There is an old language spoken in Poland and in Texas. It is called Silesian, but it is in danger of fading away.

It is the same language spoken by the European immigrants who, in the 1850s, left their homes in Europe to make new lives in Texas. They left the region of Silesia, now a part of Poland. The language spoken in their Silesian villages was unique and not taught in schools, only in homes. When the immigrants took to the seas heading for Texas, they took their special language with them.

Recently, in La Vernia, Silesian author Szczepan Twardoch, who writes in Polish, met with area residents who were born and raised in South Texas, and who speak the dying language of Silesian, passed down from their ancestors who came to Texas in the 19th century. Some of these Slavic language speakers have never been to Silesia, yet their language is connected to the faraway souls of earlier decades, transported to Texas generations before they were even born.

On both sides of the ocean, the Silesian language was not always nurtured. In Texas, Louise Syma recalled that while her parents loved speaking Silesian at home, she was made to speak Polish in the tiny school she attended in Pulaski, near Cestohowa, Texas. “First, the nuns made us learn English,” she said. “Then they made us learn what they called ‘correct Polish.’ When I got home, my parents wanted me to speak Silesian so they could understand me.”

“In Poland,” Twardoch said, “Silesian is not spoken in schools, only by the older people in mostly small villages.” He told the group that listening to the old language here in Texas was “like hearing my grandparents again.”

The Silesian-speaking Texans visiting with Twardoch included Gladys Koenig, Fabian Wiatrek, Emily Kolodziejcyk, Dorothy Moy, Louise Syma, Dorothy Pawelek, Sally Schaefer, and Adrian Sekula.

Msgr. Frank “Father Frank” Kurzaj, who was born in Silesia but is now a priest in Texas, arranged the meeting. “My mama was born and raised in Silesia,” he said. “We were made to speak Russian in school during the Communist rule, but spoke Silesian and Polish and German in our homes.”

Twardoch lives in Poland and is the author of the novel, Drach. He has written many books in Polish, which have been translated into several languages, including the Silesian dialect. The title means, in his own words, “It is the earth talking, or rather the spirit of the earth – Drach.”

Msgr. Kurzaj is the president of the Father Leopold Moczygemba Foundation, organized for developing, maintaining, and supporting exchange programs for cultural, religious, and educational activities in Texas and Silesia, Poland.