Orthodox America

  The Cry of the New Martyrs – They call it “Suicide”

“A corpse is carried away by the tide, but a living man swims against the current.” a Christian in Lithuania

    "When the loyalty of an individual cannot be swerved, and where the opinion, weight, or effectiveness of the individual stands firmly in the road of communist goals, it is usually best to see to it that he disposes of himself by suicide, or by bringing about his demise in such a way as to resemble suicide.' (From a communist handbook on psychopolitics)  

      Keston College has received comprehensive reports from reliable sources about the murder in Poland of Polish Orthodox priest, Fr. Piotr Poplawski. The murder occurred on June 19 this year, but reliable information on it reached the West only recently. Since then, Polish officials have given every appearance of attempting to cover up the issue as much as possible.

      The information reaching Keston states that Fr. Poplawski, 43, left his home in Narew (Eastern Poland) with the intention of driving to the regional capital Bialystok, for the purpose of buying lead sheeting needed for renovation work on a church for which he was responsible (Fr. Piotr was a rural dean --"blagochinny'-- as well as being parish priest of Narew). He told his wife he would be home around 3:00 pm. When he gailed to return home that evening, his wife was extremely ,alarmed, as a week earlier an unknown man had appeared in Narew and sought out some of Pr. Piotr's parishioners with the seemingly, the sole aim of asking them: "Is your priest still alive?" (It is known that similar occurrences, obviously with intimidation in mind, preceded the murder of Fr. Jerzy Popielusko.) However, when Mrs. Poplawski raised the alarm about her husband' s disappearance, local militia were disinclined to take any steps--either then or in the following days--to find the missing priest.

     About a week later, the Orthodox priest in Zabludow (3 miles from Bialystok) and the militia headquarters in Bialystok received anonymous phone calls stating the location of Fr. Piotr's body. His battered and bound corpse was found tied to a tree in some woods, just as the anonymous caller had indicated.

     The information received by Keston states that the priest had been beaten around the head, that there were knife slashes across his chest and stomach, and there was earth in his mouth and lungs. Local authorities attempted to pressure a doctor into signing a death certificate stating "suicide"as the cause of death, but the doctor refused to commit perjury. While official reactions held to suicide, the presence at the priest's funeral of Orthodox bishop Sawa and numerous clergy preclude this possibility, given the Church's very strict teaching on burial of suicides.

     Fr. Piotr is already being spoken of by Orthodox Poles as a martyr such as Fr. Jerzy Popielszko, the Polish Catholic priest who was murdered by security police last year. Fr. Piotr's funeral on July 2 was attended by several thousand people and the gravestone bears the inscription "died tragically". He is spoken of both by laity and fellow clergy as having been an extremely energetic, popular and resourceful priest, who took his duties very seriously, played an active part in the life of the parishes which were his responsibility as rural dean and was uncompromising in dealing with the authorities on such matters as obtaining permission for the building and renovation of churches. Fr. Piotr leaves a widow, Irena, and three children: Andrzej (18), Anna (14), and Piotr (7). Andrzej has just begun to study for the priesthood in Warsaw. (KNS #235, 10/3/85)