Youngest of five children, the only daughter of Augustine and Mary Duchalska. After high school Janina studied languages and foreign literature at the University of Poznan, Poland. Member of the Sodality of Mary, she was known for her personal interest in anyone and everyone with a problem, and for her work with the poor. She early felt a call to religious life, and during a pilgrimage to Lourdes, France in the summer of 1934, she gave herself over to the hands of the Blessed Virgin Mary. She spent a year with the Congregation of the Oblate Sisters of the Sacred Heart at Montluçon, France, then returned to Poznan in June 1936 and joined the Daughters of the Sorrowful Mother of God (Seraphic Franciscan Sisters), receiving the name Maria Sancja. Known for her strict adherence to her Order’s rule, and for cheerfully volunteering for any kind of service, she made her first vows on 30 July 1938. Worked for a year in the nursery school of Poznan-Naramowice, and began to study pharmacology, but the outbreak of World War II in September 1939 put an end to her studies. Poznan was occupied by the Germans, the Sisters were place under house arrest, and then ordered to care for German soldiers and English and French prisoners of war. Because of her language studies, Sister Sancja served as translator for the prisoners as well as doing all the other forced labour ordered by the Germans. Worn down by the work, she contracted tuberculosis, but was able to make her solemn vows on 6 July 1942, a few weeks before her death.
God’s will is my will. Whatever he wants I want. – Blessed Sancja’s personal motto
- “Blessed Sancja Szymkowiak“. CatholicSaints.Info. 23 August 2014. Web. 27 March 2017. <>