38 years ago, most probably on 19 October 1984, Father Jerzy Popieluszko, chaplain of working people and chaplain of “Solidarity”, was murdered by functionaries of the Fourth Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
On 19 October 1984, Popieluszko was returning from Bydgoszcz, where he had celebrated mass for working people at the Church of the Holy Polish Martyrs’ Brothers. Near the village of Górsk, in a non-built-up area, he was arrested by three officers of the Fourth Department of the Interior Ministry who had carried out the assassination attempt six days earlier: Grzegorz Piotrowski, Waldemar Chmielewski and Leszek Pękala.
The priest was severely beaten, tied up with a rope and thrown into the boot of an officers’ car. His driver – Waldemar Chrostowski – was overpowered and pushed into the vehicle. However, he managed to jump out of the moving car and made his way to a farmer’s circle in Przysiek and then to one of Toruń’s parishes. There he passed on the information about Popiełuszko’s abduction. Chrostowski was not seriously injured.
It is not known exactly what happened from the moment the priest was abducted until his body was thrown into a lagoon near Włocławek. Popieluszko likely escaped from their car during a traffic stop in front of the Kosmos Hotel in Toruń, but the secret police caught up with him and beat him. A post-mortem confirmed that he had been beaten and bound in such a way that with every movement the rope tightened around his neck. There are many indications that he died on 19 October, before being thrown into the Vistula near the dam in Włocławek. A bag of pre-prepared stones was tied to the priest’s legs by his torturers.
The news of Popieluszko’s abduction was reported in the Television Diary on 20 October. Crowds began to gather at the St Stanisław Kostka church, where the priest had been active for four years, for Holy Mass, the Rosary and the Jasna Góra Appeal. This continued in the days that followed.
On 24 October, the authorities announced that Security Service officers were among the perpetrators of the kidnapping, and on 27 October, the then head of the Interior Ministry, General Czesław Kiszczak, revealed three names: Piotrowski, Pękala and Chmielewski. Information about the discovery of Father Jerzy’s body from the Vistula near Włocławek appeared on 30 October. It was so massacred that the family identified it only by specific marks.
Popieluszko was buried at St Stanislaw Kostka Church, and not at Powązki or in his home town of Suchowola – as the authorities of the time wanted. The funeral on 3 November 1984 was attended by more than 600,000 faithful and nearly a thousand priests. Pilgrims from all over Poland began to flock to the tomb.