Blessed Julia Rodzinska
OUR SISTER MARTYR
The following is an eyewitness testimony of the life and martyrdom of Blessed Julia Rodzińska in the concentration camp.
I got to know Sister Julia in that ghastly concentration camp of Stutthof near Gdańsk, where we suffered humiliation at every turn. The initial selection after arrival at the camp was already horrible: people were sent to the gas based on physical appearance.
I accompanied Sister Julia until her last days. She never concealed that she was a religious. She showed unwavering faith and hope in God. She consoled all of us, entrusted us to God, and encouraged us to pray. She organized and led common prayers. We always prayed the Rosary, the litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary, hymns or any number of prayers she composed according to our needs and situation. Prisoners of different nationalities came to pray. The word spread: “let’s pray the Rosary with Sister Julia.” The image will always stay with me: the small, poorly lit room overflowing with people on bunk beds, three or even four levels high; here and there, rags drying in the air. Kneeling on a wooden plank, straight, with her head lifted up and eyes aimed at the Infinite is our Sister Julia. She holds a Rosary in her strong, shapely hands. Her face is focused. She was very pious and her piety influenced others. In her presence, one felt the need to pray.
She was outstanding in her love of God and the Church. She secretly made arrangements to meet with a priest—also a prisoner—to go to confession and to give others an opportunity for reconciliation. On many a Sunday morning, when the circumstances allowed, we walked in silence around the barrack taking part in the Mass spiritually.
When I encouraged her to talk about the convent, she spoke about the noble customs and lofty ceremonies of religious life. In those moments, she became absorbed by what was highest and dearest to her. She thanked me at the end of such conversations, whereas it was I who should have thanked her for what those conversations meant to me.
Sister Julia performed works of mercy in the camp, where people had nearly forgotten that mercy even existed. She was cheerful, prayerful, obliging and self-sacrificing even to the degree of risking her own life to help others. She cared for those who despaired and actively sought them out to enkindle their spirits. Her attitude was the same toward every one, regardless of nationality or religion. She knew how to offer consolation because of her profound hope in God. She literally shared everything—to the last piece of bread—with those who suffered hunger more than she did.
She reminded us frequently that God guides everything and that we needed o obey God’s will, even if we had to suffer everything in such humiliation or die in the camp. For her everything was in God’s hands. Sister Julia accepted her fate in the spirit of faith in Divine Providence, even as she sensed that she would not survive the camp. She prayed constantly and served her neighbor until the very end.
She visited the victims of typhus—so terribly contagious—when others did everything to avoid them. She would not lie down herself, despite her own illness, in order to help others. Led by love, by sacrificial love, she eventually succumbed to the disease. Despite everything, she could not imagine abandoning those who needed her help. Her sacrificial love was stronger. As she sensed her imminent death, she missed her Community and those she would not see again. She overcame the moments of weakness by prayer and service to the sick until the end. Sister Julia died from typhus giving her life for others. The survivors spoke of her as a great and holy person.