Marian Helper Spring 2024

Love is the ultimate mark of being Christian. In the Gospel of John, Jesus goes on to say, “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (Jn 15:13). Józef and Wiktoria, like many other heroes, martyrs, and saints, followed Jesus’ commandments and chose to love — to the point of ultimate sacrifice. The beatification of Józef, Wiktoria, and their seven children on Sept. 10, 2023, was an unprecedented event in the history of the Catholic Church. For the first time, an entire family was beatified, including the child born as his mother Wiktoria was murdered. Test of faith The Ulmas were a young, growing family living in Markowa, Poland, a rural village of approximately 4,500 inhabitants. Wiktoria and Józef married in 1935, and by 1944 had six children: Stanislawa, 8; Barbara, 7; Wladyslaw, 6; Franciszek, 4; Antoni, 3; and Maria, 2. Wiktoria was also expecting her seventh child. Józef was a farmer and beekeeper, and Wiktoria raised the children while lending her acting skills to the local community theater. They led full, faith-filled lives, and had an entire future of love and hope to look forward to. Unfortunately, their young lives were cut tragically short, but not before the Ulmas endured an incredibly challenging test of faith. In 1941, the Nazis implemented the “Final Solution,” a plan to exterminate all Jews in Europe. They subsequently declared a death penalty for any Pole who hid or sheltered a Jew. These policies directly endangered the lives of the 120 Jews in Markowa who had previously lived in harmony with their fellow villagers. Despite the clear risk to themselves and their young children, Wiktoria and Józef decided to provide shelter, food, and comfort to eight Jews from three families. Secret of their heroism What made these young parents decide to risk it all — their own lives and the lives of their children — to help fellow human beings? What gave them the courage to make A Family of Martyrs In their family Bible, Józef and Wiktoria Ulma underlined Jesus’ words: “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn 13:34-35). 22 Marian Helper • Spring 2024 • By Veronica Szczygiel