Joseph Kalinowski knew better than anyone else the strength of the Czarist army, and he also knew that if an insurrection broke out it would fail.
“It was all too clear to his mind’s eye what would happen in a struggle of unarmed people against the power of the Russian government, which could command enormous armies.”
He was convinced that Poland “needed sweat rather than shedding of blood; for already too much blood has been spilled.” Conscious of all this, he continually asked himself:
“Can I remain passive when so many people have sacrificed everything for this cause, undoubtedly a national cause?” He finally decided to join the insurrectionists, even agreeing to become War Minister for the region of Vilna. […]
After being spied on by the Russians for some time, Kalinowski was arrested on the night of March 24–25, 1864, and taken to a nearby Dominican monastery that had been transformed into a prison for the insurgents. He was the last of the leaders of the rebellion still at large. But his was a very serious crime: An ex-captain of the Czar’s army, he had become Minister of War against the Czar.
Hence the sentence passed by the Military Tribunal on June 2 was the most serious possible: capital punishment. Innumerable pressures from his family and friends, not to mention the great esteem in which he was held by nearly everyone, persuaded the Russians and even [the Czar’s Governor General] himself to avoid the risk that he might come to be viewed as a martyr of the people; his death sentence was commuted to ten years of forced labor in Siberia.
On June 29, 1864, began the long terrible march that Kalinowski describes in these words:
“On the very feast of the solemnity of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, near midday, the long file that we composed snaked its way through the streets of Vilna toward the train station. An enormous crowd lined the streets and Cossacks on horses kept back anyone who tried to come close to us; many people were watching from their windows. It looked like a funeral cortege. But from the beginning of the insurrection how many such convoys had preceded us! Among us were people of every age and every condition. . . . We took our places in the train cars, where they piled one person on top of another. . . . When the train departed, people moving along the heights that dominated the railway threw flowers on it as they do on graves of the dead at cemeteries.”
When Kalinowski went to Siberia he took a copy of the Gospels, The Imitation of Christ, and his crucifix.
Szczepan Praskiewicz, O.C.D.
Insurrection against the Czarist government and exile in Siberia
Praskiewicz OCD, S 2016, Saint Raphael Kalinowski: An Introduction to his Life and Spirituality, ICS Publications, Washington DC.