THE MAN OF GOD
LIDIA DUDKIEWICZ TALKS WITH THE FILM-MAKER KRZYSZTOF TADEJ
In a short time we will be able to see a film ‘The man of God’ – about Fr. Władysław Bukowiński from Kazakhstan, who was imprisoned in Soviet camps because of his priestly fervent life. His beatification will take place on 11 September 2016 in Karaganda. In an interview for ‘Sunday’, a film-maker presents this film and a miracle acknowledged for beatification.
Lidia Dudkiewicz talks with the film-maker Krzysztof Tadej
LIDIA DUDKIEWICZ: – On the occassion of beatification of Fr. Władysław Bukowiński, you prepared a film ‘The man of God’. Could you tell us what the film is about and how it was being made.
KRZYSZTOR TADEJ: – This is a film about life and work of Fr. Władysław Bukowiński, who spent over 13 years in Soviet camps and prisons. Despite his much suffering, he overcame his disinclination and hatred towards those who had done so much harm to him. In his ‘Memories from Kazakhstan’ he wrote: ‘For me Christ’s commandment about loving our enemies is not a kind of utopia but something real in life’. These words are my key duty to understand his life. He had nowhere to live, he lived in a very humble way, but spoke about God with a smile and joy and did a lot of good. This is also a film about his dramatic choices.
In 1954 Fr. Bukowiński was released from a camp of compulsory work. He was forced to live in Karaganda. He did not complain. He wrote humorously that God acts also through atheists, because he was sent where he is particularly needed. In Karaganda he was the only Catholic priest. A year later, in June 1955, the CSRR authorities allowed Poles to return to Poland forever. Fr. Bukowiński saw two lists on a desk of a captain who had called him. One of them was full of surnames of those who had applied for going to Poland, another one was nearly empty. Those who stayed had to accept citizenship of the Soviet Union. Fr. Bukowiński decided to stay there. He still wanted to serve to the faithful regardless of suffering. We made the film in Poland, in Ukraine and in Kazakhstan, that is, in places of life and work of Fr. Bukowiński. We were following his paths, his footsteps. On a steppe in Kazakhstan or in the countryside Michajłowska. Now it is a district of Karaganda. There we asked Fr. Paweł Blok to celebrate the Holy Mass in a house of the Osińscy family. In the same room, where Fr. Bukowiński had celebrated Holy Masses in secret, at night. The Holy Mass was attended by Poles from nearby homes. Years ago, participation in the Holy Mass was punished with imprisonment or some repressions.
– You must have met with witnesses of life of Fr. Bukowiński…
– We met a lot of witnesses of life of Fr. Bukowiński. In their opinion he did not die but is still alive. According to the teaching of the Church, life does not end with death but is changing. A lot of people told us about graces gained through the intercession of Fr. Bukowińskiego, among the others, about healing from cancer, or sepsis. We also recorded an interview with Mr. Mariusz Kowalski.
The miracle of his healing was acknowledged by the Canonization Congregation in the beatification process of Fr. Bukowiński. Looking at the life of Fr. Bukowiński, he can be a patron of priests, prisoners, the ill, etc. For me he will also be a patron of people in particularly difficult situations in life.
– Could you tell us about the miracle concerning the healing of Fr. Mariusz Kowalski?
– In June 2008, still being a seminarian, Mariusz Kowalski was playing football with his friends on the playground near a seminary in Karaganda. Suddenly he fell over. He got a stroke. He was taken to hospital and fell into coma. His health condition was very bad. Doctors said that he would not recover from coma. However, if there was a miracle and he gained consciousness, he would be completely or partly paralyzed. People started praying through the intercession of Fr. Władysław Bukowiński. After three days he recovered from coma. He got completely healed. Today Fr. Mariusz is a parish priest and is also the only priest in the parish in Temirtau city. About 100 thousand people live there, and 50-60 believers belong to this parish.
– Undoubtedly, you got really prepared to work on the film, whose action reaches to Kazakhstan, where Fr. Bukowiński lived. Surely, you had some knowledge about this far-away area. What was the confrontation with the reality look like on the spot?
– I was really surprised by friendliness of inhabitants of Kazakhstan. They were coming up to us to ask what we were doing, they asked about Poland, about Fr. Bukowiński. Everyone wanted to help us. I saw people happier and smiling more than people in Poland, although surely a lot of them is in a much worse material situation. I will never forget this friendliness. Although local priests have been missionaries there for years, they are still impressed by hospitality and friendliness there, as well as good relationship with authorities which are ready to cooperate in various initiatives.
– What is the Church in Kazakhstan like?
– People of 120 nationalities live in Kazakhstan. Most of them are Islam believers. In this multi-cultural and multinational country, the Catholics are less than1 per cent of citizens. Today Kazakhstan is a place of tolerance and openness towards others, equal treating religions. A rector of the seminary in Karaganda, Fr. Piotr Pytlowany told me that in this variety of cultures it is worth following Fr. Bukowiński. When he lived on the earth, he never tried to dominate in any talks, or impose his opinions and beliefs. He did not judge people, among whom he also met a lot of atheists or communists. He accompanied people. And when asked, he spoke about God. And he expressed it with his life, attitude.
Today in the diocese of Karaganda, which is twice bigger than Poland, only 18 priests work. There are also nuns, and a lay missionary sister. The words from the Holy Scripture: ‘Harvest big indeed, but very few workers’ are still valid. Particularly here, in Kazakhstan, the country which needs more priests so much.
– We would like to know about the life of Poles who live in Kazakhstan. What is their life like? And What do numbers say about it?
– We often read about 100 thousand Poles in Kazakhstan. According to the census, 35 thousand inhabitants of this country were registered as Poles. During the recent years, a lot of Poles returned to Poland. But there are also those who left for Poland and are returning to Kazakhstan with a feeling of grief. They did not find work in Poland, felt lonely here and met with the sentence ‘the Russians have arrived’.
At present about 3 thousand applications for repatriations to Poland were submitted. It is difficult to say how many people want to return, because one application may concern only one person or the whole family. Poles whom we met are characterized with great love to Poland.
– Could you tell us how Karaganda is getting prepared for the beatification of Fr. Władysław Bukowiński? How may this event be significant?
– We can say that not only Kazakhstan is waiting for the beatification. Groups of people from Russia, Ukraine, Poland, Italy and Germany intend to arrive here.
For the faithful in Karaganda and in Kazakhstan, the beatification of Fr. Bukowiński is not only a great important religious and historical event. This is simply a gift from God. A lot of people emphasized that looking at the life of Fr. Bukowiński, they find it much easier to make important decisions in their life. They said that he shows that everybody can be happy, regardless of a situation at home, school work or a political situation, and it depends on us what relationship we have with God, or whether we choose or reject Him. It is also an occasion to reminisce many thousands of Poles, who died here. They died in loneliness, suffering, illegally deported from their Homeland.