OSU Marisstella Poláková

* 1930

  • “From Modrá, where we arrived in autumn, they were bringing us to so-called Fajdaly, to the neighbouring villages where we worked in agriculture. Various work, whatever was needed. We gathered sugar beet, we flailed millet, dried tobacco leaves...In every kind of weather they would bring us there through those villages, and the local people were very nice to us – they would stop the tractor and give us some small gifts – food, socks, clothing, because it was already cold. So this is how we spent autumn; in winter they were bringing us packages of cloth from Bratislava. Some sisters were told to cut this cloth, and to sew baby clothing. They put up sewing machines in the corridor and during the winter we were sewing clothing for little babies. In spring we were going to a vineyard to tie shoots of vine.”

  • “Our superiors – we did not know what was going on, we always only worked with the machines – managed to build a chapel there. In the factory, with machines working on the ground floor! This was the factory building, the machines downstairs, and the chapel above the workshop. A priest from Hanušovice was coming there, we were celebrating a mass, sometimes already at five or four thirty in the morning – that’s true, and I can’t recall that we would ever be without a holy mass.” “And this chapel, did others know?” “It was known, because downstairs the machines were running, and upstairs there was always some movement. It was a huge workshop with very long machines.”

  • “From the novitiate in Batizovce they took us to Modrá. The Ursuline sisters had a school, a convent in Modrá. But we were not allowed to accept any new pupils for autumn. This became our living place. We actually lived in classrooms, I don’t even remember now whether they brought us some beds there or whether these were already set up. There were beds, one next to each other, in the classrooms. From there they were taking us to Fajdaly and bringing us back again in the evenings.” “The ´referent´ women were there with you?” Yes, there was one. In Fajdaly there were others (as they had apparently conceived it beforehand) to supervise us. They were telling us what to do and they observed us. We were being continually watched and monitored.”

  • “We conducted our preparations in secret, and we also secretly professed our vows. Not even our parents, nobody knew about the day of our vows. we were not allowed to invite anybody. We also perceived that it would not be opportune nor wise. We were a close-knit group, living by ourselves and for ourselves, but we knew what our purpose was, and this is what supplied us with strength and ability to rejoice.”

  • “My parents did not hold me back. I met the sisters in Olomouc and felt the desire to lead the same life they did. I did not know any other religious orders, and these Ursuline sisters here were closest to my heart.”

  • “Once there came some gentlemen from Bratislava and began to persuade us – there were about thirty of us young sisters there – that all our hospital bed linen was already prepared. We fought fiercely, especially the silver-tongued sisters, that they would not take us to Bratislava by force. They wanted us to quit the life of the order and make us lead a civilian lifestyle.”

  • “A close-knit group, this was the only thing that saved us. That we stood firm all the time. Lead by our mother superior, who is not among the living anymore today. She really supported us a lot.”

  • “If I remember it well, our mother superior had been preparing us for what was to come, but she did not tell us what exactly would happen. We did not have any contact with the world, because novitiate means living in certain seclusion. This was the so-called canonical year, the first year of the novitiate. During this time, my relatives may come to visit me, but I will never return home again. Our cloister was a strict one; we had no news what was happening outside. Our superiors had only been preparing us for moving. I remember we were packing our things into suitcases...to be ready when it comes. I could feel the tension in the air, but I really did not worry about it.”

  • “From Modrá, where we stayed for a year and a half, they brought us to Moravia, to the Lenas factory in Hanušovice. There was the factory and two little houses; one inhabited by us, Ursuline sisters, the other by sisters of St. Vincent, who were also transported there. The discipline there was truly rigid, and we had a really zealous “referent” assigned to us. What happened was that one night the police came and they took two sisters away. The reason for this was perhaps that on January 6th we did not come to work to the factory, because we wanted to celebrate a holiday. They probably thought that our sisters superiors talked us into avoiding work. But these sisters they had arrested were not even superiors. They spent about four months in prison in Šumperk.”

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    Praha, 09.11.2006

    duration: 01:08:45
    media recorded in project Stories of 20th Century
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“Everything was restricted, but we lived a life without worries. I like to remember those years. The superiors were taking care of everything and we lived in peace...We were a close-knit group, living by ourselves and for ourselves, we knew what our purpose was, and this is what supplied us with strength and ability to rejoice.”

Sr. Marisstella Poláková was born in 1930 and lived with her family in a Moravian village. She met the Ursuline Sisters in Olomouc and decided to follow the same way in her life. In 1948 she entered a novitiate in Batizovce in Slovakia and she also accepted her name of the order, Marisstella, which means “Star of the Sea” and is intended to evoke veneration of Virgin Mary. Before she could complete her preparatory period in the novitiate, the novitiate was dissolved by the Communists and the sisters had to go to work in agriculture and later in a flax processing factory. The communist power tried to lead the sisters astray from their spiritual journey by various means, even by intimidation. The communist regime however failed in this effort; all the candidate sisters who had entered the novitiate in the late 1940s also professed their religious vows. They got an opportunity to work more closely with people only as late as 1966, when they first worked in an asylum in Ročov and then in Horní Poustevna. Any catechistic activity was strictly forbidden to them. They could work and teach freely from the 1990s. Sister Marisstella now lives in the convent of the Order of St. Ursula in the Ostrovní Street in Prague.