OLDEST WOMAN IN POLAND
She was born Tekla Dadak on the 10th of June 1906, in the village of Krupsk in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Krupsk is about 40 miles from Lviv and is now in Ukraine. Therefore, she was born a subject of the Emperor Franz Joseph.
Her father was Jan, who was the pond maintenance man for Count Karol Lanckoronski. Her mother was Catherine Szkwyrko, a homemaker. She had two younger sisters, Rozalia and Katarzyna.
Curiously, both her grandfathers were called Basil.
Tekla was christened on the day she was born in a Greek / Catholic church. Her birth certificate has her name spelt as ‘Tecla’ – but that is probably due to the vast number of languages being used in the empire.
She was born the same year as the first powered flight in Europe, the opening of the Panama Canal and that Marie Curie won a Nobel Prize.
Aged 7, she was seriously ill with typhus. When this happened, the authorities took the sick person away to somewhere unknown where they could be isolated. Her parents noted few came back, so they hid her in the basement and told nobody, until she had recovered. She was not ill again for nearly 100 years.
She was just 8 when the First World War began. Poland was variously annexed by Austria, Russia and Germany (Prussia).
Her mother died during the First World War, so Tekla and her sisters were sent to the ‘Sisters of Charity’ school in Przeworsk (under the patronage of Princess Lanckoronska. There, they had a very happy educational experience. She was taught to sew, embroider and cook, all skills she felt served her well in later life. The pupils also looked after the elderly of a nearby care home.
It was at school she picked up the nickname ‘Kluska’ which stayed with her for life.
She was just 12 when Poland regained its independence (to be invaded by the Bolsheviks of Russia).
A few years after the war, she met Jan Juniewicz. He was lodging with a friend of hers. He wooed her by sending a bouquet of lilacs, in the middle of the winter, which impressed her. They were married in 1927.
Despite Jan being 22 years older than Tekla, it was a very happy marriage. They moved to the town of Boryslaw, where Jan worked as a manager in an earthen wax mine. Their first daughter Janina was born in 1928, followed by Urszula in 1929.
They kept a very low profile in the Second World War, and it didn’t greatly affect the family. But at the end of the war Boryslaw was incorporated into the Soviet Union, so they decided to move west.
They didn’t have a trunk, so they packed their belongings into a wardrobe which they took with them on the train. The intended destination was Walbrzych.
They were on the train for two weeks when it reached the town of Gliwice. Some friends got off there because the husband had a job. They persuaded Jan and Tekla to disembark too. She was to spend the rest of her life living in Gliwice.
The wardrobe stayed in the house for years.
Jan got a job working in the Sosnica mine.
Tekla loved the cinema, playing cards and gardening, but above all, travelling. She claimed to have visited every town in Poland. She would always go to Warsaw for the 11th of November military parade.
Her husband Jan died in 1980, aged 95.
She was rarely ill but caught bronchitis on her 100th birthday. She was forced to take antibiotics, for the first time in her life. Up to that point, she had never taken medicines, just vitamins every day. But she was a smoker – and smoked her cigarettes whilst huddled over the oven, throwing the butts in afterwards.
At 100 she was still taking bus rides on her own.
Aged 103, she stopped living independently and moved into her grandson Adam’s house. She always insisted on sleeping with the window open – unless the temperature was lower than minus ten.
She was an avid reader and was proud to have twice won the ‘Most Active Reader’ award from her local library.
Whenever she saw Hitler or Stalin on TV, she would point her finger and shout, “I know them.”
At 106 she was still carrying her own coal up to her living room.
On her 110th birthday, her family took her to a restaurant. She enjoyed it so much, she decided to go back every birthday.
Aged 110, she needed an operation to removed stones in her gallbladder – the first time she had ever had anaesthetics.
Her daughter Janina died in 2016, aged 88.
Aged 111 she was asked the secret to old age and responded, “Hunger and poverty.” She hated being idle.
Aged 111 (and again at 113) she needed life-saving surgery.
At 112 she was not only the oldest person in Poland, she was the first recorded Pole to reach 112…and 113…and 114…and 115…and 116.
On her 115th birthday, the 10th of June 2021, her great, great granddaughter was born, named Iga Tekla. She was thrilled to share the same birthday, albeit 115 years apart.
In an interview, she was asked if she was looking for another husband. She said, “I’m not looking for a bachelor. I like to eat and drink. I only regret that I no longer have friends because they all died.” She added that she wished she could drive so that she could go back to Lviv and see what her childhood home was like.
She was also asked to compare the two world wars she had lived through. She said she felt the second one caused more carnage.
Grandson Adam said his grandmother was always positive and refused to live in the past. “She cut herself off from bad things and stress and concentrated on good things.” He added she was amazed and delighted by the progress made in her lifetime.
Her granddaughter Anna was asked for the secret of Tekla’s longevity. “Grandma ate fat, fried in lard, ate full fat cheese, had mayonnaise with everything and baked cakes with 18 eggs.”
When she died aged 116, she had children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and great great grandchildren. Not only had she outlived her husband and one daughter, but she had also outlived both her sons-in-law. Her daughter Urszula survived her, being 93 at her mother’s death.
Adam said, “Grandma felt good until the end.” She died of a stroke.
Not only was she the oldest person (ever) in Poland, but she was also the second oldest person alive, beaten only by Lucille Randon aged 118, a French nun.
RIP – Recordbreaking Incredible Pole.