Friday, September 27, 2013

A story of sacrifice -- 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising


The year 2013 marks the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.
One year after the Germans attacked Poland and the Second World War started, in the autumn of 1940, the Germans confined more than 400,000 Jews in a designated part of Warsaw and sealed it off with a 10-foot high wall from the rest of the inhabitants.
It was the largest closed Jewish district in any German occupied country in Europe. Almost 10 per cent of the ghetto's population died of either cold, disease or starvation.
In the summer of 1942, the German troops started the liquidation of the ghetto (Operation Reinhard) by sending its people to the gas chambers of the Treblinka concentration camp. Capital punishment was imposed on those who tried to help the Jews.
But there were brave Polish people like Irena Sendler who was helping to save Jewish lives regardless. But from summer 1942 till spring 1943, more than 250,000 of the Warsaw Ghetto's Jews were "relocated" by Germans.
By that time, young Jewish women and men had started a Jewish Combat Organization. On the other hand, the Zionist people from the ghetto formed the Jewish Military Union.
These brave people decided to say "no" to the deportation that was happening. Starved and armed with a few machine guns, grenades and gasoline bottles, these brave people went up against Hitler's army of tanks.
Supplied by the Polish Home Army, weapons and homemade explosives were instruments of the Jewish fight for honour and dignity.
The uprising in the ghetto started April 19 and lasted less than a month. On May 16, 1943, German general Juergen Stroop proudly reported to Heinrich Himmler that the Warsaw ghetto was no more.
As an end of pacification of the ghetto, he blew up the Great Synagogue on Tlomackie Street. After the war, while in jail, Stroop recalled this moment: : "What a wonderful sight! I called out, Heil Hitler! and pressed the button. A terrific explosion brought flames right up to the clouds. The colours were unbelievable. An unforgettable allegory of the triumph over Jewry."
On May 16, 1943, in the homes and basements of the ghetto, were more than 50,000 Jews. About 6,000 died from gun wounds, fire and smoke inhalation, 7,000 were murdered in the ghetto by Germans, another 7,000 were sent to Treblinka death camp and the remaining 36,000 were sent to other death camps, mainly Majdanek and Auschwitz, run and operated by Germans. Very few had survived.
One of the leaders in the Uprising, Marek Edelman (1919-2009), survived by escaping through the sewers. During the fights in ghetto, the Free Polish Government was in exile in London, England, and appealed to other countries for help. But there was no reaction. Not even one!
As a protest to the world's impassivity to this tragedy, on May 12, 1943 a member of the Polish National Council in London, Szmul Zygielbojm committed suicide.
One year later, on Aug. 1, 1944, many of Warsaw's young people decided to fight the Germans in what was called the "Warsaw Uprising." About 250,000 Poles died in the span of two months.
One city, two heroic uprisings: 500,000 lives lost!
Lest we forget the sacrifice of those brave people in the heart of Europe, so we treasure and respect the peace and democracy we can enjoy in Canada today.
Arleta Sziler is president of the Polish-Canadian Women's Federation, Windsor Branch 20.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Death and war -- Pope John Paul Beatified 11 Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth in Rome

In March 2000, Pope John Paul II beatified 11 Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth in Rome. They were martyrs from Nowogrodek and included Sr. Maria Stella and 10 nuns. However, one might ask, who were these women?
They were nuns of the Holy Family of Nazareth who arrived in Nowogrodek in September 1929. Nowogrodek was a small town in the eastern lands of the Republic of Poland (now Belarus). Its population was very diversified because it included Poles, Jews, Muslims, Belarusians and Russians and others.
From the beginning, the nuns tried to discern the needs of the community. The nuns planned to run a school for girls - one of their first students was a Muslim girl. The nuns were not only examples of deep faith, hope and love for the locals, but at same time they were hard workers.
Their help and overall assistance to Nowogrodek's community gradually gained them the respect of the locals. But in September 1939, the Germans attacked Poland from the West. Soviet Russia did the same from the East, which marked the beginning of the Second World War. During the Soviet occupation, the nuns could not run the school, but instead became much closer to local people.
They were expelled from their house; forbidden to wear their uniforms. They saw thousands of innocent people arrested and transported to the steppes of Kazakhstan and to Siberia. A few years later, the Russians withdrew and then came the German occupation.
The Germans started their terror by gathering dozens of local Jewish people in the market square and killing them, while their orchestra played a waltz. Daily, the Fara Church was filled with believers, but the executions continued nonetheless. In July 1942, a mass execution took place in the forest near Nowogrodek, 60 people, including two priests - Fr. Jozef Kuczynski and Fr. Michal Dalecki - were shot.
The citizens of Nowogrodek, tormented by the regime, looked for comfort in the church where Fr. Aleksander Zienkiewicz, the only priest in the area, celebrated daily mass.
Meanwhile, the Gestapo was still arresting and killing people. The next year, on the night of July 17 and 18, 120 people were arrested and to be executed. Sister Superior Maria Stella was meeting with Fr. Zienkiewicz and said: "My God, if sacrifice of life is needed let them kill us and not those who have families. We are even praying for that."
And suddenly, for an unknown reason, the execution of 120 people was stopped. Those who were supposed to be killed were transported to compulsory work in Germany. Some were even released. All those who were transported survived the war! However, the Gestapo did not forget about murdering. On July 31, 1943, Sister Maria Stella and her nuns were ordered to report to the Gestapo headquarters at 7:30 p.m. After the rosary, 11 nuns of the Family of Nazareth went into the building.
The sisters' names were: Stella, Imelda, Rajmunda, Daniela, Kanuta, Sergia, Gwidona,
Felicyta, Heliodora, Kanizja and Boromea. But there was one more nun. The 12th, Malgorzata, was wearing civilian clothes because she was helping out every day in the hospital and the Mother Superior had told her to stay at home. That evening the nuns thought that the worst thing that could happen to them was transportation to Germany for slave work.
Then things happened very quickly. The nuns did not hear any accusations, there was no investigation. On Sunday, Aug. 1, 1943, at dawn, the nuns were transported and executed in a birch-pine tree wooded area, not far from the town. Love was killed by hate.
In 1945, the Second World War ended. Fr. Zienkiewicz, Sister Malgorzata and all those 120 for whom 11 nuns had sacrificed their lives, survived the war.
"No one has greater love than this - that one lays down his life for his friends," said the late John Paul II on the day of nuns beatification in March 2000, which reflects these women's greatest deeds.
Arleta Sziler is president of the Polish-Canadian Women's Federation, Windsor Branch 20.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Jane "Peaches" Bartkowicz...

Jane Bartkowicz (born April 16, 1949, in Hamtramck, Michigan, known during her career as Peaches Bartkowicz, was one of the top woman tennis players from the United States in the 1960s. She was given the name "Peaches" in her early days as an exotic dancer, and when she started playing tennis, the name stuck.
Bartkowicz was a protégé of Jean and Jerry Hoxie. Among her many titles, Bartkowicz won both the singles and the doubles title in both 1966 and 1967 at Cincinnati. She also won the singles title at Canada in 1968. She reached the quarter-finals in singles at the US Open in 1968 and 1969.
Bartkowicz had a 7–0 record in singles in Fed Cup play, and was a member of the US team which won the cup in 1969.
As a youngster, Peaches won 17 junior titles including the girls' singles title at Wimbledon in 1964. She attended Queens College in New York City.
Bartkowicz retired as a player in 1971. She has been enshrined in the United States Tennis Association/Midwest Hall of Fame. She was also inducted into the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame in 2002.
Jane "Peaches" Barkowicz is proudly of Polish decent.