President’s family not only on feasts


A wooden oval table in the middle of the room. On the table – a bowl from which everyone eats the same meal on the Christmas Eve, according to the tradition of the Duda family

An unusual custom, but it has always been so in the president’s family. Being passed from generation to generation, it was inscribed into a Christmas Eve forever. And it was even liked by the youngest members of the family, that is, nephews of the president Andrzej Duda, who have their permanent place at the Christmas Eve table in a Cracow flat of Janina and Jan Duda. Today there are twelve chairs there as there are so many members of the closest family on Christmas Eve.

The table in the Duda family has a symbolic meaning. This is the most important piece of furniture. It accompanies talks, important decisions. It joins generations. It is its tabletop on which tears drop. Finally, it is the table on which a wafer lies at Christmas.

A guest at home, water in soup

Around the table the whole family gathers at Christmas. The table means a community. – At the table one can sit comfortably and talk peacefully. It integrates, as experiences of many generations show. For centuries families have gathered at tables – say parents of the president.

What is interesting, in the living room in which there is the table, there is no TV. This is a conscious choice of the Duda family. – So that we would not undergo a temptation of turning on TV in guests presence. Or watching and talking at the same time – explains prof. Janina Milewska – Duda. Her husband puts it in a precise way: - for me watching TV while talking is disturbing. When I visit somebody in this situation, I always sit, turning my back to TV and I start talking.

But not only do the Duda family spend time when sitting at the table. They also develop their family relation every day, meet together and enjoy talking with one another. Also with those whom they do not visit. Among their acquaintances of parents of president Andrzej Duda, there is this saying: ‘A guest at home, water in soup’. Everybody can arrive at any time, both at day and night time. Without any appointments.

Our rule is: ‘A guest at home, God at home’ – says prof. Jan Duda. Whereas his wife adds: - we both come from the so-called opened homes, hence since the beginning of our marriage nobody has had to make an appointment with us to come. If somebody of our family or friends is in Cracow, even when only passing by, simply drops in. Our acquaintances usually say: ‘When the Duda family are in, I will visit them’. And they do it. We are used to such lifestyle. President’s parents really feel as a family, are in touch both with their brothers and sisters, and with families of their adult children. They feel emotions when saying: - We are really grateful to our parents, this atmosphere, which they passed to us from their family homes. They also learnt a lot from stories of their grandparents and this experience was passed over and is still passed over to others. Now, this is the way in which we pass the whole heritage to our children and grandchildren.

A few years ago one of daughters gave me a beautifully cut out slat on which she had stuck photos of the whole family. A kind of a family tableau. – I keep it very close to my bed and when I wake up in the morning, I look at these photos and I am thinking: ‘a whole family. It is good. (laughter). And I begin another day with this thought – says Mrs. Professor.

Family rituals

The president’s family has its own home rituals. They include not only celebrating feasts, but also celebrating every Sunday.

- For us a week is six working days – say the president’s parents. Sunday is really a holy day for them. On this day they do nothing which is connected with unnecessary work. They do not even read any books which are necessary for their work. Whereas they read book for pleasure. When children were little, they did not allow them do their homework on Sunday. If they did not manage to do their whole homework on time, they simply got a bad mark!

- And then they always tried to plan their time in such a way so that to be able to do their homework before Saturday evening – prof. Jan Duda laughs. – If we worked on Sunday, it would turn out quickly that the eight day of the week would be necessary. It would not have its end.

Home of Janina and Jan Duda in which the future president was brought up, is professors’ home. Both parents are lecturers in the Mining-Metallurgical Academy in Cracow. Father of Andrzej Duda is a professor of technical subjects, an automatics and IT expert, specializing in computer modeling processes. Mother of the President is a professor of chemical science, deals with physical and organic chemistry.

Although both parents worked as scientists, they cared about family life. They found time to go for a walk with children and for entertainment, culture. They sometimes took their son and daughters to the theatre.

-We used to take little Andrzej to the famous Theatre Grotesque in Cracow, which is one of the oldest doll stage in Poland – they say. They used to be on the Square in Cracow nearly every Sunday. When there was an occasion, they went to a restaurant for lunch or ice-cream in a café, so that it would be more solemn. – For example, when I gained PhD degree, we went to the French Hotel. After Janina gained her PhD degree, we went to Wierzynek. At that time it was the best restaurant in Cracow. But we did not have one favourite place. Later often on Sundays we visited a café at the Square, managed by a friend of Andrzej – says prof. Jan Duda.

Years ago, the president’s parents used to go for many parties, for example, organized on the New Year’s Even by students. – My wife, first as a lecturer, and later as a dean of the department used to be invited for them. We had a great time till the morning there, we loved dancing, so we spent nearly the whole time on the dancing floor.

- Now on the New Year’s Eve we are staying at home but without children as they have their own friends and fun. And we both listen to our favourite CDs, old songs and beautiful waltzes – says prof. Janina Milewska-Duda.

Parents used to take children for various exhibitions in Cracow, showing them also works of art in churches, for example, in the church of St. Anna or Peter and Paul, Mariacki church, or the church of St. Catherine Aleksandryjska – It is as if we were in a different world, as if we had entered the past – says prof. Duda.

One must feel having the soul

- For us there is no Christmas without Advent – says prof. Jan Duda. – And no Advent without Rorate Mass – his wife adds.

When their three children were growing up, for the whole Advent they woke them up in the early morning and at six thirty they were in the church at the Rorate Mass. Every day.

- I remember that before the Advent began, I had been praying to maintain in this resolution – mother of the President smiles. For, it was not easy, as all members of the Duda family were rather owls not early birds, and like sitting up till late evening and getting up late in the morning. Therefore, on the previous day I had used to prepare everybody’s clothes for the next day, children put them up quickly after getting up, took lanterns in their hands and we went to church.

- For us it was a kind of an effort, but it was good – says prof. Jan Duda.- We thought that it was necessary to teach children from their early age to take efforts. Effort gives satisfaction. It makes a man enjoy his achievement. So is it in the spiritual life. It is necessary to break reluctance, one’s own weaknesses, it is necessary to resign from something in order to feel having the soul.

Also today the Rorate Mass is an inseparable part of preparations for Christmas in the Duda family. Even when circumstances are not favourable to it. For it happens, as it was so after the solemn promotion of the book ‘President’s Parents’, which has recently taken place in Warsaw. It started at 7 p.m., but a long queue of people who were asking the Duda family for their signatures and some memorable words made the even last till midnight. Then the President’s parents quickly got into car in order to return Cracow at night as at eight in the morning they were having a lecture at university. As it later turned out, they had been to the Rorate Mass before their lectures. Because it was necessary to feel one’s soul.


„Niedziela” 51/2015

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: