18 Jul 2016
Editor's blog WYD 2016
July 17, 2016
After the long flight from Australia we arrived at Chopin Airport in Warsaw (I’m embarrassed to say I never knew Chopin was Polish until then) where we were met by our tour guide Scott – that doesn’t sound like a Polish name and that’s because he’s American although he was quick to point out that he has spent most of his life in Europe and has done his best to lose his American accent. After a brief and badly needed rest we gathered in a gazebo on the grounds of our hotel for Mass. It was improvisation at its best with Sr Liz and Rebecca from Port Pirie Diocese leading us in the WYD song and Archbishop Wilson praying for the victims of the shocking terrorist attack in Nice which we had just learned about on the last leg of our flight to Poland. On the first leg I had sat next to a South Aussie girl from Tea Tree Gully parish who was heading to Nice to meet up with an Oblate pilgrimage to Krakow – I’m sure there was a dark cloud over their journey when they heard the news.
After an early night we were up at 7am and headed into the heart of Warsaw for a tour of historical sites relating to Poland’s turbulent past, a magnificent monument of Chopin and memorials to the Warsaw Ghetto and the 750,000 Poles killed in the Warsaw Uprising. When our local guide pointed to the sewer opening which small children used to smuggle food to their families, it was a sombre moment indeed and we were grateful to Fr Charles for choosing this moment to say a prayer for humanity on the very site of such unimaginable human suffering.
Another moving occasion was when we celebrated Mass in a one of the small chapels in the Warsaw Cathedral, (see photo) one of the many beautiful buildings rebuilt after the German bombings. Other tourists came and joined us including a young Russian girl who was in Poland to meet up with 300 young people of Polish origin from around the world for WYD. She was pleased to have stumbled upon our Mass – perhaps we will see each other again in Krakow.
We wandered down the main boulevard where there is a magnificent church every 100 metres, including the Church of the Holy Cross which was reduced to rubble with only the cross remaining in site after the war. Chopin’s heart is buried there and in a corner there is an eerily beautiful wall sculpture of St John Paul II with his relic beneath it. The rebuilding of Warsaw’s old city is testament to the resilience of the Polish people and their determination to ensure their culture and faith survived against all the odds.