The Miracle on the Vistula – An Untold Story

“…faith and prayer are forces that can influence history and that in the end prayer is more powerful than bullets and faith more powerful than armies.” (St. John Paul II)

August  15th, the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, marks  the 123rd anniversary of the Miracle on the Vistula River, the event that is still very little known in the West; in fact, a watershed moment of contemporary European history, yet so shamefully-overlooked in the shadows of the interwar period, and after the Second World War when the Communist governments openly declared religion as the ‘opium of the masses’.

The Polish-Soviet war (1919-1920) has taken on symbolic meaning for many people around the world, not just the Poles – in fact, G. K. Chesterton compared it to the defeat of the Turks at the gates of Vienna in 1683.

This battle was in 1920, as a Polish force was defending our Christian civilization against an ideology of militant atheism. Nowadays, not many realize that the primary source of this stupendous victory lay in Our Lady’s intervention, preceded by fervent national prayer. As I alluded in the Miracle on the Vistula – Rediscovered, published in 2020, there was the double appearance of the Virgin Mary on the outskirts of Warsaw. (See here for Mr. Suski’s dramatic recounting of this miraculous battle in these pages from 2017)

In this era of crisis of the European culture and Christian values, it is even more urgent to constantly recall the existence of Almighty God whose Providence guides the destiny of nations.

During the restoration of a nearly century-old wooden trunk, a woodworker stumbled upon a surprising revelation: a concealed compartment with a mysterious envelope. This hidden letter, once belonging to Wiktoria`s grandfather; it had remained untouched throughout the entire period of communist rule in Poland, patiently waiting for the opportune moment to shed light on the Miracle on the Vistula. Here is a large portion, published by a biweekly magazine:

Dear Stasieńko,

I am sorry I have not written to you for so long, but there was no time. We had so much work with those Bolsheviks. We chased them day and night. Don’t be cross with me. Thanks to God, I am alive as you can see, since I am writing this letter. […] I will tell you about the fight against the Bolsheviks as soon as I get home, and now I will only write to you about the miracle that happened here, because I know that such strange stories will interest you the most. All the newspapers write now that the Bolsheviks did not manage to capture Warsaw, because  our generals commanded soldiers so efficiently,  so they had to lose. Meanwhile, people say that generals are generals, but in the morning on August 15th when you were journeying via a horse-drawn cart to church in Lichen to take part in the indulgence feast, the Mother of God appeared to the Bolsheviks in the sky and scattered them to the four winds! People say different things and you don’t have to believe everything, but in hospital in Warsaw, waiting for a doctor’s call I spoke with two soldiers, who had fought at Wólka Radzyminska, they told me it had been true. First-handed they saw the bug-eyed Bolsheviks, fleeing in panic from the battlefield as if their life depended on it. Mind Stasieńko, one cannot simply run away from the battlefield, when someone does, then they find him, he immediately faces a court-martial and they sentence him to be shot. You must know that the Bolsheviks mete out hundredfold worse punishments than we do, so my conversation companions in hospital were very much surprised that the Reds had been fleeing in such a panic as their commanders watched them. (Nota bene – anti-retreat Cheka detachments followed the Red Army regiments) Only on the second day when the battle was over, these soldiers learned, the Bolsheviks had escaped because they had seen the Mother of God in the sky, who had commanded the mighty heavenly army and that this army had rushed at them as if from a high mountain. The Polish army did not see it. The Poles could only see the sky as it looks at dawn. These soldiers who fought at Wólka also said that the Russians had fled breathlessly to nearby villages and they even out of fear had hidden in kennels. Dogs barked at and bit them, but they refused to leave them. Finally, as they were out, on their knees they begged the Poles to hide. They said that Matier Bozyu (Mother of God) had appeared in the sky and admitted that they they could not fight against Her. […] I said to them that the miracle at Wólka might have been necessary for the Bolshevik Russia to come to its senses and convert. My companions replied that it would not be so, because they would immediately sentence those Bolsheviks to be shot for escaping from the battlefield, and even if they are not convicted, and as soon as a Bolshevik speaks out about the appearance, they will surely shoot him for it, because they cannot allow such news spread around Russia. When the doctor called me, I asked him if he had heard of a miracle. He replied that he had heard that in hospital they had had one such Bolshevik who had run away from the sign in the sky. While escaping he jumped over the wall and broke both his legs. The doctor also said that this Seryozha, that is the name of the Bolshevik with broken legs, would not return to Russia, there is no point in doing so, for death only. I don’t understand anything from this Bolshevik policy. How can you kill anyone for telling the truth? […]  Before the battle, the churches were full of people. They prayed rosaries for hours. Masses were celebrated. At shrines they repeated Hail Mary’s over and over again. In villages people were kneeling before the images of Our Lady of Czestochowa. They lay prostrated. And they say it was like this all over Poland. They obtained a miracle from God. (…) Be well, God will let me tell you everything soon.

– Józek 

One must come to recognize that there is a lack of historical records concerning Red Army soldiers due to a predominant illiteracy among their ranks. Furthermore, political Commissars took proactive measures to prevent  the documentation of individual soldier from revelation. It should make the enemies of the Church wonder how could several hundred of atheist soldiers collectively encounter a mass hallucination?

On the 14th of October, 2008, Fr. Dr. Józef Bartnik S.J. (1927-2013) who worked for 30 years at the Jesuits` sanctuary, on the air of Catholic Radio Maryja said:

My objective is to raise awareness about this case and ensure long-overdue thanksgiving to the Virgin Mary after 88 years. […] We are deeply indebted to the Mother of God for Her spectacular assistance given to our army. The Mother of God’s public appearance before hundreds of atheists, which  is virtually unique to the world, played a pivotal role in saving Warsaw, Poland and Europe from the Bolshevik revolution in 1920.

… It was only after a series of articles published in the Catholic press, collectively titled “Bear Witness to the Appearance” that relevant documents and testimonials started to emerge. I received them from Senator Jadwiga Stokarska, Pastor Father Wiesław Wiśniewski, Józef Domagalski, and several others. However, many testimonies I learned could not be included in the book as they did not provide new information. Examples of such testimonies were those of Eugenia Władysława Papis and Wacława Jurczakowska.

The City of Warsaw has not yet incorporated Our Lady of Grace, the Patroness, into its official coat of arms, despite her significant role in protecting against the Bolsheviks. In spite of numerous efforts of Catholics, since 1938 the symbol of the Polish capital continues to be a fish-human hybrid commonly refereed to as a mermaid. Hence, Fr. Bartnik deplored so much the fact the Virgin Mary is not duly honored and venerated.

In Radzymin, since 2010, work has been underway to build the sanctuary in honor of St. John Paul II. The church that is being constructed is a votive offering of gratitude for the Miracle on the Vistula as well as a thanksgiving to God for the pontificate of St. John Paul II. In his memoirs, stunned by the unexpected change of events, Marshal Pilsudski noted:

In the course of the Battle of Warsaw, the perplexing and abrupt role reversal of the opposing sides leaves everyone pondering. The victor becomes the vanquished, while the   conqueror is now conquered.[…] One unwittingly looks for reasons for this rapid transformation, this crucial breakthrough.

Charles de Gaulle, Future French President, who served as a military adviser during the war, put down on August 17:

Our Poles have grown wings. The soldiers who were physically and morally exhausted only a week ago are now racing forward in leaps of 40 kilometers a day.

For God is the one who, for his good purpose, works in you both to desire and to work.” (Phil 2:13)

One can find it completely foreign, that before the David and Goliath decisive battle, Bartolo Longo launched an urgent appeal to the Catholics of the world to pray for Poland. In a private letter to Fr. Stanisław Mystkowski the Blessed wrote:

I am utterly convinced that Our Lady of the Rosary who is Queen of the Polish Crown will not permit her beloved nation to live again under the yoke of Russian bondage… (Polak Katolik, Warszawa, 26.10.1926)

Though the participants and witnesses of those events become fewer every year, the memory lives on – the new generations do remember. In 1950 the Australian Catholic weekly reported:

In pious recognition of the intercession of the Most Holy Virgin for the Miracle on the Vistula banks, a huge delegation of undergraduates from all Polish universities went as pilgrims to Czestochowa. Captain Zenon Jankowski, a veteran of the Polish-Bolshevik war, reiterated:

Everyone here is convinced that it was a miracle. When the Russians unleashed the attack, a glow appeared in the sky. The Russians ran away from it in panic, covering their eyes. While fleeing they lost their shoes and guns.

Written testimonies of Polish farmers in Zambrów, a small town off the beaten track, confirm that terrified Red Army soldiers would say:

You did not see it. There was a big army near Warsaw. We saw the Mother of God who protected the Poles. (J. Zawitkowski, Okazał moc swego ramienia)

On July 26, 2020, Bishop Józef Zawitkowski, in the dedication to the booklet “Matka Boża Łaskawa, Patronka Warszawy, Strażniczka Polski”, incuded the following words:

[Had it been Our Lady], tell it to the atheists in the EU, they would have worn soviet padded jackets for 100 years; history has a tendency to repeat itself.  Tell it to the divided people in Poland that the faithful have been praying for the next Miracle on the Vistula. […] Do not ask if there was truly the Miracle on the Vistula. The Mother of God (Matier Bożju)  rescued us. Facts speak for themselves. Miracles speak for themselves… .”

These are all incontrovertible facts belying the official narrative which underpins solely the skill, discipline and determination of the Polish defenders as well as the military genius of Marshal Józef Piłsudski. God forbid that someone happen to believe in Providence; worse yet, in the miraculous intervention of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

No wonder, fueled by anti-Catholic prejudice, it had no place on the intellectual radar screens of British historians, since such things they dared to put in print or publish on-line:

The Cud nad Wisłą, the ‘Miracle on the Vistula’, was no miracle. It was a hard-fought battle, which took place in August 1920 near Warsaw...

Meanwhile, history has made a circle. No longer slogans, written in Cyrillic characters, Варшава наша (Our Warsaw) are carried on banners by Red Army soldiers. Poland is standing in the face of the greatest historical confrontation, between the Church and the anti-Church and between Christ and the Antichrist, that it has ever experienced. As elsewhere in the West, secularism has been making headway in Poland. It seems that wide circles of Christian communities do not fully realize this.

Father Dr. Tadeusz Rydzyk CSsR, the Founder and Director of the radio station Radio Maryja has recently called from Jasna Góra sanctuary:

We should defend Poland, for she must remain Christlike!

Those who dream of Poland  becoming the next Ireland or Quebec may suffer a major upset in upcoming months. With your and my prayers, through the intercession of the Black Madonna, Our Lady of Mercy, it is possible to stop the coming tribulation, maybe even avert it. I hope and believe that my compatriots, spread throughout the four corners of the earth, join in storming heaven with the Rosary and a cry to St. Andrew Bobola and St. Michael the Archangel for help to save the Old Country.

St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle. Be our defense against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him, we humbly pray, and do thou, O Prince of the heavenly hosts, by the power of God, thrust into hell Satan, and all the evil spirits, who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.

 A postscript:

The scheduled October elections to Sejm and Senat will be the next benchmark of the true attachment of Poles to Christian values.

Prior to the Polish parliamentary election of 2019, the President of the Polish Bishops Conference, Archbishop Stanislaw Gądecki, urged the faithful to participate in large numbers and warned against voting contrary to the principles of the Catholic faith. The concerned shepherd reminded us:

Catholics must not support political agendas which promote abortion, moral corruption of children and youth; seek to redefine the institution of marriage, attempt to restrict the parents` rights of the responsibility for child-raising.