Oberlehrer Jan Arnošt Hančka. Headmaster and Cantor in Purschwitz.

ČMS 1929:62-4. Obituary 108. 

Oberlehrer Jan Arnošt Hančka. Headmaster and Cantor in Purschwitz.

*11.9.1867 – †17.6.1928

Translated from Upper Sorbian by Gerald Stone on 11 October 2017 at the request of the Wendish Research Exchange.


Arnošt Hančka was born on 11 September 1867 in Guttau, where his father had a farm. His childhood years and the conditions in those times are beautifully described by him in year (volume) 15 of the children’s magazine ‘Raj’ (Paradise), of which he was an editor and diligent contributor. He was still young when his beloved mother died. He mentions several times there the lost kindness of motherly love, and the reader feels how that saddened his young soul. Having completed elementary school, Hančka prepared for the teaching profession with great success in the years 1883-8. At Easter 1888 he was appointed assistant in Neudorf an der Spree and in 1890 in Muschelwitz. In each of these places he had to take care as the only teacher of a two-class ‘Wendish-German’ school. There was at that time already such a shortage of Wendish teachers that the authorities had to fill these most difficult places, demanding a particularly experienced teacher, with the youngest Wendish teachers, whereas four-class ‘Wendish-German’ schools often had to make do with a German auxiliary teacher. After Hančka had passed the eligibility examination with great distinction, he was called as a state teacher to Baschütz. In the same year the Purschwitz parish chose him as first teacher and cantor, on the recommendation of Schulrat Dr Wild, who held him in particular esteem despite his youth. Here he worked enthusiastically until his death with great distinction and loyalty, and earned himself great love, trust, and honour. Everywhere Hančka had to help and give advice in public undertakings and societies, as well as in personal matters. He became the father of his parish, just as his bearing – already in his youth – had a paternal air.

Hančka married the daughter of his late predecessor as cantor Rotenburg. The marriage at first remained childless, so the couple finally decided to adopt a poor child as their own. The kindness shown to this outsider child, however, was soon rewarded with a little daughter, with whose birth the Hančkas’ family happiness was complete.

Hančka was in all respects an excellent man. In him an extremely kind, just, and pure soul was united with a sharp intellect and a firm will. Despite his great influence, success, and recognition, he was humble and meek. He was a true Christian in word and deed. For many years he was the representative of the Protestant parishes of the Bautzen-Kamenz region to the synod of the Landeskirche.

Hančka served Wendish schools especially by drawing up a plan of instruction for lessons in Wendish in elementary schools and composing the readers ‘Kwětki’ (Posies) and ‘Zahrodka’ (The Garden), for which he wrote many fine articles himself. Even before that he had written a little introduction to Wendish reading for children who had only learned to read German, for in many ‘Wendish-German’ schools an all-German first reader was in use. Later he helped to write and compile additions to Bartk’s first reader. He was vice-president of the pedagogical section of the Maćica Serbska and to this body, as well as to the Union of Wendish Teachers, he offered many interesting and attractive lectures, and he was of great service to them both in conversation with his erudition and experience. We never asked of him in vain for any work for Wendish schools.

Thus Hančka was a good, loyal son of his nation. Love and gratitude in rich measure were in evidence at his funeral. A kind, friendly, jolly, witty, amusing man, always ready to help, he had gained many friends, even outside his parish and the ranks of his professional brothers. Of course, the work asked of him everywhere overstrained his nerves and heart, so that he grew frail and began to tire easily. He soon returned from the health resort to which his doctor had sent him, having learned that his sickness was progressing and full of longing for Lusatia, his beloved homeland. The very next day, Sunday 17 June, just as his parishioners were preparing for the Sokoł festival, he fell asleep. The parish minister emphasized his importance for the parish, both school and church, and for the whole Wendish people. A representative of the Wendish Protestant clergy thanked him on behalf of the Wendish Protestant parishes. Representatives of many enterprises and societies expressed thanks and high regard for the dear departed. Wendish teachers under the direction of conductor Krawc sang him a fine farewell and the president of the Union of Wendish Teachers on behalf of his own organization and the Maćica Serbska expressed ardent thanks to their late friend and selfless countryman.

                                                            Marćin Kral-Zarěčanski


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