BY MARK GREAVES
POLES in Jersey are mourning the victims of a knife attack that killed six people on Sunday, including three children.
A Requiem Mass was to be celebrated in English and Polish yesterday for the two families who were stabbed to death and for those left bereaved.
Mgr Nicholas France said he hoped that at such a time of crisis that Catholics on the island would pray to Our Lady of Częstochowa, patron and Queen of Poland who was celebrated this week on the feast of the Assumption.
A man who is suspected of killing his wife, his children, his wife’s father and two family friends has been arrested and is under guard in a Jersey hospital. All of the victims were Poles.
Mgr France, a dean in the Diocese of Portsmouth, said the massacre was a “wound for the whole community”.
He said: “In our church we have a shrine of Our Lady of Częstochowa, who is Queen of the Polish nation, and I said just as people run to their mother in a time of crisis or trouble so I hope they will go to Mary the Mother of God.” He said about 4,000 Poles had come to live in Jersey, which has a total population of 92,500.
Mourners at a Polish-language Mass in St Martin on Monday evening said the victims seemed like “almost the perfect family”.
Jakub Bartus, a family friend, described the children as “well brought-up and very chatty”.
He said: “The children were so beautiful, like angels – always with smiles on their faces and nice clothes. The home was immaculate, too.
“He worked as a carpenter, and earned enough to provide the family with a high standard of living,” he told the Guardian.
Mr Bartus’s wife, Marlena, said she had not seen the family for almost a year, but had always thought they seemed very happy.
“They were a lovely family, lovely kids. They were almost the perfect family. The children loved playing with their Mega Bloks and he used to push them in a trailer. The way we had seen him, he was a really good father.” Fr Stanisław Adamiak, who celebrated the Mass on Monday, said he did not know the family but was aware that some people in the congregation were friends with them.
He said: “I told them we are sure of the dignity of every human life. No matter if it’s English, Polish or Portuguese people, the loss of life is always a great tragedy. We pray, as there is nothing else we can do.” The murders came at the end of a festival in St Helier, Jersey’s capital, to celebrate the island’s Polish links.
The man under arrest is thought to be Damian Rzeszowski, 30. The victims are his wife, Izabela Rzeszowska, their daughter, Kinga, aged six, and their 18-month-old son Kacper. Izabela’s father, Marek, is also believed to be one of the victims, along with her friend Marta de la Haye and five-year-old daughter Julia.
Witnesses described finding a woman lying on the pavement and then seeing around the corner a man chasing another woman with a kitchen knife.
Phillip Ngema, 19, said: “He stabbed the lady about four times in the chest. I was shouting at him – telling him to stop. But then he stabbed himself about four times, went back in the house and closed the door.” Another witness Bryan Ogesa, 24, said he had used a traffic cone to defend himself as the man came towards him.
A friend of Damian Rzeszowski’s claimed that he had attempted to commit suicide following the breakdown of his marriage.
“Five weeks ago Damian seemed very down,” the friend told the Daily Mail. “And four weeks ago he took 80 pills, anti-depressants.
“I could not believe it when the hospital let him out the next day. He said: ‘I need help.’ I went to his flat and looked after his kids so his wife could go to the hospital to see him. I don’t know why the relationship was breaking down.
“He said they were going to be fine and that his family were going to go on holiday to Poland. They just got back on Sunday.
“They had been away for two or three weeks. They arrived in the morning and the killing started at 3pm.” The Requiem Mass was scheduled for Thursday evening this week at St Thomas’s church in St Helier and was expected to be attended by the chief minister, Senator Terry Le Sueur, among other officials.