Today, September 10, 2023, in Markowa, Poland, the beatification of the Ulma Family by the Catholic Church will take place, the first time that a whole family has been raised to the altars at one time, including an unborn child. Having read of them during my research of Poland and World War II, I made the pilgrimage to their grave site on September 6, 2014 to pray and to give honor to a family that died at the hands of Nazi's.
Poland during World War II was a country full of tremendous suffering, death and destruction. It was a country occupied by the Nazi's who did everything they could to destroy a nation and its people. For the people living through those terrible years it was a time of trials and tests, of difficult choices and moral dilemmas. The Jewish people were persecuted, hunted down, sent to concentration camps and murdered by the millions. Any Pole who made attempts to assist or harbored them were put to death. Among those who assisted Jews was the Ulma family.
In 2004, on the 60th anniversary of their death, the community of Markowa unveiled a monument in memory of the Ulma family.
In saving the life of others they offered their own
Józef Ulma, his wife Wiktoria and their children:
Stasia, Basia, Wladziu, Francuś, Antoś, Marysia, and unborn child.
Hiding eight of their fellow Jewish brethren in their attic during
World War II, they died with them in Markowa on March 24, 1944 at the hands of the German Police.
May their offering be a call to respect and love every human being.
They were sons and daughters of this land
In the early morning hours of March 24, 1944, the German military police reached the house of Józef Ulma. Local Poles were made to bear witness to what happens "to those who hide Jews.” The eyewitnesses stated that the Jews were shot first - in the back of the head. Then they shot Józef and his wife Wiktoria, who was nine months pregnant. The children were screaming. When the question came up about what to do with the children, they shot them as well. Their ages ranged from 8 years old to 1½. Within minutes, 17 lives were lost. The village major was instructed to bury the victims with the help of the other witnesses. The event was never forgotten by the inhabitants of Markowa.
In postwar Poland, Poles who saved Jews were often the object of repressive measures by the communists. Subsequently, the subject was not discussed. It is only under a free and independent Poland that Polish historians were able to compile lists and gather written statements and documents from people who kept quiet about their experiences of attempts to help and save Jews during the war.
The plaque states that on November 1995, the heroism of Józef and Wiktoria Ulma was recognized by the Jewish community when the Ulma’s were posthumously awarded the medal of Righteous Among Nations by Yad Vashem. The process of beatification of the Ulma family was begun by the Catholic Church in 2003.
As I join the rest of the Catholic world in this recognition of the ultimate sacrifice of the Ulma’s, l recall the words on their monument: May their offering be a call to respect and love every human being.
Wieczny odpoczynek racz im dać, Panie, a światłość wiekuista niechaj im świeci.
Eternal rest give unto them O Lord and let the perpetual light shine upon them.
One of the biggest moments in my life was being able to sign for my very own library card. When I'm not reading, researching and writing I'm riding my bike, sewing or gardening. I love flea markets, folk art, and traveling to Poland.