Divine Word Missionaries

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SVD Polish Martyrs
1999


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bullet Blessed Fr. Ludwik Mzyk SVD (1905-1940)
bullet Blessed Fr. Alojzy Liguda, SVD (1898-1942)
bullet Blessed Fr. Stanisław Kubista, SVD (1898-1940)
bullet Blessed Grzegorz Bolesław Frąckowiak, SVD (1911-1943)

Source: Błogosławieni męczennicy

Blessed Fr. Ludwik Mzyk SVD
(1905-1940)

Biographical note

r. Ludwik Mzyk came from a miner's family. His father, also Ludwik, was a foreman in the "President" coal-mine in Chorzow. His mother, Franciszka Hadasz, was a native of Bytkow near Katowice. Ludwik, the fifth of nine children, was born on April 22nd, 1905. His family was deeply religious. Ludwik was an altar-boy from his childhood and showed interest in religion and the Church. He discovered his missionary vocation during parish retreats run by a missionary from Nysa. He revealed his desire to his parents but they did not approve of it. His relatives supported him. Together with his eventually convinced parents they secured a place for Ludwik in the minor seminary of the Divine Word Missionaries at the Holy Cross House in Nysa. Fr. Namyslo, the parish priest, was most active in that matter.

Ludwik arrived in Nysa on September 13th, 1918. His father died when Ludwik was still in secondary school. In order to help his mother financially Ludwik, together with his brother, worked in a mine during his summer holidays. He joined the "Kwikborn" society, whose members neither smoked nor drank alcohol, and refrained from these all his life. He passed his final examinations and finished secondary school in 1926. After brief holidays he left Nysa and went to St.Augustin near Bonn, to join the novitiate and to prepare to take religious vows. He took them in 1928. Before the end of his studies in 1926, taking example from Grignon de Montfort, he dedicated himself fully to the Holy Mother of God. The document bearing witness to this he signed with his own blood.

When he finished his philosophy studies, his superiors, knowing his talents, sent him for theological studies to Rome. He was ordained to the priesthood there, on the solemnity of Christ the King, on October 30th, 1932. He said his first mass on the feast of All Saints in the chapel of the SVD Generalate in Rome. Fr. Mzyk completed his studies successfully defending his doctoral thesis in theology at the Gregorian University on February 5th, 1935. Awaiting the official documents confirming his degree in theology he went to St.Gabriel House in Mödling near Vienna where he helped the novice master. That was his training for the job he was to do in Poland.

He arrived in Chludowo near Poznan in summer 1935. The Divine Word Missionaries had bought a house there from Roman Dmowski, a famous Polish politician. The first novitiate of the Polish SVD province was opened there that year. Fr. Mzyk became the novice master. In order to do the job better he learned literary Polish. All his novices agreed: "We had the novice master who was a saint. He tried to make up for his lack of experience with his humility, kindness and diligence. The shining figure our Master was an embodiment of the true religious ascetism... he was a bit severe to the others, but he was much more severe towards himself. He marched towards holiness in the priesthood and missionary service unwaveringly and with full dedication. He was that kind of a man who exercised some sort of silent influence on his environment and left signs of his presence;... in the seminary he was not only our superior but also our example." His talks and sermons sank deep into students' minds. The original texts survived the war. They are written, however, in a short-hand form very difficult to decipher.

The novices entered his room without anxiety or fear but with great respect for him. His gentle voice was always welcoming: "Ave!" In his mouth it was not just a common invitation but a greeting for Mary, the Immaculate as well as for those who entered his room. His success as the master of the novitiate was recognized very soon and he was appointed as the rector of the novitiate.

When the war began almost all the inhabitants of the house were evacuated to eastern Poland. He himself stayed in the house. He welcomed with joy all those who returned after a couple of weeks. His calm positively influenced the young. The situation at the beginning of the occupation remained almost unchanged. The Nazis rarely visited the house. However, learning about forced displacement of the population and arrests the superiors thought about sending the novices back home. Unfortunately, there were problems with changing addresses already. Fr. Ludwik tried different ways in order to safeguard the future of the novices. He got in touch with the SVD in Austria, Germany and in Rome trying to find a place for them. He even proposed to move the novitiate to Bruczków where the novices could work on the farm to earn their living. However, traveling was banned. Gradually it became clear that although educated in Austria and Germany he did not know how to deal with the Germans as occupants. He made one serious mistake in his contacts with the Gestapo. Talking with one of the officers, and being unaware that he was a Gestapo-man, Fr. Mzyk said that he preferred to negotiate with the army than with the Gestapo, because he trusted the former more. That event had a decisive influence on his future. Using that conversation as a pretext the Gestapo arrested him on January 25th, 1940.

Martyrdom

The Gestapo carried mass arrests of priests in the surroundings of Poznań and Oborniki Wlkp. on January 25th, 1940. The inhabitants of the Chludowo house were gathered in the refectory together with the priests just brought there. Suddenly Fr. Mzyk, pale-faced but calm, came in and said: "I have to leave with them. They say I will come back. Meantime Fr. Chodzidło will be your temporary superior..." He wanted to add something else but someone pushed him brutally and he was taken away. One of the priests who returned later to Chludowo reported how cruelly Fr. Ludwik was treated during the loading of the truck in Poznan. He said: "Your Master is a true angel."

The day before Fr. Mzyk had been in Poznan to negotiate for the permission to send the novices home but he failed. After his arrest no one could obtain any precise information as far as his future was concerned. The Nazis always answered that he would go back after some things were clarified. They deluded Fr. Mzyk's family in a similar way. Since his relatives lived in Silesia, which was incorporated into the Reich, they really hoped to obtain his release. His brother Wilhelm wrote: "The interventions of the Church, my sisters and my own did not bring any results. Twice someone brought us his undergarment. It was blood-stained and there was a piece of paper hidden there with only one sentence: 'I am still alive. Help me if you can.'"

Blood accompanied Fr. Mzyk from the day of his arrest. In 'Soldier's House' - the Gestapo residence in Poznań - the Nazis tore his cassock down and beat him heavily. It was wintertime and they left him only in his torn shirt and trousers. A fellow-prisoner remembered that when Fr. Mzyk entered the cell in Fort VII in Poznań, one of the prisoners gave him an overcoat left behind by someone taken for execution.

The inhabitants of the Chludowo house learned about Fr. Mzyk's death only a few weeks after it happened. Even Fr. Wigge, sent by Fr. General to save the house in Chludowo and its its inhabitants, knew nothing. He suspected, however, that Fr. Mzyk was dead.

All the information about the martyrdom of Fr. Mzyk was taken from the reports of eye-witnesses, prisoners of Fort VII in Poznań. Frs. Sylwester Marciniak and Franciszek Olejniczak were imprisoned there together with Fr. Mzyk. The first one wrote: "I met Fr. Mzyk in the cell No.60 in Fort VII in Poznań on February 1st, 1940. There were 28 others in that cell with him, mostly students. They all starved... The guards entered the cell day and night and beat them without any reason. Fr. Mzyk fulfilled all orders scrupulously and warned everybody not to do things that were forbidden... It was evident that he prayed all the time... On Ash Wednesday, February 7th, all priests were gathered together in the cell No. 69, near the eastern gate... The daily order was the same as in other cells... but the guards took up any opportunity to persecute us.

Fr. Olejniczak liked discussions and the person of Jesus and the Holy Spirit were his favourite subjects. He always found a good debater in Fr. Mzyk. The latter also liked to talk about suitable reading for the youth...

The prison authorities kept a watchful eye on Fr. Mzyk. One day the commander, accompanied by another officer, inspected the cell. He asked each prisoner in turn for his name and a 'crime'. When it was Fr. Mzyk's turn the commander stopped and said: "Here you are, our enemy." When the officers were gone Fr. Ludwik explained that at the time of his arrest and during the interrogations he had given resolute responses... One day the guard Hoffmann called Fr. Ludwik out from the cell and beat him mercilessly in the corridor...

On February 20th, in the afternoon junior officer Dibus - I think he was the deputy commander - together with a driver, both drunk and behaving very nosily entered our cell. They beat Fr. Mzyk. The driver was especially brutal on the order from Dibus. That turned out to be Fr. Mzyk's last day. About 10.00 pm we heard the Ukrainians singing. That was a bad sign... Usually they started from their cell but they ordered them only to sing and then, they visited each cell beating and kicking prisoners, they shot through the keyholes... We heard crying and moaning nearer to us. Then, we heard the plates and spoons being thrown on the floor in our neighbours' cell and the singing "Closest to You, o Lord" (certainly they sang following orders) and we heard shooting. After a short moment of silence we heard the words: "Jetzt zu den Pfaffen". They opened the door to our cell but did not enter. They ordered all of us, except Fr. Olejniczak, to come out. There were a couple of them with Dibus in charge. Hoffmann was there too. We stood there in our socks and dressed (we slept fully clothed) in the main corridor facing the entrance to our cell. Dibus ordered Frs. Galka, Mzyk and myself to stay outside and the rest were sent back to the cell. They ordered us to run along a side corridor. When we were side by side Fr. Mzyk asked me to give him an absolution. When we reached the end of the corridor Fr. Galka and myself stopped at the bottom of the stairs that began there but Fr. Mzyk continued upstairs. We heard the roaring laughter of the guards from behind. They ordered us to stay downstairs. They caught Fr. Mzyk on the stairs and began to beat him since he 'tried to escape'. There was an awful confusion and I could hardly describe it. I remember very well that Frs. Galka and Mzyk moaned heavily. Even though I was not very near them at that moment I had an impression that they were brutally beaten. One look at Fr. Galka confirmed that - he was bleeding, covered with bruises, his shirt and trousers were torn to pieces. The beating continued for a long time but it is difficult to say whether it was fifteen minutes or half an hour. Meantime I was in the main corridor at the opposite side of our cell, that is to say near the eastern gate. It was to that gate that Dibus led Fr. Mzyk. I was ordered to turn and face the wall so I could not see what he looked liked. Dibus ordered Fr. Mzyk to stop at the gate and returned to a junior officer who stood near me to borrow bullets. Then, he approached Fr. Mzyk and shot him in the back of his head. When Fr. Ludwik fell he shot him the second time. They allowed Fr. Galka and myself to return to the cell. Half an hour later we heard the noises of Fr. Mzyk's body being dragged away.

After the killing of Fr. Mzyk we had a few days of peace. One of the prisoners, who worked as a sweeper in the commander's office, said that he had seen an official document from the Minister of Justice on the commander's desk forbidding the beating of clergy".

Fr. Olejniczak was blind but he heard everything. He gave another testimony: "Having chosen a victim Dibus used to beat him on the face and kick him mercilessly. One day during an inspection Fr. Ludwik was that victim. When the guards left I wanted to console him, so I approached him and began whispering something. He answered me: 'A disciple cannot be over his Master'. I stopped and asked for his blessing which he kindly gave me."

The confreres who survived the concentration camps wrote: "Our untimely departed Fr. Novice Master remained in the minds of those whom he trained. Everywhere - on Westerplatte or in the stone-queries of Gusen - he was the subject of our conversations. We chose him as a witness to our religious vows that we took in the camp. We invoked him at the beginning of the litany of our murdered confreres asking for help from heaven in our miserable camp life through his intercession".

Pope John Paul II beatified him on 13 June 1999 with a group of the 108 Martyrs of World War Two known also as 108 Blessed Polish Martyrs.


Blessed Fr. Alojzy Liguda, SVD
(1898 - 1942)

Biographical note

r. Alojzy Liguda, SVD was born on January 23rd, 1898 in Winów, a village in the region of Opole. He was the seventh child of Wojciech and Rozalia Przybyła. The atmosphere in the house was deeply religious and this influenced Alojzy. He learned prudence and a sense for thorough and quiet fulfillment of duties from his mother, and diligence together with an interest in the active parish life from his father who was an organizer and guide of the pilgrimages to Wambierzyce and to the sanctuary on Mount St.Anne.

Alojzy started primary school education when he was six. It was earlier than the other children usually started. He obtained very good grades at school. Educated in an atmosphere where everyone was a dedicated Christian he was seized with a desire to work in the service of the Church. He first learned about mission countries from religious magazines and became interested in China and Africa.

He was admitted to the minor seminary of the Divine Word Missionaries in Nysa at the age of fifteen. His studies were interrupted by the outbreak of the First World War. He was called up in 1917 and sent to the French front as a gunner. During the war he did not loose his religious spirit, firmly installed in him by his upbringing and seminary education. After the war he rejoined the seminary and finished his secondary education passing the final examinations in 1920. Then he entered the novitiate of the Divine Word Missionaries at St.Gabriel’s House in Mödling near Vienna. The first Silesian Insurrection broke out about that time. Alojzy took the event very seriously and suffered on its account, especially since he had first-hand reports in the letters from his father who was persecuted for supporting the Polish cause.

After the novitiate Alojzy was sent to Pieniezno for teacher’s training. He was appointed as a Latin and mathematics teacher in the minor seminary there. Then, he returned to St. Gabriel to complete his further education. Dogmatics and Church history were his favourite subjects, but he attained very good marks at the other subjects, too.

He was ordained to the priesthood on May 26th, 1927 at St.Gabriel’s and said his first mass at the Holy Cross Church in Opole. Traditionally masses in that particular church were also celebrated partly in Polish. He dreamt about missions in China or New Guinea but was appointed to the Polish Province instead. Alojzy accepted it joyfully and arrived in Poland in autumn 1928. He stayed at the Provincial House in Górna Grupa for a short period of time and was sent for further studies. The province needed highly qualified teachers. After validating his secondary education certificate he was accepted to the Polish Philology Faculty, University of Poznań. He finished his studies defending his thesis ”Gallus Anonymus, an intellectual and writer”. While in Poznań he also worked as a chaplain and religious education teacher at the Ursuline Sisters school for girls in Sporna Street. He tried to popularize Pope Pius XI’s encyclical About the Christian Education in his classes and sermons. When he was about to leave Poznań the sisters and students persuaded him to publish all that material. He did that in a small book called Audi filia „not only to remind them of their time at school but also to refresh the old ideals and reinvigorate them with religious thoughts”. The book was well received by the youth and pastors. Answering an insistent demand of his young readers and priests Fr. Liguda wrote another book of conferences and sermons called Go forward and higher. It was received with great approval. He wrote: "I am thankful to the Providence so much because God led me to see the world I could not even imagine I would ever be able to see - the world of child’s soul”. These two books contain Fr. Liguda’s deep reflections on the role of women and challenges facing them. They had been sparked by the words from the Scripture: Si scires donum Dei.

Fr. Liguda published also Bread and Salt, a book of homilies for each Sunday of the liturgical year. Fr. Alojzy’s personality was reflected in that book very vividly. Referring to Jesus’ words „I left my Father and I came down to earth” Fr. Liguda wrote: „I need only one thing - to remember His words and to strengthen myself by them. They will save me from sadness and defend me from all despair. I will keep my head high in spite of humiliations and failures. Yes, it is possible to ill-treat me, but it is impossible to humiliate me! Revolutions can erase all my diplomas and titles, but nobody can take God’s sonship away from me. I can rot in jail, or freeze to death in Solovki[1], but I will always repeat the most beautiful words Exivi a Patre, and God will always be my Father”. Later on, when he was in the concentration camp, that attitude became his source of optimism, joy, strength and hope. Even in the worst circumstances he felt he was God’s son.

After his arrival at Górna Grupa Fr. Liguda took up a job as Polish and history teacher in the lower forms of the minor seminary. He ministered as chaplain to the garrison in Grupa on Sundays. During school breaks and vacations he was busy organizing and conducting parish retreats or group retreats in the house in Górna Grupa.

Fr. Liguda was appointed the rector of the Górna Grupa house in June 1939. After the outbreak of the Second World War the Nazi invaders turned the house into an internment camp for about eighty priests and seminarians brought there on October 28th, 1939 from the dioceses of Chełmno, Włocławek and Gniezno. In his book Klechy w obozach Fr. Malak wrote: „Fr. Rector Liguda welcomed us. His robust figure, clothed in a cassock, moved courageously and resolutely among the Blackshirts. That gave us courage. In the following days he always cheered us up with his great friendliness and a good sense of humor. Everybody liked to see him because he was like a prophet. He warmed us like the sun. He passed through the room like an angel of peace with a good word at his lips”.

People expected that the priests would be released. Meantime, on November 11th, 1939 fifteen priests and two seminarians from the diocese of Włocławek were taken away. Fr. Liguda’s mediation to keep them in Górna Grupa was fruitless. They were taken to a forest on the nearby military exercise ground and shot. Fr. Liguda tried to console the distressed priests who stayed in the house and give them a new hope. But he himself was fully aware how dangerous the situation was. A picture which he sent to his family for Christmas that year was very significant - Christ taking up his cross followed by priests doing the same.

Martyrdom

The internees were taken away to Nowy Port in Gdansk, a branch of the Stutthof concentration camp on February 5th, 1940. In a situation darkened by starvation, hard work and beating Fr. Liguda soon became ‘a good angel’. Fr. Liguda contributed a lot to organizing a secret celebration of Holy Mass on Maundy Thursday. The Holy Communion received during that Mass became a viaticum for many prisoners.

Fr. Liguda together with a group of prisoners was moved to a camp in Grenzdorf, and then to Sachsenhausen via Stutthof in the first days of April 1940. The prisoners were unanimous in their opinion that they exchanged purgatory for hell. Fr. Liguda was more fortunate than the others. Because of his excellent knowledge of German he was appointed for the room service and to teach German. One of his students described a lesson in the following words: „It began by Fr. Liguda setting a look-out at the windows so that we could be warned about approaching SS-men. Then, he would tell us funny stories - he knew millions of them - or report something he learnt himself, or one of the priests would share his knowledge with us. However, Fr. Liguda was not immune to being tortured by the camp authorities. I remember well how he trembled after having received ten blows of an iron-bar for stopping for a while during work.”

There was a moment when it seemed that Fr. Liguda would be released. He was called to the doctor. Quite often that was a sign of coming freedom. He was taken to the Dachau concentration camp instead on December 14th, 1940. They gave him the camp-number 22 604. It was discovered after the war that Fr. Liguda could really have been released from the camp. The SVD Superior General tried to secure his release through the nunciature in Berlin. His family also tried hard to get him out of the camp. Answering these requests the Gestapo made the following statement: „Fr. Liguda declared that he was Polish and in future he would like to work in Poland.” They added that as a Polish intellectual he had to be insulated from the society for the time of the war. In spite of that there were some strong points favouring his release: his family had German citizenship, he himself was a soldier in the German army, his brothers, soldiers in the same army, were killed during the First World War. In addition, the protestant pastor from Górna Grupa stood up in Fr. Liguda’s defense reminding that Fr. Alojzy had saved him, his family and a protestant deaconess from the anger of the local people after the German invasion of Poland. Earlier, that same pastor saved Fr. Liguda’s life when he might have been executed as a hostage. Fr. Liguda did not want to change his deep convictions even for the price of freedom.

Various methods of oppressing the prisoners were practiced in Dachau. Limitless marching and singing songs was one of them. Fr. Liguda had sometimes to lead these marches. Witnesses said that in such situations he knew how to find a spot where they could not be seen by trusties for some time. He pretended to explain the text of a song, or to practice it but used that occasion to tell jokes to cheer up the prisoners.

An epidemic of itching broke out in January 1941. All those affected were gathered in one barrack. That meant that about one thousand prisoners were cramped together in a place designed for four hundred. They wore only thin undergarment, lied on straw mattresses and covered themselves with blankets. It was freezing outside but the windows had to be open all day long. Starvation was killing the sick, too. Fr. Liguda tried to dispel that awful hopelessness by his stories - „he did not give in to despair”. Everyday hundreds of dead were taken away but he strived to encourage hope in the rest. He returned to his own block and was assigned to a transportation group. Rogler, one of the cruelest foremen, was his direct superior. Rogler always gave the hardest jobs to his group and did not tolerate any break. Fr. Liguda’s strength, weakened by the ‘anti-itch therapy’, began to deteriorate visibly.

One day a Russian prisoner smoked a cigarette at work. That was considered a big crime. A witness described what followed: ”Rogler appeared out of the blue. The cigarette was stubbed out already but one could still smell smoke. ‘Who smoked?’, Rogler asked Fr. Liguda. The intensity of the moment was incredible. To say ”It was not me” meant betraying others. Fr. Alojzy took the blame on himself. ”I did”, he answered. Furious foreman took him to his room. Swollen face and a bruise under his left eye were the proof of the punishment. The tired torturer checked Fr. Liguda’s clothes. ”Where are your cigarettes?”, he asked. ”I do not have any”, Fr. Liguda answered. ”You are a priest, you scum, and you lie? You have confessed your guilt already”. ”I smoked but not today.”, Fr. Liguda answered. The tortures stopped when the guilty one eventually confessed but Rogler remembered Fr. Liguda very well because of that incident.

As a result of ill-treatment and earlier weakening of the body Fr. Liguda showed the symptoms of tuberculosis. He was taken to hospital. The conditions were much better there. He could receive parcels from his family. In effect he recovered quite quickly. Unfortunately, he was labeled as a disabled person, which in the camp equaled a death sentence. He was aware of that. His letter written a month before his death can bear witness to that: ”My Mother will be eighty four soon. I wish her long life. I would not like her to know that she outlived her youngest son. It would be a tragedy for her. Personally I think that I will return home. It is possible, however, that Providence will lead me through many dangers in order to enrich me spiritually...”

He told a camp’s scribe: ”If you hear about my death you should know that they killed a healthy man”. In an account given by one of the hospital attendants the whole group of ten people was brutally drowned. A convincing message was passed from ear to ear in the camp that due to a cruel intervention of the block-man from No. 29 strips of skin were cut out of Fr. Liguda’s body before he was drowned. It might have been a revenge of that foreman because Fr. Liguda reprimanded him on several occasions for unjust distribution of food and for harming patients. Angered, the foreman put Fr. Liguda on the disabled list. Fr. Liguda could have died a horrible death because the foreman of the sick-room, who took part in the execution, told his friends later that he would not ever like to do such things again.

Fr. Alojzy Liguda, an earnest devotee of the Immaculate Conception died on the night of December 8th, 1942, the very feast of Our Lady. His mother received the following notification of his death: „Your son, Alojzy Liguda, born 23rd January, 1898, died of tuberculosis in our hospital on December 8th, 1942.” They lied to his old mother since the cause of her son’s death was not a disease but human cruelty.

His fellow-prisoners remembered him as a man of God. ”He helped the other priests very much during his work in the room-service especially those in need, weak and old... he cared for us.... he was a saint...” He was a true apostle of humor and optimism. One day he wrote: ”We do our duty as the citizens of the present day.” He tried to fulfil his pastoral duty even towards those who persecuted him. He did not avoid provocative discussions with atheists, communists and foremen, and even with the commander himself picking up their ‘biblical disputes’ which mocked religion and priesthood. ”He closed the mouth of many atheists simply by his higher spiritual and intellectual level and by his morals which were beyond reproach. Of course, getting rid of him became a matter of honour. He had something that made him our leader; the priests were seeking his friendship. Fr. Liguda really led us in Dachau... He was a saint! For me he was simply the sign of security. He was like a fortress, always calm, self-assured, and always joyful, with a shadow of a smile on his face... The Nazis beat him the same as us - because he was scum, just like we were, but on the other hand they respected him. When he spoke with them it was always to the point and he never used us to achieve his own interests. When he became the one responsible for our room-service and distributed bread our big eyes of the starved could see that he was honest in distribution; a real God's priest. Through all these years in the concentration camp we were not always together, but befriended him and he became a moral support for me. He was always like a father. He was a saint. One day during the evening roll-call I heard his number among those to be taken away in the morning transport. That evening I paid him a visit. I cried telling him good-bye and he stood before me silent, joyful, looking as if coming from another reality and repeating ‘God knows everything’.”

Pope John Paul II beatified him on 13 June 1999 with a group of the 108 Martyrs of World War Two known also as 108 Blessed Polish Martyrs.


[1] Solovki - a Russian concentration camp on the isle of Solovki above the Polar Circle; set up about 1920 in a former Orthodox monastery became a place of incarceration for many political prisoners. [Translator’s footnote].


Blessed Fr. Stanisław Kubista SVD
(1898 - 1940)

Biographical note

Stanisław Kubista was born on 27th September 1898 in Kostuchna near Mikołów, in the present diocese of Katowice. His father, also Stanisław, was a forester. He was a man of deep piety, prudence and calm. His mother, Franciszka Czempska, a woman of particular diligence and devotion, was fully dedicated to bringing up her six sons and three daughters. Stanislaw was the fifth child in the family and in terms of character he took after his parents. Gertruda, the youngest daughter (b. 1910), is still alive. The deeply religious atmosphere at the Kubistas resulted in providing vocations. Anna, the eldest daughter, joined a monastery in Vienna, where she died in 1918. The Kubistas had a particular devotion to Our Lady of the Rosary and they prayed one part of the rosary every day. Stanisław liked to decorate the home altar.

Stanisław attended a German school but he read books in Polish at home and deepened what he had learned at school working on it at home in Polish. He got acquainted with the missionary idea quite early. An SVD brother from Nysa propagating missionary books and pamphlets, also in Polish, was a frequent guest at his family home. Father Michatz, a curate from Mikołów noticed Stanislaw's interest in missions. When the boy completed his primary education the curate arranged his admission into the Minor Missionary Seminary of the Society of the Divine Word in Nysa. Paweł Martela, Stanisław's closest cousin, lived there already as Br. Solomon. Unfortunately, he died during the First World War.

Stanisław could not finish his studies undisturbed. He was called up in the end of May 1917, trained as a telephone and radiotelegraph operator, and sent to the French front. He stayed there till the armistice and withdrawal of the German troops. Then, he was stationed at the garrison in Szczecin and demobilized from there in1919. He went to visit his family. They were grateful to God for seeing him again, the more that his elder brother did not come back. He was killed on the Belgian front in 1914.

Stanislaw resumed his studies in Nysa. In 1920 he successfully passed the examinations accomplishing his secondary education... Three months later he joined the novitiate of the Society of the Divine Word in St. Gabriel's House in Mödling, near Vienna. He took his first religious vows one year later. Completing his two years of philosophical studies and four years of theology he was admitted to the perpetual vows which he took on 29th September 1926.

In the opinions of his teachers he was: a little melancholic, silent and modest; embodiment of calm; slightly reserved; worked with calm and a sense for final goal; observant of the rules; supporter of order, open-hearted; ... tormented a bit by nationalism...; accurate in each kind of work; reliable. His confreres had no hesitations in recommending him for final vows. As far as his education was concerned his marks were within the range from good to very good. His teachers noted that he had a talent for writing, also in Polish, and that he could be a good teacher. He was ordained a sub-deacon on 17th October, a deacon on 19th December 1926, and finally a priest on 26 May 1927. He was 29, then.

His response to the question on his personal interests posed by his superiors went as follows: Literature and challenges in writing books. I long for the missionary and pastoral work. I do not feel inclined towards teaching. As far as missions are concerned I thought about Honan, Kansu, the Philippines and New Guinea. My health is in excellent condition.

While still a student, he wrote to the Polish papers from time to time. His articles passed through Fathers Szajca and Drobny.

In autumn 1928 he was assigned to the house in Górna Grupa. Bidding him farewell his mother told him: "My son, be faithful to what you have chosen." He remained faithful until death. The superiors wanted to see him in action and appointed him as the administrator of the house. There were about 300 people there - brothers, priests, students of the minor seminary, postulants and novices. He was put in charge of the regional procure the next year and the Generalate received a note saying: "the economy of the house remains in good hands..."

Besides the posts of the administrator of the house and regional procurator Fr. Kubista accepted the job of editor-in-chief of a periodical called "A Little Missionary" in autumn 1929. After the departure of Fr. Drapiewski Fr. Kubista was appointed rector of the house in Bruczków. He had participated in editing "A Little Missionary's Calendar" and „Family Treasure" since 1933. He founded another periodical "St. Joseph's Herald" in 1937. It was published temporarily along with "Family Treasure". Under his management the number of readers increased significantly. Fr. Kubista wrote articles for all these periodicals. His articles had deep theological and practical dimensions. He wrote a kind of meditations which showed the depth of his soul and his practical approach to many issues for the "Family Treasure". He was also an author of several short stories and novels: "A Story from the African Bush", "Queen Matamba", "Birgid", "In Darkness and in Light". He summarized the programme of his work in one sentence: "Our endeavours through all these years aimed at collaboration with Jesus in saving souls" ("A Little Missionary" 1937 p. 94). He also wrote a drama "Cross and Sun" which told the story of the Peruvian Inkas. That drama was put on stage in many towns and villages before 1940 and in many seminaries after the war.

Fr. Kubista had a deep devotion to St. Joseph and commended his works to the Saint's gracious intercession. He even dedicated his new periodical to him. Fr. Kubista attributed the successful construction of the printing-press building and purchase of the necessary machines to St. Joseph's help. Trusting in that help he embarked upon enlargement of the main house in spite of the lack of sufficient funds.

The Second World War caught Fr. Kubista at the height of his work. The first conflict with the Gestapo took place after the official ban on paying the Poles outstanding money. Fr. Kubista wanted to pay a few hundred zloty to a poor widow. When he looked deeply into the Gestapo official's eyes the latter was thrown into confusion and seemed to have been dumbfounded by the power from above. According to witnesses Fr. Kubista attributed it to St.Joseph's help. Those days Fr. Stanislaw saw the destruction of his cherished printing-press and the confiscation of the provisions he had gathered for the community to survive winter.

The situation worsened after October 27th, 1939. That day all priests and brothers, 64 in number, were arrested and the house was turned into an internment camp. As out of sheer irony, it happened on the solemnity of Christ the King. In the following days the Gestapo sent there eighty religious and diocesan clergy and seminarians from the area. The farm, the land and the livestock were confiscated leaving the occupants of the camp without means for survival. Fr. Stanisław, as the rector of the house, again commended the problem to St.Joseph's intercession and the solution was eventually found. The Gestapo agreed to carry food and fuel from the parishes of the imprisoned priests.

Martyrdom

With that help the internees survived till February 5th, 1940. That day, in the bleak midwinter with the temperature 28 degrees below zero, all of them were taken by three trucks to Nowy Port, a branch of the Stutthof concentration camp. There, the prisoners suffered from appalling sanitarian conditions, cold, starvation, heavy work and inhuman treatment. They had only one consolation in those days. On March 21st, 1940, which was Maundy Thursday, they succeeded in celebrating Eucharist and received Holy Communion. It was done in secret. Fr. Alojzy Liguda, the rector of Górna Grupa, was one of the participants. That Communion turned out to be the viaticum for Fr. Kubista. We can hardly imagine what he felt like that time and how he managed to keep up his faithfulness to the Lord.

About that time Fr. Stanisław, who was always well, became weak and got ill. Suffering from hypothermia his organism could not absorb the camp food but there was nothing else to eat. The policy of deliberate extermination of the clergy was that time in full swing. Fr. Kubista had to work just like the other prisoners. They had to senselessly reshuffle snow from one place to another. Since Fr. Kubista was a sensitive man his suffering was double.

On April 9th, 1940 the prisoners were ordered to board a freight train and were taken to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. Fr. Kubista's flu turned into pneumonia. Despite his illness he still had to work just as much as the others. Eventually he became so weak that his neighbours had to literally carry him to the appeal ground. He persevered with calm placing his trust in God. The trusty marked him as a candidate for death and ordered to leave Fr. Kubista in the toilets to die. Fr. Stanisław stayed there for three nights. A witness, Fr. Dominik Józef SVD, described the last moments of Fr. Stanislaw is that way: "In the evening I tried to prepare him a kind of bed. I bound him in a blanket but I had no pillow and no linen. He was thankful, as always and whispered: 'It is near. I am very weak. My God, I wish I could be in Górna Grupa... but He had different plans. Thy will be done!' I secretly listened to his confession. On April 26th, 1940 when we came back after a roll-call we laid him down on the hard floor near a wall. He laid there as if in a grave. We had to stand at attention. The block-man, that is the man in charge of our barrack, entered unexpectedly. He was a German prisoner... a simple criminal... how many human beings he sent to the other world! To the tortures that were practiced regularly he added his own cruelty. He displayed his particular hatred towards certain kinds of people excessively in words and actions. Priests belonged to that category of people. He did not omit any occasion to torment them. At that moment he gave us his bestial look and glanced at Fr. Kubista with a satanic joy. He approached him and said: 'You have nothing to live for!' Then he phlegmatically stepped on Fr. Kubista's chest with one foot and put the other on his throat. Pressing heavily he broke his collar bones. A short hoarse sound and convulsions completed the martyr's life."

Pope John Paul II beatified him on 13 June 1999 with a group of the 108 Martyrs of World War Two known also as 108 Blessed Polish Martyrs.


Blessed Grzegorz Bolesław Frąckowiak, SVD (1911-1943)

Biographical note

rother Grzegorz Bolesław Frąckowiak was born on July 18th, 1911 in Łowęcice, near Jarocin (the region of Wielkopolska). His parents, Andrzej and Zofia Plończak, owners of an average size farm, had nine sons and three daughters. Two of their children died in infancy. Boleslaw was the eighth child in the family. He was baptized in the parish church of Cerekwica and later went to school in Wojciechowo. He did not want to learn in the German language. In a Polish school he made more progress. Instead of helping his parents at home Bolek preferred to play performing divine services, saying masses, preaching, etc. His parents did not find him a much helping hand on the farm. As an altar boy, however, he was perfect and soon became the right hand of the parish priest. Growing older he began feeling ashamed to assist at mass with the minor altar-boys, but willingly replaced those absent. Usually he went to confession and received Holy Communion once a month. Still a child he used to mould little crosses and figures of saints in clay and give them to his friends as gifts. On Sundays and feast days before lunch his father had a custom to question the boys about the topic of the sermon the priest preached that day. He never asked Bolek since he was always ready to preach himself. After school Bolek used to visit Bruczków situated nearby where Ms. Wanda Koczorowska ran an orphanage. That house was donated by her to the Divine Word Missionaries in 1927. Bolek's parents, following the advice of Fr. Poczta, wanted to enrol him in the Minor Seminary. Unfortunately, the poor level of education in the primary school Bolek had attended did not give him a basis good enough for study at the seminary. Besides, the curriculum of the seminary education was meant to meet the needs of older boys. The seminary authorities advised Bolesław to pursue his vocation as a missionary brother. He took their advice and was admitted to Górna Grupa, near Grudziądz, where the Divine Word Missionaries had their postulancy and the novitiate for religious brothers.

Having completed one year of his postulancy Bolesław received his new name: Grzegorz together with his religious habit. It was on September 8th, 1930. He was the most zealous novice and after two years he took his first temporary vows. He worked in the printing press. He learned bookbinding there and soon became the principal bookbinder in the seminary. He worked diligently. He also taught some of the students how to bind books and frame paintings. People remembered him smiling and being always very helpful. He liked to be a helping hand in the sacristy, especially in decorating altars.

Bolek also worked willingly in the kitchen and in the reception where he took particular care of the poor. He used to say that the coming of the poor to the house was the coming of Jesus himself, so they should be received with love. We have his notebooks from that period. He noted prayers and spiritual exercises in them. The latter were called: "Daily Spiritual Exercises" and "Spiritual Exercises". They contain prayers of various authors, but also composed by Bolek himself, directed to the Immaculate Mother of God and to St.Joseph. Bolesław was particularly conscientious in saying so-called "quarterly prayers". The beginning of these prayers "Oh, God, I believe in you." was a genuine expression of his personal faith. Thanks to his natural kindness Bolesław won the esteem of all the members of the house, especially of the students. Br. Grzegorz awaited with joy the day of his perpetual vows because, as he said, "By this act not only in the depth of my heart but also formally I will be fully a member of the Society and I will be dedicated to its ideals". He took his perpetual vows on September 8th, 1938. Before that celebration, Fr. Jan Giczel, the novice master, described Bolek as a "faultless monk".

The beginning of the Second World War was a painful experience for him, as for many others. He became a bit more silent and reserved. He consoled himself with a thought that everything was in the hands of God. He tried to assure himself and the others with that thought even on that fateful solemnity of Christ the King when the Gestapo organized an internment camp in the house for all priests of the region and for the members of the SVD community. Religious brothers were eventually released from the camp but Bolesław remained there to help the internees. In February 1940, when all the priests were sent to the concentration camp Br. Grzegorz left Górna Grupa. At first he went to his brother's house in Poznań. However, there was no possibility to register him there as a resident and he had to leave the city. He went to Łowęcice, his birth place. There he started his underground work. Being in touch with Fr. Giczela, SVD, who was the parish priest in Rusko, and collaborating with his own parish priest Br. Grzegorz taught children religion twice a week and prepared some of them for their First Communion. He was also involved in visiting the sick and the elderly. After the Gestapo arrested Fr. Giczela on October 7th, 1941, Br. Grzegorz took care of the profaned Blessed Sacrament which the Gestapo scattered from the cyborium and left on the table. Br. Grzegorz collected the hosts and kept them in the organist's flat where he stayed himself. That same afternoon and during the whole night a small group of believers kept a vigil adorating Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. In the morning Br. Grzegorz distributed the Holy Communion leaving some hosts away for the sick and elderly parishioners. He also baptized a few children in the coming days. The people remembered well his piety and dedication in performing these noble celebrations.

Martyrdom

When the German officials in Jarocin took notice that Br. Grzegorz was a bookbinder, they ordered him to take up a job in the printing-press. Willing to keep the spirits of his compatriots up, he started to collaborate in printing an underground newspaper called "For you, Poland". Eventually the Gestapo found out about that secret editorial activity. The arrests of those involved followed. That time Br. Grzegorz had not been a member of the group for about a year. He had talked to Fr. Kiczka, SVD, about his involvement, and the latter advised him to stay away from the whole affair. Fr. Kiczka wrote later about Br. Grzegorz: "He could simply disappear but he did not want to. He asked me whether he could offer himself up for the arrested in Jarocin, though he had nothing to do with the illegal leaflets for a year. I told him that if he felt strong enough to do it would be a heroic act. After confession and Holy Communion he went away. The next day he was in prison where he asked all the arrested to shift the guilt on him. Apparently it worked since some of them were later released. The Nazis had already 'a thief' to torture..." He was taken away with others from the Jarocin prison to the Fort VII in Poznań. His brother wrote: "I took a parcel for Grzegorz and he also sent me one through the guards. It contained his broken watch, the rosary torn to pieces, torn and blood-stained jacket, too much blood..., an old shirt, also blood-stained. I took parcels to him twice, the third time they did not accept it telling me that he had been away". Br. Grzegorz's brother also remembered hearing from Grzegorz: "I hope our uncle (Wincenty) is at home. Let him be careful since he has been likewise implicated in this affair. I took the blame on myself. I do not care if I am killed. I am alone. He has got wife and children." Br. Grzegorz denounced nobody defending in that way his own brother and the others. He gave only two names of persons he knew they had already confessed themselves.

The way of his martyrdom led through Jarocin, Środa, and Fort VII in Poznan, where he was kept till the end of the year. Dresden was his final stop. His fellow-prisoners (Walenty and Antoni Kaczmarek) remembered Br. Grzegorz leading common prayers of the rosary, litanies and others.

At first the Nazis treated him just like one of the other prisoners. However, when they discovered a holy medal sewn up in his hat, they found out his connections with the clergy and began to treat him with cruelty. He did not defend himself remaining calm and patient. They were taking him to the barracks in Poznan and interrogated and tortured him there several times. The Nazis questioned him mainly about the leaflets. Getting no answers they beat him mercilessly. His connection with the clergy was another reason for their cruelty.

Transferred to a Dresden prison Br. Grzegorz was sentenced to death there. He was decapitated on May 5th, 1943. A couple of hours before his death Bolek wrote a letter to his family. It is worth quoting: "I write this letter to you, my dearest, for the last time in this worthless life and in this valley of tears. When you receive it I will be dead because today on Wednesday, May 5th, 1943 at 6.15 p.m. I will be decapitated. Say "Eternal rest" in my intention, please. I will depart in five hours but you do not cry but pray for my soul and for the souls of our beloved. I am going to greet the Father and all my relatives. I am not sure whether you should tell our Mother that I was decapitated or simply that I died. Do what you think is right. I can tell you that my conscience is clear... I greet you all and will wait for you at our Father's house. I greet all brothers in Bruczków and all my friends. God bless you. Be good Catholics. Forgive me everything, please. I am very sorry for my beloved old Mother. God be with you. See you in heaven. Please, give my cassock back to Bruczków after the war."

In the memory of the old priests and religious brothers Br. Grzegorz remained a wonderful man, an excellent Divine Word missionary who possessed the greatest love - ready to give up his life for his neighbours.

Pope John Paul II beatified him on 13 June 1999 with a group of the 108 Martyrs of World War Two known also as 108 Blessed Polish Martyrs.