Fr Popieluszko visited ‘Niedziela’
During the last months of his life Fr Jerzy Popieluszko received anonymous letters, ‘You will hang on the cross’, ‘You will become national hero number 2 – after Przemyk.’
The second pilgrimage of the Pope to his Homeland was approaching. It was to be held on 16-23 June 1983. Several months earlier (in May) Fr Jerzy Popieluszko had come to Czestochowa. He looked for the possibility to meet John Paul II but first of all he had a very important priestly task to fulfil. He drove to our Lady of Czestochowa a sorrowful mother from Warsaw who had lost her only son.
On the way to Jasna Gora his car stopped at 12, 3 Maja Street, in front of the headquarters of ‘Niedziela’. Fr Jerzy discreetly approached the editorial office on the first floor. Here was a thin, modest, young man but at the first sight one could see that he was a matured priest. He was in a hurry and he did not want to disturb us having the meeting of the editorial board. He quickly and enthusiastically told us about the Masses for Homeland, celebrated in the Church of Stanislaw Kostka in Warsaw every month. He spoke with delight, ‘What wonderful Holy Masses for Homeland we have in Warsaw!’ He was happy to see so many people from all over Poland attending the Masses; workers and actors, and medical doctors…
And then he gave us a cardboard, folded three times, with a label in the form of a short obituary, which was a kind of cover. This firm unprofessional stationary contained a set of 20 small white and black photos from the funeral of Grzegorz Przemyk, a 19 year-old grammar school graduate, who was beaten to death by functionaries of Milicja at the militia station in Warsaw in May 1983. Fr Jerzy told us about Grzegorz’s funeral. The funeral procession that went along the streets of Warsaw on 19 May 1983 changed into a silent protest of secondary-school pupils, students and other people who took part in the funeral; protest against the communist authorities and functionaries of the regime.
Fr Jerzy whispered that Barbara Sadowska, the mother of the beaten graduate, who was a poet and opposition activist, persecuted by the communist authorities and even beaten, came with him to Jasna Gora. At that time people, especially the oppositionists, spoke about the fact of the brutal assault on the Committee to Help Internees by some ‘unknown perpetrators.’ The committee met at St Martin’s Church in Warsaw. One could see in the photos of the funeral that Barbara Sadowska’s hands were bandaged, hiding the wounds. One could also see Fr Jerzy consoling the woeful mother, standing at the coffin of her son. Those who were close to Fr Jerzy Popieluszko said that it was him that helped her to endure the tragedy during the funeral and afterwards. And Fr Jerzy suggested the trip to Jasna Gora just after Grzegorz’s funeral. They were accompanied by Ligia Urniaz-Grabowska and Waldemar Chrostowski.
During that unique visit to ‘Niedziela’ Fr Popieluszko spoke with excitement that his car was followed all the way from Warsaw. But they could outwit the secret agents because they knew and heard their messages – they chose the right frequency and could hear them on the radio. When Fr Jerzy was telling us all those things one could assume that he managed to deal with the fact that he was ‘watched’. He seemed to have controlled the whole situation. However, in his ‘Diary’ he wrote on 21 May 1981, just after his return from Czestochowa, ‘Perhaps I am at the end of my tether, physically and psychologically.’ And then… he read in one of the anonymous letters he had received, ‘You will become national hero number two – after Przemyk.’
Fr Jerzy was murdered one year and a half later, in October 1984. Barbara Sadowska died within two years afterwards. She died in 1986 and was buried with the small crucifix in her hands; the cross was made from the catafalque on which Fr Jerzy Popieluszko’s coffin was placed.
And our editorial board of ‘Niedziela’ has the photos of Grzegorz Przemyk’s funeral, which Fr Jerzy, the future Blessed, gave us. The book entitled ‘Witness of the Truth’, an excellent biography of Fr Jerzy Popieluszko written by Milena Kindziuk, contains the information that after Fr Jerzy’s death a grey paper file entitled ‘Documentation of unlawfulness’ was found in his flat. The file contained the photos of Grzegorz Przemyk, his obituary and collections of poetry of his mother Barbara Sadowska.