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Inside the Search for Polish Catholic Sisters Killed by the Red Army and on the Path to Beatification

ORNETA, Poland — Sr. Maria Gunhilda was recovering from tuberculosis at a hospital in Orneta, northern Poland, when the Red Army arrived. 

It was 6 a.m. on Feb. 15, 1945, when soldiers entered the building. They were on their way to Berlin, where they would topple the Nazi regime. But they did not act as liberators inside the hospital in Orneta. Far from it. 

Sr. Maria Gunhilda (born Dorota Steffen) was the youngest of seven children. Shortly after her 18th birthday, she entered the Sisters of St. Catherine, founded by the 16th-century Polish nun Bl. Regina Protmann.

The Soviet soldiers, raised in a militantly atheistic state, attacked the young sister when they discovered her in one of the hospital’s rooms. 

In the melee, she was shot three times, in the chest, collarbone, and forearm. Blood gushed out of her wounds, soaking her clothes and bedsheets. 

Her fellow sisters were able to dress the wounds but with great difficulty because of a shortage of bandages and medicine.

She lived for three more months. Witnesses said that she was completely reconciled with God’s will, accepting her suffering without complaints. She passed away on May 30, 1945, aged 27, in what one sister described as a very edifying death.

Sr. Maria Gunhilda was buried in Orneta along with Sr. Maria Rolanda (born Maria Abraham) and Sr. Maria Bona (Anna Pestka), who had equally gruesome deaths at the hands of Red Army soldiers. After that, the young sister was lost to history. 

Read more at National Catholic Register

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