In the early part of the twentieth century, the far east of Russia was populated by many Polish settlements. We have 7 sainthood candidates who lived in the city of Vladivostok. Pope John Paul II asked that information be gathered on these and other Russian martyrs as quickly as possible before the eyewitnesses are all deceased. If you have information that would help us, please contact us at the U.S. office.
When the ravages of the 1917 communist revolution finally reached the city of Vladivostok, which was located at the end of the Trans-Siberian Railroad, it had devastating effects on the Catholic as well as the Orthodox populations.
All Catholic clergy were first arrested and sent to labor camps. Soon after this, the parishes were closed down. Parishioners were harassed and intimidated in numerous ways. Many were executed, suffering “red” martyrdom. Others, although they were not executed , nonetheless suffered “white” martyrdom for the Faith.
One such white martyr was the beloved first bishop of Vladivostok, the Most Reverend Karol Sliwowsky. Bishop Sliwowsky’s cathedral and his episcopal residence were taken away from him. He died shortly thereafter while confined under house arrest.
The rector of the cathedral, Fr. Jerzy Jurkiewicz, who also acted as the bishop’s personal assistant, was reportedly last seen in a gulag with one eye missing. He was never heard from again.
Five laymen, all Russian Polish, were killed after they were discovered praying the rosary. Below is a list of the five parishioners of Vladivostok Catholic parish who were arrested by the Communist security police in 1937 and disappeared.
NOTE: The first spelling listed for each first name and family name is in Polish, although without the special accent marks. The spelling of the patronymic name (in parentheses) is in Russian transliterated into American English spelling based on pronunciation. The patronymic is a second name that all citizens of Russians use, based on their father’s first name with the suffix “ovich” or “evich” for men and “ovna” or “evna” for women.
- Anton (Ivanovich) Gerasimuk (1878-1938).
- Waleriy (Antonovich) Gerasimuk (1914-1938). Son of Anton. (In American English we would spell the first name Valery or Valerie.) Both were arrested at the home of Anton on July 19, 1937, and charged with taking part in counter-revolutionary, underground activities of a Polish religious organization. They were found guilty by a decree of the UNKVD (forerunner of the KGB) on December 30, 1937 and sentenced to death. They were executed by firing squad at 6:00 PM on February 3, 1938.
- Sigizmund (Vladislavovich) Brzezinski (1892-1938). First husband of our parishioner, Sophia (Mikhailovna) Brzezinski (born in 1911). He was arrested while praying with other Catholics on September 2, 1937, and charged with the establishment of an underground, counter-revolutionary Polish religious organization. He pleaded innocent, but was found guilty and executed by firing squad at 6:00 PM on February 3, 1938.
- Jan (Jeronimovich) Strudzinski (1878-1938). Arrested on September 13, 1937 on two charges: 1) organizing and directing the underground activities of a counter-revolutionary, religious organization; and 2) espionage for Japan for which he was also paid illegally in foreign (hard) currency. He pleaded guilty, the only Catholic parishioner to plead guilty of any charges. He was executed by firing squad on February 3, 1938.
- Marcin (Petrovich) Maliniewski (1880-1938). The last trustee of the parish when it was legally liquidated and all church property confiscated in 1935. Marcin was arrested on September 13, 1937 and charged with membership in a counter-revolutionary, underground religious organization of Poles. He maintained his innocence, but admitted to praying at home. He was sentenced to death, and executed by firing squad at 6:00 PM on February 3, 1938. On July 30, 1959 he was posthumously declared innocent of all charges by a decision of the Military Tribunal of the Russian Pacific Navy.
- Fr. Jerzy Jurkiewicz
- Bishop Karol Sliwowsky
Additional information on our sainthood candidates can be found in the March 1, 2000 issue (Number 32) of the Vladivostok Sunrise newsletter.