|Rt. Rev. Michael Domachowski|
The country of Poland has a long and proud history dating back to as early as the middle of the 8th Century. However, its fortunes have waxed and waned. At one time, it was the largest country in Europe, but for much of the last three centuries, it has not even appeared on a map. Instead, its lands and peoples have been ruled by Austrians, Germans and Russians. Today's biography is about one who worked tirelessly to restore, and keep, the country of Poland.
Michael Domachowski was born on September 29, 1875, the seventh child of Jacob Marcus Domachowski and Marjanna (Radomska) Domachowska. (One sibling, Rose, has already been mentioned in this blog as the wife of Andrzej Boncel. Another sibling, Joseph, has his own Featured Profile (Featured Profile #5.) Michael's birthplace was the small village of Pinczyn in Pomerania. At that time, it was known officially by the German name of “Pinschin” and was in the German district of West Prussia.
The Domachowski roots in the area were deep. Michael's father came from the nearby village of Zblewo, and its parish records are filled with Domachowskis. Unfortunately, by the late 1880's, conditions became so intolerable that many Domachowskis decided that even the pain of separation from family and homeland was more bearable than life under German rule. They began leaving. Some ended up as far away as Brazil, but many of these families came to Milwaukee.
One of these was the family of Jacob and Marjanna Domachowski and their surviving seven children. They boarded SS General Werder in Bremen and arrived in New York City on April 12, 1881. They eventually made their way to Milwaukee. At the outset, it should be mentioned that, besides his father's Domachowski relations, some of Michael's maternal relations also came to Milwaukee. One of these was Michael Wenta who was to remain a close friend of Michael Domachowski and who was to live a remarkably parallel life. However, Michael Wenta deserves his own Featured Profile, so a full discussion of his life will have to wait to another time.
Nothing is known of early life of Michael Domachowski other than he attended St. Hyacinth Grade School. After graduating from high school, he enrolled in what was then known as Marquette College (now Marquette University). Showing the determination and leadership that would serve him throughout his life, he quickly made a name for himself playing the rugged (and distinctly American) game of football, which was just then starting to develop. He played halfback on the 1896 Marquette team and then captained the 1897 team.
|The Marquette 1897 Football Team. The chap holding the ball bears a resemblance to Michael Domachowski.|
However, Michael Domachowski never gave up his scholarly pursuits. In 1901, he and Michael Wenta both graduated from Marquette with a Masters of Arts while students of divinity at St. Francis Seminary. He was ordained June 22, 1902 and he then began his life as a priest. He served as an assistant at his old parish of St. Hyacinth until 1908. While there, he was put in charge of amateur dramatics which he felt would help preserve the Polish language and customs in Milwaukee. Assigned away from St. Hyacinth, he helped organize St. Casimir's Parish in Kenosha and St. Adalbert's Parish in Milwaukee. He continued serving at St. Adalbert's until he was made the Pastor at St. Vincent de Paul in 1909.
He was to remain in that position for the rest of his life. During that time he became a confidant and trusted adviser to rich and poor, working man and professional. His leadership and devotion were recognized by Pope Pius XI when he appointed Michael Domachowski Monsignor on April 21, 1934.
However, a turning point in Michael Domachowski's life occurred much earlier, in August, 1914 at the outset of World War I. The powers that had divided Poland were now at war with one another. While this raised the tragic possibility of Pole fighting Pole, it also opened the opportunity of a reincarnated Poland. (This was especially true later in the War when it became one of Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points). Michael Domachowski worked tirelessly to bring this about. He collected funds and organized recruits into the army (possibly some into Haller's Army). After the war, he also become the Commissioner in charge of the sale of Polish government bonds in Wisconsin.
The Polish government was not blind to all that Michael Domachowski had done for it. On April 23, 1926, it sent Ignace Paderewski, world famous pianist and former prime minister to Milwaukee to award Michael Domachowski with the Order of Virtuti Militari. The Polish government would also grant him the Order of Polonia Restituta and the Miecze Hallerowski (the Swords of Haller). The latter was given in recognition of his efforts on behalf of the Polish Army's Veterans Association.
|Michael Domachowski receives the Virtuti Militari from Igance Paderewski. Mrs. Paderewska observes.|
Of course, all the work and effort by Poles all over the world could not save Poland from further tragedy. On September 1, 1939, Hilter's forces invaded Poland, sparking World War II. One can only imagine how devastating this must have been to Michael Domachowski. It may even have affected his health. He died just a short time later, on February 8, 1940.
At his funeral, six priests were pallbearers, all of them ordained from Michael Domachowski's parish: Walter Bednarski, Joseph Gutkowski, Bernard Gabinski, Francis Gabinowicz, Stanley Bartnicki, and Maximillian Adamski. The mass was officiated by the Rt. Rev. Michael Wenta, who preached in Polish, but Samuel A.Stritch, then Archbishop of Chicago, (later Cardinal) also gave a homily. Perhaps as a fitting coda, the last known dignitary to visit the grave of Michael Domachowski was Joseph Haller. He spent a few minutes paying his respects to the grave while he was in Milwaukee to (once again) raise funds in defense of Poland.
Besides the above accomplishments, Michael Domachowski was also the Chaplain of the Polish Association of America, and, at various times, a director, secretary and vice-president of the Nowiny Polski, and a member of the Executive Board of the Polish Priests Association of America.
Relation to Last Featured Profile (Andrzej Boncel): Brother-in-law
Path From Last Featured Profile: Anrdrzej Boncel to his wife, Rose (Domachowska) Boncel, to her brother, Michael Domachowski.
"Paderewski Pins Medal on Polish Priest," Milwaukee Journal, April 23, 1926, p. 57 (all references are to page numbers on Google News.)
The Pinkowski Files, quoting Who's Who in Polish America.
The Pinkowski Files, quoting Who's Who in Polish America.
"Polish Priest, Leader Dead," Milwaukee Journal, February 8, 1940, p. 21.
"Rites for Priest are Arranged," Milwaukee Journal, February 9, 1940, p.25.