Messenger of the Truth (2013) Movie Script

MARTIN SHEEN: Thousands of Poles
walk with determination
under a hot August sun.
Their destination, Saint
Stanislaus Kostka Church.
Blocking every street and alley
the tanks, water cannon, and
lead filled batons
of the militia.
They have been ordered to stop
these people
with force, if necessary.
They have come to here a
35-year-old priest named
Father Jerzy Popieluszko, a
chaplain for the trade union
solidarity, a linchpin of the
opposition underground
and a peaceful voice of truth
and justice for his people.
MARTIN SHEEN: In three years,
this extraordinary priest
mobilized a nation to make their
dreams of freedom a reality.
His monthly masses, celebrations
of dignity and peace,
spoke of the injustice and
of the communist system.
There we were free, safe, and
not afraid of anything.
PRIEST: The government, they
knew they were not able to stop
people from coming to the mass.
At this point, it wasn't
MARTIN SHEEN: To the communist
regime that has ruled Eastern
Europe with an iron fist since
the end of World War II
and to the secret police hiding
among the crowd,
he is the most dangerous man in
PRIEST: All the way from Moscow,
through Warsaw, to east
Bahrain, the entire communist
was afraid of Father Jerzy
And his only weapon was the
MARTIN SHEEN: On November 9th,
east and west Germans gathered
at the Berlin Wall
with sledgehammers and pickaxes
and began tearing it down.
These iconic images, broadcast
proclaim the reunification of
and signaled the end of
But the end of communism in
began years earlier in an
otherwise unremarkable
church in Warsaw with the words
of Father Jerzy Popieluszko.
MARTIN SHEEN: At the Yalta
Conference in 1945,
Prime Minister Churchill and
President Roosevelt
handed Poland over to General
Secretary Joseph Stalin
believing his promise to operate
on a broader democratic basis.
JOHN MOODY: Poland has always
been a pawn of the world,
whether it's Russia or Western
Europe, United States.
It's always been a tradable
Here Stalin, we'll give you
and you give us two players to
be named later.
MARTIN SHEEN: Under Stalin the
communist controlled
everything in Eastern Europe.
The media was run by the state.
Wages and food prices were
and dissension was quickly and
crushed by the secret police.
GRAZYNA SIKORSKI: It is actually
the essence
of the communist regime because
it wants
to control all aspects of
person's life,
including your thoughts, your
And if you think about it, you
rely on the state
for everything in your life.
MARTIN SHEEN: But from the
start, Poland resisted.
With its population of 38
million people, 95% Catholic,
the church and its leadership
uniquely responsible for the
of Poland's national identity.
The head of the Catholic Church
in Poland
was the primate, Cardinal Stefan
He was beloved by the people, a
constant thorn in the side
of the communist establishment,
and a wily tactician who
was able to maintain and grow
the church's influence
for more than three decades.
TRANSLATOR: Cardinal Wyszynski
knew communism very well.
He was probably one of the only
Polish people
with Marx's book read cover to
MARTIN SHEEN: For 40 years, the
communist regime
used all available firepower to
enforce their will.
Nuns and priests were routinely
tried and executed.
And the Polish people were
ground into submission.
Then in 1979, everything
It's June 2 and Victory Square
in Warsaw, Poland is full.
A million people have come to
Poland's newest hero, Cardinal
Wojtyla, now Pope John Paul II.
Somewhere in this massive crowd
is a 32-year-old priest
named Father Jerzy Popieluszko.
remember standing there.
And I remember these words, let
the spirit come
and renew the face of this
Absolutely clear message.
I am there.
I will support you.
But you have to do it yourself.
That was a clear message.
And I remember the effect that
it had on the crowd.
That was like a thunderbolt.
TRANSLATOR: The church
such as primate Wyszynski and
the bishops,
the cardinal Wojtyla never
agreed with Marxism,
with communism.
They preached freedom of man,
freedom, man's
right to freedom.
And that's how one can explain
this connection
between the people, the factory
workers, and intelligentsia
and the church.
TRANSLATOR: When the Pope came
in June of 1979,
we found out again we were
And that made the communist
authorities disappear.
If only for a week, it was the
first week
without communists since 1945.
without communists since 1945.
MARTIN SHEEN: After months of
fruitless negotiations,
17,000 workers at the Lenin
in the northern Baltic Port of
went on an occupation strike,
locking the gates
and shutting down the entire
The strike committee chose a
charismatic former shipyard
electrician as their leader.
TRANSLATOR: The communists were
following a simple rule,
do not allow the protesters to
And we couldn't build solidarity
because we were
being constantly dismantled.
And then, we got help from
A poll was chosen as pope.
Without the pope we wouldn't be
able to organize
ourselves for a long time.
We wouldn't be able to fight
TRANSLATOR: We were protesting
so that people
would be treated seriously.
They were getting fired and
thrown out of work.
And that's what the strikes were
for, to say, no, enough.
You can't fire people because
they go to church
and believe in a free Poland.
MARTIN SHEEN: Young priests,
like Father Popieluszko,
took the Pope's words as a
personal challenge.
He used the words of the Holy
in his new position as the
to nursing and medical students,
them to form strike committees
based on the principles
of nonviolence.
During the 1980s, Roger Boyes
was stationed
in Warsaw for the Times.
He reported on the birth of the
first free trade union
in the Soviet bloc called
Solidarity and its leader
Lech Walesa.
combination of legitimate
worker grievances, a theology of
freedom and a champion in Rome
that changed the chemistry that
in previous post-war uprisings,
in 1956, in 1968, 1970--
The role of Catholicism wasn't
really that important.
We didn't have a Polish Pope.
It had changed, something
fundamental had changed.
MARTIN SHEEN: 10,000 employees
of the massive steel mill
in Warsaw shut down the
and locked themselves inside the
The first Sunday of the strike,
three workers
snuck out of the mill and went
to see
Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski with
an unusual request.
They asked for a priest to enter
the striking mill and say mass.
The cardinal saw an opportunity
he had been waiting for, the
heard inside the hallowed walls
of communist power,
the steel mill.
He also knew the perfect man for
the task.
A priest who was surprisingly
who had a deep faith and hope
for his people and his country.
And yet he was only 33 years
Alfonso Alec Popieluszko was
September 14th, 1947 in the
small farming
community of Okopy.
When he was old enough, Alec
would walk two miles
every morning to serve as an
altar boy
at Saint Peter's and Paul
At age 17, Alec left the small
town life behind and traveled
on his own to Warsaw to present
before the rector of Saint John
the Baptist Seminary.
In 1965 he was accepted.
And although he was not the
brightest student,
he impressed everyone with his
friendliness and passion
for his calling.
In 1966, Father Jerzy was a year
into his seminary studies
when he was sent with his fellow
to a communist military base for
their compulsory two
years in the Army.
The seminarians were placed in a
unit separate and unique
from the rest of the cadets,
of a carefully planned system of
atheistic indoctrination.
Bible study and prayer were
strictly forbidden.
But unlike some of his brothers,
Father Jerzy did pray.
He said the rosary in the open
and he refused
to take off his scapular.
TRANSLATOR: That's what
was like when he was ordered to
put away his prayer
book, to stop praying, or to put
his rosary or holy pendant.
I think most seminarians might
have followed orders,
but he protested out loud and
with a clear message.
MARTIN SHEEN: He was ordered to
stand at attention.
Sometimes all night long.
Sometimes in the rain and snow
and often barefoot.
TRANSLATOR: And this was the
why, using the military jargon,
they put the screws to him.
It was like that until he left.
MARTIN SHEEN: Father Jerzy's
time in the military damaged
his health beyond repair.
But despite spending his last
year of seminary
in and out of the hospital.
He was ordained on May 28th,
Father Jerzy embraced the
from Cardinal Wyszynski.
And on August 31st, 1980, he
walked past a gauntlet
of armed riot police, through
the gates
of the Warsaw steel mill, and
into the hearts
of its striking workers.
The gate opens and he's
literally sucked into this,
the steel mill crowd.
The guys bring him inside and
then they start to applaud.
And he looks around thinking to
who are they applauding for?
I'm just a priest.
I'm just here to say mass.
TRANSLATOR: A priest had never
entered the steel mill grounds.
This was unimaginable.
Once I tried to organize a
Catholic group here
for the young workers, but I was
This was a communist fortress
only served the communists.
That is how the totalitarian
regime saw it.
ROGER BOYES: It was clear that
was happening in the capital.
And it was clear that the regime
was really
worried about the transfusion of
the Gdansk spirit into Warsaw.
I mean it was already happening,
but nevertheless Huta Warszawa
was the kind of communist
that had been penetrated by the
And Popieluszko had done the
MARTIN SHEEN: On that same day
in Gdansk,
Lech Walesca signed an agreement
legalizing the first free trade
union in a communist country.
It was called Solidarity.
For months, nothing had left the
factories of Poland.
With pressure from Russia to get
them back
to work and unwilling or unable
to resort to violence,
the communist government caved
to the striker's demands.
In front of the World Press, the
Solidarity Agreement
removed the Communist Party's
over the industrial enterprise,
increased the minimum wage,
and abolished censorship
throughout the country.
ROGER BOYES: The main thing was
to keep
the communist monopoly over the
working class basically.
The whole point of the Communist
was it was the voice of the
working class.
If you let anyone compete, voice
workers problems,
you were in trouble.
So the idea was pretend a bit,
let them feel that they were
getting something, give them a
few concessions, which
maybe were justifiable anyway.
And then later you scratch it
all back.
Was this going to be the first
crack in the Iron Curtain?
It could have been. We didn't
know it.
Turns out, yes, it absolutely
TRANSLATOR: Poland was trying to
break free.
And 1980 was such an attempt.
It was successful in the sense
that 10 million
people joined Solidarity.
But if you think about it,
families, wives, children,
you need to multiply that by two
or three.
This no longer means 10 million
members, but 20 or 30 million.
So pretty much all the Poles,
the whole nation.
ROGER BOYES: Suddenly newspapers
could write what they want.
The censorship disappeared.
And that was amazing.
You would see people queuing for
newspapers, probably the one
time in history that people
stood regularly every day, not
for bread, but for newspapers.
PAUL HENSLER: There were a lot
more liberties
around the steel mill.
He started visiting their
He started baptizing their
He started tending to the sick
of the steel workers.
But the people loved it.
They loved the way he spoke to
them, the workers,
about their problems, not about
the church's problems.
He spoke about their homes,
their families,
their work, their money, their
lack of money.
TRANSLATOR: It was such euphoria
for us.
And it was new, but so obvious
to us
that these unions will be
at least after the Solidarity
And it was a big celebration for
And we realized we created a new
page in our Polish history.
And nothing would ever change
And nobody could take it away,
absolutely none.
ROGER BOYES: Yeah, it was
But of course also a time of
chronic shortages
and sort of slightly quiet
desperation as well.
Sometimes when people write or
describe this period
it sounds like it was massive
And it was in a way.
TRANSLATOR: Our relationship
Father Popieluszko invited
Seweryn Jaworski and others
to visit him at Saint Stanislaw
Kostka Parish where
he worked as a resident priest.
We paid him a visit.
And then he would visit us at
the factory.
He wanted to know what we were
doing, what our strike
issues were, and he saw the
formation of the union
and our work for Solidarity.
ROGER BOYES: Popieluszko had
this special magnetism.
And he was making these
He was making these linkages
between students,
young workers, older workers,
country, capital.
He was bringing it all together.
TRANSLATOR: Father Jerzy
organized meetings
with journalists, sociologists,
professors, historians,
and they taught us how to
communicate with authorities,
how to behave with danger.
So that Solidarity members,
unified against the government,
could connect and communicate
You can say thanks to Father
Jerzy for this.
TRANSLATOR: People started
thinking differently
about their work and study
which in turn fueled the fight
for democracy.
Maybe some of the requests were
not fully
understood by the workers.
But the fight for a different
reality had begun.
They asked him to design a flag
would help them show the
of the union at the steel mill.
And he was overjoyed.
I mean first being asked to be
their chaplain.
He finally had a family that was
his and he was responsible for.
His pastor said, go for it.
MARTIN SHEEN: What started that
morning as a simple procession
of the steel mill Solidarity
flag to Father Jerzy's church,
morphed into a massive crowd
control nightmare
that the government had not
20,000 people showed up at this
little church in Warsaw.
And the police had no idea it
was going to happen.
There was no permits.
It completely freaked them out.
They didn't have enough men to
ask for IDs.
The church yard was full.
Even the pastor of the Church
was a little shocked saying,
can you get more of the people
inside the church
so we don't cause a ruckus?
It just didn't work.
MARTIN SHEEN: The door of
freedom had opened a crack.
And now 38 million Poles wanted
to barge through it.
MARTIN SHEEN: With the death of
their beloved cardinal,
Stefan Wyszynski, in May of
1981, the new primate,
Cardinal Josef Glemp walked
right in to the growing unease
between Solidarity, the Catholic
and the Communist Party.
He joined some of the major
Solidarity leaders
in warning the young union that
they should
not ask for too much too soon.
To the Kremlin, Solidarity with
ideological suicide.
And there was a danger of it
spreading like a virus
throughout the Soviet bloc.
They hastily dismissed the
civilian government
and installed army general
Wojciech Jaruzelski,
putting the army in control.
That was the first sign that
the regime
was willing to use force, to use
force to preserve communism.
This was the thing.
Because what had happened in all
those months, those kind
of absolute helter-skelter
the Communist Party had become
more and more marginalized,
less and less relevant and was
absolutely in chaos,
absolutely in retreat.
TRANSLATOR: I declare that
the military council of national
salvation has been formed.
In accordance with the
the state council has imposed
martial law
all over the country.
MARTIN SHEEN: On December 13th,
Jaruzelski declared war on the
Polish people.
Everything was shut down--
travel, communication, schools,
factories, everything.
Suddenly, just shortly after
midnight the telexes stopped,
And then we really knew
something had happened.
If you cut off all communication
with the outside world,
you know something's happening.
MARTIN SHEEN: That night 500,000
soldiers of the Polish People's
Army were mobilized.
They moved in and blockaded
every city.
They raided the homes of
Solidarity leaders
and dragged them from their
Every Solidarity office
throughout the country
was broken into and ransacked.
By the end of the evening, 5,000
people had
been arrested without cause.
In the end, more than 90 people
were killed
and hundreds more had been
In 12 short hours, Jaruzelski's
government erased any trace
that Solidarity ever existed.
TRANSLATOR: Martial law was a
paralyzing situation.
My younger brother was home on
leave from the army.
And I had to tell him to
immediately go back to his base
so he would not be
We both were praying not to meet
in the days to come.
So my mother was saying goodbye
to her two sons.
One was going to Zoliborz, to
Father Jerzy,
and the other was going to the
military base.
All of a sudden it is no hope
at all.
And people start to think, where
do you go back, to 1945?
Does it mean that all freedoms
going to be taken away from us?
How to continue on with living?
Because the first thing that
when martial law was declared,
that 5,000 people were detained
and put into internment camps.
MARTIN SHEEN: Father Jerzy began
hearing the names
of some of those arrested.
His friends from the steel mill
and Solidarity--
Karol Sidorsky, Jacek Kuron,
Stefan Jaworski,
and Anna Walentynowicz.
Families were left without
or food coupons and no idea
where their loved
ones had been taken.
Within 24 hours Father Jerzy had
cleared the basement
of his church, set up a locator
map of jails and prisons,
And sent out volunteers to check
on the families.
In the ensuing days, some union
chose to fight back, despite
being outnumbered and unarmed.
TRANSLATOR: These were the first
few weeks of martial law.
We were keeping track of who was
imprisoned, who was jailed,
and who was taken away.
And he said that he would like
to have information on what is
happening during these trials.
Who was convicted in what room,
what day, and in what case.
I said, OK, no problem because I
worked there.
And I moved around easily.
MARTIN SHEEN: With Solidarity
effectively eliminated,
Jaruzelski set his sights on the
Catholic Church.
He appointed hardliners to every
key position in the government.
An important assignment was
General Czeslaw Kiszczak
who was named Minister of
Internal Affairs, the office
that controlled the secret
police and a clandestine unit
called Department 4, whose sole
mandate was to spy
on every church in Poland.
But there were only two that
they were really,
really concerned about in 1980.
One was Saint Bridget's in
Gdansk because of Lech Walesa
and Father Jankowski, his
The one that they were even more
concerned about
was closer to home base in
and that was Saint Stanislaus
Kostka Church
and Father Jerzy Popieluszko.
During legal solidarity the
church wasn't so important--
or the church as an institution
wasn't so important
as a channel of information.
It was only afterwards, after
the banning of solidarity,
that it became important.
So where did it happen?
It got displaced into the
infrastructure of the church
or sympathetic parishes.
Especially those parishes which
collecting Western medical aid.
Medical Aid for Poland fund was
set up in response
to Lech Walesa's request to the
to provide medical supplies for
after the imposition of martial
You can imagine it was a lot of
But we filled up lorries.
We had the paperwork in place.
And we sent these lorries across
to Poland.
When Western medical aid
started to flow into churches.
Department 4 was then upgraded
and expanded
and given massive resources
because they were worried.
They were worried that printing
machines, all these kind
of things, money, especially
was flowing in through church
MARTIN SHEEN: Within weeks of
martial law,
leaders of Solidarity that had
escaped capture
joined forces with the
underground, a network
of writers and intellectuals
had been printing anti-communist
literature for decades.
ROGER BOYES: But the underground
was really important.
It was important because it kept
the idea alive,
which was an absolute defiance
and really
infuriated the regime.
But also the way it wove into
the rhythm,
the rhythm of Polish society.
And that's where the church came
Because if ever there was a
moment for the underground
to show itself or to flex itself
was exactly at Sunday masses.
MARTIN SHEEN: Father Jerzy's
pastor, Father Teofil Bogucki,
asked him to resume the
direction of the next mass
for the fatherland, a monthly
of Polish national unity.
His first mass was on Sunday,
February 28.
He was a natural, a little
But in his simplicity, he
the truth that cut through the
of the state controlled media.
He spoke of the men arrested and
jailed without cause,
the families left to starve,
praying for the men in service
to the Communist Party.
MARTIN SHEEN: Almost immediately
the secret police appeared
at the door of the Curia, the
of the church in Poland.
They complained to Cardinal
about the huge crowds, the
seditious sermons,
and the priest.
Cardinal Glemp responded that he
no sedition in Popieluszko's
words, only the work of God.
TRANSLATOR: The prosecutor's
had initiated an investigation
against me
for abusing the freedom of
conscience and belief
while fulfilling religious
duties in Warsaw.
Two months into martial law, a
friend of mine came from Warsaw
and he said you must read this.
Read the sermons by the very
young priest
in one of the Warsaw churches
and tell
me what you think about them.
And I read the sermon.
I just could not believe it,
because this
was precisely what was needed.
Every last Sunday of the month
there is a mass for Poland
and bring crosses with you.
Well, I said, well, it's a
strange idea.
I am not going.
Mass passes and people were
Janusz it's not just common
Just go there and see the
His name is Father Jerzy
He looked like a normal person,
rather tiny, not very outspoken,
modest and so on.
But when he started to speak,
very simple thing just
gathered in a proper combination
to show
that we have to be ourselves.
That no system invalidates our
duties, that we have duties.
We have limits, we have duties,
and we have to follow
them, as simple as that.
So more and more people gathered
MARTIN SHEEN: From month to
the masses for the fatherland
grew in sophistication
as the crowd grew in number, now
spilling outside
of Saint Stanislaus, which was
illegal without a city permit.
35-year-old Captain Grzegorz
Piotrowski, newly hired
by the secret police, was
by the size of the crowd and the
brazen words
of this young priest.
Any anti-state pronouncement
was punishable by death.
So he could be killed by
military code
at any time for what he said.
TRANSLATOR: When the masses for
the homeland
started in February, this place
become a piece of free Poland.
The crowds would be surrounded
by ZOMO and the militia.
It was a truly, truly difficult
special units.
They are not police.
They are special security units,
are formed from the psychopaths,
from the criminals,
from the worst elements society.
And these people are trained to
kill, to hurt.
They are people without any
morals, any scruples.
I was walking with my wife to
the tram, down the tram
going to Praga and suddenly
secret police came.
They've got us.
And they said, oh, you are a
student, history students.
Oh, how bad.
Who taught you to pray like that
with your fingers.
There is no such letter in
Polish alphabet.
That's what Jaworski was always
telling me.
You will never finish your
and you will stay here for
I said, you have no right.
And the guy said, what?
What did you say?
Who are you?
TRANSLATOR: Today, there are
hands with fingers that are
spread in the form of a letter.
Not even one Polish word begins
with that letter.
Because of this letter it won't
get better in Poland.
It can only get worse.
Maybe 90% of those people
attending the masses they
were Catholics.
But some of them must be like
So agnostic, atheist, what was
the reason we're coming?
The reason was quite simple.
There we were free, safe, and
not afraid of anything.
And we were fighting for the
independent Poland.
And we knew that Father Jerzy
Popieluszko is one of us.
And we knew that he loves our
country as we love our country.
And that he's not afraid.
MARTIN SHEEN: Father Jerzy's
small apartment
became the center of the growing
It had become a meeting place
for every aspect
of the underground, Solidarity
famous actors, intellectuals,
all fired for their support
of Solidarity.
Each group had some influence on
his sermons
and participated in the masses.
But when father Jerzy wanted the
common man's touch,
he went to the steelworkers.
Katarzyna Soborak began working
at Saint Stanislaus in 1982,
helping distribute aid to
affected by martial law.
She is now the director of
information services at Kostka
and the curator of Father
Jerzy's archives.
TRANSLATOR: There was a full
church when I went to the mass
in May.
There were many people inside
and outside the church.
In the next few months the
numbers grew.
There was a park nearby and many
were in front of the church, on
the side streets,
and in the park.
So every month, the number of
people attending the mass
for the motherland grew.
MARTIN SHEEN: From the start, he
the people to stand up with him
against the Communist.
Everyone saw him as an ordinary
man from humble beginnings.
But his example of faith,
conviction, and courage
inspired the people to keep the
flame of Solidarity burning.
MARTIN SHEEN: Every one of his
was tape recorded and either
transmitted to the West
by phone or hand delivered to
the officers
of Radio Free Europe in Munich.
Now Father Jerzy's voice or
as he was known in the West, was
being heard throughout Poland
and all of Eastern Europe.
TRANSLATOR: The government did
not accept
the voice of Radio Free Europe.
And the odor from above was that
it was not to be
considered the truth in Poland.
It was a threat to the Nation.
This communist system was not
equipped for celebrity.
It can't handle celebrity.
That was the problem with
Walesa, in many ways.
He'd become a celebrity and
And Popieluszko now was now
becoming the great celebrity.
And it was done through this
this Western radio stations
rebroadcasting his sermons.
And suddenly he wasn't just
reaching 10,000 people.
He was reaching millions.
MARTIN SHEEN: These radio
programs were
deemed illegal by the state.
And simply repeating the content
of any Radio
Free Europe broadcast was
considered an act of espionage.
I'm living here in Warsaw.
First time that the people are
from Silesia, from Gdansk even.
It's very strange.
They've got their own very good
priest and the very brave
priest but they are coming to
to attend the mass at Stanislaus
Kostka Church, very strange.
MARTIN SHEEN: None of this
the notice of the Minister of
Internal Affairs.
General Kiszczak was tired of
reports about Popieluszko's
and the police budget for the
extra men
needed to cover his masses.
Harassment tactics of slashing
tires and surveillance
had failed.
It was time to increase the
TRANSLATOR: The first attack on
Father Jerzy's life
happened in December of 1982
when they broke his window
and threw in a brick with a
Although nothing more than a
firecracker tied to a rock,
the message was clear.
Jacek Lipinski from the steel
immediately surrounded Father
Jerzy and the rectory
with bodyguards.
He asked ex-military fire
Waldemar Chrostowski to drive
and protect Father Jerzy.
TRANSLATOR: A friend from the
fire academy
turned to me eventually to take
him under my care.
TRANSLATOR: I am aware that they
can intern me,
arrest me, fabricate a scandal.
But I can't stop my activity,
is a service to the church and
to the fatherland.
MARTIN SHEEN: The tension was
building at this one church.
And it was building because the
communist government
could not control it.
They called these masses seances
of hate.
And they were concerned that
Father Jerzy was
building an army, an army of
to overthrow the government.
But they could not find a reason
to disband
this great congregation.
JANUSZ KOTANSKI: I think at that
Stanislaus Church was the heart
of Poland.
It was the heart of Poland
because we knew that priest
is ready to die for us.
MARTIN SHEEN: Michael Wysocki
visited this grave every week
for the past 27 years.
It is the grave of Grzegorz
the only son of Barbara
Sadowska, a boy
he only knew for 20 minutes.
Barbara worked in the Catholic
Relief Center
and frequently helped Father
Jerzy find medications
banned by martial law.
On May 3rd, 1983, she was
attacked at the relief center.
Her hand was broken.
She was warned to stay away from
Father Popieluszko.
She refused.
A week later, while celebrating
the completion
of his high school exams with
her son was dragged off the
street into a police car,
driven to a local police
station, and brutally beaten.
TRANSLATOR: At the station one
of the boys
was cursing at the officers.
I was told to take care of the
quiet boy sitting in a chair.
I looked into the young man's
and they were wide open, glossy,
and frightened.
I came to the consultation and
was conscious but in critical
condition, in shock.
He said that he was beaten at
the police
precinct on Jazwyzka Street.
Nevertheless, Doctor Kapinski
definitely operated on him.
As the head surgeon, he opened
his stomach
and he concluded that everything
in his stomach was smashed.
MARTIN SHEEN: Grzegorz Przemyk
died of his injuries
on May 14th, 1983, just two days
after the beating.
His funeral, coordinated by
Father Popieluszko,
turned into a spontaneous
against the regime.
Flanked by water cannon, ZOMO,
and the militia,
50,000 people marched two miles
to Powazki Cemetery in silence.
Father Popieluszko said even
pray in silence.
There is a lot of military men
all over because they
were thousands of them.
They will provoke you.
And they will even try to stop
Let him, let Grzegorz Przemyk
can be buried in peace.
She was here.
She was sitting just here
running away from militia.
And I saw her and I've noticed
that she's already dead.
That she's completely broken.
So when Grzegorz Przemyk was
killed she was also killed.
MARTIN SHEEN: After the funeral,
Barbara dedicated her life
to the work of Father Jerzy.
She died three years later.
Despite the eyewitness testimony
that Grzegorz was beaten
to death at the police station,
Michal Wysocki, the volunteer
ambulance driver who carried
Grzegorz to the hospital
was falsely convicted of his
and served five years in prison.
But the cover up backfired on
the government
and attendance at the next mass
at St. Stanislaus exploded.
MARTIN SHEEN: After every Mass
for the Fatherland,
Grzegorz Piotrowski filed
another report about the circus
at Father Jersey's church.
He reported on the presence of
Underground members, activists,
famous actors,
and intellectuals.
And even with all of their
this courageous priest stood on
the balcony of his church
and spoke the truth.
And this continued until
December 12, 1983,
when father Jerzy was arrested
for the first time.
They claimed to have found
subversive materials
in his apartment.
At the police station, he was
strip searched,
but the officer apologized,
embarrassed to have
to do this to a priest.
Only after intercession by
Glemp was he released two days
Will you be answering any of
the questions that are asked?
MARTIN SHEEN: Father Jerzy went
to Cardinal Glemp to thank him,
but Glemp had used a lot of
political capital
to get his young parish priest
out of jail.
JOHN MOODY: Popieluszko went
into this meeting thinking
that he was going to be told,
you know, son,
you've done a lot of good.
You have to be careful for your
own safety
and-- but keep up the good work.
And instead he got this--
again, I wasn't there-- but
tongue lashing.
What are you doing?
You're outgrowing your britches.
You know, learn some respect.
Do what I tell you.
Now get out of here.
I'm sure it wasn't phrased quite
that way,
but that's what Popieluszko took
with him in his heart,
and it just crushed him.
TRANSLATOR: It's true that the
primate could have been upset
because writing a letter to
in my case cost him a lot.
But the accusations he made
against me
knocked me off my feet.
Secret police during the
showed me more respect.
MARTIN SHEEN: Captain Piotrowski
assigned two new lieutenants--
Waldemar Chmielewski and Leszek
Colonel Adam Pietruszka warned
that the next time they arrested
Father Jerzy,
it had better stick.
Martial law was destroying
Poland's economy,
which owed billions of dollars
to the West.
Jaruzelski would get no more
financial aid until he started
dismantling martial law.
During the summer of 1984, he
called for a general amnesty,
releasing hundreds of Solidarity
leaders and tens of thousands
of common criminals.
The leaders of Solidarity Warsaw
left prison and went
directly to St. Stanislaus.
A week later, Lech Walesa asked
Popieluszko to travel to Gdansk
to celebrate the amnesty.
The crowd buried the priest in
flowers while Lech
Walesa smiled and watched.
It was a clear sign to the
secret police watching
that Father Popieluszko was the
true voice of the growing
call for freedom.
It's difficult for young people
to understand, yeah.
There was no-- no internet, no
phones, and no Twitter.
There was an event, those masses
for the homeland,
10,000 people heard it.
They spread the word.
But thanks to the technology of
Western radio stations,
it was fed back then into the
country to millions of people.
To millions of people,
was becoming a national figure.
MARTIN SHEEN: On September 9th,
an article
appeared in the Russian
"Izvestia," railing against the
militant Father Popieluszko,
saying his sermons so reek with
hatred for socialism
that they are more like
anti-Bolshevik pamphlets
than proper church sermons.
For the first time, the Russians
mentioned Father Jerzy by name.
This was a clear sign from
that if Jaruzelski's government
couldn't handle this problem,
then they would find someone who
And that's when everyone
Everyone started to panic within
government, not Department 4,
not just the Department for
not just the head of the secret
but the whole regime thought, oh
my god, our time's run out.
TRANSLATOR: Difficult to collect
a mental grinding mill.
On April 11th, I was
interrogated for the 11th time.
The secret police said I could
get 38 years in prison.
It was draining him, draining
He put so much into those
masses, he got a lot of advice
about how to do it, and he did
it and he it brilliantly.
But at the end of it all, he was
completely drained.
He was completely wiped out like
a sponge, you know,
that had be squeezed.
And yet people wanted more.
They wanted to touch him.
They wanted to be close to him
and so on, and he couldn't-- he
couldn't handle that.
It was really difficult.
MARTIN SHEEN: In late September,
Colonel Adam Pietruszka called
Piotrowski into his office.
He demanded to know how much
longer he would allow Father
Jerzy to travel all over Poland
freely spreading
his anti-government message.
He said no more games.
Stop planning, stop writing, and
do something.
I surely do not have to tell
comrade, that this decision
from the very highest level.
Pietruszka's efforts to silence
Father Jerzy
began as simple harassment--
slashed tires and vandalism then
and prolonged interrogations.
In early October, Father Jerzy
boarded a train for Gdansk
followed closely by Piotrowski.
The secret police captain
to catch him near a door and
throw him
off the speeding train, but
Father Jerzy's friends
never let him travel alone.
TRANSLATOR: The train was a test
in my opinion.
It was an attempt to kill him.
MARTIN SHEEN: The next attempt
on Popieluszko's life
came on the night of October
Out of nowhere, Piotrowski
stepped out of the darkness
and threw a brick at Father
Jerzy's windshield,
but he missed.
TRANSLATOR: It wasn't being hit
with the rock.
It was just a test when he threw
the rock, but it didn't work.
We drove on past it to the
MARTIN SHEEN: With every failed
the pressure on Piotrowski to
get something done increased.
TRANSLATOR: There were
situations when
Walde Chrostowski or I was
driving the car
with Father Jerzy and we were
followed by the secret police.
I would go to Suchowola with
Father Jerzy
and during one of the trips, his
mother said dramatically,
Jerzy, they can hurt you.
He replied, mother, do not
I have Jacek and 10,000 people
behind me.
Nobody would dare.
TRANSLATOR: Later Father Jerzy's
situation got worse.
He received many anonymous
letters with foul language.
They once wrote him a letter
saying that they'd
crucify him and cut his throat.
He read the letters during the
The man from [POLISH] went to
the primate without
telling Father Popieluszko.
And they begged him to send him
They realized that the pressure
was being turned up,
that the danger level for Father
Popieluszko was way too high.
TRANSLATOR: At the time, there
was an idea sending your Father
Jerzy to study abroad in Rome.
Friends came up with this idea
to save
him from the danger he was in.
Father Jerzy knew about the
possibility of going to Rome,
and he was really torn in his
because on the one hand, I think
he needed a break by that time.
He was totally exhausted.
But he had this enormous sense
of loyalty, a solidarity
with the people, and just could
not accept the thought
that anybody, not even one
would feel that he betrayed them
and he chose
the easy option that he left
them back in Poland
and went to Rome.
The primate asked Father
He met with him, and he said the
men came and talked to me.
They're worried about you.
And father Popieluszko's answer
was I'm not going to leave.
I know what's happening.
I know what's going to happen,
and it's my duty.
I'm doing my job.
TRANSLATOR: He was aware that
his life was in danger.
He knew about it, but that was
his character.
It was his deep understanding
that he will go down this road.
MARTIN SHEEN: Father Jerzy had
to come celebrate mass with a
seminary colleague
in Bydgoszcz.
He was exhausted, had a bad
and the staff at St. Stanislaus
wanted him
to cancel and get some sleep.
But Father Jerzy took these
commitments very seriously
and promised he would rest on
the four-hour drive.
TRANSLATOR: On October 19, 1984,
Jerzy and his driver, Waldemar
Chrostowski, left for Bydgosz.
They was supposed to come back
to Warsaw that night.
A car followed them with three
members of the secret police--
Grzegorz Piotrowski, Leszek
and Waldemar Chmielewski.
He was trained as a paratrooper
to roll--
fall properly.
He had the toughness of a fire
He had-- he's a strong, strong
man who can do that.
And he has his wits about him.
TRANSLATOR: There were some
people on the side of the road,
and I ran up to them and told
them that Father
Jerzy had been kidnapped.
The courier immediately put
everybody on alert that Father
Jerzy had been taken.
In eight hours, all the
in Poland knew that Father Jerzy
been taken, started a vigil--
a prayer vigil-- and masses in
support of his safe return.
It wasn't that everyone assumed
right from the start
that he was kidnapped.
They had suspicions.
It was more a disappearance.
He had disappeared.
TRANSLATOR: I want to say that
if even one hair falls
from Father Jerzy's head,
someone is
taking a huge responsibility.
We are Christians who think
At the time, I thought this
couldn't end well.
I thought it couldn't end well
because the anger
within the party--
the Communist Party
establishment was too strong.
MARTIN SHEEN: During those
nights as the crowds of people
who were standing vigil outside
the church continued to grow,
it was completely peaceful.
The [POLISH] were forced to back
up further and further
until they disappeared into the
crowd that
was surrounding the church.
TRANSLATOR: Today in the waters
of the lagoon in Wloclawek,
Father Jerzy was found.
TRANSLATOR: And my dears will
repeat the hardest truth,
the hardest particularly for you
of our beloved martyred brother,
Father Jerzy.
We'll repeat three times this
this is heroism and forgive us
our sins
as we do those who trespass
against us.
Once more and forgive us our
sins as we
do those who trespass against us
once more.
The reaction of the tens and
hundreds of thousands of people
who followed his words and
followed his sermons,
they didn't do anything.
They did not set fires.
They did not kill Polish police
or attack military bases.
They didn't run into the streets
into guns and automatic weapons
were being trained on them.
They didn't do that.
They did what Popieluszko told
them to do,
which was to keep your dignity,
remain silent,
and don't give up.
TRANSLATOR: I was able to see
Father Jerzy's body
along with my friend and a
from the priesthoods and a Mr.
Jacek Lipinski
from the Solidarity movement in
We, along with the mom and dad
decided that he
would be buried in Warsaw.
TRANSLATOR: At first, I was
going to Bialystok
to identify the body.
I could stomach it because I
in a hospital and an ambulance.
No one from our family would
have known that it was him.
He was so massacred.
His lips were so beaten, they
looked like jelly.
I noticed a birthmark on him,
and that's
how I knew he was my brother.
I was like in shock.
We didn't believe it.
Probably most of the people
didn't believe it
that's going to happen because
was waiting for Father Jerzy.
Everybody told him he's going to
be maybe not healthy,
but he be alive.
So there was a shock for us.
TRANSLATOR: On the 11th day at
night during mass,
the horrible news was announced.
When the people cried and
I had a different reaction.
I just wanted it to be quiet so
that something
phenomenal could happen, so that
it would be quiet once more.
MARTIN SHEEN: Father Jerzy's
coffin was escorted to the city
limits by hundreds of taxis and
private cars
before making the four-hour
drive to Warsaw where
thousands more were waiting to
him home for the final time.
On November 3, 1984, over 1
million people
came to his church.
With one voice, They said, "We
are here, Father Jerzy,
and we heard you."
TRANSLATOR: Rest in peace,
Father Jerzy.
Solidarity is alive because you
gave your life for it.
MARTIN SHEEN: Overriding
longstanding church law,
Father Jerzy was buried just
outside the doors
of his beloved St. Stanislaus
Kostka Church,
just close enough to hear the
pleas of his people
and their continuing prayers for
decided to frighten Poles,
to murder, to torture the most
popular priest,
and they wanted to say to us you
also must shut up.
Otherwise, you will end up like
Father Popieluszko
at the bottom of Vistula River.
We will kill you.
And the West will not say a
ROGER BOYES: Piotrowski's-- his
anger, his sadism,
and his frustration with the
system and everything that had
gone wrong with Poland and with
his life,
this combination of two things
made for one
of the most brutal murders in
the political
history of Eastern Europe.
It was a message to Poles.
Keep your mouth shut.
You are here, and what's more at
staying here, together
with us, together with Soviet
and with your death of your--
his death.
And you're going to be also
dead, next day.
Shut up.
MARTIN SHEEN: But the people
would not be silenced.
They took to the streets warning
the government that there
would be no more mock trials.
The people would be watching.
From Gdansk to Warsaw, his
message grew louder
in the months after his murder.
His sermons flooded the
His voice filled the airwaves
and clearer than ever before.
And his Masses for the
continued, a monthly reminder of
what was lost
and what there was left to fight
Their fight continued until the
first free democratic elections
in 1989, when Solidarity won the
majority of seats
in the government five months
before the collapse
of the Berlin Wall.
TRANSLATOR: He sacrificed his
life for the truth
and for justice.
And this is why the workers
needed him as their role model.
of those healthy forces in the
church, voices
that fought against slavery.
His courage, his preaching, cost
him his life.
MARTIN SHEEN: In the end, 28
countries from East Germany
to Russia held open democratic
elections, setting 1 billion
people on the path to freedom.
But it all started in Poland.
It all started in Warsaw in a
rather unremarkable church
with a young priest that gave
his life for his faith,
for his friends, and for his
TRANSLATOR: What will I say to
Dare say?
Even though you're not here, we
have not sold out.
And we can stand proud with our
heads up high 30 years
after martial law.
We came to a realization that
Jerzy is not ours anymore.
He is not our Jerzy from the
steel plant.
The Blessed Father Jerzy
his example will lead others to
and all of the situation and His
Holiness have overwhelmed me.
God wanted us to become close
and to experience it together.
And I thank him for it.
TRANSLATOR: He was everything to
from the small town of Okopy,
was declared Blessed Father
Jerzy Popieluszko, the last step
to sainthood
before an audience of 350,000
Poles and guests
from all over the world.
His life was a gift, his death a
tragedy, his legacy a miracle.