Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Eleven Nuns of NowogrodekFr
The Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth arrived in Nowogródek in 1929 at the behest of Bishop Zygmunt Lozinski.The Sisters became an integral part of the life of the town. During the Nazi and Soviet occupation of Poland, the Sisters invested great effort in preparing for the religious services - for the residents of the town, liturgical prayer became a beacon of hope amid the hopelessness of the occupation.
The Nazi terror in Nowogródek began with the 1942 extermination of the Jews. Of the 20,000 inhabitants of the town before the war, approximately half were Jews. The Germans murdered about 9,500 of the Jews in a series of "actions" and sent the remaining 550 Jews to slave labor camps. This was followed by a surge in Polish arrests, then the slaughter of 60 people, including two priests. This situation was repeated on 18 July 1943, when more than 120 people were arrested and slated for execution.
The Sisters unanimously expressed their desire to offer their lives in sacrifice for the imprisoned. Sister Maria Stella shared the Sisters' decision with their chaplain Father Zienkiewicz and rector, saying, "My God, if sacrifice of life is needed, accept it from us and spare those who have families. We are even praying for this intention." Almost immediately, the plans for the prisoners were changed - they were deported to work camps in Germany, and some of them were even released. When the life of Father Zienkiewicz was threatened, the Sisters renewed their offer, saying, "There is a greater need for a priest on this earth than for us. We pray that God will take us in his place, if sacrifice of life is needed."
Without warning or provocation, on 31 July 1943, eleven of the sisters were imprisoned, loaded into a van and driven beyond the town limits. The eleven nuns were killed on 1 August 1943 in the woods 5 km (3 mi) beyond Nowogródek, and buried in a common grave. After the execution, Sister M. Malgorzata Banas, the community's sole surviving member, located the place of the martyrdom, and remained the guardian of their common grave until her own death in 1966. The Church of the Transfiguration, known as Biała Fara, or "White Church", now contains the relics of the eleven martyrs.