in the company of several other young teenagers from his village. Because at that time Stefan Greczek already had good reading and writing skills, and was talented, he soon learned German. He was thus able to obtain a position working in an office. Commenting about that later one of his group who had journeyed with him to Budapest is noted to have said "all the rest of us to the shovel, Stefan to an office!"
Stefan Greczek
His office position did not last long, however, because he was soon conscripted into the Austrian army. Once in the army and as a young soldier he met a young girl, a countrywoman from the same area of Poland he was from, Katarzyna Banach. Although he himself never spoke much about her it has always been understood by the family that she was employed as a maid or servant to the same officer whom Stefan was assigned to as an orderly. They fell in love. The fruit of that love was born on March 30, 1892. Stefan was then 24 years old. The young father would have no hope or realistic chance at that time for a better future other than to remain in the army. At his rank he was forbidden to marry without permission. Those that did were immediately discharged. In a letter to his son Stefan Banach, on October, 10, 1943, he writes: "When you were born I was 24 years and 3 months old. I was serving in the army, without permission from the military authorities I was not allowed to marry. Permission was only granted to those who were able to document and show that the marriage would improve their means and circumstances (....) It was out of the question for me to even think about getting permission to marry." Suffice to say the young couple decided to separate. For a time Katarzyna went to live in Kraków. She subsequently married a railroad worker and is known to have later left Kraków. Her whereabouts after that time are unknown. Before they parted the young father promised Katarzyna two things-that he would look after and take care of the child, whom they christened Stefan, until he was of full age and that he would never reveal who the mother was. He kept his promise. And, while it would have been easier to commit the child to an orphanage, he assumed full care and responsibility for him.
There is information that at that point the child was taken to Ostrowsko to be looked after there by Stefan senior's mother Antonina. This was not just some "older lady", as some writers have stated, but in fact the now elderly Greczek matriarch, Stefan Banach's grandmother, who lived with family members in a very small cottage, typical of many others in that region - often called "chicken huts". Unfortunately, some time after that she became ill. Now she herself and little Stefan both needed to be cared for. It is noteworthy at that point that, even although she had several other children, Antonina preferred to go and live with her son Stefan, now in Kraków, and spent the remainder of her years there with him. Because of his mother's poor health Stefan senior (with the full knowledge of Katarzyna Banach) decided to place the little boy Banach with the owner of a laundry business in Kraków, a well-to-do lady, not a washerwoman as has appeared in some articles about Stefan Banach. Even though she was prosperous Stefan senior paid her regularly for the upkeep of his son. This continued for an extended period until Banach was of an age to be able to leave to go to Lwów to study there. In a letter to his son Stefan Greczek writes - "Your adopted mother, a noble and good woman, who had no children of her own, raised you and loved you like her own child." In due time Stefan Greczek became a revenue service official and later an accountant, and even though he had not received much formal education and was practically self-taught, during the time following World War I he was always known in Kraków as "Pan Radca", i.e., "Counsellor". His own family life, however, was not that easy. His first wife Helena and he separated after a few years of marriage. One child, a son Wilhelm, was born of that marriage. After they separated Helena took the child to live with her in Vienna but following lengthy court proceedings there he gained custody of Wilhelm who then returned to live with him in Kraków. Ultimately his first wife remarried. At around the turn of the century Stefan Greczek met Albina Adamska, a young lady from a family of merchants in Lwów. He obviously possessed a lot of personal charm that despite his somewhat checkered past she became very attached to him. Their union resulted in four children-Kazimierz, Tadeusz, Bolesław and Antonina. However, Stefan and Albina had to wait for 20 years before they could be legally married and before she and the children were entitled to use Greczek as their surname. Stefan Greczek never lost contact with the Podhale region where he came from and always vacationed there with his family. It was there that on the site of his family's old small cottage a new large house was built in 1930. It was an impressive storied building of wooden log construction. The enjoyment it brought was, however, shortly married by the death of his wife Albina in 1935, preceded by the premature death at a young age of their son Bolesław. Then in 1936 heavy flooding badly damaged the new house.
Antonina Greczek, a daughter of Stefan Greczek and a step-sister of Stefan Banach, circa 1938.
Antonina Greczek with her father Stefan Greczek, Kraków, circa 1938.
Antonina Greczek, daughter of Stefan Greczek, had knowledge of Banach, but only as being a friend of the family. She was 25 years younger than him. That he was in fact her brother, her beloved father's son, she only found out in 1939. At the outbreak of World War II Antonina, her husband and father Stefan, set off from Kraków in panic and confusion and headed in the direction of Nowy Korczyn. There they became separated and Antonina and her father continued on their own towards Lwów. Once there, with aunts and uncles from her mother's side of the family, Antonina met Stefan Banach for the first time and it was then she discovered that he was her half-brother. This was a shock and she did not understand how it was she had not known and why her father had not told her. He calmed her down and explained the circumstances and the difficulties that existed at the time of the Austro-Hungarian rule if someone wanted to register a child born out of wedlock as his own, and how his father realized there were very few good options available to him and not much he could do. Antonina and Stefan Banach quickly became friends, confided in and loved each other as brother and sister.
Even though born 5 years after his death I grew up in our family home very much aware and conscious of the atmosphere of love and strong affection for the person of Stefan Banach, and I well remember my mother's legendary stories about him, especially about their first meeting. Memories of him are very vivid to this day even though my mother died four years ago.
My grandfather Stefan Greczek survived to be 100 and worked as the administrator of the tenement building he lived in until he was 90 years old. Two years prior to his death he even spent a vacation in Ostrowsko. His house is still there built on the same site as the small cottage where Stefan Banach spent the first period of his life as a child.
Stefan Greczek with granddaughter Monika, the author of these recollections, Ostrowsko 1963.
A house in Ostrowsko of Stefan and Albina (grandmother of the author) Greczek built in the 1930s in the place of an old hut, photo taken in winter 2002.
Monika Wakmundzka-Hajnos
Daughter of Antonina Greczek
Granddaughter of Stefan Greczek
Niece of Stefan Banach
Lublin, September 12, 2006.

Appendix: Children and grandchildren of Stefan Greczek

Children of Stefan Greczek:
  1. Stefan - a professor of mathematics
  2. Wilhelm - a student of law at the Jagiellonian University; a director, before World War II, of the Polish National Railways (PKP) in the Katowice district
  3. Kazimierz - Ph.D. in law
  4. Tadeusz - M.Sc. in medicine
  5. Bolesław - died at the age of 21, student of law
  6. Antonina - M.Sc. in pharmacy
Grandchildren of Stefan Greczek:
  1. Stefan Banach jr. - son of Stefan - Ph.D. in medicine
  2. Janusz Greczek - son of Wilhelm - Ph.D. in chemistry (received in England)
  3. Alicja Żuraniewska née Greczek - daughter of Tadeusz - M.Sc. in law - solicitor
  4. Monika Waksmundzka-Hajnos - daughter of Antonina née Greczek - Ph.D. in chemistry, Ph.D. and habilitation in pharmacy, professor of Academy of Medicine


We sincerely thank Prof. Dr. Hab. Monika Waksmundzka-Hajnos for her kind permission to publish her recollections and for sharing with us the family photographs on this website.

Questions or comments about this page can be sent to Emilia Jakimowicz or Adam Miranowicz. We would also appreciate every link from your pages to our Home Page of Stefan Banach.

File translated from TEX by TTHgold, version 4.00.
On 04 Jan 2012, 18:50.