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Secrets of the image of Our Lady of Częstochowa (III)


Unsuccessful Bombing and Hiding of the Black Madonna

On the very beginning of the Second World War Germans made several attempts to bombard the monastery. Their main aim probably was to break Polish spirit by demolishing one of the nation’s greatest sanctities. The first attack of a bombing squadron was carried out on September 1, 1939, but it was unsuccessful. The pilots claimed that in the designated location they had seen … a big lake. The next squadron was sent, but that time instead of the expected target Germans saw… a big forest. The Pilots were charged with sabotage and court-martialled.

Squadron of German aircraft Heinkel He 111 – the type of bombers sent to destroy sanctuary in Częstochowa on 1 September 1939

There were third squadron send to bombard Częstochowa. This time the task was entrusted to SS soldiers, who volunteered for the mission. During the assignment the pilots reported loss of flight control, the entire squadron got dispersed and none of the planes returned to the base.

In the end of the September Campaign when German land troops entered Jasna Góra the painting was already tucked away and it was kept in hiding for the rest of the war. After 1945 it needed another renovation, which was made by prof. Rudolf Kozłowski.

After his death in 1979, protection was entrusted to a conservation committee consisted of: Priest Janusz Pasierb, Hanna Jędrzejewska and Priest Stanislaw Tomaszkiewicz and the conservator Prof. Wojciech Kurpik.

The Arrest and Imprisonment of the Image 

Peregrination around the country of copy of the miraculous image of the Mother of God, previously blessed by Pius XII, it was an essential part of the nine-year Great Novena, preparing the nation for the millennium of baptism of Poland. From 1957 to 1966, the picture visited ten dioceses, and in each of them all the parishes. It was a great celebration for the faithful. For this occasion streets and houses were decorated and on the border of the parish and diocese the picture was welcomed by horse flags and orchestras.

In the year of the baptism millennium celebrations, the confrontation between the communist state and the church came about. Gomułka’s team, seeing that they were starting to lose the battle for the “reign of souls”, began to perform nervous movements. On June 20, when the painting was in the same car column in which Primate Wyszyński was heading for Warsaw, it was surrounded and stopped by MO (Communist Militia) columns. A militia helicopter was also included. From the priests, who formed a cordon around the painting, UB officers forcibly took the icon and hurry away.

As it turned out later, the image was transported to the cathedral in Warsaw, where it remained placed behind the barred sacristy window. The authorities did not allow it to leave the city and forbade peregrination during the next millennium celebrations.

After a few months, Primate Wyszyński decided to transport the painting for the celebration to Katowice. However, the Częstochowa painting never arrived there. In Będzin it was “arrested” again. 50 MO officers participated in the action. The picture was taken to Jasna Góra. The Pauline men were threatened that if the image was taken they would lose their monasteries in Warsaw and the seminar on Skałka in Krakow. At the gates of the sanctuary militia posts were set up. From then on, all cars leaving the monastery weresearched, even the Primate’s car.

The monks placed the picture in the chapel of St. Paweł, behind the bar and marked: “Here is, imprisoned by the authorities, an image that travelled around Poland.” 

The painting arrested by the MO behind barred window of The Archcathedral of Warsaw, 1966 (source: The Cathedral of Warsaw Archive)

Karol Wojtyła and a Bold Plan of a Young Priest

 Meanwhile, empty frames of the picture of Our Lady of Częstochowa travelled around the country. Although the millennium was over, the peregrination around successive dioceses continued. It is assumed that the author of this idea was Cardinal Karol Wojtyla. Empty frames made a huge impression on the faithful. It was an evident sign of a lack of religious freedom in Poland.

In the 70s, after the departure of the Gomułka’s team, militia posts disappeared from Jasna Góra. But the Paulines still did not have permission to “release” the arrest. Fr. Józef Wójcik, who was then a vicar in the parish in Radom, stole the painting in 1972. He informed Primate Wyszyński about his plan, and with his blessing, secretly, with the help of an additional key, took the painting from the monastery at night. The authorities started an investigation, a considerable number of “suspected” nuns, priests and monks were interrogated, but no one was ever convicted.

The communists imprisoned the picture for six years, from 1966 to 1972.

by Tomasz Niemas

translated by Filip Szary