The staff of the Nowy Sącz hospital in the service of Poland. Helena Stuchły (1897–1955) & Stanisław Stuchły (1888–1944)

Anna Żalińska

Helena Regina Mischel was born in an assimilated Jewish family on 17 February 1897 in Lvov.[1] Little is known about her family relationships and the atmosphere of her childhood home, which must have been very progressive, since it formed a future doctor (a profession very demanding at that time and not often chosen by women) and a defender of Lvov, who later converted to Catholicism and married a Polish man, an 11-years-older surgeon Stanisław Stuchły.

The name Stuchły or actually Stuchly was a legacy from his Swiss ancestors.[2] Stanisław Stuchły was an extraordinary man, with great merits to Nowy Sącz and widely respected in the city. He was born on 1 May 1888 in Stryi as the oldest of eleven children of Julia née Kolasa and Michał Stuchły, a train driver (only six of their children lived to become adult). Stanisław was educated in medicine at the Jan Kazimierz University in Lvov, where he gained his surgical skills and assisted the famous doctor Ludwik Rydygier. He was active in the “Sokół” society of Lvov and in the Polish Independence Military Organization. During the war, he was enlisted into the Austro-Hungarian army, his combat trail reportedly went through Kresy, Yugoslavia, Austria and Italy. During the Polish-Soviet war, he joined the Polish army, where he served until 1921, receiving the rank of a major. Earlier, like Helena, he took part as a doctor in the defense of Lvov of the years 1918–1919. After the war, he worked in hospitals in Przemyśl, Stryi, Lvov and Zhovkva.[3]

Helena Miszel also graduated from the Medical Faculty of the Jan Kazimierz University in Lvov. Since young age she was a Polish patriot. She participated in the defense of Lvov, in the fights with Ukrainians at the turn of 1918–1919 as a volunteer, a doctor in a military hospital.[4] She married in 1924,at the age of 27 Before the wedding, she was baptized and converted to Catholicism, definitively breaking the bonds connecting her with Judaism (but – as it would seem – not with her family).[5]

Stanisław Stuchły became the director of the Nowy Sącz hospital in 1928. At the same time Helena started working there in the internal diseases ward as a doctor specializing in ophthalmology. She also became a school doctor at a school for girls run by the Immaculate Conception Sisters in the White Monastery. In her work she was capable and energetic. The married couple initially moved to a hospital-owned apartment at Młyńska Str., over time, the family moved to a tenement house purchased by Stuchłys at Jagiellońska 34 St.[6] During the occupation, the street name was officially called “Main Street”.

Initially, Stanisław Stuchły was the only specialized surgeon in the hospital, with extensive experience gained during the war. Beside conducting surgical procedures and directing the work of the hospital, as per usual practice of that time, he also worked as gynecologist and obstetrician.[7] His diligence, managerial skills and economic efficiency were quickly recognized. In 1938, the hospital was expanded, it was named the General Hospital and started receiving funding by the district authorities. At that time, the hospital had 180 beds in four wards: internal, obstetric, surgical and infectious diseases.[8] Stuchły also published papers in specialist periodicals and did not refrain from sharing his knowledge with colleagues in the hospital. Stanisław was also characterized by his attentiveness for the sick, and above all, he was valued as a doctor for the steadiness and proficiency of hand and rich experience. Anna Totoń mentions the family saying: during the occupation, when someone fell ill, they would hear: “You have to go to the city, if Stuchly can not help, there is no hope”.[9]

In 1931, on November 20, Helena gave birth to her first-born son, Stanisław Szczęsny. One and a half years later, on 4 April 1933 Janusz Michał Maria was born (three given names). Both were born in Lvov, in the mother’s hometown.[10]

At the outbreak of the war in September 1939 Stanisław Stuchły, as a major in army reserve of the medical corps, was mobilized into the army as a military doctor (he was 51 years old). He was captured by the Soviets. He was imprisond in a POW camp in Ternopil. In the letter to the family he wrote, not without irony, that he expects to soon go on a Siberia sightseeing tour.[11] However, he escaped from the camp thanks to the help organized among relatives and acquaintances, staying in the Soviet occupation zone, by his wife Helena. In the October cold, Stanisław Stuchły had to illegally cross the San River in Jarosław. We do not know how he did it. On the other side of the “green border” his wife Helena was waiting for him, and together they returned home.[12]

The Nowy Sącz hospital from the first weeks of the occupation was largely taken over by the German field hospital No. 724. There was a shortage of Polish doctors, the patients were mainly cared for by the Sisters of Charity.[13] Medical experience, as well as proficiency in German language, allowed Stanisław Stuchły to return to the hospital director duties, after he escaped the Soviet captivity.[14]

Jan Słowikowski mentions three doctors of the Nowy Sącz hospital, who were strongly involved in underground activities: Stanisław Stuchły, Helena Stuchły and Dr. Jerzy Bogusz.[15] In a tenement house belonging to Stanisław and Helena at Jagiellońska 34 Str., the ground floor premises housed the watchmaker’s workshop of Antoni Barbacki (cousin of the painter Bolesław Barbacki), which was one of the ZWZ-AK contact boxes.[16] In addition, the Stuchłys also made their own apartment in the same tenement house available as a contact box and they remained in close contact with the Jesuit Fathers active in the underground (especially Fr. Antoni Kuśmierz and Fr. Eustachy Kuśmierz).[17] The courier contact box and the transfer point were also located in the hospital itself (organized mainly by Jan Słowikowski).[18] In addition, Stanisław Stuchły often treated those wounded, who could not be officially admitted to the hospital (exposed, partisans) – he would secretly take them in (to the infectious diseases ward, where the Germany were afraid to enter, or put them in rooms intended for the Sisters of Charity). He turned the hospital-owned apartment at Młyńska 3 Str. into an emergency aid point and medicine and bandages dispensary. When it was necessary, he would also go to the forest and provide assistance there. He would organize medical supplies for those who needed them. In addition, during the entire occupation, he provided medical assistance to the Poor Clares in Stary Sącz for free, both in their monastery and promising to admit them free of charge to the hospital.[19] In 1943, he was asked for help so often that his sister Janina – as she wrote in letters to the family – would say the Litany of St. Jude the Apostle in the intention of calming down of the situation and respite for her brother.[20]

The nursing duties in the hospital already in the interwar period were performed solely by the Sisters of Charity.[21] They also were not indifferent to the occupant’s terror. Sister Jadwiga (Józef Rogowska) was one especially remembered. She provided the members of the underground with medicine and wound dressings. She was directly involved in the liberation of Jan Karski. She survived the war.[22]

With the silent consent of director Stuchły, in July 1940, the “S” (“Hospital”) operation was carried out at the hospital – the release of Jan Karski (or actually Jan Kozielewski). It was a well-carried out escape of a political prisoner. The operation was led by Zbigniew Ryś, and many other people were involved, including a young doctor, Dr. Słowikowski.[23] This diversion, as well as all underground activities cost the hospital director a lot with the constant presence of Germans in the hospital and inevitable contacts with them. Shortly after the “S” operation he wrote in a letter to his brother: I hold on like a rotten oak tree.[24] When Zofia Rysiówna, one of the organizers of the escape, was arrested in Warsaw in April 1941, Stuchły warned Jan Słowikowski and suggested that he should flee and hide.[25] Słowikowski was indeed arrested in April 1941, but he was released because of lack of evidence against him. However in the autumn of 1941, he left the hospital after all and until the end of the war he worked as a surgeon in Krakow under an assumed name, performing medical service also in Home Army partisan units in the area.[26]

Stuchły himself was already hiding his wife at that time. From the beginning of the occupation, Helena Stuchły because of her descent could not officially practice medicine. She had no work, for some time she stayed with her sons at home, not following the order to move to the ghetto. This is how her escape from Nowy Sącz was recalled by Aleksandra Solarewicz from Wrocław, granddaughter of Zbigniew Stuchly [sic!], Stanisław’s brother: A high-ranking German officer warned the doctor about the danger his wife was facing. In 1941 Helena Stuchły went into hiding. She was helped by the Sisters of Charity and Sisters of Immaculate Conception. Eventually, Stanisław Stuchły sent her to his sister in Warsaw. Helena’s journey was organized by Fr. Antoni Kuśmierz, one of the Jesuits, who were very active in the resistance, rector of the Jesuit college in Nowy Sącz. He went with Helena by train. Maria Stuchły-Nowicka and her husband Walery took her in their apartment in a tenement house on the corner of Narbutta and Opoczyńska Streets, where there was was a military station on the ground floor.[27]

The war has strained Stanisław Stuchły’s help. He suffered from heart problems and stomach ulcers. On the one hand, working with the underground, on the other hand, serving the Germans, who would often take him out of bed in the middle of the night, to operate one of the wounded officers or soldiers. And the surgery would often be done at gunpoint, he was closely observed in fear that he may intentionally cause the patient’s death.[28] His endurance was determined by deep religious devotion and concern for his loved ones. After his wife left, he looked after their two sons, initially alone (with the help of a housemaid) and then with the help of his sister Janina, who came from Lvov.[29] In 1944, Stanisław’s brother Zbigniew Stuchly joined the family in Nowy Sącz, also resettling here with his wife Irena from Lvov. Zbigniew, a biologist, an employee of Prof. Rudolfa Weigl’s Institute for Typhus and Virus Research in Lviv, would pass some vaccines on to his brother, so that he would give them out to those who needed them most (those were usually partisans). [30]

Stanisław Stuchły suddenly collapsed on a street on his way to the hospital. He died in a hospital on 16 September 1944 The immediate cause of death supposedly was the perforation of stomach ulcers.[31] In the last moments of his life he was particularly worried about the fate of his wife. After the outbreak of the Warsaw Uprising, they lost contact. He passed away, being given the last rites. Before his death he reportedly confessed: I did not induce human abortions, I did not lay my signature under death sentences[32].

On 18 September 1944, a solemn ceremony of Stanisław Stuchły’s funeral took place. Whole crowds came to pay their respects, and his body was buried at the Municipal Cemetery at Rejtana Str.[33]

Helena Stuchły survived the Warsaw Uprising. Until the end of the war she wandered from place to place (probably with the help of nuns[34]) and she returned to Nowy Sącz in the early spring of 1945 She came back to a completely changed reality: she lost her husband, relatives and friends, as well as her source of income (after almost 6 years out of work she could not go back to practicing medicine).

Before Helena returned to Nowy Sącz, already in 1944 the inheritance proceedings after her husband Stanislaw’s death, were closed. On behalf of the underage sons and Helena – unknown if alive and of uncertain place of residence – lawyers participated in them. The object of inheritance was the tenement house at Jagiellońska Str. The court decided that the sons have the right to the entirety of the inheritance. After her return, Helena tried to have the property rights decided again. The court documents allow us to shed some light on what happened with her during the occupation.[35]

In July 1945 Helena informs the Court in writing that after Nowy Sącz was seized by the Nazis, in view of the danger to the family resulting from her descent, the spouses take a dramatic decision to formally separate. They did this to protect the children and Stanisław’s work, and also to keep Helena’s property from being confiscated; all of that was done under the pressure of Kreishauptmann (the district governor). The document confirming the donation made by Helena to her husband from her half of the tenement house was backdated with the year 1931. 1931 was chosen, because back then there was no obligation to involve a notary in such cases. In 1942 Helena left Nowy Sącz. In May 1943, the District Court in Nowy Sącz decreed, that the Stuchły marriage was separated with Helena being at fault.[36] Thereby the formal ties between them were broken. Stanisław did not see the end of this mystification.

After the war, Helena rejoined her sons and started learning a new specialization – she became a radiologist and started working in the Nowy Sącz hospital again. Reputedly, she kept her energy and courage until the last moments of her life. In 1948 she saved Fr. Wojciech Zygmunt, a partisan chaplain heavily beaten by the Security Department (UB), refusing to allow the officers to take him from the outpatient clinic. She died after illness on 4 September 1955 in the Nowy Sącz hospital. She was buried in a tomb next to her husband.[37] The tomb also includes a symbolic plaque dedicated to the older son, Stanisław, who died in Canada in 2003.[38]

Both sons of Helena Stuchły, Stanisław and Janusz emigrated to Canada. Janusz, when he was still living in Krakow and working in gasworks, married Joanna Zarzycka. It was her, after being randomly approached during one of medical symposia by a stranger, a son of a doctor who knew her father-in-law during the occupation, who began collecting information about Stanisław and Helena Stuchły. She asked her husband, who was reluctant to talk, and her brother-in-law about dr Stuchły and she started working towards restoring the memory of the heroic doctors of the family, and of their “little homeland”, Nowy Sącz. The result of these efforts is a family-funded plaque dedicated to Stanisław Stuchły located in the hospital lobby on 10 September 2013 (a symbolic unveiling took place in October of the next year).[39]


[1] Jerzy Leśniak, Śladami doktora Stuchłego, „Sądeczanin” 2011, № 4 (40), p. 47.

[2] Aleksandra Solarewicz, Anna Totoń, Helena Regina Stuchły (Stuchly), Stanisław Jakub Stuchły (Stuchly) [in:] Zachowajmy w pamięci, p. 84,, accessed on: 20.06.2021.

[3] Ibidem cf. also: J. Leśniak, op. cit., pp. 46–47, and:, accessed on: 15.08.2021.

[4], after: G. Łukomski, Cz. Partacz, B. Polak, Wojna Polsko-Ukraińska 1918–1919, accessed on: 20.06.2021.

[5] A. Solarewicz, A. Totoń, op. cit., p. 84,, accessed on 20.06.2021.

[6] Ibidem.

[7] Jan Słowikowski, Wspomnienia z pracy w szpitalu sądeckim w latach 1935–1941, “Rocznik Sądecki” 2008, vol. 36, p. 287

[8] Ibidem, p. 284 (introduction by Jerzy Leśniak).

[9] A. Solarewicz, A. Totoń, op. cit., p. 84,, accessed on: 20.06.2021.

[10] J. Leśniak, op. cit,, p.48.

[11], accessed on: 15.08.2021.

[12] A. Solarewicz, A. Totoń, op. cit., p. 84,, accessed on: 20.06.2021; see also, accessed on: 15.08.2021.

[13] J. Słowikowski, op. cit., p. 290.

[14] J. Leśniak, op. cit., p. 48.

[15] J. Słowikowski, op. cit., p. 289.

[16] J. Leśniak, op. cit., p. 48.

[17] A. Solarewicz, A. Totoń, op. cit., p. 84.

[18] J. Słowikowski, op. cit., p. 290.

[19] A. Solarewicz, A. Totoń, op. cit., p. 84; Cf. also:, Accessed on: 8/15/2021

[20], accessed on: 8/15/2021

[21] J. Słowikowski, op. cit., p. 288.

[22] Archiwum Narodowe w Krakowie Oddział w Nowym Sączu, 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,

[23] More about the “Hospital” operations, among others, in the diaries: Jan Słowikowski, op. cit., p. 290, Zofia Rysiówna, Z przeżyć okupacyjnych, “Rocznik Sądecki” 1968, vol. 9, pp. 441–444; .Zbigniew Ryś, Wspomnienia kuriera, Nowy Sącz 2013.

[24] J. Leśniak, op. cit., p. 48

[25] Ibidem, pp. 46–47, Jan Słowikowski began working in the General Hospital in Nowy Sącz on 1 July 1939 as an trainee, right after receiving a diploma of the Jagiellonian University Medical College. Sworn under the code name “Dzięcioł”, over time he became a member of the staff of the Nowy Sącz District ZWZ Inspectorate; from the first months of the occupation, he used the hospital as part of the network for underground border crossing operations he was involved in; he would use an ambulance to transport money, weapons and ammunition to Kraków; from documents and talks with sick German soldiers he would collect information about the stops of military units; Cf. Jan Słowikowski, op. cit., p. 290; See also: Jerzy Leśniak, Profesor Jan Słowikowski – lekarz bohater, “Rocznik Sądecki” 2012, vol. 40, p. 11.

[26] J. Słowikowski, op. cit., p. 291; Zmarł Prof. Jan Michał Słowikowski, accessed on 1.09.2021.

[27] J. Leśniak, Śladami doktora Stuchłego, p. 48.

[28], accessed on: 8/15/2021

[29] The housemaid’s help is mentioned in the files of the Department of Public Security: IPN Kr 009/4706, Wojewódzki Urząd Spraw Wewnętrznych w Krakowie, Janusz Stuchły, Pismo Naczelnika Wydziału II SB KWMO w Krakowie z dnia 4 czerwca 1962 r., p. 30; Aleksandra Solarewicz writes about the sister’s arrival in 1943:, accessed on: 15.08.2021.

[30], accessed on: 15.08.2021.

[31] The files collected by the Security Services after the war on his son Janusz state that Stanisław Stuchły allegedly died during surgery, but seeing as they contain other mistakes (including the reason for the operation given as appendix, or the mention about Helena Stuchły hiding during the entire war only in a monastery and naming the wrong date of death – year 1958) it is hard to treat that as a historical fact; Cf.: IPN Kr 009/4706, pismo Naczelnika Wydziału II SB KWMO w Krakowie z dnia 4 czerwca 1962 r., p. 30.

[32] A. Solarewicz, A. Totoń, op. cit, p. 87; cf. also: J. Leśniak, Śladami doktora Stuchłego, p. 49.

[33] J. Leśniak, Śladami doktora Stuchłego, p. 49.

[34] A. Solarewicz, A.Totoń, op. cit, p. 87.

[35] Akta sprawy spadkowej po Stanisławie Stuchłym, Sąd Grodzki w Neu Sandez, ref. I.A.837/44, Archiwum Narodowe w Krakowie Oddział w Nowym Sączu, ref. SGNS II 2147.

[36] Wniosek z lipca 1945 r., Akta sprawy spadkowej po Stanisławie Stuchłym, ANKR O/NS, ref. SGNS II 2147.

[37] A. Solarewicz, A.Totoń, op. cit, p. 87, Akta sprawy spadkowej po Helenie Stuchły, Sąd Powiatowy w Nowym Sączu, ref. Ns 1668.57, Archiwum Narodowe w Krakowie Oddział w Nowym Sączu, ref. 9751.

[38] J. Leśniak, Śladami doktora Stuchłego, p. 50.

[39], accessed on: 15.08.2021.