Wolski Ludwik

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Story of Rescue - Wolski Ludwik

The canon priest Ludwik Wolski was for many years – from 1923 to 1949, i.e. also during the whole period of  World War II – a parish priest of the Roman Catholic St. Vincent á Paulo church in Otwock.
He graduated from the Seminary in Warsaw, and was ordained a priest in 1905. When on April 7, 1923, he became a parish priest of a quite new (founded in 1911) parish in Otwock, his first aim was to build a presbytery. It was built in a rapid pace, and was intended to be for the exclusive use of the community support services run by the parish.

Community worker and builder

He was a community worker type  priest working especially for children. Being motivated by the slogan "Children, be your parents’ joy," which he placed in front of the church’s gate, he organized and led educational center for children, edited and published magazines for children, and created shrines for Otwock sanitariums. He was the main initiator of a mutual assistance fund, which was based on patterns and statutes of Stefczyk’s fund.

Father Wolski also initiated the building process of the statue of Christ carrying the cross, which is characteristic of Otwock and which can be found on Orla Street - a vote of gratitude for the victory of the Poles in the war against the Bolsheviks in 1920. It is a replica of the statue of Christ, which stands in front of the Holy Cross Church located on Krakowskie Przedmieście Street in Warsaw.

Soon, Ludwik Wolski’s life task became building a new church, according to the design of his brother Łukasz Wolski, who was a famous architect. Wolski – the architect – designed before, among others, the basilicas of Christ’s Sacred Heart on Kawęczyńska Street in Warsaw and a beautiful wooden chapel at the Institution for the Blind in Laski. Parallelly to the construction of the church in Otwock, which was built according to his own, very similar design, St. Stanisław Kostka Church in Żoliborz in Warsaw was also being created (but in a slower pace). The church in Otwock was built between 1930 – 1935 and was consecrated by bishop Stanisław Gall in 1935 .

The priest helps the Jews...

During the Nazi occupation, the parish’s presbytery in Otwock was attended by many people – regardless of their nationality or religion – it was a place of safe shelter, help and care. Those most needy could count on food, supply of medicines and financial aid.

Being in charge of the births, marriages and deaths register, Father Wolski issued selflessly fictitious birth certificates to children of Jewish residents in Otwock, so that they could stay legally in educational institutions and orphanages as baptized children, coming from Roman Catholic families. He would do it risking not only his own life, but also the lives of people from his closest circle. The exact number of people whom priest Wolski helped in this way is unknown. He certainly issued false birth certificates to five Jewish children: Maria Osowiecka (for the name of Halina Brzoza), Dan Landsberg (for the name of Wojciech Płochocki), Ruth Noj (for the name of Teresa Wysocka), Maria and her brother Wecer Sasza (for the name of their mother's first husband, Konstanty Laskowiecki).

Maria Thau (nee Wecer, now a citizen of Israel), who was also rescued in such a way, says in her memoirs entitled "Powroty" ("Returns"):

"A priest in a church in Otwock cooperated with the underground. There were rumors among the survivors from the surrounding towns, who were hiding after the dissolution of ghettos, about a priest who helped Jews, and especially children. He placed many children in convents. He issued fictitious documents and birth certificates without any compensation."

Also in her testimony made in the Yad Vashem Institute in 1964, Maria Thau talks about "an old parish priest of the church in Otwock," and " his assistant priest," who "saved lives of many Jewish children" (referring to Father Wolski and Father Jan Raczkowski).

The parish priest form Otwock allowed the Jewish refugees (including adults) to sleep in a wooden presbytery building that no longer exists and even under the roof of the church. Hanna Kamińska recalls:

"During the war, thanks to Father Wolski, the parish of St. Vincent was known among the Jews of Otwock as a place where you could get help and, if necessary, spend the night. I myself spent the night there in November 1942 (over two months after the dissolution of the ghetto).

It is a duty to help

Saving Jewish children in Nazi-occupied Poland required in almost every case the whole chain of people of good will. Priest Ludwik Wolski worked closely in this respect with other Righteous people from Otwock: Aleksandra Szpakowska, Bronisław Marchlewicz and the Sisters from St. Elizabeth convent.

 Hanna Kamińska’s letter of  September 12, 1945 (original spelling retained) is its beautiful testimony:

"I feel the pleasant duty to express the Reverend canon priest warmest thanks for the care of my 7-year-old cousin, Marysia Osowiecka. In August 1942, during the highest intensity of Nazi terror in Otwock, where on 19 August and the following day the ghetto was being dissolved, the priest did not hesitate to risk his life to save an unknown Jewish child. In the context of unruly bands of Germans and Nazis, as well as  local villagers’ behavior who would rush out like vultures to grab the possessions left by the Jews, the Christian attitude displayed by Father Wolski, who along with Ms Szpakowska, an engineer, and with Mr Marchlewicz, a commander of the police station of the time, did not fear to save a helpless Jewish child, is reflected even more starkly.
The existence of such people as the canon priest, Ms Szpakowska and Mr Marchlewicz fills us with the faith for a better tomorrow, the victory of good over evil. I wish that my clumsy words could at least in part reflect the feelings that I cherish for the canon priest, Ms Szpakowska and Mr Marchlewicz. Let Poland be filled up with such people."

In the remembrance of the Otwock’s residents – both Poles and Jews – Father Ludwik Wolski is perceived as a man who believed that helping other human beings is his human, Christian and priestly duty.

After the war, the parish priest of Otwock helped  in turn those persecuted by the NKVD and Security Office, and especially the Warsaw insurgents and members of the Home Army. He continued to support passionately the upbringing and education of indigent children and young people, allocating for this purpose his time and money, since he was living a very modest, simple life himself.

The Righteous

On December 7, 2008, the Yad Vashem Institute recognized posthumously Father Ludwik Wolski as the Righteous Among the Nations.

The medal ceremony was held on August 20, 2009, in Otwock. Father Wolski’s niece, Ms Teresa M. Teisseyre, collected the medal from the Israeli ambassador in Poland, Zvi Rav-Ner. She lived with her uncle at the presbytery in Otwock during the war. Recognizing the parish in Otwock the "first family" of Father Wolski, Ms Teisseyre decided to hand over the medal to the current priest in charge of the parish of St. Vincentá Paulo, Father Bogusław Kowalski. 

We publish this article courtesy of Zbigniew Nosowski, chairman of the Social Committee of the Jews of Otwock and Karczew 

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