Raising a Martyr (Part 3)

Interview With the Mother of Polish Blessed Jerzy Popiełuszko

Rome, (Zenit.org) | 1393 hits

Here is the third part of an interview with Marianna Popiełuszko, the mother of Blessed Jerzy Popiełuszko. She was interviewed (in Polish) by Włodzimierz Redzioch. ZENIT is publishing a translation of the interview in parts. Part 1 and Part 2 were published Tuesday and Wednesday. The final part, Part 4, will run Friday.

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In the same year something improbable happened – Cardinal Karol Wojtyła was elected pope…

It was difficult for me to believe it, that the Pole had become Pope. Just after that, I went to the church in order to participate in the thanksgiving Holy Mass. It did not come to my mind that one day I would meet him personally and I would talk to him.

Whereas, in March 1979, you received a sad message: Father Jerzy had bad anemia and had gone to the hospital, the Institute of Hematology…

I was very worried then, but I could only pray for him. However, I was glad when, after being released from hospital, he came home on holiday. Then I could enjoy his visit home and feed him better. However, I did not like his departures; tears filled my eyes, because I never knew when I would see him again.

In 1979 John Paul II visited Poland for the first time. Was Father Jerzy engaged in preparing for the papal visit?

He told me that, as a chaplain for doctors and nurses, he was asked to organize medical help during the pilgrimage.

The next year was a special year in the history of Poland. Let me cite historical facts, which had in influence on the life of every Pole, including Father Jerzy. On 1 July 1980, the communist authorities raised the prices of food, which caused a wave of strikes. There were strikes among railway men, shipyard workers in Gdańsk and Szczecin, as well as blue-collar workers in Warsaw. Could you tell us about the activity of Father Jerzy in that dramatic period of our history?

At that time, Father Jerzy was residing at the church of St. Stanisław Kostka on Żoliborz. He was very worried when protests of workers started. When workers of the steelworks Warsaw went on strike, he went to the steelworks in order to celebrate Holy Mass, which was the beginning of his pastoral work among the strikers. Later he visited other groups of strikers: students of the Medical Academy and the High Fire School, but he did nothing more than fulfilling his duty as a priest. Especially he did not do anything without informing his parish priest, Fr. Teofil Bogucki who was for him like a father.

At that time the fate of every Pole was inseparably connected with the historical event which was the establishment of the first independent labor union in the communist bloc ‘Solidarność’ on 17 September 1980, later stifled after introducing martial law on 13 December 1981 by Gen. Jaruzelski. Were you worried about your son?

I knew that Father Jerzy was not safe in Warsaw, so I prayed more.

People used to say that on Christmas, Father Jerzy gave away food to soldiers who were stationing in front of the parsonage and encouraged people to give warm meals to soldiers…

I taught him how to be good to everybody. He wanted to overcome evil through good and he could not behave in any other way.

Father Jerzy helped the persecuted and their families a lot. He also went to the court for judicial trials of the activists of ‘Solidarność’…

He helped as much as he could and whom he could. Every time, when I visited him at his house, there were always a lot of people. I could never talk to him calmly and I was worried about him more and more, but I knew that God had a plan for him and would guard him.

During martial law, Father Jerzy became famous for the so-called Holy Masses for the Homeland. Did you take part in these Holy Masses?

Holy Masses for the Homeland were initiated by a parish priest, Bogucki, whereas he started celebrating them on 17 January 1982. They were attended by a lot of people; the church was not big enough. Thousands of believers stood outside. I went for such a Holy Mass with my son Józef only once. When Father Jerzy saw me in Warsaw, he got worried because it was a dangerous time, but later he was glad of our visits. I listened to the Holy Mass for Homeland on radio Free Europe. I listened to my son’s words on the radio and I was happy. I was happy because I knew that a lot of people experienced conversion during these Holy Masses.

All people understood his sermons, both blue-collar workers and professors. What kind of sermons were they?

Father Jerzy prepared himself for Holy Masses very well. I was given his notes to read, which he had prepared before preaching every sermon. They included a lot of quotations of Primate Wyszyński and John Paul II.

Did your son come home during the martial law?

He rarely visited home, but I understood it. Especially that at that time he was being persecuted.

Did you speak about your problems, about the fact that he was being harassed, that there were attempts to assassinate him, that he was constantly being bullied or tapped?

He did not want to worry me, so he was trying to speak only about what was good.

On 14 May 1983, militia attacked a 19-year-old Grzegorz Przemyk, son of an opposition poet Barbara Sadowska. Your son was one of the organizers of his funeral, which was attended by 60,000 people…

Father Jerzy told me about this funeral. My heart ached with grief, when I was looking at a photo of my son, who was supporting the murdered boy’s distraught mother. I was really sorry for her.

Security Services had your son as their target more and more. In order to accuse and discredit him, they also went for provocation in his relative’s flat left for him in a will….

We had a cousin in the States who wanted to return to Poland for her old age. However, she could not buy a flat officially, because she had American citizenship. So, Father Jerzy bought the flat and it was under his surname. The authorities entered the flat by force, and left explosive materials and illegal published texts. Later they conducted a search and arrested Father Jerzy.