Readers’ affirmations

August 25, 2020 (email) This is an excellent biography of Jerzy Popiełuszko, a Polish Catholic priest with close ties to the Solidarity Movement.  His messages of liberation and nonviolent resistance to the repressive regime in Poland helped energize the population and his Masses were attended by thousands. Fr. Jerzy was kidnapped and murdered in 1984 by government security agents.  This book fleshes out the amazing life of an ordinary person who lived an extraordinary life, showing how a courageous person develops and sustains himself.  Anyone interested in social justice and nonviolent resistance should read this book. It shows us yet another great example of courageous faith-based opposition to any government which ignores the human rights of its people.  

Bill Quigley 
Loyola University 
New Orleans, LA 

April 4, 2020 (email) I spent all night reading your book and I have just finished Part 2 now.  Jerzy comes alive and you can see just how lovely he was! I especially laughed at this bit: “Mary Rusek also recalls that her husband joked that with the name Popiełuszko, Jerzy could be a pope: Pope Łuszko.” 

I think your book is so beautiful and I feel very close to Jerzy when I read it. I love the detail. You must have done SO much research! Please can I say that this is my favourite book ever on Jerzy! I learned so much. For example, I never knew he liked rock music. He makes me smile. 

Esther Pape
Carlisle, Cumbria
United Kingdom

February 24, 2020 (email) With all the publicity about bad priests, a book about even a good one is probably the last thing I would have chosen to read on my own. Ever. I couldn’t get past the first five pages of Thornbirds. But when my high school classmate, Judith Kelly, wrote a book, I wanted to read it. I thought she was saying Jersey and she had written about New Jersey. Imagine my surprise when I realized she had written about Father Jerzy Popiełuszko, (1947-1984) a national hero of Poland. I had never heard of him. 

Just Call Me Jerzy lets the reader peek into the Solidarity movement. Fr. Jerzy also visited relatives in the United States. During his short life, he traveled to the United States four times and visited Canada once; he visited Pittsburgh, Chicago, New Britain and Hartford, Philadelphia, New York, and Florida among other places.  At least once he took money back to Poland for Solidarity. He was an anti-government pacifist, an admirer of Gandhi. Don’t those types always get murdered? No matter where they come from? If they are popular enough, the answer is “Yes.” 

Jerzy knew he was going to die. He told people. Sure enough, at the age of 37, government thugs kidnapped him and beat him to a bloody pulp. They dropped him off a bridge with bags of rocks tied to his legs. A friend jumped out of the moving car to escape the villains and lived to tell what happened.  

Just Call Me Jerzy is truly well-written, with tremendous research. It appeals to me on several levels.  Jerzy certainly lived a full, if short, life. I would recommend it especially to people interested in Polish history and the Church. 

Eileen Potter Kopelman
New Kensington, PA

June 3, 2018   (excerpt from a handwritten letter)

All those places in Pittsburgh, and later all those flights from Warsaw to New York, and New York to Pittsburgh – I could have bumped into him at any time without knowing it. The pictures are marvelous. Especially the early ones, with the longish hair and wide-bottomed jeans, he looks like so many college buddies from fading old pictures, or like the first Polish exchange students or emigrés I met when my own Polish adventure was dawning. His letters (beautifully translated) are insightful and to the point. We were all there together, even if we didn’t know it. To imagine some guy in a swimming pool being called “Jerzy” or “Father Jerry” – that normal guy – on his way to sainthood. And to changing the world.

What I liked best about your book, Judith, was that you didn’t over-interpret or try to jam in too much “background information” or “context,” but instead let the letters, photos, and people’s memories tell the story.

It also seemed like your book (or research, rather) activated the consciousness of people who had met or heard of Jerzy, but lost track of him when that older generation died away. Every little atoll of awareness and empathy that peeks above the waves is a great thing amidst the ocean of indifference to the rest of the world.

William Brand
Kraków, Poland

March 27, 2018 (email) I found “Just Call Me Jerzy” to be a compelling read from start to finish. I couldn’t put it down. I learned so much from this book and it was thorough in its detail. I highly recommend this to anyone looking for a great read. It really is a page turner.

Mare Panasewicz
Snoqualmie, WA

February 1, 2018  (excerpt from an emailed review)

The second half of the book displays the careful, meticulous research that Judith Kelly has done concerning Jerzy Popiełuszko’s visits to North America. She has doggedly tracked down and gotten to know his many family and personal connections on this side of the Atlantic. This is a great addition to the literature and lays an excellent foundation for future generations struggling to understand the details of Fr. Popiełuszko’s biography.

Thanks to its detailed catalogue of people and photographs, Kelly’s book is already invaluable as the generation of people who had family and personal connections to Popiełuszko starts to disappear from the scene. It’s rare that anyone is able to do such an exhaustive survey and publish it in time for many of the witnesses to read and comment on. Kelly provides lists of photographs that are not yet publicly available and promises to add them to an internet database as rights to the pictures are cleared. We can all hope that the photographs will quickly be published so that Kelly’s portrait of this “saint in the making” can be even more complete.

William Gilcher,
Silver Spring, Maryland

November 8, 2017 Well, after more than a year, I finally picked up your book and began reading it. WOW! Thank you for sending it to me. I have not yet finished, on page 120, but the first part is great. Captivating! What a guy he was. A hero for sure; and yes, a saint as well. … Anyway, I just wanted you to know that I am really enjoying your book.

Mike Wisniewski, Los Angeles Catholic Worker
Review, Los Angeles Catholic Worker newspaper, April 2018, page 3

June 12, 2017 (email) Sorry for delay in responding back but my mother has also been reading your book and she is a slower reader than myself! We both want to say to you how much we enjoyed reading your wonderful book – so much we didn’t know about Father Jerzy! So many stories we have never heard of and so touching! The one where he has to leave the courtroom and he tells the woman that he is running away from hatred! I loved her reply though about “wanting to find somebody like this all your life”….! Truly amazing and how wonderful for you to have met friends who knew him! He just radiated goodness even in the photos taken in America as a young man. There is just something about him…..

With all best wishes and thank you for sharing so much. I am a more devoted “fan” of Father P. than ever now.

Celia Jones
Middlesex, UK

May 9, 2017 I read [Just Call Me Jerzy] and reviewed it for our next Catholic Radical. I found it very inspiring. When I read of his visit to Florida and places like Niagara Falls and Disneyland, it added to my admiration that he returned to Poland.

Your book, which opened with a quote from Daniel Berrigan, had his spirit in it. You weren’t just telling a story, but challenging the reader and also offering comfort. All too often, people see their current age as uniquely evil, a time that invokes despair and calls for violence. A look into past struggles like Poland’s and their incredible commitment to nonviolence slaps us out of our contemporary chauvinism. I’m glad you let the readers know that you are a peace activist yourself. I had a teacher in college who taught theology of liberation, but opened the course with a disclaimer, admitting that he was not living the ideals he was going to teach us. His notion that a simple intellectual assent to ideas is morally sufficient let the entire class off the hook.

It also denied us the opportunity to experience the joy which I spoke of at Dorothy Day House. For this reason, I chose a photo of Jerzy smiling to accompany my review [page 6].

Scott Schaeffer-Duffy
Worcester, Massachusetts
Author of Nothing is Impossible – Stories from the Life of a Catholic Worker

April 5, 2017 Just Call Me Jerzy is a powerful, inspiring and previously unknown story about courageous and creative nonviolent resistance to oppression. Thank you, Judith Kelly, for helping us locate Jerzy among the Cloud of Witnesses!

Marie Dennis
Co-President, Pax Christi International
Washington, D.C. 

March 20, 2017 (email) Judith Kelly introduces us to a figure who not only has an important place in the annals of recent Polish history and of the Catholic Church but whose life and death can serve as both a lesson and an inspiration for people of all backgrounds in today’s challenging times.  Jerzy Popiełuszko followed an ordinary vocation to the priesthood but found himself caught up in extraordinary times to which he responded with nonviolent determination, quiet grace, and fortitude.  Reading his story and following his travels through the U.S. and Canada, we see an unassuming human being raised to greatness by his wise and courageous choices.

Christine Szczepanowski
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

February 3, 2017 (email) A Story for Today: Just Call Me Jerzy. In our world and our times we are never lacking the witness of people who demonstrate great courage on behalf of their sisters and brothers in the human community.  Fr. Jerzy Popiełuszko was such a person. If he were alive today, he’d be celebrating 70 years of age. His courageous witness to the rights of workers and human rights in general in Poland during the communist era resulted in his violent death at the hands of the Secret Police in 1984, at age 37. We are privileged to know his heroic story and to be able to absorb his faith and courage in our own lives. These qualities are much in need today. Judith Kelly was meticulous in her research for this book. Jerzy’s life in Poland and visits to relatives in the U.S. unfolds in a gripping and very human account. Judith Kelly’s first published book establishes her credentials as a historian and writer of extraordinary ability.

Gigi Gruenke
College Park, Maryland

December 30, 2016 (email) Thanks for introducing me to Jerzy! I’d not heard of him, but now I almost feel as if I know him. Your account made him seem contemporary and personal; I liked learning of his actions in context, and also hearing his own words. The second part of the book will be a useful historical document — pulling together information from Mary Kalinoski and others that wouldn’t otherwise be readily available. That’s sure to be useful as more people begin to celebrate his life. And the overall theme of nonviolent protest of tyranny is, of course, a constant inspiration to so many around the world.

Steven McCullagh
Kennesaw, Georgia

December 26, 2016 (excerpts from a hand-written letter)  …[W]hat began as a simple browsing of the book turned into a one-sitting reading. . .  I was engulfed with the story, and your good writing …well done, Judith! Jerzy was the priest I wanted to be. . . .So actually your good book provoked some feelings of sadness and regret reading of such a good, saintly priest.

Bill Streit, Little Flower Catholic Worker
Louisa, Virginia

December 16,  2016 (hand-written note) As a member of the Community of Sant’Egidio of Washington, DC, I find the story of Jerzy Popiełuszko particularly inspiring and relevant to today.

Joseph Theis
College Park, Maryland

November 18, 2016 (email) Just Call Me Jerzy is a compelling, heartfelt account of Jerzy Popiełuszko’s life and travels. This story of faith and resistance is needed now more than ever.

John Feffer
Washington, D.C.

November 3, 2016 (email) Just want to let you know how much I love the book, and your writing! Fr. Jerzy Popiełuszko is remarkable, a true spiritual father of the Solidarity movement. You have so clearly conveyed his spirit of peace, love, strength, and forgiveness. I have been captivated by his beautiful prayers. There are so many things I am learning about that time in Poland’s history. Very well done!

Mary Beth Sowa
Washington, D.C.

November 2, 2016 (email) Once I picked up Judith’s book I could scarcely put it down, even though I had seen a film about Jerzy and already knew the basic story of his life and gruesome death. She brought to life how Jerzy’s courage and leadership inspired the Polish people — how he subtly but continuously challenged them and the regime, especially in his unwavering commitment to nonviolence.

Then, reading about Jerzy’s travels in the U.S. brought home the fact that this all happened during my lifetime, not in the distant past.

The events of the Solidarity Movement emerged from the realm of history onto the stage of current events. And the stories of his U.S. connections made it clear that this remarkable man chose his path. Not only could he have avoided persecution by remaining silent within his homeland — not speaking for and to the people — he could have escaped from the oppressive regime by fleeing to the United States.  But he followed the call he heard from his God, knowing full well the ultimate implication for his own life.

Helen Schietinger
Washington, D.C.

October 21, 2016 (email) I’ve read your book and I am delighted with it. It reflects this period of Jerzy’s life very carefully and truthfully. Jerzy’s stay in the USA and Canada is especially interesting to me because I knew very little about it, and I think that also in Poland this is very little known. I am convinced that if your book is translated into Polish it certainly will enjoy very great interest. It was also very nice to read about Bogdan and Jerzy with me in Odense. 🙂

Jan Jaskov
Frederiksberg, Denmark

September 28, 2016 (email) Finished reading your fine tribute to Fr. Jerzy. Quite a remarkable man! Certainly sounds like he’s well on his way to official canonization, and well deserved. You did amazing research to pull it altogether. And you’re quite a good writer. Thanks for introducing me to Jerzy.

Rosemarie Pace, Pax Christi Metro New York
New York City, New York

September 19, 2016 (hand-written note)  Thank you for Just Call Me Jerzy. It is a touching, immediate, clear, loving presentation of a good man. I have only praise for this book. You and I with our particular Polish backgrounds, our yearnings, can connect with such a strong, brave, romantic figure.  I use “romantic” as Joseph Conrad uses the word – in all its largeness and feeling.  Congratulations.

Gary Gildner, author of My Grandfather’s Book and The Warsaw Sparks
Grangeville, Idaho

September 17, 2016 (email) As opposed to Judith Kelly who has Polish roots but was born and lived her whole life in the USA, I was born in Poland but emigrated from there in 1980 and spent 33 years abroad in Germany, Canada, USA and France to finally come back and spend my retirement years in Poland. When Father Jerzy Popiełuszko started his active time with the Solidarity movement, our family of four had just left Poland since my husband had lost his job as a musician and as the music director at a theatre. After two years in Germany we decided to leave for Canada; in Germany a musician’s life was financially more stable, but we could not feel at home. In Canada there were no jobs nor stability in music, but people were very hospitable.

At any rate, we did not hear about Father Jerzy before we left, or after, until we learned about his murder. We were very shocked, and we took an active part in the solemn and emotional Mass in the Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Ottawa. I conducted the Paderewski Polish Choir and my husband played the organ. This demonstration of our anguish will always remain in my memory.

After that we did not hear much more besides some general knowledge that his murderers were arrested, and prosecuted, and that they received relatively short sentences and later were freed for their “good behavior.”

After reading Just Call Me Jerzy, I’m glad that I learned many unfamiliar facts in the life of this remarkable priest, which shed new light on his exceptional personality and his courage.

The idea of writing this book was to refer to facts unknown in Poland about his travels abroad, but the author also gave a lot of interesting insights into his life in Poland, which were not known to me and I am sure are not very known in the United States or Canada about his early life, his personality, friendships, health, etc. I even learned that his Polish-American aunt bought him the apartment on 15 Chłodna Street in Warsaw, where my family of three used to live in 1977-78, just a year before Jerzy used to visit this place.

All of his trips abroad were eye-opening experiences for Jerzy that people in other countries could live happily and peacefully in democratic states while in Poland people had to suffer for so many years, at first under the German occupation, and later the Soviet one.

Halina Zielinski
Warsaw, Poland

September 12, 2016 (handwritten note) What an eye-opening book. I learned so much about Jerzy and his ideals. His homilies were truly powerful. It was clear Jerzy had a pure heart. He let his light shine and wholeheartedly served God while working for a better life for his fellow countrymen.

As I read I kept thinking of Matthew 5:10. Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of justice, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Reading about his death brought tears to my eyes. Then reading about the miracle in France gave me goose bumps. I particularly enjoyed learning about his trip to Clearwater and plan to check out St. Brendan’s Church.

I will continue to pray for his canonization. Something I can’t help but believe will happen soon.

Margaret Wilbur
Tarpon Springs, Florida

September 11, 2016 (email) I very much enjoyed reading your well-researched book about a saint who inspired so many and who was martyred for speaking the truth. It is unlikely that Poland would be where it is now without him. Thank you so much.

Richard Kosinski
New Britain, Connecticut

August 24, 2016 (Facebook messenger) The books arrived!!! Excellent work!!! How special to see a photo of Cardinal Mindszenty and the young Fr. Jerzy. Two of Christ’s martyrs.

Klára Berta
Budapest, Hungary

August 18, 2016 (email) You’ve done a great job talking to so many people in the United States and Poland.  And what’s more you tried to work like a historian – finding some false information. Now without reading Just Call Me Jerzy, no one could say that he knows about Blessed Jerzy’s trips to U.S. and Canada. Well done! And your pen is light – not too much boring information. So I’ll try to send your book to His Holiness.

Ambassador Janusz Kotański
Rome, Italy