Believed to be the oldest nun in the world, a Polish Dominican sister who helped save the lives of Jews during World War II has died aged 110, the Archdiocese of Krakow has announced. Source: CNA.
Sr Cecylia Maria Roszak was born Maria Roszak on March 25, 1908 in the town of Kielczewo in west-central Poland. After graduating from trade school at the age of 21, she entered a cloistered convent of Dominican sisters in Krakow.
In 1938, she travelled with a group of her sisters to Vilnius (now in Lithuania, but at the time a part of Poland) where the nuns were hoping to establish another convent. However, the outbreak of World War II prevented them from doing so.
For two years, Vilnius was under Soviet occupation, and then under German occupation after the invasion of the Nazis. During this time, Sr Cecylia and her sisters, led by their superior, Mother Bertranda, hid 17 members of the Jewish resistance in their convent, risking their lives to do so.
According to The World Holocaust Remembrance Centre, the people who found refuge in the convent were members of the Zionist underground movements.
“Despite the enormous difference between the two groups, very close relations were formed between the religious Christian nuns and the left-wing secular Jews. The pioneers found a safe haven behind the convent's walls; they worked with the nuns in the fields and continued their political activity. They called the mother superior of the convent Ima (mother in Hebrew),” the Centre states in a biographical page on Mother Bertranda, who eventually left the convent and became known as Anna Borkowska
In 1984, the nuns from the Vilnius convent were awarded the honour of “Righteous Among the Nations” by Yad Vashem, which recognises non-Jews who risked their lives, freedom or positions to help Jews during the Holocaust.
At the age of 101, Sr Cecylia underwent hip and knee surgery but was still able to join in many of her usual activities, including joining her sisters for prayer and visiting sick sisters.
She celebrated her 110th birthday at her convent in March and died on November 16.