OUR LADY OF FATIMA HAS ALREADY BEEN ON THE RED SQUARE
Włodzimierz Rędzioch talks with Janusz Rosikon about his meeting with Our Lady of Fatima in Russia
On the occasion of the ceremonies of Mary’s Day of the Year of Faith in Vatican, my friend, a photographer Janusz Rosikon arrived in Rome, who has been dealing with issues of Mary for years. On Saturday 12 October this year I was with him at a Divine Service celebrated by pope Francis on St. Peter’s Square in front of the original statue of Our Lady of Fatima, which had been specially brought from Portugal to Rome. Whereas in the evening, we went to the sanctuary Divino Amore, where there was a whole-night vigil at the statue of Fatima. On Sunday 13 October on St. Peter’s Square in front of the Vatican Basilica, the Holy Father was celebrating a solemn Eucharist, which was attended by over 100 thousand pilgrims from all over the world. I was watching the Holy Mass with Janusz Rosikon and a group of photographers from the roof of the so-called Braccio de Carlo Magno (it is a long corridor joining the left colonnade of Bernini with the vestibule of the basilica). The Italians standing near us were commenting on what was happening on the square; they were also discussing whether the Pope, by entrusting the world to Our Lady, would mention Russia. Hearing it, Rosikon said to me: ‘Do you know that Our Lady of Fatima has already been to Russia, and what is more – it was on the Red Square and I photographed Her there’. I have never talked with him about it, therefore I asked him for more information on this issue.
WŁODZIMIERZ RĘDZIOCH: - How did it happen that you arrived in Russia with the statue of Our Lady of Fatima?
JANUSZ ROSKION: - I have been visiting and photographing Mary’s sanctuaries for many years. The impulse to deal with this issue was the visit in La Salette, where I saw thousands of pilgrims, who had arrived to this sanctuary situated high in the mountains, in order to pay tribute to Our Lady, pray and go to confession. Crowds of people arrived there, although there were not any tourist attractions. So, I decided to check what it was like in other Mary’s sanctuaries of Europe. It turned out that despite of the propaganda announcing the end of religion, sanctuaries of Europe are extremely lively. A few dozen million people visit these places every year.
– And when did you visit Fatima?
– I visited Fatima in 1996, in order to fly with Our Lady on Her first journey to Russia, it was all about the so-called travelling statue of Madonna of Fatima. First we flew to Warsaw, where the statue was solemnly welcomed by the Primate of Poland cardinal Józef Glemp. At that time the statue visited, among the others, the sanctuary in Krzeptówki in Zakopane. Later I flew to Moscow, next to Perm in Ural, situated away from Moscow by 1500 km – I was waiting there for the statue, which had been transported to Perm by train in a case for a double bass by a Russian friend of mine – we welcomed the statue at the railway station. In Perm it was welcomed extremely cordially. During a Divine Service in a Catholic Church, besides priests there were a few orthodox monks. After the Divine Service, Our Lady was being carried in a kind of ecumenical procession through town streets. I made a symbolic photo in which an orthodox monk and a catholic priest from Argentina are protecting a flame of a candle against a strong wind.
– What was the further course of this Fatima peregrination?
– We flew from Perm to one of these strange and closed Soviet towns – they were built for scientists and employers for the nearby strictly secret atomic centre. We were travelling by car - the statue wrapped in a blanket was in a boot. We were stopped by the police on the outskirt, but luckily I had a big red legitimacy with the inscription in Cyrillic ‘an international journalist’. It was invalid, but made a shocking impression – we were let in the town without any control. Certainly, in this strange town there was no orthodox church or a catholic church. When there was political ‘thaw’, inhabitants seized half of the officers’ club and using boards, plywood, printed pictures, they set up an orthodox church. We were welcomed by orthodox priests there, who picked up the statue quickly - people were passing under it with great worship, touching the feet of Madonna, and later there were prayers. Unfortunately, after some time, we found out that the ‘invitation’ of the statue had not been well accepted by the authorities of the orthodox church and priests were sent to other parts of Russia.
- We flew from Perm to Moscow by airliner ‘Piermskaja Awiacja’. As we were told, their owner was ‘riebiata’, that is, a kind of mafia. The return started with an unpleasant incident – we had the statue as a hand luggage, so when there was x-ray control, the border guards thought that we were smuggling a child’s body….but everything was cleared up! The flight was special because the statue of Our Lady was standing on a seat and was flying as a passenger.
– What did the ‘stay’ of the Fatima statue in Moscow look like?
– First of all, I would like to say that there was no official welcome. I was staying with hospitable Franciscans in their not quite big flat. Because of the cramped place, there were bunk beds. But the hospitality was excellent and Slavic. We decided to take the statue of Our Lady to the Red Square. I photographed fathers holding Madonna and we quickly went back to the car. Then a very strong impulse appeared – why not to place Our Lady on the Red Square? In the beginning the fathers did not want to agree on it saying that we would be arrested. However, finally the superior Fr. Grzegorz Cioroch (unfortunately, later he was killed in an accident), supported me and we returned to the Square.
– How did people react to see the statue of Madonna on the Red Square in Moscow?
– When we placed Madonna on the pavement of the Red Square, suddenly, the place became strangely empty, people fled away. I made a dozen of photos of the statue on the empty Square. It was something incredible. Nobody was worrying us and we returned to the car without any problems. Our Lady also visited the Polish Church whose renovation had just started.
– It is worth telling the story to everyone, because very few people may know that the statue of Our Lady of Fatima stood on the Red Square in Moscow – in the place which had been a symbol of communist Russia for years.