Biography of Bishop Bolesƚaw Sloskans

Born into the family of a senior clerk in Tiltagols, Lutsin distict, Vitebsk province, on August 19, 1893. Studied in the city school in Rezekne [Latvia], then studied privately in Rechytsa; in 1911 he took the examination for pharmacy apprenticeship. In 1916 he graduated from the Archdiocesan Seminary in St. Petersburg and was ordained January 21, 1917. Until 1918 he studied at the Catholic Theological Academy in Petrograd until it was closed. From June 1919 he was vicar of St. Catherine Church in Petrograd; from 1920 he was simultaneously the pastor of the church in Shlisselburg and also tended parishes in Kronstadt and Petrozavodsk. From March 1923 he was pastor of St. Stanislaus parish and served at St. Boniface Church. From June 9 through September 3, 1924, he was vicar of Sts. Peter and Paul Church in Moscow; from September 1924 he served at St. Barbara parish in Vitebsk; from the end of 1925 he was at St. Catherine Church in Leningrad. May 4, 1926 – clandestine episcopal consecration by Bishop Michel d’Herbigny, a secret Papal emissary, at St. Louis de Français Church in Moscow. August 12, 1926 – appointed Apostolic Administrator of Mogiliev, and later also of Minsk; September 14, 1926 – assumed the Diocese of Mogiliev and publicly announced his episcopal consecration and appointment in Vitebsk. May 10, 1927 – assumed the Diocese of Minsk, in Borisov [Barysaw]. September 17, 1927 – arrested in Mogiliev; on September 20 he was presented with the charges: “at the behest of foreign intelligence agencies he gathered information, acquired documents that had the character of being State secrets, which he transmitted to foreign intelligence with counter-revolutionary purposes” (referring to maps and military documents that had been planted in his apartment during a search while he was absent). Sent for further investigation to Minsk Prison, then to Moscow where he was held in the inner prison of the GPU at Lubyanka. At his first interrogation he stated: “I am not engaged in politics; I find that any political [involvement] only brings harm to the Church. I am convinced that there is not a single Catholic priest, either at liberty or in prison or exile, who has been or is now engaged in activities that are against the law or against the State. If I am released, I declare that in my pastoral work I will act just as I have acted heretofore: openly. I am firmly convinced that in my activity I have not in any way gone beyond the bounds established for the Church by state laws. In all things, God’s will! If I am convicted, I will blame no one. I will only have on my conscience the fact that I have not done everything that my pastoral obligation demands of me.” In defense of their pastor, the parishioners of Mogiliev sent to the attention of the Office of the Public Prosecutor of the USSR a statement requesting his release prior to trial, signed by 381 persons, who vouched for the fact that he would not go into hiding before trial and furthermore affirmed that “on the part of our communities and believers, he enjoys great respect for his righteous life, dedicated to the service of God and works of charity in the name of love of neighbor.” Numerous petitions for his release were sent to various echelons and from groups of Catholics from Leningrad, Moscow and Vitebsk. January 13, 1928 – sentenced under Article 56-6 of the Criminal Code of the RSFSR to three years in corrective labor camp without possibility of amnesty [Special Board, OGPU Collegium]. February 13, 1928 – sent by special convoy to Solovetsky Special Purpose Camp, where he worked in construction of the Kem-Ukhta Highway and fell seriously ill. May 30 he was transferred to Central Island on Solovetsky. September 7, 1928 – at the request of Father Leonid Feodorov, Exarch of Russian [Eastern Rite] Catholics, he clandestinely ordained two priests of the Eastern Rite. October 24, 1929 – authorities rejected his appeal for an early release [Special Troika, OGPU Collegium]. In the first half of the 1930s there were more than thirty priests at Solovetsky – they were transferred to Trinity Skeet on Anzer Island. They all lived together there in one small room and formed a real community: they shared their food packages, they helped one another – and Bishop Bolesƚaw played an important role in the organization of the community. October 3, 1930 – released from the camp; departed for Mogiliev where he arrived November 1. There he was soon arrested again and banished for three years to Western Siberia. Although he was formally sent to a settlement in Irkutsk, in fact he was once again held in prison. November 8, 1931 – after numerous protests, Fr. Bolesƚaw was sent to Irkutsk prison, then transferred to Yeniseisk, whence he was banished to Turukhansk on the Arctic Circle – and then even further, to Staro-Turukhansk, where he earned his living fishing. January 16, 1932 – banishment to Eastern Siberia was commuted to “banishment from all sectors of the USSR” [Special Board, OGPU Collegium]. Thus in December 1932 he was transported to Krasnoyarsk and then to Moscow, where a secret decision was made on January 16, 1933, allowing the Latvian ambassador to meet with Sloskans, the subject of proposed exchange, in the presence of the People’s Commissar of Foreign Affairs and an official of the Special Department of the GPU [Special Board, OGPU Collegium]. This meeting was held January 20 – at which time he learned of the upcoming exchange for the Communist Stakhovski. January 22 he left for Latvia, from where he then went to Rome to meet with Pope Pius XI. In 1933 he became rector of Riga Diocesan Seminary where he taught theology. He remained in Riga after the annexation of Latvia to the USSR and during the German occupation. In 1941 he was arrested by the Gestapo and transported to Schneidmühl. Concentration Camp in Germany; released in 1945, remained in Germany. From 1945 he lived in Eichstätt, then at a monastery of Capuchin Fathers in Lohr; in 1947 he moved to Brussels where he founded a seminary for Latvians. From 1951 he lived at a Benedictine monastery in Louvain. In 1952 Pope Pius XII appointed him Apostolic Visitator for Russian and Belorussian Catholics in emigration, and in 1955, “guardian” bishop of Latvians and Estonians. Died April 18, 1981, in Belgium. Rehabilitated September 8, 1989. Bishop Sloskans wrote memoirs [published in French, 1986], but unfortunately there are discrepancies between the dates in his memoirs and the investigatory documents. Translator’s Note: This is the shorter of two entries on Sources: GARF, f. 8406, op. 2, d. 4513, l. 7-8, 14; GARF, f. 8409, op. 1, d. 716, l. 185-187; Dzwonkowski, pp. 440-443; Osipova (1996), p. 200; Investigatory Matter B.B. Sloskans, Archive of KGB, Republic of Belarus; Sloskans, Zeuge Gottes bei den Gotflosen; Shkarovskii, pp. 238-239
Variant Names:
Sloskans, Bolesƚaw; Sloskan, Boleslav Bernardovich
Vitsebskai︠a︡ voblastsʹ (Belarus); Rēzekne (Latvia); Rėchytsa (Belarus); Saint Petersburg (Russia); Moscow (Russia); Minsk (Belarus)
male; clergy and religious; survived