To Kill a Dream
Polish American Bystander Fatally Shot in Street Violence in Houston

Adam S. Golunski

It was an ordinary Friday evening, August 21 1992. The school year had started three days earlier. Four Alief Elsik High School seniors were on their way to a beginning-of-the-year social gathering at the home of one of their school friends. They forgot how to get to his house, so they stopped the car at a Chevron gas station at the intersection of Dairy Ashford and Bissonnet. It was a few minutes after 8:00 PM.

Three boys left the car to telephone their friend. The fourth, Jarek Baranowski, did not get out of the car. He had worked hard during the day, during the whole summer in fact, and felt tired, so he used that time to relax. He lowered the back of the front passenger seat to make himself comfortable and dozed off.

After a while, his colleagues came back. They were about to back up the car when suddenly two black males appeared in front of the car and started to shoot. Jarek Baranowski was the only one injured. The driver took off and drove to the nearby house where one of the car passengers lived. They did not realize what had really happened. They were scared.

Jarek remained conscious and able to talk to the police and to the lady of the house, his friend's mother, who happened to be a nurse. An ambulance transported the injured and scared Jarek to the Trauma Unit at Ben Taub Hospital, where doctors tried to remove two .38 caliber bullets from his brain.

After the surgery, Jarek was placed in the Intensive Care Unit and began fighting for his life suported by medical technology and his family's and friends' prayers. It was Saturday morning, August 22.

In the evening of the same day, at the Our Lady of Czestochowa Polish parish on Blalock where Jarek's parents are parishioners, a Tenth Anniversary dinner took place. The Most Rev. Joseph Fiorenza, Bishop of Galveston-Houston, guest speaker, noted that the Polish parish was famous in the Diocese for not having any funerals so far.

Jarek spent the next five weeks unconscious on life support systems. On Tuesday, September 29, despite all the love, efforts and prayers with which he was surrounded, he died. Our Lady of Czestochowa parish had its first funeral.

Jarek's parents, Anna and Marian Baranowski, landed in this land of opportunity eleven years ago with two sons, Jarek, 7, and Tomek, 5, and high hopes for a new life. Young, talented, educated and brave, they worked hard and played by the rules. They gave their new homeland their best.

By the time their dreams began to materialize, they joyfully noticed that their sons, too, were headed for success. Jarek was about to graduate from high school and was thinking of becoming an anesthesiologist or perhaps a computer graphics specialist. He worked hard during the entire summer vacation to save some money for a college education.

The police apprehended one gunman; the second is still at large. The Polish American community of Houston paid its "blood tax" to the monster of growing lawlessness in our country.

Are we safe? Politicians, celebrities, rich people are well protected. But the working class and middle class, among them many millions of Polish ancestry, are on the front lines in the battle between the "law and order" part of society, and the small but powerful minority that does not want to play by the rules but wants to create rules of its own - the rules of the jungle.

Adam S. Golunski is a Polish American actor and playwright residing in Houston.

Return to April 1993 Issue
The Sarmatian Review
Last updated 04/17/97