In 1923 Poland was in a period of economic crisis; The country was suffering from the effects of hyperinflation and mass unemployment following the assassination of President Narutowicz. Bands of “Roma” gypsies were impoverished and began stealing food and animals in villages across Poland. Marianna Dolinska (32), her husband (40) and their four children were a part of a group of Roma which disbanded in 1923 for unknown reasons. In early December 1923, Mr. Dolinska was arrested and accused of theft causing Marianna and her children to lose their only source of income. Mrs. Dolinska, who had spent her entire life in this recently dissolved Roma camp, located in the forest between the villages of Rajec and Dabrowa Kozlowska, had nowhere to turn. During a time in which many peasants’ children died of starvation, she assumed that to be the fate of her children and herself. On Tuesday December 11, 1923 Marianna Dolinska and her four children had been wandering through a swampy wooded area spanning the outskirts of Antoniowka, Dabrowa Kozlowska and Siczkami.
At approximately 8:00pm local time, she hung all four of her children with the same rope by tying it around the base of a tree trunk in the woods near Antoniowka. The two boys and two girls aged 6 months -7 years were standing with their backs against the tree and were suspended by their necks. The following day, Marianna Dolinska reached the police station in Kozlow around 1:00pm where she confessed to the murder of her children and led investigators back to the tree where their bodies were hanging.
A police photographer took photos of both the crime scene and the murderous mother who said she had killed her children because at the time, she believed there was no other option. Distraught, Marianna Dolinska explained she thought it would be best for her to murder her children rather than wait for them to potentially starve to death due to poverty. Marianna was treated fairly, even generously compared to other female murderers at the time.
The case became one of the most high-profile criminal cases in the Second Polish Republic. Mrs. Dolinska was held in Random and Warsaw during the six month investigation and underwent a full psychiatric evaluation; She was determined to have been legally insane when the crimes took place. Dolinska was ordered by the court to remain in a psychiatric institute in Tworki following the trail where she was diagnosed as bipolar. Her doctor in Tworki, Dr. Witold Luniewski believed the murder of her children was originally intended to proceed a suicide which was not carried out; He observed episodes of mental instability and troubling behavior in Mrs. Dolinska during her stay in Tworki. The case was hugely important to the psychological and medical communities and aided psychiatrists and lawyers in understanding the possible outcome of an untreated bipolar disorder. Sadly, Marianna Dolinska suffered many physical ailments as well as struggling with her pre-existing mental illness. She was required to take a dose of sedatives with every meal for the rest of her short life. She did, however, find joy by spending a large portion of her time outdoors, gardening while confined to the psychiatric institute. In 1928, Marianna Dolinska passed away in the mental facility at Tworki from undisclosed causes and was buried in the hospital cemetery; Her grave no longer exists, having been destroyed along with countless others during political and social upheaval in Poland. Shortly after her death, the crime scene photos of her children hanging from the base of a tree were published for the first time in 1928. Another version was published again in 1948 in a textbook of forensic science written by Victor Grzywo-Dabrowski. The photo, which existed in the archives of the police station where Marianna had confessed to the murder somehow made it into the hands of Ukranian Nationalists during World War II. One of the photos was used on the cover of a book containing photographs depicting crimes by the Ukranian Insurgent Army (UPA).
This book, entitled Ludobojstwo UPA na Ludnosci Polskiej (which roughly translates to Genocide Against the Polish Population by UPA) can still be found on some bookshelves in Europe. In 1993, the photo was published in a Wroclaw magazine, On the Rim, which also claimed the photo was taken in 1943 near the village of Kozova in the region of Ternopil and depicted victims of the UPA. Since then, most people are under the misconception that the photos of the Dolinska crime scene were taken in 1943 and are from The Massacre of Poles in Volhynia. The massacre, which began in March of 1943 and ended in 1944 claimed the lives of 35,000-60,000 Polish people, most of whom were women and children; It was an ethnic cleansing carried out in Nazi-German occupied Poland by the UPA.
The false belief that the Dolinska children were victims of crimes committed by the UPA during The Massacre of Poles in Volhynia is so widespread that the image was even used as inspiration for a monument made to commemorate victims of the genocide.
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