Franciszek Gajowniczek is the name of the man who had 53 years added to his life, by the sacrifice of a ragged Polish priest during WWII - in the infamous Nazi killing centre Auschwitz-Birkenhau.
The story : a prisoner escapes from the camp, the Nazis selected 10 others to be killed by starvation in reprisal for the escape. One of the 10 selected to die, Franciszek Gajowniczek, began to cry: "My wife! My children! I will never see them again!" At this, St. Maximilian stepped forward and asked to die in his place. His request was granted ...
Being a new Catholic, I of course had read of St. Maximilian Kolbe, even considering taking him as my confirmation Saint (St. Rose my chosen saint, I will write of in another entry). It was only today that I found the name, and photo, of the man the Polish saint exchanged his life for.
Although he died in 1995, he was never to forget the ragged monk .After his release from Auschwitz, Gajowniczek spent the next five decades paying homage to Father Kolbe, honoring the man who died on his behalf.
In December 1994, the 94-year-old Pole visited St. Maximilian Kolbe Catholic Church of Houston. His translator on that trip, Chaplain Thaddeus Horbowy, said: "He told me that as long as he has breath in his lungs, he would consider it his duty to tell people about the heroic act of love by Maximilian Kolbe."
I picture them now reunited, and joined in prayer for us left in this "Valley of tears".