Niwiska− A Settlement Amidst the Forests
Written by Anna Grabiec
Niwiska is an expansive and beautiful settlement lying picturesquely beside the village of Trezsn. It is nestled in a valley amidst the forest and dunes of Sandomierz Wildwoods along the way between Tarnow and Lezask near Kolbuszowa. Most precisely, Niwiska is found between the towns of Przeclaw and Tuszyma on the so-called “Royal Guestway in the Wildwoods.” A wreath of haughty moraine hills surrounds the Sandomierz Valley that is blanketed in forest. The tallest of these hills are the one at the foot of the church on Rynkowa Pieniezna Gora (Money Market Mountain) 260 meters at the Old Foundry and Niedzwiedzia Gora (Bear Mountain), by the church 252 meters above sea level. There is also Lysa Gora (Bald Mountain), which is by the Bor and Koszary, and just a little below the “Buczyna” nature reserve on the edge of Przyleka Zgorski and the Biesiady Mountainsi Koniowa Gora (Equestrian Mountain) 222 meters to the north of Kraglica toward Owsiana Gora (Oat Mountain) by Trzesni Zapola with Jastrzebia Gora (Goshawk Mountain) near Leszca.
From the east, from the small city of Kolbuszowa, there are natural gas reserves and leeches. Greater Niwiska is a settlement with other surrounding towns of Trzesn, Hucina, Siedlanki, Przyleka, Kosow, Leszcz, Zapola, and Huciska.
Who Established Niwiska and When?
The answer to that question is given in a record of an act of the year 1565 from the collections of the Tarnowskis and Sanguszeks or Tarnow and Gumnisk in the Archives of Krakow. So Niwiska can thank its origins to the Tarnow crest of the Lewita family of the last of the Piast kings Casimir the Great and the first of the Jagiello kings, Wladyslaw Jagiello.
The first localization of the village of Trzesn found it hugging along a narrow strip of land alongside one branch of the river by the Krakow Way. The inhabitants of this settlement to this day are called “Trzesniana.”
Besides Trzesn already within a short time the location of the village of Niwiska was recorded as being “on the fresh roots of a forest frontier.” That happened in the year 1565, about 439 years ago. The village’s founder came from the permission of the King Sigmund Augustus, the founder of the hospital and churches in Rzochow and in Kolbuszowa “Stanislaw of Tarnow and a band of Tarnowites,” the last in the line of the Leliwites.
The village was identified in the year 1581. Niwiska has one and a half measures of land granted as a fiefdom of which there have been made about 100 commoners fields, and the rest is a common settlement farm of about 8-10 commoners’ fields.
Subsequently, from the time of the establishment of the village, there were established the following villages: Zadworze, Podkosciele, Podhucie, Koniec. In the middle of today’s settlement at the manor, there is a group of old oak trees, around the manor park and also 3 ancient oak trees around the Swedish entrenchment. (The Swedes who were killed were buried when the Swedes attacked Poland during the reign of King Jan Casimir). This is near the edge of the village of Trzesn. (of these three oaks, in this place there stands only one oak because, after land reform, the authorities destroyed two of them and only one remains.) Note from Donna Gawell: during the Nazi occupation, some of the trees were uprooted because of explosives and the skeletal remains of Swedish soldiers were found buried below the trees. The Swedes had a custom of planting an acorn over the graves when they buried the soldiers in foreign lands.
Still, under the government of Zofia Mielecz Tarnowska, the people got a church built of larch wood. It was dedicated to St. Nicholas, the patron of the road and the fields of Niedzwiedz Gora (Bear Mountain.) It was a branch of the parish church in Rzochow as a votum.
In the year 1773, the following villages and settlements belonged to the parish of Niwiska: Trzesn, Hucina, Zabieniec, Huciska, Zapole, Poreby, Huciskie, Poreby, Kamienskie, Huta, Przedborska, Ligezin, Leszcze, Wrazniowka. (Note from Donna Gawell: the LDS church in Salt Lake City has a microfilm of the parish of Niwiska and it contains the records for these villages. It is available for short-term or permanent loan at a Family History Center)
With the agreement of the bishop in 1598 the church was furnished and became one independent branch belonging to the parish in Rzochow, and a priest was always present in the manor in Niwiska. He lived in the manor house.
The Grabiec family settled in Niwiska in the areas called “Koniec” (the end) on the hill. In 1925 Leon Walesa (a relative of our grandmother Anna Grabiec) was a relative of the Bishop Leon Walesa, the former bishop of the Diocese of Tarnow. So, Leon Walesa established the pastorship of Niwiska. During the time of the occupation by Hitler; when in the neighboring town of Blizne the Germans began production of their V1 and V2 missiles, Niwiska was evacuated. The church was emptied. Within it many of its furnishings were destroyed, including two bells. Fr. Jan Kurek writes of this history in detail in his chronicle of the parish. As the pastor, he shared in the fate of the parishioners.
In the 1980’s the church in Niwiska was fundamentally restored after 100 years without such repair. Thus, the church will be able to serve as it has for over 400 years. To this day, brothers and sisters in Christ gather there to pray and listen to the Word of God. Here in this church were baptized all the generations of the Grabiec family who came here to pray, and in this quiet village cemetery, there are the graves and ashes of all the faithful, among them the ashes of the Grabiec family. Resounding bells honor those who have gone to rest and today sandstone graves marked by leaning crosses are a warning to us. Wildflowers of the fields sing a song in the whistle of the wind about the branches that give forth a somber song.
St Nicholas the Patron of our Parish and its Children
The church was built upon a hill that was called “Niedzwiedzia Gora” (Bear Mountain.) Among the oldest of the residents of Niwiska there circulates stories about the founding of the church. At first it was to have been built at the Koniec (the end) part of town in the shadow of the forest, because in the night someone took down the part of the building that was begun. Then, it was said to have been hit by lightning. All the while, the people came closer to the building the church on Niedzwiedzia Gora. That is why the church was built where it is, and one of the residents saw at that place a beautiful image on a tree of the bishop St. Nicholas. So the church became known as St. Nicholas Church, for he is the patron of the roads and the fields.
The cult of St. Nicholas became known throughout the region. From his youngest years St Nicholas distinguished himself by his goodness, and he was young and rich. Among information we have on the saint is a story that he saved three young women from shame when they had no means to provide a dowry. He threw a bag of money in through the window to them.
Under his care are sailors, prisoners, bakers, and children. Already since the 13th century, there has been noted the custom of distributing to needy children aid for their studies. He is remembered on the 6th of December. On that day, there is a custom of giving a small gift to children depending on the material status of the family.
From Donna Gawell: Here is the website for Niwiska. If you go to Google, and activate “google translate”, the site will be translated.