On March 8, 2024, an unusual ceremony of planting an apple tree to commemorate the martyrdom of married couple Jozef and Wiktoria Ulma and their children took place at our Generalte. The event was initiated by the Ambassador of the Republic of Poland to the Holy See, Adam Kwiatkowski, and similar trees of remembrance that were a gift from the Marshal of the Podkarpackie Province, Wladyslaw Ortyl, coming directly from the apple tree grafted by Blessed Jozef Ulma, were planted on March 6 in the Vatican Gardens, and on March 7 in the garden of the Resurrectionist Fathers. The third tree, thanks to the Ambassador, made its way to us, for which we are immensely grateful.

Cardinal Parolin, presiding over the ceremony at the Vatican, introduced the figures of the Blessed Martyrs of the Ulma family, saying:

“Remember”, “you shall remember”: these are among the key words of the Bible, so we Christians “must not forget”. Today we are here to remember and plant an apple tree as an eternal reminder of what happened on March 24, 1944 in Markowa, in Poland occupied by Nazi Germany, during World War II.

Jozef Ulma and his wife Wiktoria decided to give shelter to eight Jews from families they knew. According to their neighbors’ accounts, helping those in need was normal for them. And giving shelter to Jews was a deliberate decision. Many times they were told, “Don’t hide Jews, or misfortune will befall you.” And Jozef answered firmly: “No, I will never drive them out, they are people”.

The Ulma family were denounced, and a patrol of Nazi gendarmes arrived at their home. They were all killed, first the eight Jews, then Wiktoria and her husband, so that the villagers could see what punishment awaited them for hiding Jews. Six children began to scream, but they too were murdered. Within minutes, 17 people were killed, including the Ulmas’ seventh child, still in the womb, in the last stage of pregnancy. Even this unborn child, whose name is known only in Heaven, received the palm of martyrdom.

This death was recognized by Pope Francis as martyrdom, and by his decision on September 10, 2023, in Markowa, the Ulma family was elevated to the glory of the altars.

In 1995, the Yad Vashem Institute in Jerusalem awarded Jozef and Wiktoria the title of Righteous Among the Nations, given to numerous Poles who risked their lives to help Jews and are the most numerous group among all the Righteous Among the Nations.

Our ceremony was modest in character, but we are grateful for this symbolic commemoration of the blessed Ulma Family in the garden of the Generalate in the month when we will celebrate the 80th anniversary of their martyrdom. We hope that this living memorial will always remind us of the example of the heroic attitude of Jozef and Wiktoria, who did not hesitate to give their lives for love of God and others, recognizing the value of human life above all other values, while their intercession, will help us remember and live the words of our Lord: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than the one who gives his life for his friends.” (John 15: 12-13).

Blessed Wiktoria, Jozef and the children, pray for us that we may always know how to love God and others.