Polish missionary Marian Zelazek dies | india | Hindustan Times
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Polish missionary Marian Zelazek dies

Zelazek was short listed twice for the Nobel peace prize and had won the hearts of millions through his dedication and service.

india Updated: May 01, 2006 13:44 IST

Polish missionary Marian Zelazek, who spent over half a century in Orissa and cared for thousands of leprosy patients, died on Sunday afternoon at the age of 78.

Zelazek, who was short listed for the Nobel peace prize twice and had won the hearts of millions of people in the state through his dedication and service, died due to a heart attack, officials said.

The Christian missionary, who had arrived in Rourkela in 1950, complained of cardiac pain in at Karunalaya (literally, abode of mercy), the leprosy home he set up at Puri. He died on way to a local hospital.

Zelazek, who was born on Jan 30, 1918, joined missionaries of the Gymnasium of the Divine Word charity and was sent to work in Rourkela. For the next 25 years, he worked as a teacher and a priest in the adjoining Sundargarh district in western Orissa, providing education to poor tribals and serving them in other ways.

He set up Ishopanthi Ashram and Karunalaya in 1975 on the outskirts of Puri and was serving leprosy patients.

He never tried to convert people residing in his ashram. He instead built Hindu temples inside his ashram to allow its residents to practice their own religion.

"We feel like the sky has fallen on us," said leprosy patient Satrughan Hota, 70, who has been living at Karunalaya for the last 24 years.