By Larry Peterson
He was a bridge between Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians
Jerzy (aka Jury) Kashyra was born on April l4, 1914, in a small village outside Dzisna, which was then part of the Russian Empire. His family was native to Belarus and were Orthodox Belarusians. In 1907 his mother discovered the original family faith and embraced the Eastern Orthodox church. Jerzy followed his mother’s path and then, in 1922, converted to Catholicism. He would become a bridge between the Roman Catholic faith and the Orthodox Christians.
In 1924, Jerzy entered the novitiate of the Marian Fathers of the Immaculate Conception, a congregation rekindled before World War I by Blessed Jurgis Matulevecius. It was here that Jaerzy completed his secondary education and worked to complete his novitiate training. He took his final vows in 1929 and was sent to Rome to study philosophy and theology at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas. He was ordained to the priesthood on June 20, 1935, the same year a drastic change came to Poland. At the same time, the authoritarian regime began distancing itself from the Catholics and their church.
Father Jerzy ranked high on the list of Enemies of the Reich
The Order transferred Father Kashyra. to Eastern Poland in 1938. At the time, the Russians occupied the territory and evicted the Marianists from their monastery. Father Jerzy and others had to go into hiding. Then, in 1939, the Germans invaded Poland. Things immediately went from bad to worse. The Germans hated the Lithuanians, who they considered Russians. They were marked for extermination. Father Jerzy Kashyra and his fellow clerics were high on the list of enemies of the Reich.
The Nazis SS decided to take charge of the Latvian and Lithuanian militia as tools to exact revenge on Soviet partisans. They would use them to kill other Latvians and Lithuanians. Father Jerzy Kashyra and his friend, Father Anton Leszczewicz refused to abandon their flock and stayed with them.
Operation Winter Magic A Ceime against Humanity
Operation Winterzauber (Operation Winter Magic) took place from February 15 thru March 30, 1943. The Nazi SS, using Latvian militia, began a quest to rid the Belarusian-Latvian border of any population. They took one thousand hostages and locked them in churches and other buildings. Father Jerzy and Father Anton tried their best to comfort and care for the people.
The prisoners were covered in straw, and the buildings were lit on fire with exploding hand grenades and fire bombs. In what has been called a “Crime against Humanity,” while still alive, they were all burned to death. Father Jerzy and Father Anton were among 100 others burned alive in a barn. They were beatified by Pope St. John Paul II on June 13, 1999, in Warsaw Their memorial day is June 12.
We ask then all to pray for us.
Copyright©Larry Peterson 2023