Antoni Leszczewicz was one of these. Although ethnically Polish, he was born in the Belarus region of the Russian Empire in 1890. Of course, Poland did not even exist on the map in 1890. What had not been devoured by Germany or Russia was taken by the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Those (and other) titans of imperialism were destined to so badly wound each other in World War One that little folks like Poland would eventually creep back onto the map, only to find themselves stomped again during World War II.
Between 1939 and 1945 over 3,000 members of the Polish clergy were killed; 1,992 of them died in concentration camps, 787 of them at Dachau. Altogether, estimates place the number of Polish civilians killed in the war at between 5 and 5.5 million, including 3 million Polish Jews, not even counting over a half million Polish civilians and military personnel killed in the fighting.
Blessed Antoni Leszczewicz
I recognized the third city from playing Risk as a kid. Irkutsk is 5,185 kilometers from Moscow. The distance from Portland, Maine to Portland, Oregon is only 4,078.45 kilometers. Although it is a stop on the Trans-Siberian Railway, it is a hell of a long way to go. And even though it is southern Siberia, let's not kid ourselves about the climate. The average daily temperature in February is six degrees Fahrenheit; the record low is minus forty-eight.
|Polish Silver Cross for Merit|
Blessed Antoni got word that the Nazi forces were advancing into Belarus in 1943. He knew, of course, that Poles were being killed or sent away. He knew also that Catholic priests were being killed or sent away. He was doubly marked, but he stood his ground. On February 17, 1943, the Nazi occupation force in the little village of Rosica (Rositsa), Belarus ordered Leszczewicz into a barn with many other prisoners. There, they were burned to death.
Three thousand members of the Polish clergy were killed by the Nazis. Pope John Paul II batched 108 of them together and collectively canonized them. Today, we honor just one of them, but it is also worth remembering the scope of things. Further, it is worth remembering that approximately eleven million people were killed in the overall genocide that was the Holocaust, of whom six million were Jews. Mr. Bunson's statistic about Polish clergy was in a very Roman Catholic context; he was not counting rabbis. Finally, we ought to remember that the collective madness known as World War Two killed sixty million people, 2.5% of the world population at the time.