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Poland

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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".

ok_002954

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 ".

4

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...

mini_czas_apokalipsy

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"

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XZyenKyJ4c8&hl=en&fs=1]

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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."

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oXTSy5xYUIA&feature=player_embedded

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:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bfdtsdIXbME&feature=player_embedded#!]

English Language version of the movie is in preparation:

Sanctuary of Bl. Jerzy Popiełuszko

Marianna Popiełuszko in procession behind her son's relics:

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=keUio8MgLpU]

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. :-)

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25

About 25 years ago, I was awakened slowly into the new way of life (it sounds like it was soooo long ago, but it feels like just 5 years ago). Throughout the years I was a part of Hallelu Jah Fellowship. This October we were celebrating 25th anniversary... which was my main reason of going to Poland this time. This fellowship had a tremendous influence on my life, it shaped my inner being like nothing else I know of so far. Through the Hallelu Jah people God became my eternal love. They were speaking Christ, breathing Christ and loving me like He would.

It was very special to be present there, on that day.

church NMP na Piasku, where the Mass took place

beauty

bishop Siemieniewski, one of the guardians of the Hallelu Jah

the Mass

walking from the church to the celebration hall

kids were the sheep... don't ask me why...

tables with food

chleb ze smalcem - you don't want to know what this is...

people are gathering

father Zacheusz... the real monk

Janusz (one of the main leaders of Charismatic movement in Wroclaw) and Dagmara (my first small group leader)

Sophie

Jacek(present HalleluJah leader) and Grzesiek (many years of singing, soundman, actor, sailor, father)

one of the many humorous moments

father Marek, whos vocation grew withing our fellowship

Teah with dear friend Andrzej

Magda and Jola

cutting the cake

worship time

more worship

Zuzia

just a nice picture

one of my best friends, Agnieszka

what is he saying?

T shirts

if you think that this guy is wearing very eschatological shirt with a message: "Jesus come, Jesus", you are wrong!!!

it is French for "I am as I am" on the back of Mroczek :-)

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be fervent in spirit

Rynek (main square of the city). Sunday afternoon. Evangelism by Hallelu Jah Fellowship.There were 2 worship concerts, one with the prayer for the city, dramas, pantomimes. On a side of the main stage there were three tents: one full of ideas ministering to the kids, second one open to anyone who would like to get counseling (especially drug addicts), in the third one people could watch different evangelistic media presentations.

Although the weather was chilly, during the five hours of the continuous program, there were many people who were stopping by, intrigued by this event.

the cross is the reason

"40 and 30 on 70" band

(this is the most original name of a music group you've ever heard; the full name goes like this - "forty sons and thirty grandsons, who rode on seventy donkeys" -  from Judges 12:14)

they play sort of folk music, but with a 'heavier' sound, it depicts Polish soul very well...

Robert Ruszczak, leader of the band and the main organizer of this event

people gathering around...

watching...                                  priest Wlodzimierz (try to pronounce that: Vwoh-dzhee-myezh)

pantomime...                                 interested....

watching

Open up the doors and let the music play

Let the streets resound with singing

Songs that bring Your hope, songs that bring Your joy

Dancers who dance upon injustice

from the song "Did you feel the mountains tremble"

one of the pantomimes

me with a famous preacher, Andrzej Dziewit, a true evangelist...

Andrzej sharing his testimony, I've heard it so many times, and every time it is moving and sobering, he really has a gift...

me with another legendary leader of Hallelu Jah, Mroczek, one of the greatest...

it was a good night...

kids watching

mime

worship and prayer for the city of Wroclaw

worship

prayer time

note in a local newspaper abot the event

most of the pictures above courtesy Hallelu Jah web album

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knocking at the door

What I love about Easter European countries is, that you can visit people unexpectedly almost any time you want, and they will host you as you were the king and queen of England. There is always plenty of food, interesting conversations (not just chatting about irrelevant things of life), friendliness and openness. I miss very close relationships.

People still value friendships more than anything else, and they rather find time to meet with others, than to do anything else. Although you can feel the change in the speed of life, people are more busy and involved in many more activities, still the Polish soul thrives on close encounters.

As I wrote before:

I realized again, how different the Eastern European soul is from the Western counterpart. We are soooooooo…relationship oriented,

home-cooked food lovers,

late night talkers,

tea drinkers,

down to earth practical, but also unapologetically romantic,

strongly opinionated, critical, but instantly mesmerized by suddenly spotted beauty,

painfully realistic, but captivated by melancholic poetry…

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