All Souls’ Day at Majdanek. Commemoration of Wanda Ossowska (1912–2001)
“The Saint” – this is how Wanda Ossowska, a prisoner of the concentration camp at Majdanek, was described by her fellow prisoners. The commemoration of this remarkable character was held on November 14, 2017, as part of the All Souls’ Day at Majdanek.
The idea for the All Souls’ Day at Majdanek is to remind as well as to gain better understanding of the characters who played a significant role in a camp life for both prisoners and people associated with the camp by occupational activity. The central point of the event will be a conversation with the representatives of Wanda Ossowska’s family who will not only tell us about their aunt, her post-war fates and the impact of occupational experiences on her life, but also bring mementos related to Wanda Ossowska, including original correspondence with the Pope John Paul II.
Wanda Ossowska was born in 1912 in Kunice. In 1926, she began education at the Zofia Wołoska Junior High School in Warsaw. After her high school graduation, she continued education at the Polish Red Cross Nursing School. She worked as a graduate nurse at the Polish Red Cross Sanatorium in Lvov. In September 19, 1939, she was allotted to 604th Military Hospital in Lvov at Kurkowa Street. A month after that, she took an oath at Service for Poland’s Victory and worked in a sanitary unit. In 1940, she was sent to Warsaw in order to establish communication with the Headquarter of the Union of Armed Struggle. During her way back, she was arrested by the NKVD at the German-Soviet border. The nightmare of Soviet prisons began for Wanda firstly at Brygidki and later at Zamarstyniv. After her release, she was re-directed to Warsaw where she acted as a liaison. Later on, she supervised the liaisons of the Home Army Department of Offensive Intelligence “Stragan”. In August 1942, she was arrested due to betrayal of the head of an aerial unit of Stragan, Ludwik Kalkstein. Brought to a breaking point by brutal interrogations, she tried to commit suicide. On January 17, 1943, she was deported from Pawiak prison to the KL Lublin where she received her identification number 4446. She began to work as a nurse almost immediately. In cooperation with dr Stefania Perzanowska, she co-created the hospital in the women’s field. She was one of the organisers of nurses’ training for over 100 young prisoners. Under her charge the patients were always provided with hygiene measures, water for feverous and words of comfort. She was also a prisoner of KL Auschwitz, KL Ravensbrück and KL Neuestadt-Gleve. She died in Warsaw in 2001.