FF orty kilometers (24 miles) south-west of Warsaw, Poland, lies the commuter town of Podkowa Leśna. This small city is surrounded by forest on three sides from the east, south, and north. Since 1959, it has been home to the Polish College of Theology and Humanities (PCTH), and, more recently, the School of Foreign Languages – the only Adventist school in a country of 38 million people.
“For decades Adventist parents have dreamt about the possibility of being able to send their child to an Adventist school,” says Dorothy Porowski-Orzechowska the first director of the thriving grades 1-3 “Son-light” Kindergarten, located on the college campus since 2015. With the current enrollment of 10 Adventist children, and 5 from the wider Podkowa Leśna community, the pre-school started out as a center teaching the English language, but in 2018 widened the curriculum. The kindergarten is currently at maximum capacity and has a waiting list for families who regularly express interest in attending.
Even at an early age, “Adventist education is a combination of the development of social, emotional, intellectual, physical and spiritual capabilities of each child,” says Mirosława Grześkowiak, the current kindergarten director and a champion of Adventist education. Such values are also shared by the local Podkowa Leśna congregation. Already committed to supporting Adventist education at the tertiary level, in 2014 they determined to find a way to start a primary school. They recognized the challenge, “Where do we send our children once they’ve outgrown kindergarten, and what will they be taught?”
“From the beginning, I felt that starting a kindergarten, and now a primary school, was a step in the right direction. They are not focused on financial profits only, but on human contact with other people. We took a risk, we entered the ‘Jordan River’ with confidence in God’s help in this matter, and now we can see the positive result,” says Anna Słonecka-Połok, the rector of PCTH.
As a result of collaboration between the Polish Union Conference, the college (PCTH), ASI Poland, and the Trans-European Division (TED), a primary school teacher is to be employed starting in December of the current school year for children grades 4-8. Initially, the new primary school will be located on the college campus.
“For the Seventh-day Adventist church in Poland this is a historic moment raising our mission potential to a new level”, says Pastor Ryszard Jankowski, Polish Union President. “This is the first Adventist primary school in the fifth most populous member state of the European Union, building on our commitment to Adventist education in Poland, which began first with our college, then the kindergarten, and now a primary school. We could see God’s leading in this project and only by His guidance were we able to see our dreams become reality,” Jankowski concludes.
With both an Adventist kindergarten and primary school in Podkowa Leśna, what difference will it make to the mission of the church? “Son-light” Kindergarten has an ever-growing waiting list of children wanting to attend, evidence enough that the education offered is attractive for local families. For Agata Rubak, kindergarten teacher, this is all about mission: “We pray for every child that comes to us and for the whole family. Building warm and friendly relationships with both children and their parents provides an open door to share Christ.”
Perhaps most excited of all about the opening of the new school, are seven primary-school-aged children currently learning in a ‘home education group’. Come December they will be in a new class with a new teacher and a new adventure. By the next academic year, their class size is expected to double. “During my visits to PCTH campus since 2015, it has been inspiring to see the enthusiasm and commitment of teachers and the joy in the eyes of children. This is a new dawn for Adventist education in Poland and we celebrate with them,” says Daniel Duda, TED Education director. “We pray not only that the school grows from strength to strength in Christ but for each child as well.”