Maria Stobiecka and her children: Janina, Celina, Zygmunt, Alina

Anna Żalińska

Every sacrifice made of life, including ones in the name of homeland’s freedom, is painful and difficult for those loved ones who survived. But the fate of these families, in which the occupant managed to kill almost everyone, and the few who remained, scattered around the world, seems particularly tragic. That is how the natural carriers of memory die; then the duty to commemorate the dead heroes rests completely on the local community. That was the case of the Stobiecki family.

Józef Bieniek, one of the guardians of memory of the life and martyrdom of the Stobiecki family, gave this evaluation to their attitude: The family shone in the gloomy darkness of these times with a glow of the highest value that humanity and mankind can boast of.[1] Despite the occupant’s efforts to turn the Polish nation into a cheap labor force, devoid of moral sense, detached from their culture and mutual national relations, the Stobieckis actively and effectively worked in the field of underground resistance, and being tortured they did not give away anyone from among the many members of the resistance with whom they cooperated. From the family of seven involved in underground activities a mother and four of her children died. Two siblings survived, son Władysław and daughter Elżbieta, the latter probably died in Canada, where near the end of her life she often went to visit her daughters and for treatment.

And such was the history of the family: Maria Jarosz was born in Krakow on 20 April 1878 She was a teacher herself and she married a teacher of secondary school, who later became a school inspector – Stanisław Stobiecki. They had six children: Janina, Celina, Elżbieta, Zygmunt, Władysław and Alina, who were raised in an atmosphere of patriotism and mutual support. Stanisław Stobiecki died before the war, in 1938. Just before its outbreak, Janina, the oldest of the siblings (born on 4 October 1908 in Krakow), with teacher’s education, was working at the Urszula Kochanowska Elementary School in Nowy Sącz. The same profession was chosen by the two-years-younger Celina, who was born on 14 October 1910. She taught at the Św. Jadwiga Śląska Elementary School (renamed in 1946 to Królowej Jadwigi).[2] Another child of the Stobieckis – Elżbieta, born on 4 July 1912 – moved to Kraków probably before the war, most likely working there as an office clerk (she graduated from a secondary economic school). She married Jan Wądolny, who came from Mucharz. On 7 June 1943, in the occupied Krakow, between the two dates of tragic family accidents, their first daughter Ewa was born. Elizabeth’s husband also got involved in the underground resistance. He was caught by the Germans, and his stayed in prison cost him a permanent health loss. After the war, he belonged to the Society of Fighters for Freedom and Democracy (ZBOWiD). On 3 September 1948, in Katowice, the second child – Barbara – was born in the Wądolny family. Both daughters left for Canada in the 1970s. In 1978, after the death of her husband Jan, ailing Elżbieta would also often travel from Kraków to Canada.[3]

Let’s get back to the chronology of events. Later, after three daughters, two sons were born in the Stobiecki family: Zygmunt, born in 1914 (celebrating his birthday on 10 April), before the war he studied medicine at the Medical Faculty of the Poznań University.[4] Three years later, on 28 May 1917, Władysław was born. It is hard to write anything certain about his life of the pre-war and occupation periods because of the lack of sources. During the occupation he probably lived in Nowy Sącz at Sobieskiego Str. with his wife and two daughters.[5] Sure enough, after the war, in the 1970s he lived  in Gliwice as a retired teacher (another child who went in the professional footsteps of the parents!), and his last place of work was the Mining School Complex of the “Sosnowiec” mine.[6]

The Stobieckis’ last child, Alina, was significantly younger than her siblings, she was born on 28 May 1923 (in the forty-fifth year of the mother’s life) in Nowy Sącz. At the outbreak of the war Alina was 16 years old, she was a schoolgirl and also a scout. Her sister Janina was also a girl scout in the 1st Girl Scout Troop in Nowy Sącz, Celina was probably also a member of the same team.[7]

The house at Kunegundy 14 Str. where Maria Stobiecka lived with her daughters Janina, Celina and Alina, from the autumn of 1939 was already serving the fight against the occupant. Zygmunt was the one who introduced the family tot he resistance as an incredibly ideological person, an altruist. The outbreak of the war found him spending the summer holidays in his family home. On 1 September Zygmunt already volunteered at the District Recruiting Command to join the army. He was sent to join a unit forming in Lviv. Due to the German strategy of Blitzkrieg Zygmunt did make it to the unit; after wandering for three weeks he returned to Nowy Sącz.[8] Here, he quickly noticed the huge and uncontrolled influx of refugees (especially soldiers and volunteers to the army in the West, political and social activists) and the resulting need to guide them safely south, through Slovakia to Hungary. Spontaneously, as one of the first, together with his friends (including Lesław Wojtyga, Ignacy Klimaszewski, Jan Żółciński, with help of Tadeusz Sokołowski and his mother Anna) he organizes a smuggling operation, providing safe houses, border intelligence and communication network. With the involvement of his mother and sisters, the Stobiecki’s family house becomes a temporary lodging on the smuggling route to Hungary. A similar spontaneous response to the influx of refugees was the Refugee Help Committee established by the Sichrawas, in which, among others, the Stefaniszyn sisters became involved.[9]

Zygmunt’s older sisters, Janina and Celina Stobiecki, supported their brother in the organization of smuggling routes. Also, after the formation of the underground state structures in Nowy Sącz, managed from Warsaw, Janina, operating under the code name “Jola” and Celina began acting as runners between Nowy Sącz and Kraków and Warsaw, carrying money and mail, delivered by couriers from Hungary.[10]

Zygmunt, code name “Zymek” repeatedly crossed the borders as a guide and courier, reaching Budapest. In February 1940, the first great border “giveaway” happens. Zygmunt is wanted by the German border police, Greko in short (the so-called border police commissariat – Grenzpolizeikommissariat Neu-Sandez)[11], commanded by Heinrich Hamann. Stobiecki fled to Krakow, where he received false documents for his mother’s maiden name – Jarosz. Under the new pseudonym, “Zygmunt”, he became involved in the work of ZWZ-Kraków district as a head of the Section for Aid of Prisoners and Victims of Nazi terror, cooperating with his sister residing in Krakow, Elżbieta Wądolny. Elżbieta operated secret mail boxes in Krakow and Tarnów. In addition, Zygmunt stayed in contact with prisoners of the Auschwitz concentration camp, to which he delivered medicine and other necessary articles. The main links of the communication network were Polish guards and staff of charitable organizations, among others, providing food to political prisoners.[12]

Zygmunt Stobiecki, as a man of leftist views, used his sister’s apartment in Kraków at Tomasza 26 Str. as a secret meeting place for groups of Kraków leftist activists (one of them was Józef Cyrankiewicz, the post-war Prime Minister and member of the Polish United Workers’ Party).[13]

As a result of the next “giveaway” in the District headquarters at Krupnicza Str. in Kraków, Zygmunt’s Kennkarte got in the hands of the Gestapo. He went into hiding again, often changing his place of residence, efficiently rebuilding the network of communication with prisons, but as a result of a informant’s denunciation he was arrested on 20 June 1941 He was kept in the Montelupich Prison. After a brutal investigation at the Gestapo building on Pomorska Str., during which he did not give anyone away, he was sentenced to death. He sent a farewell letter to Elżbieta’s Kraków address, using the secret mail network he himself organized. It contained a kind of last will: Whatever shall await you on the underground trail, never go back, and do not hesitate for a moment when the decision to act comes has to be made. Because in the present situation there is nothing more important than serving the tormented Homeland and the fight for its freedom.[14] Zygmunt Stobiecki was sent to Auschwitz, where, after months of being used for hard work, on 14 April 1942, his death sentence was carried out.[15]

After Zygmunt was arrested, his mother and sisters ceased their activities. Receiving news of his death was a very painfully experience for them. However, they did not close themselves up in their pain. In the period in which they did not engage in the underground resistance, they continued providing material assistance to the Jewish people in the Nowy Sącz ghetto.[16]

Maria Stobiecka and her daughters resumed their underground work in winter, at the turn of 1942 and 1943. Then Janina became the main driving force of their operations and their initiator was Maria Wzorkówna  “Kinga”. It was her who introduced the Stobiecki women with Jan Lipczewski “Andrzej”, who was sent by the Home Army Main Headquarters from Kielce to rebuild the organizational network of the Home Army Inspectorate in Nowy Sącz. They did not refuse and entered the new organizational structures of the underground state.[17]

Celina Stobiecka monitored the radio broadcasts, and based on it, together with Janina they would create information bulletins. In addition, they were talking care of administrative and office work of the Home Army Nowy Sącz District Inspectorate – “Niwa”. The “Niwa’s” Communications Department was located at their house and its operation was supervised by Janina. She acted as a liaison between the Nowy Sącz inspectorate and the District Commands of: Sącz, Limanowa, Gorlice and Nowy Targ.[18] In addition, she was involved in the activities of the Women’s Military Service.[19] Celina coordinated the “N” operation in Nowy Sącz – which was diversionary and propaganda actions directed against the Germans. The youngest of the sisters, Alina, was tasked with the distribution of “N” prints in German.[20]

The tragedy strikes unexpectedly. On Sunday, 19 March 1944 Janina was coming back from Kraków to Nowy Sacz. She spent her free Saturday and Sunday with her sister Elżbieta and her infant niece Ewa. On the way back, at Lipczewski’s request, she took with her underground “tissue paper” and radio parts. In Tarnów she had to change; as she waited for the train, she was surprised by a German inspection. The Nazis round the passengers up in an underground tunnel. Although – according to Józef Bieniek – Janina managed to leave the dangerous package on the platform unnoticed, her appearance matched the description of someone wanted by Gestapo. Or maybe someone gave her away as the owner of the abandoned package? She was arrested. The investigation was conducted in Tarnów, then in Kraków, where Janina gets identified and sent back to Nowy Sącz. During the interrogations she gave nobody away.[21]

As Janina did not return on Sunday, as she was supposed to, anxiety grew in Stobiecki house with each passing day. Unfortunately, the women did not take any precautions against the possible intrusion of the German police. Three days after Janina’s arrest, on 22 March, the Nowy Sącz Greko searched the suspect’s house. The radio, the typewriter, the duplicator and great amount of underground press (including propaganda prints in German) and mail were quickly discovered, with the names of encrypted mailboxes and code names.[22] Mother and daughter, who were at home, Maria and Alina, are arrested. Celina is brought in to the police station at Czarnieckiego 13 Str. from school, where she had classes at the time. One of the students of the Św. Jadwiga School remembered the event. The Germans gathered all the students and staff in the courtyard, singled out the “beloved” teacher, who was publicly defamed, accused of hostile activity, and then escorted to a car.[23] It is very possible that it took place in the courtyard of the Immaculate Conception Sisters monastery, which housed a total of six elementary schools during the occupation after their buildings were taken over for military purposes.[24]

Already after the first search of the Stobiecki house, the Germans noticed – rightly so – that they picked up the trail of an important organization. In search of further underground materials, their house was literally turned upside down. There is a special team working here, ripping up the floors, breaking down plasterwork, smashing stoves and searching every nook and cranny.[25] However, they did not find anything that would lead them to next victims.

Soon after the Stobieckis was arrested, the people they worked with, and those were often entire families, were in panic. Some, quickly reacted and decided to save themselves from the expected arrest by fleeing from Nowy Sącz. But days passed after days and nothing happened. The women stayed silent, probably infuriating SS-Hauptsturmführer Wilhelm Raschwitz, the then head of the Greko, who took over it after Hamann was moved to Kraków. Despite elaborate tortures. Finally, the Germans attempted to use the “ultimate” measure. They blackmailed Maria Stobiecka, promising to spare the lives of the battered daughters, Janina and Celina, in exchange for giving away their associates. The women did not yield, aware of the fact that their death means the life of many others. According to the findings of Bieniek, Janina and Celina were killed under the prison wall, shot in front of their mother on 25 April 1944.[26] According to another, more probable version, the women are shot in the presence of their mother at the Jewish cemetery. And it is there that they were buried.[27] Both sources mention that the Stobiecki sisters died shouting “Long live Poland!”. The same words could be heard from Maria two days later, on 27 April 1944, when the execution platoon shot her in Rdziostów. Before that, her youngest daughter, Alina, was killed in front of her. And so the pained mother said goodbye to her children and her Homeland[28].

Reportedly, shortly after the execution, a conversation was to take place between Johann Heuchert, a German interpreter employed at Greko, who took part in the savage interrogations of the Stobiecki women, and a Polish farmer supplying him with cured meats, who was also an informant of the Home Army. Heuchert, though reluctant, supposedly admitted: Congratulations! If all your women are such heroes, no power will ever beat you. Yes, yes, these women were exceptionally brave and very strong.[29]

In the same execution, in which Maria and Alina died, two other heroines, a young scout and her mother were shot: Maria Kardaszewicz and her daughter Ewa, a schoolgirl and a 16-year-old team leader of the Gray Ranks. After the war, the bodies of these four victims were exhumed from the crime scene in the Rdziostów forest. The exhumation protocols of Mary and Alina indicate that their bodies were recognized by their clothes and hair, and the visual inspection was conducted with participation of: Witold Barbacki, Jerzy Kardaszewicz, Władysław Stobiecki and Elżbieta Wądolny.[30] The bodies of Janina and Celina were not be identified.

Today all of them rest together at the municipal cemetery on Rejtana Str. Maria Kardaszewicz with her daughter Ewa, Maria Stobiecka and Alina, and in the tombs there is a place prepared for Janina and Celina, as evidenced by symbolical inscriptions. In addition, the Councilors of the City of Nowy Sącz honored the heroic family, giving the name of the Stobiecki Family to one of the streets which crosses the Lwowska Str. in the Gołąbkowice district.


[1] Józef Bieniek, Saga rodu Stobieckich (z dziejów ruchu oporu na ziemi sądeckiej), “Rocznik Sądecki” 1966, vol. 7, p. 399.

[2], accessed on: 2.10.2021.

[3] The information about Elizabeth, as well as the father’s year of death given above, come from passport files kept in the Institute of National Remembrance: IPN Kr 37/54386, Akta Paszportowe Elżbiety Wądolnej, Podanie-Kwestionariusz z 1987 roku i wcześniejsze; other information after: J. Bieniek, Saga rodu Stobieckich, pp. 399, 400.

[4] J. Bieniek, Saga rodu Stobieckich, p. 400.

[5] See footnote 23.

[6] IPN Kr 37/54386, Akta Paszportowe Elżbiety Wądolnej, Podanie-Kwestionariusz z 1987.

[7] Stobiecka Alina, Stobiecka Janina [in:] Słownik uczestniczek walk o niepodległość Polski, Warszawa 1988, pp. 377–378, cf. also Archiwum Narodowe w Krakowie Oddział w Nowym Sączu (later as ANKr O/NS), Materiały do dziejów harcerstwa na Sądecczyźnie, ref. 31/559/34, Pismo zaświadczające o udziale harcerek w działalności konspiracyjnej, p. 201.

[8] J. Bieniek, Saga rodu Stobieckich, p. 400.

[9] J. Bieniek, Lord znad Dunajca, “Almanach Sadecki” 1995, № 4 (13), pp. 45–46, 51.

[10] ANKr O/NS, Materiały do dziejów harcerstwa…, ref. 31/559/34, Pismo zaświadczające o udziale harcerek w działalności konspiracyjnej, p. 201; also: Stobiecka Maria, Stobiecka Janina, Stobiecka Celina [in:] Słownik uczestniczek walk…, p. 378.

[11] Commonly called “Gestapo”. It was the German border police, headquartered at Czarnieckiego 13 Str. Gestapo had never operated in Nowy Sącz, its functions were performed by the border police. For more information on the topic cf.: Dawid Golik, Obsada personalna niemieckiej policji bezpieczeństwa i służby bezpieczeństwa w powiecie nowosądeckim w latach 1939–1945, “Rocznik Sądecki” 2020, vol. 48, p. 214

[12] J. Bieniek, Saga rodu Stobieckich…, p. 402, cf. also: Stobiecka Maria [w:] Słownik uczestniczek walk…, p. 378.

[13] J. Bieniek, Saga rodu Stobieckich…, p. 405.

[14] Ibidem, p. 404.

[15] Ibidem.

[16] Stobiecka Celina, Stobiecka Janina, Stobiecka Maria [in:] Słownik uczestniczek walk…, p. 378, p. 379.

[17] J. Bieniek, Saga rodu Stobieckich…, p.404.

[18] ANKr O/NS, Związek Kombatantów Rzeczpospolitej Polskiej i Byłych Więźniów Politycznych. Zarząd Okręgowy w Nowym Sączu, ref. 31/558/713, Kilka sylwetek Kobiet bardziej zaangażowanych w Ruch Oporu na terenie województwa,

[19] Stobiecka Janina [in:] Słownik uczestniczek walk…, p. 378, cf. also: Leszek Migrała, Nowy Sącz w latach II wojny światowej, “Rocznik Sądecki” 2016, vol. 44, p. 108.

[20] Stobiecka Alina, Stobiecka Celina [in:] Słownik uczestniczek walk…, p. 378.

[21] J. Bieniek, Saga rodu Stobieckich, p. 408.

[22] Ibidem, p. 409.

[23] Archiwum Sądeckiego Sztetlu, Wspomnienia Barbary Świdlińskiej de domo Werc, ur. 1935 r. w Kościanie, audio recording. Barbara Świdlińska recalls that her big sister would help younger children learn and because of that she was visiting the house of the sister of the teacher Stobiecka on Sobieskiego Str. There were two little daughters there, and their mother did not have time to help them learn. Because there were no other Stobiecki sisters, perhaps she means the family of the brother, Władysław. Born in 1917, he was 27 years old in 1944. Considering that before the war people married a lot sooner than today, Władysław might have had a child or even two children of early school age in the occupation period. It is possible that this information could be confirmed or disproved by a thorough query in the parish records of the St. Margaret church in Nowy Sącz or by contacting the family living outside Nowy Sącz.

[24],, accesed on: 2.10.2021.

[25] J. Bieniek, Saga rodu Stobieckich…, p. 409.

[26] Ibidem, p. 411.

[27] Stobiecka Celina, Stobiecka Janina [in:] Słownik uczestniczek walk…, p. 378.

[28] J. Bieniek, Saga rodu Stobieckich…, p. 411.

[29] Ibidem, pp. 412–413.

[30] ANKr O/NS, Sandecjana, 31/190/54, Protokół ekshumacyjny Marii Stobieckiej, p. 63, Protokół ekshumacyjny Aliny Stobieckiej, p. 65.