December 13th, 1981

My mom woke me up. It was unusually quiet, even for a frosty winter morning Sunday. She looked very worried. I could tell she was not trying to panic and keep calm, but something was definitely wrong. She looked at me, as figuring out, how to break the news, and in a serious tone of voice announced: “I think, there is a war”.

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photo from "The Solidarity phenomenon"

“War?!!! But… I am so young…there could not be a war, I have to live my life first…” these were my very first thoughts, and I don’t even remember if I said it out loud. Thousands of streaming thoughts were piercing my mind. “War? Like in 1939, when Nazis invaded? Did the Russians cross our borders? Would they be so arrogant and insolent? Are the other Warsaw Pact allies with them? Will they occupy, close the schools, churches? Are they arresting, killing, torturing people? Do I have anything in the house that I should worry about? Any underground bulletins, anti-communist brochures?” I prayed something like: “Oh God, help us”

After few moments we realized that we were cut off from the world. Although living in a popular communist version of apartment complex (bloki), there was silence, like never before. TV (those two channels that we had then) did not transmit anything. Only sadly torturing Chopin pieces in the radio.

I was walking from window to window. No people outside, neither on the balconies or by the windows. Fear invaded not only our country, but now my little apartment, my future, my imagination. “Revenge”, I thought. “We crossed the line, THEY had to do something about it. This is it “.

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Then we’ve heard an announcement on TV. Our general, Jaruzelski, with a typical monotony proclaimed “State of War” (Stan wojenny). Military coup. No traveling. No school for some time. No social meetings. Evening curfew. Telephone conversations censored. Restrictions. Choking up the leftover dreams for something better than this undignified existence.

I went to church. On the streets some armored vehicles, some ZOMO guys warming their hands over the street fires.

During the Mass solemn prayers. Thousands came. It seemed that everybody wanted to check out, if we will give up, if THEY will win. Some were crying, some devastated, many confused, many in rage.

This was my birthday. Not a happy one. I did not have a party. My sweet 16…

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famous iconic photo taken by Chris Niedenthal, Newsweek reporter: armored vehicle standing by the movie theatre “Moscow”, and the movie being advertised is “Apocalypse now” by Francis Copolla who was inspired by Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of darkness”


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Tell the world that we perished

Go, passer-by, and tell the world
That we perished in the cause,
Faithful to our orders.

The Warsaw Uprising in August-September of 1944 was the largest and perhaps most heroic underground campaign of World War II. It was also one of the most desperate and little known battles of the war. Yet even as the Poles rose up against the Germans in the heart of Warsaw, they were callously betrayed. Not by their enemies but by their allies. Watch their fight, their lives, their faith and how they liberated one Jewish concentration camp.

My grandfather died during Warsaw Uprising.

Two fictitious profiles on FB – Kostek and Sosna – made for youth to interact and read about the lives of two young Poles living during the uprising, 24 hours non stop updates, pictures etc, live virtual diary. GREAT IDEA!




CNN Warsaw Rising web site

Warsaw Uprising website with lots of resources

Warsaw Rising Museum in Warsaw

Miasto Ruin – world’s first digital reconstruction of the destroyed city

BBC Battle for Warsaw web site and the movie:

how to raise a saint and a martyr in the heart of Europe today

In just few hours Marianna Popieluszko will be present at the Mass for the Beatification of her son, father Jerzy Popieluszko (Yeh-zhee  Poh-pye-woosh-koh), who was murdered over 25 years ago. She will carry the relics of her own son to the altar.

Father Jerzy Popieluszko was a Solidarity chaplain and became a spiritual leader of those who were pursuing non-violent liberation of Poland from Communism. You can read father Jerzy’s story in many places now, but I wanted to find more about his upbringing, childhood and the role of his parents in raising a present day saint and martyr.

These are few nuggets that I found around the web, mostly from his mom’s interviews.

Father Jerzy’s family lived in a small village Okopy in the far East of Poland, which is almost exactly the geographical center of Europe. His parents were peasants, lived simply and were very devout Catholics, as most of Poles in that region. When Marianna was pregnant with her son, she consecrated him to the glory of God and to Mary, and prayed that he will become a priest one day. She says that she doesn’t know if her prayers were answered, or maybe someone else’s prayerful petitions, but Jerzy, born on the Feast of the Cross, became a priest.

“God gives grace, and if a person responds to it, and walks God’s way, he will receive this grace.”

Since his childhood, Jerzy was fascinated by priesthood. He would walk 5km (3 miles) daily before the school to serve as an altar boy at the Holy Mass, and after school he went to church to pray Rosary. People thought that he was to spiritual. His mom was told by the elementary school principal that Jerzy spends to much time in church.

“After seventh grade he wanted to join lower seminary in Niepokalanow (Maximilan Kolbe’s City of the Immaculate), but I told him that he was to young then. When his friends finished high school and were celebrating the High Scholl Ball – he took the train to Warsaw for the seminary. I was happy when he became priest and I was praying constantly that he will be faithful to God, because this is the most important thing in life”.

She was teaching her children daily how to pray, kneeling before the small home altar with the figure of the Holy Mother. On Wednesdays – they prayed to Our Lady of Perpetual Help, on Fridays – to the Heart of Jesus, on Saturdays – to Black Madonna of Czestochowa. In May the whole family would recite Litany of the Blessed Virgin, in July – Litany to the Blood of Jesus, in October and throughout the rest of the year – the Rosary. During the storms she would lit a candle and pray.

“His first seminary was in his home.”

“He was a nice, obedient child, but every child can be that way, if parents will keep them straight. All my children were the same. I did not punish them, there was no hitting, just very stern words: You have to do it!
My kids were not into mischief. Whoever prays well, this person has no place for silliness in life.”

“Death of Jerzy for me is like a stone for my whole life. It is a great pain. This wound is opening over and over, for who can forget such a thing. But I do not judge no one, and I do not demand no one’s death. God Himself will judge them one day. And the murderer’s will have to bare their penance. But I ask Jesus to forgive them. I would be the most happy if they would come to God.”

John Paul II concluded meeting with Marianna: “Mother, you have given us a great son”. And she responded, suprising even the pope: “Holy Father, I did not give him, but God has given him to the world through me. I gave him to the Church and I can’t take him back.” The Pope kissed her and hugged her.

What is the most important thing in life?

“To be faithful to God and, as much as one can, to serve others.

She feels his presence.

“Once my legs were hurting me greatly and I should go for surgery. When I came to the grave of father Jerzy, the pain dissapeared. Now I can digg potatoes even for the whole week without a break” (she was over 80 years old when she said that).

How does it feel to be a mother of a martyr?

“You will know it only if you live through it. You have to receive the will of God. God chooses his martyrs. It is not possible to become one without His grace.”

What do you pray while you pray Rosary?

“I pray for repentance of sinners, priestly vocations, and I thank for received graces.”

What is the most important thing in life?

” God. If God is first, everything will take its rightful place. After you wake up, think about God right away. Then Rosary – one part. And then you start your day.

Do you pray to father Jerzy?

“I pray to God.”

But through father’s intercession?

“I don’t bother him, because people have more urgent needs, and he knows what I need and he is asking God for it.”

Do you feel his protection?

” I feel protection of Mary, Queen of Poland. Mother understands the best and in her hands is everything.”

Last words of father Popieluszko, before going on a fateful trip to another city:

“Let’s pray so we can be free from fear and intimidation, but mostly free from the desire of revenge and retaliation”

Announcement of finding the body of father Popieluszko, where people gathered in the church and during the prayer Our Father, repeat three times “… and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”.

The next day father Jerzy’s mom in the church where Popieluszko served turned to the people and said: “I forgive. I forgive.”

Marianna received St. Rita’s International reward, which is given to people who forgive the murderers of their loved ones. She says she has forgiven the murderers of her son and she is praying for their conversion. She said that “they were fighting God, not my son”, and that they were trying to fight the Church. Since then she can’t recite other mysteries of Rosary than Sorrowful decades.

Polish late President Lech Kaczynski awarded posthumously father Jerzy Popieluszko with an Order of the White Eagle which is the highest decoration given to Polish citizens for their merits. Here he is kissing Marianna’s hand and expressing his gratitude.

The mother of Father Jerzy Popieliszko, Marianna, second left, prays with family members at her son’s grave in front of the St. Stanislaw Kostka church in Warsaw, Poland, Saturday, June 5, 2010

Director’s commentary:

English Language version of the movie is in preparation:

Sanctuary of Bl. Jerzy Popiełuszko

Marianna Popiełuszko in procession behind her son’s relics:

Update: Oct 2012 – new book called “Mother of the Saint” just came out. Once I get it and read it, I’ll update this post. 🙂

Katyń

My  grandfather was saying that one day the whole world will hear about Katyn. He died before 1989. He did not see free Poland he so waited for.

If you want to understand why is my nation mourning in such an extravagant way, you need to watch the movie “Katyń”. It is available as Watch Instantly on Netflix. Directed by A. Wajda, an Oscar winner, this movie was nominated for the Academy Award for the Best Foreign Language Film in 2008, original music is written by Penderecki.

70 years ago, after Hitler’s aggression on Poland, Russians crossed the border on the East. Stalin and Hitler became friends for a while. They have decided to join their forces conquer Poland quickly and the plan was to annihilate everyone who would try to resist, therefore their first aim were the elites of Poland: political figures, university professors, army high officials and officers, clergy, physicians, lawyers, engineers, pilots and journalists.

In the spring of 1940, Soviets murdered over 21 000 Polish officers and army men and this has become a tragic event called Katyn massacre. Poles were hopeful that after WWII, when they will live in a free Poland again, they will uncover the whole story and pay respect to the fallen soldiers. Freedom has never come, as Poland was “sold” during Yalta conference. Nuremberg Trials did not even mention Katyn. Right after the WWII, Communist regime of Poland, being faithful to their Soviet counterpart spread a propaganda about Katyn, informing the public that Nazis were responsible for this act of terror. Even mentioning Katyn became politically incorrect, as the name of the place brought huge repercussions to all of the families who did not want to compromise the story. Many had to pay for sticking to the truth about that tragic event. It lasted for a long time.

Russian president Yeltsin released the top-secret documents and agreed to construct memorial complexes at Katyn and Mednoye . In March 2005 the Prosecutor’s General Office of the Russian Federation concluded the decade-long investigation of the massacre. Chief Military Prosecutor Alexander Savenkov announced that the investigation was able to confirm the deaths of 1,803 out of 14,542 Polish citizens from three Soviet camps who had been sentenced to death. He did not address the fate of about 7,000 victims who had been not in POW camps, but in prisons. Savenkov declared that the massacre was not a genocide, that Soviet officials who had been found guilty of the crime were dead and that, consequently, there is absolutely no basis to talk about this in judicial terms.

A number of Russian politicians and publicists continue to deny all Soviet guilt, call the released documents fakes, and insist that the original Soviet version – Polish prisoners were shot by Germans in 1941 – is the correct one.

Last years has brought many hopes and many dissapointments for all of the Poles who are trying to get closing on Katyn. In april prime minister Putin invited Polish prime minister to Katyn for the official 70th anniversary. Lech Kaczynski, Polish president, whose death our nation is mourning, was going to commemorate Katyn massacre also. He wasn’t invited officially by Putin, but he wanted to assist the family members who lost their loved ones 70 years ago and traveled with his cabinet, Katyn’s families and parliament dignitaries to pay respect to the victims.

This is his speech that was never delivered:

Honorable representatives of the families of the Katyn massacre victims:In April 1940, over 21,000 Polish prisoners of war from NKVD camps were murdered. This crime against humanity was committed by the will of Stalin and under the orders of the highest authorities of the Soviet Union. The alliance between the Third Reich and the USSR, the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact, and the aggression against Poland on 17 September 1939 dramatically culminated in the Katyn crime. Not only in the forests of Katyn, but also in Kalinin, Kharkov, and other known and as yet unknown places were the citizens of the Second Republic murdered, citizens who were the basis of our nationhood. At the same time, the families of those murdered and thousands of those living in the “Kresy” [territories subsequently lost to the Soviet Union] were deported into the depths of the Soviet Union, where their untold misery marked the path of the Polish Golgotha of the East.

The most tragic station of this path was Katyn. Polish officers, clergy, administrators, police personnel, border and prison guards were annihilated without trial or sentence. These were the victims of an undeclared war. Their murder was an offense to the laws and conventions of the civilized world. Their dignity as soldiers, Poles and human beings was trampled underfoot. The trenches in which they were buried was to hide their bodies and the truth of the murder. The world was never to know. The families of the dead were robbed of their rights to mourn for their loved ones and remember them. The earth covered the traces of the crime, and the lie was to erase it from the memory of man.

The cover-up of Katyn–a decision of those who commissioned the crime–became one of the fundamental aspects of post war Communist politics in Poland; it was the foundational fraud of the Polish People’s Republic. It was a time during which the memory and the truth of Katyn carried a high price. Nevertheless, those who were close to the victims and other brave people endured with the memory, defended it, and passed it onto future generations. They carried it through the period of Communist rule and preserved it for a free and sovereign Poland. That is why we are indebted to them all, and especially to the families of the victims, and owe them our honour and gratitude. In the name of the Republic, I offer them the deepest and most sincere gratitude, for their defense of this memory of their loved ones, for they have rescued an important dimension of our national consciousness and identity.

Katyn became a painful wound in Polish history, and has for many decades poisoned the relations between Poles and Russians. May this wound fully and finally heal. We are already on this path. We Poles acknowledge and value the actions of Russians of recent years. This path, which is bringing our nations together, we should continue to travel, not halting on the way or retreating back.

All the localities associated with the Katyn crimes must be revealed and investigated. It is important that the innocence of the victims be acknowledged in accordance with the law, and that all documents in relation to this crime be made available. So that the lie about Katyn disappears forever from public discourse. [?] We demand these actions above all else for the memory of the victims and the suffering of their families. But we also demand this in the name of common values, which must form the foundations of trust and partnership between neighbouring nations within all of Europe.

Let us pay our united respects to the murdered victims and pray over their heads. Glory to our heros! For their memory!

Now you understand a little bit more about us. Now the whole world hears about Katyn.

September 17th

Just 17 days after Hitler’s invasion of Poland, according to the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact, Stalin’s Red Army invaded Poland from the East. Until today, not many people know about it, and Russian authorities to this day do not want to acknowledge this fact. At the time of invasion Poland was free for only 20 years after over 100 years of partitions.

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