Father Jerzy Popieluszko
In October 1984 the body of Father Jerzy was dragged from
a reservoir in Poland. These words were written about him
after the news was heard.
To the mother of a murdered son
you were a son,
to the families abandoned and forsaken
you were a brother.
to the old
you were a reminder of their once noble youth,
to Warsaw and to Poland
you gave a hope and a heart
So why was he murdered and by whom?
Jerzy was born in a remote village near the USSR border where
the conditions were very primitive. Their house had two rooms,
only one of which was heated by a stove; all the family slept
in this one room in winter. There were five children. They
all had to help in the home and in the fields.
When he was 18 years old Jerzy went to study for seven years.
He had chosen to become a priest. Most people would think
that was a safe job. It was far from safe in Poland at that
time. The government was trying all the time to destroy the
church. It did not want the people to listen to any ideas
but those of communism.
After his training and two years of compulsory military service
Father Jerzy worked in two churches. He was never strong and
was in hospital twice with serious illness. His ill health
meant he should have led a quiet life, but he was always involving
himself with others' needs.
Father Jerzy was invited to preach on basic human rights
all over Poland. He is specially remembered for the way he
helped the workers in the factories of Warsaw giving them
great spiritual and moral support. One Sunday in August 1980
he was asked to take a religious service for the men on strike
inside the steel works. From then until his death he stood
by these men as they fought for fair treatment. Also, to help
people express their feelings for Poland, he started a special
'Mass for the Fatherland'. Each month people from all over
the land came to take part in the worship.
The authorities began to attack Father Jerzy although his
only crime was to preach love and forgiveness. His small flat
was damaged, his car followed. Though the workers set a watch
to protect him, he was arrested and charged with having arms
and anti-government papers. This was not true and he was released.
After that he was often arrested and questioned but this did
not stop him from doing what he believed to be right.
On 19th October 1984 his car was stopped by the secret police.
Father Jerzy was bundled into the boot. He was tortured for
several hours, badly beaten, tied up and thrown into a reservoir.
In killing him his enemies believed they could kill the truth
for which he stood but eventually it was courageous living
like this which broke the stranglehold of fear and dictatorship