The Story of Sister Cecylia Maria Roszak
Cecylia Maria Roszak was a nun belonging to the Congregation of the Sisters of Saint Dominic. She was acknowledged as the world's oldest, cloistered nunIn the last years of her life. During World War II, she helped a dozen or so Jews who had come to the convent in Kolonia Wileńska (today in Lithuania) together with other Dominican nuns.
Maria Roszak was born in 1908, in Kiełczew (Wielkopolskie Province). In 1929, following her graduation from the Women's State Trade and Industrial School in Poznań, she joined the congregation of Sisters of Saint Dominic in Kraków on Mikołajska Street, in the “Grodek”.
She took her first religious vows in 7th February 1931 and her perpetual vows three years later. After her veiling as a nun, she took the name Cecylia.
In 1938, together with the other Dominican sisters, she left for Kolonia Wileńska near Wilno, with the aim of creating a new Congregation convent there.
Help for Jewish partisans
In 1941, together with Prioress Bertranda (Janina Siestrzewitowska aka Anna Borkowska) and sisters Diana (Helena Frąckiewicz), Imelda (Maria Neugebauer), Jordana (Maria Ostreyko), Małgorzata (Irena Adamek) and Stefania (Stanisława Bednarska), she hid a group of fifteen Jews in the convent.
They were members of the Jewish Zionist scouting group Hashomer Hatzair. They had made contact with Sister Bertranda (whom they called “Ima”, Hebrew for “Mama”) through Irena Adamowicz from Warsaw and Jadwigi Dudziec from Wilna.
Amongst those hidden were future members of resistance movements in ghettoes in Białystok, Warsaw and Wilno. They included Abe Kowner, Arie Wilner, Chaja Grosman, Edek Boraks, Chuma Godot and Izrael Nagel. They remained under the care of the Dominicans until the winter of 1942. With the sisters' consent, they established a Jewish underground base in Kolonia Wileńska. Aba Kowner recalled that the convent was to be from where the United Partisan Organisation (Yiddish: Fareynikte Partizaner Organizatzye) would issue its first appeal to fight in the Wilna ghetto. In 1943, the Germans arrested Sister Bertranda and closed down the convent.
After the war, when Wilno found itself outside the borders of Poland, Sister Cecylia returned to Kraków. During her almost ninety years of service in the Dominican order, she served as gatekeeper, organist and record-keeper, as well as, on numerous occasions, Prioress and Mother Superior of the Domincans' Kraków convent.
On 29th March 1984, by a decision of the Yad Vashem Institute in Jerusalem, Sister Cecylia and the other sisters from Kolonia Wileńska were honoured with the title of Righteous Among the Nations. She accepted her medal and certificate, in December 2008, in the Domonican convent in Kraków's Gródek.
She died on 16th November 2018 at the age of 101.
Other Stories of Rescue in the Area
- Bednarska Stefania
- Butkiewicz Stanislawa
- The Czezowski Family
- The Sukiennicki Family
- Borkowska Anna
- Neugebauer Imelda
- Michejda Kornel
- Fedecka Maria
- Frackiewicz Helena Diana
- Dambrowska Stefania
- Babilinska Gertruda
- Adamek Malgorzata
- Ostreyko Jordana
- The Paszkowski Family
- Paszkowscy Family
- The Antonowicz Family
- Dudziec Jadwiga
- Grynberg Michał, Księga Sprawiedliwych, Warszawa 1993
The lexicon includes the stories of Poles honoured with the title of Righteous Among the Nations in the years 1963-1989. The list of entries is preceded by a preface by Icchak Arad and Chaim CheferThe Righteous of the World.