In 2011, more than 120 documents of the beatification processes of the martyrs of the Second World War were transferred to the Vatican. Among them, the story of Józef and Wiktoria Ulma and their children from Markowa, who were murdered for helping Jews, was patiently waiting for its time. On December 17, 2022, Pope Francis approved the decree of their martyrdom. The year 2023 is to be the year of their beatification. This is the first time in the history of the Church that an unborn child will be beatified.
Józef and Wiktoria Ulma were inhabitants of the village of Markowa in the pre-war Lwów Voivodeship, and today’s Podkarpackie Voivodship. Probably at the end of 1942, despite poverty and the risk of losing their lives, the Ulma family gave shelter to Jews: Saul Goldman and his four sons and two daughters, as well as the granddaughter of Chaim Goldman from Markowa – Lea (Layce) Didner with a daughter of unknown name and Geni (Gołda) Grunfeld. The Ulma family was most likely reported by the blue policeman Włodzimierz Leś. On March 24, 1944, German gendarmes appeared in front of their house. They murdered first the Jews in cold blood, and then Józef Ulma who was hiding them, his wife Wiktoria, who was in advanced pregnancy, and their six children – 8-year-old Stanisława, 6-year-old Barbara, 5-year-old Władysław, 4-year-old Franciszek, 3-year-old Antoni and 1.5-year-old Maria.
“The heart of Markowa”
In recent years, knowledge about the Ulmas has been increasingly disseminated, and initiatives devoted to them more and more often go beyond the borders of Poland. An example is the beatification process of Józef and Wiktoria Ulma and their children, which is now entering its final stage of development. Information about the trial is also provided by the extensive foreign-language press, e.g. Israeli and American. The high number of people interested in topics related to the dramatic history of the Polish family influenced the creation of one of the greatest ideas in the form of the Museum of Poles Saving Jews during World War II named after The Ulma Family in Markowa.
Thanks to the establishment of the institution, Markowa has become a place of pilgrimage not only from Poland, but also from abroad. Until recently, our country attracted primarily young Israelis who willingly visited such places as the Łańcut synagogue and the popular grave of Tzaddik Elimelech in Leżajsk. Currently, the name “the heart of Markowa” is attributed to the first museum in Poland dedicated to Poles saving Jews.
In 1995, Wiktoria and Józef Ulma were posthumously honored with the title of Righteous Among the Nations. In 2004, a monument dedicated to the Ulma family was unveiled in Markowa, and in 2010, the President of the Republic of Poland, Lech Kaczyński, awarded them the Commander’s Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta.
An event that is also inspired by the Christian attitude of the Ulma Family from Markowa and commemorates their heroism and courage is the Festival of David’s Psalms “Honoring the Righteous and the Survivors”, which for many years has brought together artists of Jewish and Polish descent on the stage. From the very beginning, the initiative of the Foundation for Ulma Families SOAR from Podkarpacie is part of the extremely important mission of presenting the history of Poles who risked their lives during one of the most tragic events in the history of mankind – the Holocaust – helping their Jewish brothers. Musical compositions, both contemporary and those based on the Old Testament Book of Psalms, are created by outstanding Polish composers, such as Piotr Rubik, Michał Lorenc, Michał Jurkiewicz and others. The concerts of the Psalms of David, which have taken place so far not only in Poland, but also in Rome and Jerusalem, emphasize the essence of the idea of peace, unity, mercy, brotherhood and many other traditional values.
On December 17, 2022, during the usual audience for the prefect of the Dicastery for the Causes of Saints, Cardinal Marcello Semararo, Pope Francis approved the decree on the martyrdom of the Ulma family of Markowa. Therefore, the Church will recognize as blessed not only the Ulmas and their six children, but also the seventh unborn.
“Especially this beatification of an unborn child is a recognition that a child already in the womb is a human being and that person deserves protection and care” – emphasized Bishop Stanisław Jamrozek, who was the postulator of the beatification process of the Ulma family at the diocesan stage.
Józef and Wiktoria Ulma remained faithful to their beliefs and values until the end, for which they and their children paid the highest price. Today, their sacrifice contributes to internal reflections on the meaning of life and increasingly affects not only the local community, but also the inhabitants of various corners of the world.