Woman’s fortitude putting us to shame
Fr Lukasz Jaksik
The chronicles state briefly: she was born without any pain; no need for a midwife. But her death was completely different. Her last companions were pain, blood and humiliation. We do not know what a 16-year old girl felt when she was suddenly taken from her home and led towards the forest, to her tragic destiny. A Russian soldier led Karolina Kozka as a sheep for slaughter. But that might not have been the source of the biggest misfortune of the inhabitant of Zabawa, a village located near Tarnow. Since she was led to the place of her death with his father who had no strength to defend her daughter, even risking being hurt or killed. Similarly, two young boys, most likely the neighbours of the martyr, who did not do anything to help her although they witnessed her kidnapping.
Pricks of conscience for men
The Blessed Karolina was born on 2 August 1898 in Wal-Ruda. She was brought up in a large, religious family. From her childhood the local people called her the first soul to heaven, the most pious girl in the parish and a real angel. Her house, which was restored after the fire, testifies about her religious life. There were two rooms in house of the Kozka family. The first one was a stable for farm animals. Through the stable the family entered the second room. A small museum was organised there: a wooden bed and a wooden little table, her prayer-books and pictures from her pilgrimage to Odporyszow. There are also clay and wooden vessels, an old coal iron and oil lamps. The showcases contain the local costumes and the chest, which the future blessed bought for the money she earned serving in the manor.
As a child Karolina organised religious teaching for her peers under the pear tree near her home, which still stands there. She was at church every day. She assumed great responsibility for running the house, farm and upbringing her brothers and sisters. On 18 November 1914, defending her dignity, she was killed by a Russian soldier. John Paul II beatified her during his visit to Tarnow in 1987. The cause for her canonisation has been conducted since 2006. The cult of the Blessed Karolina has constantly developed since her beatification. Her figure has been placed on banners and in pictures; there are also monuments to the Blessed. She is the patroness of the Catholic Youth Association and the Movement of Clean Hearts, the Caritas circles in schools and in the Diocese of Rzeszow. Her popularity has been also testified by thanksgivings for the graces received through her intercession, especially for healings. Pilgrim movement to the grave of the Blessed Karolina in Zabawa is growing. Moreover, there are valuable pastoral initiatives; new churches and chapels dedicated to her are built and the demand for relics relating to her, sent from various parts of Poland and the world, increases.
Many pastoral initiatives concerning the person of Karolina Kozka have been undertaken. For example, one can visit the Chapel of the Martyrs of the 20th century and the Victims of Violence located in the shrine dedicated to Karolina. The chapel was created after the information about the young people, up to 33 years of age, who were brutally murdered, had been collected from all over Poland. Their names were placed on special commemorative tablets in the chapel. ‘The aim of this initiative is to rescue from oblivion the young people whose lives were brutally broken,’ explains the custodian of the Shrine of the Blessed Karolina in Zabawa Fr Zbigniew Szostak. The enterprise is to be a chance for mourning families and friends so that – following the route of the martyrdom of Karolina Kozka – they could find the sense of death. ‘Only after many years, reflecting on the tragedy of the Kozka family, we can see the sense of the blooming life, which was so dramatically broken. The example of this 16-year old girl from a small village near Tarnow can be a sign of hope for all mourning families that the death of their dearest ones was not senseless after all’, the custodian adds. Once a month in the hall located in the Shrine of the Blessed Karolina in Zabawa several psychologists help those who experience some trauma after losing a family member in a road accident. This initiative is a germ of the first centre in Poland where those who lost their dearest ones in road accidents can receive help. The psychologists help people from 2 p.m. on every 18th day of the month. This date is not accidental because in Wal-Ruda the way of the Cross following the route of the martyrdom of the Blessed Karolina, Virgin and Martyr, takes place on that day. Participating in this service can also be a form of therapy. ‘For three years we have promoted the idea to put some light outside the house (a candle on the windowsill) on that day (the 18th of each month) as a testimony of remembrance of those who passed away and a sign of solidarity with the victims of road accidents and of violence’, says Fr Szostak. ‘All of this has extraordinary meaning for the families of the victims’, says Anna Wedlowska from Warsaw. ‘Like almost every mother who lost her son I fear that my child will be forgotten by the world and people. With time colleagues or acquaintances forget and I do not blame them for that because people have their lives and must live them themselves, but I would like the memory of my son to survive. Can you imagine a better place?’ Since 2007 we can add another item to the list of interesting pastoral initiatives, namely the silver rings of the Blessed Karolina Kozka. They were made in the Shrine in Zabawa on the anniversary of the death of the patroness of the Movement of Clean Hearts and the Catholic Youth Association – the 18th day of the month. The rings are to be special signs. They are also to identify the worshippers of the Blessed Karolina, who was killed, defending her innocence and dignity, in 1914 by a Russian soldier,