Primate Wyszyński, Mother Czacka and Maria Okońska in Laski, AFSK
Fr Stefan Wyszynski assisted in operations in a field hospital, carried the wounded on his own shoulders, washed bandages, administered the sacraments to the wounded insurgents, and conducted makeshift funerals for the dead – these are little-known images from the life of the future cardinal and Primate of the Millennium. During the Warsaw Uprising, Fr Wyszynski was a chaplain in the military district of AK Zoliborz-Kampinos.
When the Warsaw Uprising broke out, Fr Stefan Wyszynski was working as a chaplain of the institution for the blind in Laski, near Warsaw. At the same time, he was a chaplain of the local insurgent units under the pseudonym Radwan III; and, among other things, he co-founded a hospital for the insurgents in Laski. It is said that he was also entrusted with the care of a thermometer, which he once lost at one point. Only the intervention of St. Anthony helped—the thermometer was found again among Fr Stephen’s favorite flowers, nasturtiums.
This is how the Primate recalled the times of his work in the hospital: “The hospital was filling up very quickly. Soon, it became too small. We had to put wounded soldiers wherever we could. We even occupied the entire retreat house and the house next door. Confessions of those who were waiting for surgery here, were usually heard in this chapel. They were carried in on stretchers or on blankets. Here, they waited, to be taken to the operating table. The sheets and blankets on which they lay were soaked with blood.” (Stefan Wyszyński, Droga życia, Warsaw 2001).
Spiritual ministry was the most important field of activity for the future Primate of Poland, but he was also involved in many other aspects of the hospital’s work: he washed bandages and uniforms, carried the sick, supported those undergoing surgery. During the first operation in which he participated, he lost consciousness. He carried one wounded woman liaison officer of the Uprising on his back for 4 kilometers, and in later years he celebrated her marriage and then baptized her children.
“I remember how tired I was, weary of this constant flow of blood, amputations, baskets of arms and legs, this ordeal of soldiers who were heroic on the front and like children on the operating table. I looked at it all, and it was a terrible experience for me. It seemed to me that this image was not for me, but today I understand how much it gave me.” (Stefan Wyszyński, Warsaw, January 31st, 1965).
The hardships and the constant contact with the wounded were one thing, but there was also the constant nervous tension caused by the life-threatening situation. Once, Fr. Stefan was met some Germans and they asked for Fr Wyszynski’s address. Fr. Wyszyński. He told them the truth, and then managed to escape when they went to the indicated place.
Fr. Wyszynski also recalled his meeting with a 16-year-old boy. “This boy of sixteen was serving, together with his older brother, in the insurgent army in the Vilnius cavalry formation. Wounded immediately, in the first days, he was moved to the hospital, put in a small room in the Franciscan nuns’ institution in Laski. I met with them there, heard his confession, and prepared him for death. He was riddled with bullets, because when he fell wounded, he lay in the rain and cold under the bullets for three days. No one could get to him to take him out of there. So, when he was finally transferred to the war hospital, he was almost without strength, and it was difficult to save him. […] I buried him in the cemetery near Izabelin, on a hill, in the sand, without a coffin, because there were no more coffins.” (Stefan Wyszyński, Stryszawa, August 1st, 1963).
One of the events that probably stuck in Fr Wyszynski’s memory the most was finding a certain card that the wind had blown from Warsaw after its destruction. “Already towards the end of the uprising, walking through the forest, I saw a pile of burned cards brought by the wind. The center of one of them had not burned, and on it were the words: ‘You shall love…’ Nothing dearer could have come to us from the perishing Capital. This is the most sacred appeal of fighting Warsaw to us and to the entire world. An appeal and a testament… ‘You will love…’” (Stefan Wyszyński, Droga życia, Warsaw 2001),” recalled the future Blessed.
After the collapse of the uprising, a few German officers, who were doctors there, came to Fr Wyszynski, who was working in a hospital near Izabelin. They were very excited and showed the future Primate a picture of the statue of Christ from the front of Holy Cross Church, lying on the street pavement. The Germans were surprised that Christ seemed to be pointing his finger at the church and the inscription on the pedestal: “Sursum corda” (Lift up your hearts). One of them said: “Ist noch Polen nicht verloren” (Poland is not yet lost).
In 1976, the Primate unveiled a plaque in Laski that commemorated those grim times. He emphasized then that Divine Providence allowed them to persevere and feel inner peace despite all the adversities.
“As we walk along the streets of the Capital today, let us remember that this is the city where more than 300,000 inhabitants of Warsaw died. This city’s pavement was covered with the blood of its best young people. This is how to love. There is no love without sacrifice. Through such love, one gains the right to the Homeland. That is why young people were ready for everything. They were able to fight for freedom and at the same time to protect themselves against hatred.” (Stefan Wyszyński, Droga życia, Warsaw, 2001) – This was the Primate’s message for his contemporaries in the context of the events of 1944.
The Warsaw Uprising was an armed response of the people of Warsaw against the Germans. It broke out on August 1st, 1944, at so called “W hour” (5 pm). It ended on October 2nd, 1944.
Next September 12th, Primate Wyszyński and Mother Elżbieta Róża Czacka will be proclaimed Blessed. The ceremony will take place at the Church of Divine Providence in Warsaw.