A Hidden Life

On Sunday, February 25, 2007, Marzena Ladiejewska and her mother Urszula Winiarski went to their former home in Cheshire, Connecticut. The house was up for sale, and Marzena and Urszula arrived to prepare it for an open house later that day.

Urszula’s former husband, Tadeusz, had been living there, but the court barred him from the premises when his ex-wife was pres¬ent. Urszula divorced Tadeusz in July 2006, after enduring more than a decade of abuse at his hands. Selling the house was part of the divorce settlement. Proceeds from the sale would help support their two teenage sons who had been living with their mother. That Sunday, the boys also came along to help.

It’s not clear whether Tadeusz Winiarski was lying in wait at the house or whether he arrived after Marzena, Urszula, and the boys. He shot and killed Marzena first. He murdered Urszula next. According to newspaper reports, Tadeusz pointed his shotgun at one of his sons but finally turned it on himself and took his own life.

I knew Marzena when she was a religious-studies major at the College of the Holy Cross. I remember experiencing the in loco parentis feeling teachers sometimes get when I sat next to Marzena during her induction to Phi Beta Kappa (her mother and stepfather didn’t show up). Back in the spring of 2000 when she graduated, all of us in the Department of Religious Studies had parental feelings for Marzena-even though...

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About the Author

Mathew N. Schmalz is associate professor of religious studies at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts.