Testimony of special graces received in captivity by Srs. Melania Zammler, O.P. and Elekta Buszkiewicz, O.P. in Poland in 1914-1915

[At the beginning of the WWI], on September 14, 1914, Sr. Elekta Buszkiewicz, O.P. and I, Sr. Melania Zammler, O.P. were sent to take care of the wounded soldiers in the nearby Rozwadów. There was a convent of the Capuchin friars. It had been about two weeks since our sisters began ministering there in the field hospital. We were to help them at work.

On the way to Rozwadów we were checked several times by the Russian patrols. Eventually, we were ordered to return to Wielowieś, to our convent due to a heavy fusillade and cannon firing. We did as ordered. However, on our way back, a Russian general had us transport a wounded Czech soldier to a Russian hospital and there help with caretaking for the other wounded at the front. Our requests to take the wounded to our hospital in Wielowieś got rebuffed: unpredictably, we got suspected of spying. Without further due, we worked several days at the front, then in a number of army hospitals. Finally, we were taken along with the injured to Moscow where we ended up imprisoned.

Amidst our heartache we prayed ardently begging our Mother Foundress Columba for her intercession. One day a little dove knocked with its beck on the tiny grated window in our prison cell. We said to ourselves: “That must be the spirit of Mother Foundress; it will deliver us from this prison.” Indeed, soon after, the director of our prison brought us a news that we would be released. For a while we remained uncertain if perhaps we were not to be moved to a more severe confinement or to Siberia. Subsequently, we were taken to the secret militia post to remain under a strict surveillance and control for a few days. And suddenly we were called to the main office. Two investigative officers interrogated us with various questions. At the end, to our great surprise, they asked us already very cordially whether we had a place to go. We solicited recommendation to the nearest Catholic priest, close to a church that we might participate in the Holy Mass. One of the gentlemen, a Lithuanian Catholic, gave us a ride to Fr. Paułkszt at the church of Sts. Peter and Paul. While there Fr. Dean Ignacy Czajkowski got interested in us. Very kindly he provided room and board in a two-bedroom apartment. In turn, in our spare time, we sew new and repaired the damaged vestments in the church. Meanwhile, with everything we had undergone through, we were still under a very heavy burden of existential uncertainty: by then we were already about to be executed twice; three times we were severely sick out of famine, rain, and cold at the front. Respectable Fr. Dean Czajkowski, once he learned the reason for our captivity, he went to Saint Petersburg to his Excellency Archbishop Joseph Cieplak who initiated attempts for us to return to the Wielowieś convent.

And again, an ongoing prayer and trust in the intercession of our Venerable Mother Foundress Columba did not disappoint us. What I asked for in particular was that I could join my novitiate class (I left as a novice) and together with them make my first profession of vows. In a few weeks time we received an official state discharge: we could freely leave Russia. For safety measures, our journey to the Romanian boarder was ensured with the presence of an officer and a soldier with a lance erected. We traveled back home about a month sent-off and equipped for the journey by reverend Fr. Dean. The long travel took us through Kiev, Odessa, Bendery, Ungegend, Romania, Hungary, Kroonstad, Vienna, eventually to Cracow. From there it took us additional two weeks through war front to finally get through to so longed for Wielowieś.

The 18th of August 1915 was a happy day. At 9am we met in the convent chapel to sing a thanksgiving Te Deum and the Magnificat. Then we thanked Mother Foundress Columba who rests in the tomb behind the altar that she implored the miracle of a healthy return to the convent, and to console us with this unusual grace of first religious profession. We took it after an 8-day retreat on November 26, 1915, with my novitiate class who unbendingly expected our return.

The above testimony I lay down with a grateful heart as an homage to our Venerable Mother Foundress. She cared for us with tender motherly love during our sojourn in captivity. And after so many trials and dangers (which hereby I have briefly described), happy and sound, we returned relatively promptly to the motherhouse.

Sister Maria Melania Zammler, O.P.
Biała Niżna, Poland
February 14, 1961