Blessed Martyrs of Nowogródek

Feast Day : 1 August

The Blessed Martyrs of Nowogródek, also known as the Eleven Nuns of Nowogródek or Sister Stella and Companions were a group of Roman Catholic nuns from the Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth killed by the Gestapo in August 1943 in present-day Belarus.

The Sisters of the Holy Family of Nazareth arrived in Nowogródek in 1929 at the behest of Bishop Zygmunt Lozinski. The Sisters became an integral part of the life of the town. During the Nazi and Soviet occupation of Poland, the Sisters invested great effort in preparing for the religious services – for the residents of the town, liturgical prayer became a beacon of hope amid the hopelessness of the occupation.

The Nazi terror in Nowogródek began with the 1942 extermination of the Jews. Of the 20,000 inhabitants of the town before the war, approximately half were Jews. The Germans murdered about 9,500 of the Jews in a series of "actions" and sent the remaining 550 Jews to slave labor camps. This was followed by a surge in Polish arrests, then the slaughter of 60 people, including two priests. This situation was repeated on 18 July 1943, when more than 120 people were arrested and slated for execution.

The Sisters unanimously expressed their desire to offer their lives in sacrifice for the imprisoned. Sister Maria Stella shared the Sisters' decision with their chaplain Father Zienkiewicz and rector, saying, "My God, if sacrifice of life is needed, accept it from us and spare those who have families. We are even praying for this intention." Almost immediately, the plans for the prisoners were changed – they were deported to work camps in Germany, and some of them were even released. When the life of Father Zienkiewicz was threatened, the Sisters renewed their offer, saying, "There is a greater need for a priest on this earth than for us. We pray that God will take us in his place, if sacrifice of life is needed."


Without warning or provocation, on 31 July 1943, eleven of the sisters were imprisoned, loaded into a van, and driven beyond the town limits. The eleven nuns were killed on 1 August 1943 in the woods 5 km (3.1 mi) beyond Nowogródek; they were buried in a common grave. After the execution, Sister M. Malgorzata Banas, the community's sole surviving member, located the place of the martyrdom and remained the guardian of their common grave until her own death in 1966. The Church of the Transfiguration, known as Biała Fara (or "White Church"), now contains the relics of the eleven martyrs.


The eleven martyrs are listed below, along with their birth names, dates of birth, and ages at the time of their deaths.

 Religious Name
Birth Name
Birth Date
Age at Death
Sister M. Boromea
Weronika Narmontowicz
18 Dec 1916
26 years old
Sister M. Daniela
Eleonora Aniela Jóźwik
25 Jan 1895
48 years old
Sister M. Felicyta
Paulina Borowik
30 Aug 1905
37 years old
Sister M. Gwidona
Helena Cierpka
11 Apr 1900
43 years old
Sister M. Heliodora
Leokadia Matuszewska
8 Feb 1906
37 years old
Sister M. Imelda
Jadwiga Karolina Żak
29 Dec 1892
50 years old
Sister M. Kanizja
Eugenia Mackiewicz
27 Nov 1903
39 years old
Sister M. Kanuta
Józefa Chrobot
22 May 1896
47 years old
Sister M. Rajmunda
Anna Kokołowicz
24 Aug 1892
50 years old
Sister M. Sergia
Julia Rapiej
18 Aug 1900
42 years old
Sister M. Stella, Superior
Adela Mardosewicz
14 Dec 1888
54 years old


On 18 September 1991, the canonization process for the eleven nuns was officially opened and, on 28 June 1999, the Zenit News Agency announced that Pope John Paul II had confirmed that they were martyrs. Pope John Paul II beatified them with a group of thirty-three others on Sunday, 5 March 2000.


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