In the defence of Christ’s Cross
Poles from Poland and the whole world – from Chicago to Tobolsk - appealed in the defence of the cross. Similarly as the White Eagle in their emblem, the cross is a symbol of Poland for them.
In autumn, in the weekly ‘Sunday’, there appeared an advertisement in which we could read: ‘Dear Reader! Join the action of defence of the Cross in the public space. Encourage your family and your neighbours to it. The editorial office will hand all the signatures to the suitable structures of the state authority as an expression of our objection to instigations of removing the cross from, among the others, the Seym Hall’. It turned out soon that in many places there was shortage of the editions of the weekly ‘Sunday’ with the attached protest form. There appeared individually copied and even written letters with columns and the motto: ‘Sign the petition and send it to the editorial office of the weekly ‘Sunday’’. In whole Poland and also among the Polonia, people were collecting signatures not only in front of churches but also in many other places: at work, for example, in chemists or waiting rooms of surgeries among neighbours, acquaintances, family. We have received even signatures in the defence of the Church submitted by prisoners, and an envelope in which they were sent to the weekly ‘Sunday’, had been opened earlier and censored.
Let’s wake up from lethargy
We did not expect such a reaction from our Readers but also people who admitted in the letters that only at the occasion of the protest they opened the weekly ‘Sunday’. We did not think that we would manage to wake up the consciences of many compatriots and activate Catholic environments; we did not think that even parliamentarian offices or political parties would respond. The editorial office in Częstochowa was full of letters including either a cut-out piece of our newspaper or copied pages of newspaper full of lots of written surnames. In the envelopes we found dozens, hundreds and even thousands of signatures. The chief editor, priest, Ireneusz Skubiś designated a ‘Sunday’ special groups of several people to segregate, count and classify these letters. Over 300 signatures went through their hands and the signatures were counted, noted down, and then segregated according to dioceses and regions of Poland plus abroad.
Who joined the action?
Both individual people and institutions and associations wrote to the editorial office of the weekly ‘Sunday’. The veto against the attempt of removing the cross from the public space was sent both by parliamentarians and ordinary citizens, for example, Mrs Maria Kijak from Markuszów, who ‘individually’ collected 300 signatures. We were impressed by an 80-year-old retired midwife – Mrs Klara from Sępopol. The older lady personally visited her neighbours and acquaintances (we quote) ‘like collecting contributions’ which fruited with several dozens surnames. We happened to find charts full of the same surnames in one envelope, they differed only in names - it was how big families participated, like, for example, the Rybak family from Zaczernie village. It happened that the protest was signed by whole villages – judging by addresses and numbers of houses, nobody withdrew from this duty of conscience. It was so, for example, in the Puszczany village. In one of envelopes there was a hand-written piece of paper: ‘I apologize for the careless writing but we collected signatures on a bus’. It turned out that the collections of signatures had taken place during a trip to Toruń for a Jubilee of Radio Maryja. Parishes, communities and associations mobilized their strength the most. Undoubtedly, this respond is a contribution of priests but the exceptional activity was shown by the Catholic Action and offices of Radio Maryja Family.
Geography of the protest
At one moment, the priority in this action was taken over by Białystok region. Most letters came to us from there. Only one parish from there – the parish of St Wojciech collected 1000 signatures during one Sunday. Lublin joined the leading region soon, for example, the Catholic Action from there sent over 900 signatures in one letter. The next region was Opolszczyzna, after that – Podkarpacie. Finally, there was the archdiocese of Przemyśl. Moreover, Poles living abroad responded – and in a literal sense – from Chicago to Tobolsk. New Yorkers predominated, and a big Chicago Polonia after them. A surprise was a number of letters from Canada. Poles living in Vien wrote with grief: ’we cannot accept the situation when somebody dares to remove crosses from walls and remove them from public places. It is a disgrace!’
Letters with signatures from protesters were often completed with comments. These comments were often induced by emotions, grief and bitterness, and this statement was often the main point: ‘I think that such actions should not be caused in Poland at all that we have to defend the cross! And in the country where the majority of people consider themselves as Catholics’ – as Mrs Władysława Czerepach from Grudziądz noted, expressing her indignation. It is not necessary to convince about the fact that the cross is a witness of our everyday life not only in small Kotlin but in whole Poland. Tom Kempa from New York described it beautifully in a letter: ‘The cross became one of the most characteristic elements of the Polish landscape. Crosses near roads have been placed in our countries for centuries. So how can the right to their presence among us, in the public place, be breached? What has possessed us? ’It happened that collecting signatures took on the features of the inter-generation action. An old lady, Mrs Helena, of Lvov origin, and living in Wroclaw at present, was mobilized to act by her granddaughter – student. They were competing which of them would collect more signatures, in groups of their age. Thinking from the letter – the competition ended with a draw.
‘We do not allow for stifling our Catholic dignity and pushing us, Catholics, aside outside the pale of the social life – said Mrs Anna Fedorowicz from Lublin. – We want and we have a right to this in independent Poland that the cross would be with us, in offices, not only at home or in a church, because Lord Jesus is everywhere, whether somebody likes it or not!’
‘I would like to collect more signatures – Mrs Anna Kijak from Markuszów assured us – because I was not in every house and people are upset with the whole situation that in Poland signatures in the defence of the cross must be collected. What happened? I must still explain how much your newspaper helps me. I carry it with myself’.
‘The cross is a symbol of Poland, like the White Eagle – wrote Stanisława Mól from Rzeszów – If somebody dares to take it off from a wall of the Seym Hall or other public places in Poland, it will mean that he is not a Pole and does not have any right to intrude in our matters!’
‘Respect to you for doing this action – wrote Adam, probably a young man from Krakow. – You are not the only ones. On Internet there are a few addresses but the access to you is the easiest. You are the most visible. And that’s the point!’
‘The cross is a symbol of what in Poles is the noblest. It is a symbol of the most worthy values not only for our ancestors but also for us. Can we imagine the Polish culture without the sign of the cross; and what about our history? Soldiers who died for our and your freedom with the cross on their breasts...How dare we remove it from the collective national memory?’ – However, the signature under this letter is illegible but, thinking from the comments – many protesters have a similar opinion. The indignation of some Catholics, over 300 thousands of signatures sent to the weekly ‘Sunday’, bishops’ letters appealing for common sense, sermons, comments and declarations – all this raises the question: What next? Protesters’ signatures, according to our promise, will be sent to the suitable state institutions – we can assure those about it, who were working on this protest. How will the voice of our protest, indignation and bitterness be understood and used by the governing and those who create the law in Poland – time will show...