Together Again: A Love Story

Mrs. Flavia Pruski was a proud Polish woman.

Her family had come over with the original Polish settlers…farmers and agrarian types from the Krakow region…and arrived in Galveston by ship in the mid-1800’s. From there, they went westward and settled in an area of rich farmland, made that way by constant flooding of the San Antonio River.

Lead by Monsignor Leopold Moczygemba (for you Anglos, that’s pronounced “Mooch-ee-GHEM-bah), the settlers founded Panna Maria–the oldest Polish settlement in the country. I kid you not. It is!

Today, this little fly spec on a Texas map, consists of a few families (all descendants of the original settlers) a grain mill, a convenience store and of course, a Catholic church and an adjacent hall, suitable for drunken Knights of Columbus dances or the loud wedding receptions, celebrating the union of two Polish families with surnames damned impossible to pronounce…but invariably, end in a vowel.

Ever been to a Polish wedding reception? In South Texas, they are INDEED an event.

The Starosta (Master of Ceremonies) goes on stage with the band to announce the Pani mloda, or the Money Dance. All the guests at the reception line up for a last chance to dance with the bride and pin money to her dress. This is done for the privilege of “buying a dance with the virgin bride”.

Yeah, right.

These receptions are great fun. If you get the chance to go to a traditional Polish wedding and reception, do so.

But I’m getting away from my story….back to Flavia Pruski.

She was born in 1915 and lived in the Panna Maria area all her life. She was educated by the nuns who lived in the convent attached to the Our Lady of Panna Maria Catholic Church. She met Otto Pruski in 1935. They met at a church dance and fell in love. He was in from San Antonio visiting family and took one look at the Light brown-haired, blue-eyed beauty and asked her to marry him two weeks later.

All of Panna Maria came out in grand style six months later when the two were wed. Over the next five years, Flavia, true to her strict Catholic upbringing, gave Otto five healthy children.

Then in 1941, Otto was killed in a freak gas station explosion. Flavia was heartbroken. There she was, a widow at barely 30 years of age and the mother of five young children.

Enter Dominic Wisniewski, another farmer who’d always had his eye on Flavia. He was willing to marry her and be a father to her five kids. After a brief courtship and even quicker wedding ceremony, Flavia and her brood d’cinq moved in with Dominic on his 45 acres of land. Twelve years and ten kids later, Dominic dropped dead of a heart attack on their bedroom floor.

Once again, Flavia was grief stricken and alone, now with 15 kids to raise. What would she do?

She’d marry again.

And Felix Walczak, also a farmer, would fit the bill. They said “I do” and immediately “did”. Three years and one set of twin girls later, Felix was killed in a car accident.

Flavia was heartbroken and vowed to never marry again. Sadly, she was also never the same. Her health declined and Flavia Mancowicz Pruski Wisniewski Walczak died in her sleep almost six years to the day after Felix died.

News of her death saddened all of Panna Maria.   All those children…17 orphans. It was so, so sad.

Father Majeski, Flavia’s long time parish priest, was asked to preside over Flavia’s funeral mass, just as had with her three late husbands. He entered the church where her body lie in state to say goodbye to her privately. This wouldn’t be easy since he’d known Flavia and her family for decades.

He quietly approached the casket containing the body of his friend and parishioner. He shook his head, touched it briefly and said, “Finally, they’re together again. For the first time in years. Thanks be to God!!”

Antonetta Kaminski and her sister, Roberta were in the front pew, reciting a funeral rosary when they heard Father Majeski make the comment. Antonetta whispered to her sister, “Isn’t that sweet? Father Majeski is hoping that in death, she’ll finally be reunited with her dearly departed husband….but I wonder which one he was talking about?”

The priest overheard the conversation and bent down toward the two women as they knelt and whispered, “Well ladies, if you must know, when I said ‘they’re finally together again’, I wasn’t talking about Flavia and her husbands. I was talking about the bitch’s damn legs!!!!”

Mój Bóg, który jest zabawny!!!!!!!!

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