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 Stanisław Pyjas

Stanislaw Pyjas

It was almost mid-night as I drove into Cracow in late January 1978 from my Christmas holiday to America which was extended due to an illness. I landed in Holland and purchased a used Ford there for $1900.00 which was given to me by a friend in America to help me get around in Poland after losing the old VW bug I purchased. The VW mysteriously crashed while I was fortunately going only five miles an hour down on a cobblestone road with a very tall American basketball player in the car. ( The body of the VW completely fell off the Chassis in all four corners at once during the late autumn of 1977 ). In Czechoslovakia around 8PM, alone on a winter highway racing to Poland while listening to Mike Omartian's White Horse Album - a large deer jumped out of nowhere from the deep ravine on the side of the road. I always had quick reactions and hit the brakes spinning around several times in one place on the dime on the snow slippery road with my 1973 Ford Capri. There were deep ravines on both sides of this two lane highway, it was amazing that my car did not slide to either side. I continued and had an extensive unpleasant border check at the Polish border that night. I stopped at the Hotel Cracovia after the long dangerous drive from Vienna in January 1978 on the way to my rented room in the Podgorze section of Cracow.   As I was finishing my meal around mid-night, a well dressed man ( wearing a suit ) in his thirties came from across the room and sat in front of me at my table. He introduced himself to me and proceeded to call me "Captain" several times ( Panie Kapitanie ) and began saying - repeating that he and his people ( we know)  know who I am. He then told me that they ( his associates ) could kill me by sticking these metal utensils into my rear end ( using the vulgar term in Polish ) and that they could have me taken care of just like they took care of " Pyjas ". He did also explain to me that he was the director of Radio and TV in Cracow and also a professor ( Docent Profesor ) at the Academy of Economics in Cracow and a man of authority. He then got up and left the room. I got up and asked the chief waiter who that man was and he confirmed the name and position. He was well known in the hotel. Today I can only remember those positions he held, how he looked and that his last name had only three letters in it. After I made my report to the American Consul, I chose to put that man and this very repulsive meeting out of my mind and did not want to hate this man for the rest of my life. I did have pity on him, in that I saw his kind in a trap and not knowing the way out. There was no one else to talk to in Poland about the matter at that time. Even today, some people are afraid to speak up too much on certain matters. In the 1980's & '90's in Chicago, I did some paper work for the Popieluszko family who still were afraid to return to Poland as another young Popieluszko nephew died mysteriously on the streets in Poland in the late 1980's.  I did see him ( the Professor from the Academy of Economics and Radio/TV director ) again in passing only a few months later, by the University  and he put his head down as we passed each other. That night in January, I was afraid to go to my room which was on the lower level of a house where I rented that one room. There was a Polish family two levels above me, if they were in and no one living in-between at that time. My first reaction was to immediately go to a Militia station where I talked to the night commander for three minutes to mention ( I was very upset )  how I was threatened by this official of theirs and that I would go to the American Consul to report it. I did go to my room that night without sleeping much and first thing in the morning went to the office of the American Consul where I did have a private meeting in his office and I told him all that happened including the exact name of the official and what he said about Stanislaw Pyjas. I felt relatively safer after reporting to the Consul and letting the Militia know I would do so. Why did I go to the Militia at that time late at night instead of going home and to the Consul first. It was my instinct for survival that night to show them that I wasn't afraid. In truth I first thought about driving back to Vienna that night, but I knew who controlled the borders and the roads.

I don't make any claims here except to give testimony to this incident with an unusually highly positioned official in Soviet Ruled Poland. The first fact is that I was being threatened, the second fact is that this high official claimed that they ( his group " my " which means us/we in Polish ) had Stanislaw Pyjas killed. I have also recently reported this incident to the new authorities in Poland as well as to the Polish American Community.

Why me?  Why not someone else? Some of the reasons are the following. I was involved in many student leadership activities and church activities with some of the highest Catholic and Protestant officials in Poland. I was clearly not a favorite with the government and they let the students know that on election night in my first year of running for office among the 300 Polonia students. They ran that election three times and each time I got more votes. On the first ballot one of the counters was asked to place my votes toward another candidate. That courageous election counter is now a respected medical Doctor in America. I am still in touch with him, though we have not discussed this event in over twenty five years, I am sure he will always remember that night when he said no to the communist authorities who asked him to cheat and lie. In the following year I ran the election myself and ran unopposed. In that time I was also helping to organize many Americans coming to work in Catholic Youth Camps in Poland. I was never directly involved in any political activity. However in Poland back then, expressing freedom sentiments, meeting with students and helping Professor Blachnicki could be upsetting to the party members who were often on edge. I am a Pole and also an American, but most importantly a Christian who knows what I believe and why. I did have a great deal of sympathy for what the Poles were going through under Soviet domination - most of us from America did. Previous to this I was arrested along with another American who rented a room above me for " stealing rings from an elderly woman " who identifed me by the yellow VW bug which I supposedly used in the get away.  The other American was arrested because he was using my car on that day - all day with his girlfriend. He was livid as we were kept in arrest for the whole day until they released us with no other mention of the affair after that. Why me or us? My American friend and I rescued a Polish lady working next to our building who was being dragged by the hair to another room as we watched in horror through the factory window. The assailant was the plant director. We reported him to the Polish Militia. What else could we do? We walked the young lady to the trolley car and saw that she was still in pain and fear.  Sometime later the Militia ( milicia ) or Security Police also sent several "plain clothes" men to go through all my belongings while I was kept in another room with one of them. We were not too amazed, this was Soviet Ruled Poland.

I came to Poland as a Polonia student in 1974 and stayed until the Spring of 1978. There were about 300 Polonia students during the school year in Cracow alone, perhaps 100 were in Warsaw and scattered in other cities like Wroclaw and Gdansk. I became one of the better known American Polonia students initially by singing in many Cracow clubs, by winning an award for singing in Poznan in 1975 at the International Folk Song Festival, singing in student clubs around the country and mainly in Cracow. The club singing was curtailed after I sang three Christian songs on May 1, 1975 as the entertainment during a Party Members only celebration that I was invited to. However the students of Cracow set me up in many Catholic churches and unofficial student gatherings where I continued to sing and speak freely. Through this I met Professor Franciszek Blachnicki in Lublin at the Catholic University there where I was invited to take part in the Sacred Song Festival. Prof. Blachnicki was also a priest and the founder of the largest Catholic youth camping movement in Europe - Oasis ( the Light and Life Movement ). Today Professor Blachnicki is up for sainthood in Rome along with two other famous priests from Poland Cardinal Wyszynski and Ks. Jerzy Popieluszko.  My association with Prof. Blachnicki was extensive and he was known as the Ayatollah of Poland by the government for his great following. His work was spiritual, but the authorities of Poland did not like his success of developing a youth camping movement independent of the Socialist run Youth Camps. I was also able to meet with the Cardinal of Cracow in his office as well as at two other meetings in Catholic Churches.   In my last two years in Poland I was twice elected by the 300 Polonia students to be their chairman for social events and organized many meetings ( including two in the Rotunda for 500 Polonia and Polish students - the last such meetings was held in the spring of 1978 and the new American Consul attended and even said a few words to the crowd ), we ( several elected Polonia students ) published an in-house newspaper for Polonia students which they censored and I continued to sing and talk about the benefits of joyful and vibrant first century Christianity in churches and student gatherings in Poland.

I would have dismissed such a conversation, except that the person who spoke to me was a person who was in a powerful position. I don't like talking about this and writing it took me years. I'm surprised that the matter is still open in 2004 and that no one has a clue who murdered Stanislaw, except to point to a dead boxer who may have done the dirty work. We all know that the true murderers are those who ordered and in some way paid for or forced the deed to be done. I do this mainly for Stanislaw Pyjas whom I did not know with the hope to meet him some day in Heaven. His death in Cracow changed Poland forever. For those of us who were in Poland from 1974 to 1978 saw the whole nation galvanized and changed after his death.

Joe Losiak P.O. Box 381 - Union Pier, MI 49129

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