The Period of People’s Republic of Poland
On Rector Antoni Słomkowski’s initiative the Catholic University of Lublin resumed its activity as the first one in Poland upon the retreat of German occupation forces. An exceptionally hard stage for the life of University began in 1944 with the entrance of Soviet army and the taking over of power by so-called ‘people’s government’. Academic community of KUL embraced by official state authorities with a wall of contempt and distrust started to create an exceptional environment. Its ambition was the preservation and transfer of the pre-war memory and tradition of pre-socialist university culture to the new generations of Poles.
The increasing number of students embodied a cross-section of the society, diversity of customs, languages and origins. Despite differences, students of KUL very promptly made friends with one another. They studied at University where people were not afraid of speaking about God and jointly searched for truth. The KUL of the 40’s and 50’s was also a shelter to many young people with so-called ‘military biography’ who, for political reasons, were hiding from the security apparatus of an enslaved state.
Rector Rev. Słomkowski’s intention was the creation of university where departments would be chaired by distinguished scholars. Therefore, beside the former lecturers who survived the war, new excellent scholars were employed. The famous Lublin School of Philosophy was established at the Department of Philosophy. In the whole so-called ‘block of socialist countries’ only at our Catholic University it was possible to practise philosophy free of Marxist- Leninist ideology. Among the professors to whom we owe the above was Karol Wojtyła, the Bishop of Cracow, subsequently the Cardinal and Pope, Blessed John Paul II. He worked at KUL since 1954; in 1956 he became Head of the Chair and Unit of Ethics at the Department of Philosophy. He fulfilled his duties as lecturer until his election to the Holy See in 1978. The issues of freedom and human dignity, which also concerned students themselves in those hard times, were very frequently undertaken in Rev. Prof. Wojtyła’s teaching.
The process aiming to a gradual liquidation of University started since the end of the 40’s. In 1949 the authorities of People’s Republic of Poland began the closing of the Department of Law and Department of Social and Economic Sciences, followed by the closing of the Studies in Social and Economic Issues of the Countryside in the subsequent year. In 1953 pedagogical studies were liquidated and the Faculty of Humanities was rejected the right to conduct doctoral and postdoctoral programmes. Ten years later the process of liquidation of neo-philological sections was finally accomplished. At the same time, state authorities undertook actions aiming to reduce the number of students constantly increasing- authorities imposed very low limits on the number of students admitted to the first year of studies. Graduation from KUL usually resulted in the impossibility to find a job. Communist authorities rejected or postponed the issuance of the consent for employment of new employees; lecturers were refused to confirm the scientific degrees obtained; trips to foreign conferences were very difficult at that time. To complete the work of destruction, enormous income tax was imposed on University several times, thus increasing University’s debt. The state also took away Potulicka’s Foundation from KUL. These steps, however, did not reduce the public interest in the University. High level of lectures and unique atmosphere of true freedom invariably attracted the youth from all over the country. At that time the Friends of KUL Society played a vital role because its members associated both in the country and abroad generously supported and promoted the activities of University. KUL always had great support on the part of Polish, mostly Catholic, society. Among the defenders of the University one may not forget to mention Cardinal Stefan Wyszyński, Primate of the Millennium. Not only was he the graduate of the Faculty of Canon Law and Economic Sciences of KUL and Grand Chancellor of KUL between 1946 - 48, but he was also a devoted Friend and Advisor of our University.
After year 1970, during Father Mieczysław Albert Krąpiec, Rector of KUL’s term of office, many majors previously liquidated managed to be reactivated. In 1981 the Faculty of Social Sciences was created. University intensified contacts with several foreign universities, which resulted in numerous visits paid by scholars from many European and American universities and in the increase of opportunities for KUL employees to travel abroad. In recognition of KUL’s activity, numerous diplomats, ambassadors and consuls from many countries of Western Europe as well as the USA and Australia came to the annual ceremonies of the inauguration of each academic year. This recognition given to KUL by the authorities of the free world was an unambiguous gesture indicating that the suffering, renunciation and humiliation suffered in the years of Stalinist terror and at the time of the construction of ‘a socialist country’ were worth experiencing in order to live in conformity with the faith and conscience and to search for the truth.
16th October 1978 was an exceptional date because Cardinal Karol Wojtyła was elected Pope. In 1987 this most famous professor of the Catholic University of Lublin visited his Alma Mater, addressing the academic community with unique words remembered until today: “University! Serve the Truth!”.