Biography of Father Anton Kuyava

Born into a peasant family in Potulino, Poznań voivodeship, in 1908. He graduated from Vilnius Seminary and was ordained in 1937. He served in a parish in Jazno, outside Disna, on the Soviet border, and was there at the time of the Soviet and German occupations. In 1943 Fr. Anton was arrested by the Gestapo for “violation of the orders of the occupying powers,” but thanks to the unrelenting appeals of his parishioners, he was released after a few months. After the return of the Red Army and the establishment of Soviet rule, Fr. Anton became pastor of the parish in Mossary, Poƚock oblast. On February 17, 1949, he was arrested and held in Poƚock Inner Prison. Charges stated that “being by ideological convictions an enemy of Soviet rule, during the period from 1944 to 1949, under the cover of Catholic religious holidays, he had systematically participated in assemblies of priests, at which anti-Soviet questions of a defeatist nature were discussed. Among the citizens of his parish Kuyava conducted anti-Soviet propaganda, intended to dissuade young people from joining Komsomol and citizens from working in Soviet institutions.” During the investigation they did not allow Fr. Anton to sleep for three or four days. At the end of the investigation, he was presented with the indictment – “betrayal of the Homeland” on the basis of the fact that “Kuyava was recruited by the German gendarmerie as an agent and he was given the assignment of uncovering Soviet partisans and was to report on their activities.” An agent of the investigatory organs was “planted” in the same cell with Fr. Anton and he informed that Fr. Iosif [Anton?] “systematically conducted anti-Soviet, defeatist propaganda among his cellmates during the period February to April 1949.” May 21, 1949 – sentenced under Articles 63-1 and 72(b) of the Criminal Code of the Belorussian SSR to twenty-five years in corrective labor camp with loss of rights for five years and confiscation of property [Military Tribunal, Ministry of the Interior, Poƚock oblast]. July 25 he was sent to Steplag (Dzhezkazgan, Karaganda oblast); on the cover of his personal file was the notation “German agent.” Fr. Anton arrived at the camp seriously ill; in March 1952 he was showing signs of active tuberculosis. After Stalin’s death [March 5, 1953], Fr. Anton decided to disclose the fact that he was a priest – and already by March 7, 1953, he was sent to the penalty isolator for the fact that he “systematically wears clothing that is not camp clothing.” In August 1953 he sent the Procurator and the Supreme Court statements concerning a review of his file, noting the illegal methods of investigation that had been used and the absence of a translator from the courtroom – but he received the standard reply: “No bases for review of file.” February 13, 1954, he was again sent to the penalty isolator, for three months, for “active participation in a massive work-slowdown and incitement of others to do the same … and also for refusal to work.” On May 16, 1954, an uprising of convicts broke out at the Kengir sector of Steplag and continued for forty days; Fr. Anton took an active part in the uprising. Later it was noted in particular in his investigatory file that during the convict uprising, “a group of pops [derogatory word for priests – Translator] of the Orthodox, Catholic and autocephalic churches took an active part. These pops systematically led prayers and urged the convicts to disobey the camp administration.” Fr. Anton discovered the list compiled by the investigation – and those convicts who survived later remembered him with great gratitude: “Fr. Anton was guided by a sense of duty when he blessed newlyweds and buried the dead.” The uprising was brutally suppressed by soldiers: they shot cannons on convicts in the barracks and on the barricades and they squashed them with tanks; when they had broken through their defense, the soldiers took aim with precision firing from automatics. As a result of the assault, there were dozens and dozens of dead, crushed, and incinerated convicts, four hundred seriously wounded. Fr. Anton was sent for the period of investigation to a penalty isolator, but on account of a drastic worsening of his pulmonary tuberculosis, the camp boss was forced to transfer him to the camp infirmary. December 31, 1954 – Fr. Anton was granted an early release due to health [Karaganda Dist. Ct.]. Internally exiled to Karaganda oblast. February 2, 1956 – released from exile; left for Poland. In July 1954 the investigation into the Kengir Uprising was completed and the head of GULAG in Moscow presented a “Report” in which the active role of priests in these events was noted, and the following was proposed: “We consider it absolutely necessary to significantly intensify – in all camps, but especially in special camps – political-educational work and anti-religious propaganda. We suggest removing all pops, priests and active religious convicts from camps in the next six months and concentrating them in separate camps or camp sectors.” Sources: Personal dossier of the convict A.N. Kuyavy, Archive of the Directorate of Ministry of State Security, Polock oblast; Osipova (1996), p. 180; Madała, p. 92
Variant Names:
Kuyava, Anton; Kui︠a︡va, Anton Nikolaevich
Potulino (Poznań, Poland); Vilnius (Lithuania); Dzisna (Belarus); Dzisna (Belarus); Qaraghandy (Kazakhstan)
male; clergy and religious; survived