“What I remember is that I felt the atmosphere of peace in her room, as if the world around me was slowing down,” Skubisz recalled. “In her suffering, she was essentially calm, reconciled with the Lord’s will. Sometimes the younger sisters told me that they would come to Sr. Wanda when they needed to calm down...”
The younger sisters had no inkling of the exceptional nature of Boniszewska’s spiritual life. Her spirituality centered on offering her sufferings for the expiation of sins, especially those of priests.
At the age of 16, she had sought to enter the Congregation of the Sisters of the Angels in Vilnius, nowadays the capital of Lithuania. After her first profession, she said that she received a mission from Jesus to offer her sufferings for the expiation of the sins of “souls consecrated to Me.” She made her full profession in 1933.
“The superiors knew her special graces and spiritual experiences and some of the older sisters also heard something about it, but we in the younger generation had no idea. Only after Wanda’s death did the secret come to light,” Skubisz said.
She explained that when Christ had entrusted Boniszewska with her mission, which required her to share in the experience of his Passion, she asked to remain hidden and unknown until she died.
Boniszewska had asked her superiors to keep her secret and it was only after her death that Fr. Jan Pryszmont, who was close to her, began to publish works about her life and mission. Her “Spiritual Journal,” issued in 2016, recorded her mystical experiences between 1921 and 1980.
A turning point in Boniszewska’s life came on April 11, 1950, the day she was arrested by the NKVD, a forerunner of the KGB.
Skubisz said that the Soviet secret police seized the nun in connection with the arrest of a Jesuit priest, Fr. Antoni Ząbek. Boniszewska was then living in a community in Pryciany, around 20 miles from Vilnius. The authorities identified Ząbek as a Vatican spy seeking to undermine the Soviet Union.
The priest served the sisters while hiding in a separate location in an underground shelter. When he was arrested, the police found documents in the shelter relating to Sr. Wanda and the Congregation of the Sisters of the Angels. The NKVD arrested 20 of the sisters, including Boniszewska.
“From the beginning she was considered a charlatan, a false saint and an enemy of the system,” Skubisz noted.
During interrogations, her captors beat her head against the wall, kicked her legs out from under her and forced her to stand all night answering questions.
The ill treatment took its toll: she was transferred to a hospital, but the questioning continued. When she felt better, she would be taken on a stretcher for further interrogation.
(Story cotinues below)
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Finally, she was judged in absentia and sentenced to 10 years in a correctional camp as a Vatican spy and enemy of the system.
She was sent first to Chelyabinsk, in west-central Russia, then to Magnitogorsk, near the northern edge of the Russian steppe, and from there to the Urals. She spent much of her time in camp hospitals because of the injuries inflicted during interrogations and because of bleeding from her stigmata.
Skubisz said: “This aroused consternation among the doctors. Some refused treatment, others carried out experiments including electroshocks.”
“The interrogations were brutal, with the beating of the head against the wall and kicks. Many times she was condemned to stay in a cell and locked up in the ward of the mentally ill.”
When she went into ecstasies, Sr. Wanda would say the names of people she prayed for. They included Stalin, the NKVD official Viktor Abakumov and the notorious secret police chief Lavrentiy Beria.
“This became the reason for the great brutality of the interrogators, their anxiety and curiosity,” Skubisz said.