Father Jan Salamucha
2 October 2021
Father Jan Salamucha was born in Warsaw on June 10th, 1903. His parents, Stanisława and Andrzej, from the very beginning saw him as a future priest. However, Jan, despite being an altar boy at St Augustine’s parish in Nowolipki, and at one point even being the president of the altar boys’ circle, was not convinced this was his path of life. It was only when his mother died that he decided to enter the seminary. Seemingly, he did so at her request. His sister, Genowefa, also joined the order.
He began seminary studies in 1919 in Warsaw. He was only 16 years old, which would influence his future date of ordination as a graduate. In 1920, during the Polish-Soviet War, he was a paramedic for three months. It is worth noting he did not have the consent of his seminary superiors for this. In 1923, he began his studies at the Faculty of Theology at the University of Warsaw. It was a time of intensive studying and broadening his knowledge in various fields. He studied theology, philosophy, but also mathematical logic, and comparative embryology. He took classes in human physiology at the Faculty of Medicine. Further, he became involved in the activities of the Philosophy Circle led by Professor Władysław Tatarkiewicz. In 1925, Jan’s classmates were ordained priests. He himself had to wait, as he had not yet reached the appropriate age. He was ordained on February 21st, 1926, by Bishop Stanisław Gall. He received the sacrament in Bishop Gall’s home chapel.
After ordination, he continued studies. On November 30th, 1926, he received a master’s degree in theology for his thesis “On the Aristiotle’s Category of Relation” [Polish: O Arystotelesowskiej kategorii stosunku]. Soon afterwards, on October 24th, 1927, he was awarded PhD. His thesis, written under the scientific supervision of Professor Stanislaw Kobylecki, was titled “Aristotle’s Theory of Modal Logic” [Polish: Teoria wynikania modalnego Arystotelesa]. Father Salamucha decided to continue his studies in Rome at the Pontifical Gregorian University (also known as Gregoriane), where he studied philosophy and devoted himself to writing a thesis on Aristotle and St Thomas Aquinas. After two years, he was awarded the title magister aggregatus Universitas Gregorianae.
After his return to Warsaw, he served as vicar in a parish in Wiązowna. On October 1st, 1929, at the beginning of the new academic year, he lectured philosophy at the seminary. He became known as an open man who stayed in contact with people of science from both the clerical and lay worlds, which was not always positivel viewed by other priests. He was also distinguished by conducting his classes in Polish, which was extremely rare at that time.
After some time, there was a chance for Father Salamucha to do his habilitation at the Jagiellonian University in Cracow. This opportunity was blocked by Cardinal Aleksander Kakowski, the Metropolitan of Warsaw. Eventually, however, Father Salamucha went to Krakow thanks to the support of the priest and philosopher Konstanty Michalski. Unfortunately, he was soon forced to return to Warsaw after an unsuccessful attempt to complete his habilitation. He was offered the post of deputy professor at the second Chair of Christian Philosophy of the Jagiellonian University, which was just being set up, but the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Public Education [Polish: Ministerstwo Wyzwań Religijnych i Oświecenia Publicznego] did not support his candidature. In addition, it did not approve of his habilitation. The reason was allegedly the lack of a high school diploma. Attempts to commission Father Salamucha to teach at the Jagiellonian University for a few hours a week were unsuccessful. The situation at that time also did not allow him to return to the position of philosophy lecturer at the seminary, as his place was filled by Father Józef Pastuszko. For this reason, Father Salamucha was sent to the parish of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Ochota district of Warsaw. He had problems communicating with the parish priest there. This difficult time ended with a nervous breakdown and a suicide attempt.
On December 1st, 1934, Father Salamucha returned to Cracow, where he began lecturing with the support of Father Konstanty Michalski. In 1936, the Council of the Theological Faculty at the Jagiellonian University sent a request to the Ministry of Religious Affairs and Public Education to reconsider the habilitation of Jan Salamucha. The Council stated in its justification that he had been the only clergyman who knew mathematical logic. The intervention was successful and on November 17th, 1936, his habilitation thesis ”The Concept of Deduction in Aristotle and St. Thomas Aquinas” [Polish: Pojęcie dedukcji u Arystotelesa i św. Tomasza z Akwinu] was approved. Father Salamucha also became a deputy professor at the second Chair of Christian Philosophy of the Jagiellonian University and taught the theory of cognition, logic, theodicy, cosmology and the history of ancient philosophy. He was active in the Cracow Circle, founded on August 26th, 1936, of which Janusz Drewnowski and Józef Maria Bocheński were also members. Their work relied on using mathematical logic in theology and Christian philosophy.
He was interested in literature, classical music, and mountain climbing. He had a sense of humour and was liked by his students. He knew four foreign languages: English, Russian, German, and French. On December 6th, 1938, Father Salamucha was nominated to be an associate professor. The proposal was made by the Council of the Faculty of Theology at the Jagiellonian University.
In September 1939, after the Third Reich had invaded Poland, Father Salamucha became chaplain to the 360th Infantry Regiment. In this way, he joined the defence of Warsaw. It was not the last time his life would be associated with the fight for the capital – it would also happen five years later, during the Warsaw Uprising. For his service among the crew of Fort Bema in Czyste during the September fights, he received the Cross of Valour. After the capitulation of Warsaw, he attended the beginning of the new academic year at the Jagiellonian University. There, on November 6th, he came together with other lecturers and professors to a meeting at which Polish scientists were to familiarize themselves with German guidelines. This event is today known as the Sonderaktion Krakau. 184 professors were arrested and deported to the concentration camp Sachsenhausen. Among them was priest Professor Jan Salamucha. His next place of imprisonment was Dachau concentration camp. Numerous foreign protests led to the release of many of those arrested. The Vatican and Cardinal Adam Stefan Sapieha, as well as German professors of mathematical logic, became involved in the case of Father Salamucha. He was released from the camp on January 4th, 1941, and went to Cracow. However, as he was subordinate to the Bishop of Warsaw, he moved to the capital instead. He began working in the parish of St. James at Narutowicz Square. The return was hard, as Father Salamucha was still associated with unpopular views. Apart from his pastoral activities, he also got involved in humanitarian aid – he became the head of the Warsaw Caritas.
On December 25th, 1942, Father John’s article “The Face of Love” [Polish: Oblicze Miłości] was published in “The Fight” [Polish: Walka], in which he posed difficult questions about loving one’s enemies. He tried contrasting this evangelical commandment with the time of war. He mentioned different kinds of love and declared he would defend his homeland while rejecting hatred towards the enemy.
Father Salamucha lectured at the underground seminary in Warsaw and at the Faculty of Humanities at the University of the Western Lands, he was preparing a work entitled “On the Christian Style in Philosophy” [Polish: O chrześcijańskim stylu w filozofii], and as chaplain of the National Armed Forces he tried to reconcile this organization with the Home Army. However, this did not end in success.
Father Salamucha, alias Jan took part in the Warsaw Uprising as chaplain, vice-deacon of the North Deanery of Warsaw District of Home Army, and dean of the 4th, Ochota District. On August 1st, 1944, at 3 p.m., he organized a meeting – a briefing of all chaplains of Ochota district. The priests gathered for coffee learned about the planned time of the Warsaw Uprising from a piece of paper brought by a little boy. The first task for the priests was to take their stoles and holy oils and go to the appropriate assembly points, as well as to remember the password “Freedom” and the response “Warsaw”. On the same day, Father Salamucha was summoned to an injured woman at 21 Mianowskiego Street. On his way, he helped lead soldiers from the unit of cadet Janusz from the Baszta Regiment. When he reached the woman, he gave her the sacraments. Unfortunately, the return to the church turned out to be impossible because of the fighting, so he stayed on Wawelska Street. It was there, in the vicinity of Uniwersytecka, Pługa, Mianowskiego, and precisely Wawelska Street, that the Wawel Redoubt was established – an area attacked by the Germans since August 4th. Father Salamucha assumed the function of the chaplain of the insurgent hospital: he celebrated masses, administered the sacraments of penance and anointing of the sick. On August 11th, the insurgents were running out of ammunition, which forced them to head for two districts Śródmieście and Mokotów through the sewers. The beginning of the withdrawal was scheduled for 5 p.m. Father Salamucha decided to stay with the patients and helpless civilians, despite they asked him to save his own life. Soldiers from the Kaminski Brigade (also known as Waffen-Sturm-Brigade der SS RONA – Russian National Liberation Army) entered the Wawel Redoubt, abandoned by the fighting insurgents, on which a white piece of cloth was hanging, symbolizing surrender. The wounded and civilians lost their lives. It is not known how exactly Father Salamucha died. All is known that it was on August 11th, in the company of defenceless people. He was 41 years old.
Father Salamucha was buried at the Powązki cemetery in Warsaw, in a mass grave of retired priests of the Warsaw Metropolitan Chapter.
Today, at 60 Wawelska Street, in the place where, on August 11th, 1944, the last insurgent point fell in Ochota, there is a plaque commemorating those events.
Translate: Sandra Liwanowska
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