During the time of martial law, Grazyna Przybylska-Wendt was in a few places of seclusion, and in relation to those events, she wrote a play about interned women 'The thirteenth, the twelth'. When at the end of the 80s of the last century, it was not possible to bring back democratically elected authorities of Solidarity (she belonged to a group demanding establishment of the National Commission composed in the way of 1981), she withdrew from the union activity. In the 90s she got engaged into the self-governing activity, which helped her register a hospice she had founded in Plock. Recently, using her knowledge of a court medic, she has been preparing expertises concerning victims of the catastrophe at Smolensk.

In defence of the cross

She was born in Chojnice, four years before the war, but spent the time of war occupation in Cracow. Her return to Pomerania is connected with her memory of scouting before the war – as she emphasizes. - There was no more joy or enthusiasm than going for meetings and participating in camps. Simply a great life school.

In 1949, when her father, a bank worker, was seconded to Bialystok, there appeared the darkest time in her life, but also the first experience of solidarity. - It was the 10th year, during a lesson of geography, which was being given by our class teacher, a few men came in and one of them told the teacher to take down the cross off the wall. She refused but one of the students did it. Our teacher disappeared from school. And after two days one of my classmates brought a picture of Piotr Skarga, who held the cross in his hand, and – as I was the tallest in the class, I hang it on the wall. The reaction was very quick – Mrs. Grazyna is sure that the student who took down the cross off the wall, reported it to the headteacher about what had happened, and the headteacher came into the classroom, and made the teacher admit to it, threatening her of terminating the class. She does not conceal the fact how she felt about making the decision, but what was worse, when standing, she saw that other classmates started standing up, and so was the whole class. It also made an impression on the headteacher and he did not do anything bad about it. - At that time I realized the fact that when there were a lot of us, something could be done – the later activist of Solidarity Movement sums up that event.

Professional activity

She started medical studies in Bialystok and finished them in Lodz and started her work there in an Institution of Forensic Medicine, in order to change her workplace into anaesthetics. It was a great challenge for her because it was the beginning time of using new methods in Poland, and – as dr. Przybylska-Wendt says – with a lot of problems: - It was the time when I experienced what professional solidarity was, because when somebody among anesthetists was in a situation with which he could not cope, only one phone call to one of his colleagues would make and at once everybody hurried to him with help. She continued her work as an anesthetist in a hospital built in Plock in the beginning of the70s. Later she had been the only forensic medic for 11 years in the city and the district. - After the time of interning I was given back this work – she says – but I was being isolated and nobody could contact me, there were no orders and the work time was taken away from me.

She returned to her other specialization and started driving an ambulance but the exhausting work brought infarct to her. She returned to her work in hospital, receiving her reduced salary of all benefits, and, despite of her years of work, two specializations and PhD degree, - she was nearly on the level of a ward carer. And after her husband death, she had to keep her daughters, so she was trying to look for other possibilities of work. And it was how she set up an analgesic clinic. - At that time I met many people needing permanent care, so, on the basis of this surgery I started organizing a hospice at home which I ran for free with help of volunteers for 8 years – she says.

Moreover, she could not be indifferent to the fact that so many her close people were killed in the catastrophe at Smolensk . So, she made a contact with a parliamentary group investigating the causes of the catastrophe – and, using her long experience as a forensic medic – she prepares analysis for other scientific conferences, concerning types of injuries of the catastrophe casualties which can be helpful in defining its factual course. This is a kind of continuation of that solidarity for year which she had realized years ago, for among people trying to explain that tragedy, she found atmosphere of mutual friendliness, openness, trustfulness and engagement in which the Solidarity Movement appeared 35 years ago.

In the National Commission

First, there was Solidarity of health service. Its central point was a hospital in Plock and activity in the region of Plock, from which dr. Przybylska-Wendt had become a delegate for the First National Meeting, and it elected her to the supreme authorities of the union. - We will have one girl – Lech Walesa commented on the election and gave her resorts of which she was supposed to take care: health service, culture, environment protection, education, chemistry, pensioners, the youth, scouting.... - she does not remember how many resorts she had. In practice her care was based on listening to various postulates, complaints of people who arrived from many places in Poland on behalf of various groups, but also their own and it all happened in one room, where the whole presidium used to sit. - Everyone was smoking, so it was dark from smog in the room, a group of petitioners was listening to everybody, everyone was speaking at the same time, and everyone wanted everything at once -says Mrs. Grazyna.

There were also trips to many places in Poland and abroad, for example, to stifle strikes. The first time she was seconded to Rome for a Congress of the Polish Diaspora in the World and a meeting with Italian Labour Unions. In the beginning she was terrified because earlier, like most Poles, she perceived them as the Eastern block, but there was enthusiasm about Solidarity in the western countries, that even no speeches were needed. What she remembered the most, were a couple of Italian Unionists who were taking care of her, especially that she heard their surnames among leaders of the Red Brigades. - I was going on behalf of Lech Walesa, because it was him who had received an invitation, and what would have happened if he had gone there personally? - she still asks this question.

She was seconded abroad twice: for a meeting with unionists in France and the Scandinavian countries in order to gain equipment for the disabled. The last journey was planned for 14 December 1981, so, instead to Sweden or Norway she got to other camps for the interned.

‘The thirteenth the twelfth’

It was how Grażyna Przybylska-Wendt entitled her play which she had written on the basis of her experiences in Strzeblinek, Fordon, Gołdapia and Darłówko. It was performed in Płock by a Drama Theatre named Klemens Szaniawski, and its premiere took place in 2006. It had very favourable reviews and could be watched 20 times, also in other cities, among the others, in Warsaw, Łódź and Gołdapia. Recently, the interest in it has dropped. When I was phoning the theatre to ask where and when it would be performed, I heard that nowhere because there was no demand to martyrdom. But there is the least martyrdom in it, and there is most definite attitude full of solidarity, great organization and a lot of humour. And, although the Christmas Eve of women isolated from their families and backgrounds was very sad, they could share Christmas wafer with a functionary guarding them (acted by Grażyna Zielińska, that is, a herbalist lady from ‘Rancho’). I watched the play on DVD with great interest, which got lost during the moving of the European Solidarity Centre. The play got there because the Video Studio Gdańsk Foundation of Catholic Films and Programs suggested presenting it during the opening ceremony of the new headquarter of the European Solidarity Centre which seemed to be a great idea. However, it only seemed so.

It is neither the first nor the last time literary work by Grażyna Przybylska-Wendt. She has written a lot of them: poems, texts of cabarets, tales for children, memoirs books. In the last volume of poems ‘Verses written with life’ she presents her world in various colours, although mostly in the colour of nostalgic reflection, like in the poem ‘Fantasy’: ‘I was running towards people and the sun/but it was dark and empty/I was running to you, to them, but you…have gone,/and they stopped existing/So, what was the sense of the course of my life?’.

In the family atmosphere

The earliest memories from childhood? As a four-year-old girl she remembered the first bombarding in Cracow, as well as patriotic songs and poems, which she had learned from her mum. She emphasizes that her deep faith had a great influence on her sister Ursuline, older than her by 8 years, who, after graduating from law, joined the convent of Ursula’s Sisters of the Heart of Dying Jesus in Pniewy. Mrs. Grażyna reminisces her parents who were worried that their daughter separated herself from the world, by joining the convent, whereas, it was her, who, after becoming the general mother of the convent (and holding this function for 12 years), visited many parts of the world and established houses of Ursuline Sisters on a few continents. And it was her who brought the body of –today the saint sister Urszula Ledóchowska – to Poland. During her cadency, the cloister in Pniewy also became the patronage of the hospice in Płock, founded in 1987 by Dr. Grażyna, and which is named St. Urszula Ledóchowska. So, she takes pride in speaking about her sister and father who, as a 19-year-old man joined the army as a volunteer and took part in a war against the Bolsheviks. She found out about not earlier than after his death and from leftover documents among which she also found information about rewards granted to him.

Family has always been and is still very important for dr. Przybylska-Wendt, therefore she grieves over the fact that her two daughters live with their families on Sardinia and sees them very rarely. This is the price which she pays today for her activity in the Solidarity Movement. During and after the martial law their beginning of adulthood was so hindered that they did not put up with the pressure, left Poland and got married to Italian men and set up their families in Italy. But she cares about her grandchildren’s knowledge of Poland history, including the modern one in whose creation she also participated.


„Niedziela” 36/2015

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: