Tadeusz Isakowicz-Zaleski

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Tadeusz Isakowicz-Zaleski
Ksiądz Tadeusz Isakowicz-Zaleski.JPG
Born September 7, 1956
Krakow, Poland
Church Roman Catholic, Armenian Catholic
Ordained 1983

Tadeusz Isakowicz-Zaleski (Armenian: Թադևոս Վարդապետ Իսահակյան-Զալեսկի, Tadevos Vartapet Isahakian-Zaleski) is a Polish Roman Catholic and Armenian Catholic priest, author and activist. Born in 1956, in Kraków, Isakowicz-Zaleski was an activist of the anticommunist student opposition n Kraków in the late 1970s,[1] became a Solidarity chaplain in Kraków's Nowa Huta district in the 1980s, and later an avid supporter of the lustration of the Polish Church. On 3 May 2006, he was awarded the Commander's Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta, one of Poland's highest Orders, subsequently in 2007, he was awarded the Order of the Smile and Polish Ombudsmans Order of Paweł Włodkowic.

In 1985, he was twice tortured by Poland's communist-era secret police (Słuzba Bezpieczeństwa, SB), and some twenty years later in 2006, he started researching the secret police archives kept by Poland's Institute of National Remembrance to discover that 39 Archdiocese of Kraków priests had collaborated with then regime between 1944 and 1989, this resulted in the much publicized 'Church Spy scandal' in Poland, where till then Polish Church was only known for its role in battling communism and preserving traditional and national values both during the partitions of Poland and in the communist era.[2] Subsequently in 2007, he published his controversial book, "Księża wobec bezpieki na przykładzie archidiecezji krakowskiej" (Polish Priests and the Communist Secret Police) on priests who cooperated with communist secret services.[3][4] He is subject of a documentary 'Poland's Turbulent Priest', shown on BBC World News in 2009, about his struggle with the communist regime and the Polish church.[5][6]


Father Isakowicz-Zaleski was born in Krakow to a Polish father and an Armenian mother.[7] Since high school years he was engaged in several Roman Catholic youth organizations. After graduating, he entered a Seminary in his native city, which did not prevent him from being called for service in the Polish Army. He served in the years 1975-1977 in Brzeg.[7] In the late 1970s, after returning to the seminary, he joined the anticommunist student movements, such as Student Committee of Solidarity. He co-published a Samizdat magazine Cross of Nowa Huta, also in 1977 he debuted in Tygodnik Powszechny with his poems.

In 1980, Isakowicz-Zaleski became engaged in the Solidarity movement;[1] three years later he was ordained and ordered to continue studies at the Papal Armenian Collegium in Rome. Unfortunately, he was not allowed to leave Communist Poland, because of his underground activities. Isakowicz-Zaleski began working in Krakow’s district of Nowa Huta, where he celebrated holy Mass for the workers and for the fatherland in the Maximilian Kolbe parish in Mistrzejowice. Throughout the 1980s, he was repressed, and the Communist secret service agents twice brutally beat him.[1][8] Both incidents happened in 1985, and came in the wake of the notorious 1984 murder of fellow Solidarity priest Jerzy Popiełuszko, the first attack occurred in April at his mother home, where after being gagged, the agents burned a V sign - the victory sign of the outlawed Solidarity trade union, which he supported, on his chest with a cigarette,[3][9][10] later in December of the year, he was attacked again, this time at his presbytery[11] and Isakowicz-Zaleski’s ordeal was later used by Polish director Maciej Gawlikowski, in his 2006 film To Intimidate the Priest.

In 1988, as a priest of the workers, he participated in the strike in Nowa Huta’s Lenin Steel Mill. At the same time, he began helping the poor and the handicapped, together with nuns from local convents. In 1987, he co-founded charitable Foundation of Brother Albert Chmielowski. Currently, he is director of the Foundation, which owns a shelter in the village of Radwanowice in the suburbs of Krakow.

In 2006, after months of research at Institute of National Remembrance, he drafted a book on the collaboration between Catholic priests and government agents. But Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz of Kraków denied him the permission to publish it, unless it is vetted in advance by archdiocesan officials. On May 3, 2006, father Zaleski was awarded one of Poland's highest Orders, the Polonia Restituta (Order of Polish Rebirth) by President Lech Kaczyński. In November 2006, he received an apology from the nation's Catholic primate, Cardinal Józef Glemp of Warsaw for earlier criticizing his research into collaboration between the clergy and the Communist-era secret police.[12]

In Feb 2007, he finally published his controversial book, "Ksieza wobec bezpieki na przykladzie archidiecezji krakowskiej" (Polish Priests and the Communist Secret Police) on priests who cooperated with communist secret services.[10]


Armenian Community in Poland[edit]

Reverend Isakowicz-Zaleski is a pastor of Armenian Catholic parish in Gliwice since 1 December 2009.[13] Between 2001 and 2009 he was the national clergyman and national chaplain of the Armenian community of Poland.[14] He popularizes knowledge about the history and culture of Armenia itself, as well as about the rich history of the Armenian minority in Poland. He initiated cooperation between older and newer waves of Armenian immigrants. Father Zaleski, who is related to the Catholic Armenian Rite archbishop of Lviv, Izaak Mikolaj Isakowicz, also promotes the erection of a monument in Krakow to commemorate Armenian Genocide.

Charity and Helping the Disabled[edit]

In 1997, Archbishop Franciszek Macharski named Father Zaleski honorary canon of the Krakow Archdiocese in appreciation for his charity-related activities. However, Zaleski, who is known in Krakow for his charity works[15] resigned from this post in 2006, protesting allegations aimed at him. Together with Janina Ochojska, he was a participant in several humanitarian convoys to such countries as the former Yugoslavia, Albania, Chechnya and Ukraine. In September 2007, Polish Ombudsman awarded him the Order of Pawel Wlodkowic for courage in fighting for basic values and truths, against the opinions of the majority.[16] He was also awarded the Order of the Smile. Since 2007, he has been cooperating with the Gazeta Polska weekly. Isakowicz-Zaleski runs the Brother Albert Foundation.[17]

Ks. Isakowicz-Zaleski under the cross dedicated in honor of Poles murdered by the UPA in Korosciatyn

Massacres of Poles in Volhynia[edit]

Reverend Zaleski, who lost several members of his family in a campaign of ethnic cleansing of Poles in modern Western Ukraine (formerly inside pre-1939 eastern Polish territory), has for years been fighting to commemorate the Polish victims. In 2008 he unsuccessfully appealed to the Government of Poland, stating that it should officially condemn the Volhynian Genocide. He stated that political correctness in Poland makes it impossible to mention these tragic events.[18] In 2008, he wrote a book Subdued Genocide in Kresy, in which, among others, he describes fate of his family and the village of Korosciatyn near Monasterzyska (area of Ternopil), which was destroyed by Ukrainian nationalists and its inhabitants were murdered.[19] He frequently criticizes not only members of the Polish Government, together with president Kaczynski, but also Roman Catholic hierarchy, such as Primate Jozef Glemp and Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, claiming that they have neglected sufferings of Poles in Western Ukraine and they do not protest when Ukrainian nationalists are awarded orders.[20]

Lustration of Polish Clergy[edit]

In 2005, during the 25th Anniversary Celebrations of Solidarity, Zaleski was tipped off that there was a pre-1989 secret police file on him in Krakow, by then under new Polish law, one could view one's own file, as well as those who informed on you. He sought permission from the IPN (Institute of National Remembrance) to study the documents. Subsequently he found some five hundred pages of material on himself alone, names of fellow priests who had allegedly spied on him, and also a video of himself being gagged and beaten by thugs. He was swiftly able to identity several clergymen who had informed on him. Most crucially, evidence suggested that four figures who had risen to bishop status by 2005 were themselves past informers.[21]

In February 2006, Zaleski came up with the idea of revealing the names of priests from the Archdiocese of Kraków, who had been secret informers of the Communist secret service. As he himself had been victimized by Communist agents, he obtained access to his files, kept by the Institute of National Remembrance, as an injured party.[22] Thus, he appealed publicly for all the priests who had served as secret agents for the Security Service to step forward and reveal themselves causing a furor.

In August of the same year, Zaleski revealed that he had sent letters to priests registered as secret collaborators.[23] His activities were harshly criticized by the Krakow Curia and Zaleski received an order from his superiors to refrain from making public statements about this subject. Cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz stated that Isakowicz-Zaleski had received a permit to conduct research exclusively into the repression that he himself faced under communism.[23] Dziwisz condemned his "irresponsible and harmful" activities in a public letter, warned him to stop "throwing accusations",[22] and finally ordered him to be silent[24][25]

Nevertheless, Zaleski did not give up saying that the church "must repent for the misdeeds of compromised priests".[3] However, he admitted in an interview given to the Wprost Weekly, that in the fall of 2006 he was in a personal crisis and considered resigning from the priesthood.[26] He checked files of secret police and discovered that 39 Krakow priests had collaborated with the regime. Four of them are now bishops. "The whole tragedy is that the church had 16 years to take care of the problem, and it didn't do a thing" - stated Zaleski,[3] adding that the Church "didn’t want to hurt the pope, but actually, more harm was done by keeping silent".[4][27]

On February 28, 2007, Znak publishing house issued Zaleski’s book Ksieza wobec bezpieki na przykladzie diecezji krakowskiej (Polish Priests and the Communist Secret Police, ISBN 978-83-240-0803-2), in which he addresses the topic of the extent to which Poland’s Roman Catholic Church was infiltrated by communist security.[28] In November of the same year, Zaleski was awarded the Prize of Jozef Mackiewicz. The book sparked huge public attention, with people signing up at bookstores to make sure they would get a copy. Zaleski himself decided to give up the royalties for charity.[29]


  • "Oblezenie" (Siege, 1981) - poems, published as samizdat under pseudonym Jacek Partyka
  • "Wspomnienia" (Recolletions, 1985) - poems, published as samizdat under pseudonym Jan Kresowiak
  • "Morze Czerwone" (Red Sea, 1988) -poems, published as samizdat under pseudonym Jan Kresowiak
  • "Slownik biograficzny ksiezy ormianskich i pochodzenia ormianskiego w Polsce w latach 1750-2000" (Biographical Dictionary of Armenian Priests in Poland 1750-2000, 2001)
  • "Arcybiskup ormianski Izaak Mikolaj Isakowicz "Zlotousty" : duszpasterz, spolecznik i patriota 1824-1901" (Armenian Archbishop Izaak Mikolaj Isakowicz, 2001)
  • "Wiersze" (Poems, 2006)
  • "Ksieza wobec bezpieki na przykladzie archidiecezji krakowskiej" (Polish Priests and the Communist Secret Police, 2007)
  • "Moje zycie nielegalne" (My illegal life, 2008)
  • "Przemilczane ludobojstwo na Kresach" (Subdued Genocide in Kresy 2008)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c People of the Wprost weekly - Tadeusz Isakowicz-Zaleski
  2. ^ Walesa joins row over priests who spied for secret police The Guardian, January 14, 2007.
  3. ^ a b c d Priest Leads Push to Expose Clergy Washington Post, January 11, 2007
  4. ^ a b In Poland, New Wave of Charges Against Clerics New York Times, January 10, 2007.
  6. ^ In the spotlight: Tadeusz Isakowicz-Zaleski Warsaw Business Journal, June 5, 2006.
  7. ^ a b Nowa Trybuna Opolska, interview with Tadeusz Isakowicz-Zaleski
  8. ^ Associated Press, 30 priests named as registered informants with secret police
  9. ^ AN END TO THE LIES: The Polish Church's Secret Past Der Spiegel, January 16, 2007
  10. ^ a b Controversial Book Published cracow-life.com, Feb 28, 2007.
  11. ^ Al Jazeera English, Polish priest to expose clergy
  12. ^ /index.cfm?recnum=47667 Controversial Polish priest receives cardinal's apology for criticism Catholic World News (CWN), Nov 15, 2006.
  13. ^ A historic reform of structures of the Armenian Catholic Church in Poland
  14. ^ Center of Jewish Culture in Krakow
  15. ^ Krakow News
  16. ^ Gazeta Wyborcza, Father Zaleski awarded the Order
  17. ^ Mimo wszystko. Foundation of Anna Dymna
  18. ^ Rzeczpospolita daily, Father Zaleski: To restore memory of victims of UPA
  19. ^ Interia.pl. Father Isakowicz-Zaleski will publish a new book
  20. ^ Polish Radio, interview with Isakowicz-Zaleski
  21. ^ Spy Storm Swells NH - Cracow Life, Jan 9, 2006.
  22. ^ a b National Catholic Reporter, Spies in from the cold: Poland's church confronts its other past
  23. ^ a b Warsaw Voice, Vetting Controversy
  24. ^ An Archbishop Falls to a Witch-hunt TIME.
  25. ^ The Entity: Five Centuries of Secret Vatican Espionage, by Eric Frattini, tr. Dick Cluster St. Martin's Press, 2008. ISBN 0-312-37594-8. Page 364.
  26. ^ Wprost Weekly, I wanted to give up
  27. ^ Polish priest's spy revelations gagged by Canon Law By Maciej Psyk of the Polish Rationalist Association.
  28. ^ Znak Publishers
  29. ^ Polish Radio, The truth will set us free

External links[edit]