APPEARING OF THE AUTHOR OF ‘CONFLAGRATION’
It has been 130 years since Zofia Kossak was born in August, the month which is inscribed in the national calendar together with the tragic date of the Warsaw Uprising outbreak. The fates of the writer got tangled with the Uprising and – directly after its failure – with our weekly when on the wave of post-uprising resettlements she got to Częstochowa. The outbreak of the Uprising was a kind of her second birth, after her waiting for death in Auschwitz and later in Pawiak
She was so exhausted that they hardly recognized her: very skinny (she weighed thirty seven kilos), with broken teeth, hair a few centimeters long, hardly standing on her legs but her eye look and a shine in her eyes….’ – it was how Zofia Kossak-Szatkowska was remembered by her daughter, Anna Szatkowska – Rosset-Bugnon, after being liberated from her death execution. After a few days the Warsaw Uprising broke out and this image of poverty and despair also included lots of burnings, charred eyebrows and hair, which was shaven in Auschwitz, grew back with difficulty and were falling off in mass because of the whole body destruction. However, she was glad with the first successes of the Uprising, and she was lucky to live till them.
‘She managed to say that the Germans had uncovered her identity at the moment when she had already been dying from typhus. She was taken to a camp hospital and went through intensive treatment not to die on the way. For, the Gestapo wanted to get lots of information from her and she was taken for a hearing in Warsaw’ – says Anna.
Holy Host in a powder compact
Circumstances of arresting the author of the ‘Crusades’ a year before the outbreak of the Uprising were quite accidental. A German patrol stopped her on the street and saw that she was carrying conspiracy newspapers in a package. During hearing, she had her teeth broken on the Gestapo, but she was not recognized. She was in Pawiak for a short time, from where she was taken to Auschwitz.
Before she was taken to Pawiak, she had been an organizer of an action of smuggling the Holy Communion in a powder compact and in a medallion to a women’s and later a men’s ward. It was extremely important for those who were waiting for death. At the moment when she was arrested, she had already got a conspiration card. She set up the Front of Poland Rebirth – a conspiracy organization being continuation of the prewar Catholic Action. She was a co-founder of the ‘Conflagration’ – A Council of Help to Jews providing Jews hiding ‘on the Arian side’ with false documents and money. After the war she was rewarded with a medal ‘A Righteous among the Nations of the World’ for it.
What echoed much in Poland was the ‘Protest!’ written by her in August 1942 – during an action of transporting Jews from the Warsaw ghetto to concentration camps. She was a strong opposition of the Catholics to the German crime of Holocaust committed on Polish lands invaded by the Third Reich. It was published in 5 thousand copies.
From hell to hell
Hardly anyone returned from KL Aushwitz. A half a year before Zofia arrived at the camp, her son from her first marriage – Tadeusz Szczucki had died. She had not got to know his life, thinking that he might have survived the war and lived ‘somewhere in the world’. She was taken from Auschwitz to Pawlak again. For the authorities of the Polish Underground Country she was such an important person that a prominent German official – secretary of Pawlak was bribed in order to release her (certainly not in every case it was possible). Soon she took a part in the Uprising and wrote articles full of pathos for the uprising press. She was very appreciated as a writer, and received thanks for her ‘Decalogue of a Pole’. These stanzas on tissue paper maintained morale in the world of rapes and destruction by the hail of German bullets and bombs. That is why she was called ‘inspiration of the Underground Poland’. Also her sixteen-year-old daughter Anna participated in the Uprising, in the scout company in the Battalion ‘Gustav’. Those tragic days were written by her in the book ‘There was home….Memories’. During the uprising struggles they had to be separated but survived miraculously. Zofia took only one object from Warsaw – her favourite painting of Our Lady of Częstochowa. During the evacuation of Powiśle at the end of the Uprising the writer’s mother – Anna Kossakowa - died from exhaustion and the excess of emotions.
With a visit to the Black Madonna
Having left Warsaw on 10 October 1944 the author of the book ‘Without a weapon’ was lucky to find her daughter in Milanówek. In the same month Zofia and Anna arrived at occupied Częstochowa and soon went to the Miraculous Image. It was how they did it every day. At that time they were using false surnames – Zofia Śliwińska and Anna Sokołowska. They used an invitation from a sculptor Zofia Trzcińska – Kamińska and her husband Zygmunt – an artist-painter.
From the cloak of the Black Madonna there came help for crowds of exiles from destroyed Warsaw – bishop Teodor Kubina called inhabitants of Częstochowa to share it with others. Resurrectionist nuns, the Magdalene Sisters and the Pauline Fathers set up kitchens with free meals. Refugees found an asylum in the religious order houses and parishes, among the others, in the parish church of St. Jacob where a parish priest was Fr. Wojciech Mondry at that time – the first editor-in-chief of ‘Niedziela’ ( in the years 1926 – 37).
So that ‘Niedziela’ would exist
Zofia Kossak undertook a new mission with her typical energy – reactivating ‘Niedziela’. In February 1945, a month after the evacuation of the Germans and the Soviets entering Częstochowa, she made an offer to bishop Kubina. The suffragan appointed Fr. Antoni Marchewka an editor-in-chief of ‘Niedziela’ in a short time. Fr. Marchewka was also in Poznań, wrote down his experiences which were later published in the Library of ‘Niedziela’ entitled: ‘…Once there will be a day of freedom. Memories’. Zofia Kossak knew him, and they were saving Jewish children together, among the others, Artur Dreifinger, who went to Argentina later. So, the priest and the writer matched their strengths – that time for organizing the editorial office. The first post-war issue of ‘Niedziela’ came out on 8 April 1945. At that time Zofia Kossak was writing a book ‘From abyss: memories from the labour camp’ – description of being in KL Auschwitz. She published her first episodes in ‘Niedziela’.
In summer 1945 she had to emigrate to the West, and her writing pearls were placed on the list of forbidden books in communist Poland. She returned to Poland after the October thaw, in 1957. She settled in Górki Wielkie in Śląsk Cieszyński. She died in 1968 in beloved Homeland to whom she was serving throughout her life.