LOVE TO ENEMIES, JOY OF PRIESTHOOD
These two short and very significant phrases can briefly present the spiritual attitude of Fr. Władysław Bukowiński, a new Polish beatified priest, in a film which was broadcast on 11 September 2016 on TVP1, on the day of beatification. Fr. Władysław Bukowiński, who died 40 years ago, and beatified in Karaganda, has become a known person in Poland only recently. Very few people knew about him, because he spent most of 70 years of his life in the Eastern Borderlines, and then in Kazakhstan – from which he spent over 13 years in Soviet custodies, prisons and camps.
Today a lot of his compatriots know a lot about him. They know, among the others, that he graduated from the seminary in Cracow, and was ordained a priest in 1931, that he was a priest in Rabka and Sucha Beskidzka for 5 years, in order to pay for his studies, but later he was moved to Łuck to his own request. And, despite the later historic cataclysms, he remained in the East till his death in 1974, as a steadfast apostle of the Good News for the Borderland inhabitants exterminated and persecuted for faith and Polishness, and later for the exiles, prisoners and camp prisoners, the disinherited, the poor and the abandoned. Not only for Poles, but also for the Germans and the Ukrainians, and even for atheistically trained Soviet NKWD functionaries. And during the post-Stalin thaw in 1955, when there appeared a possibility of repatriation for him, he chose the citizenship of the Soviet Union in order to endure in his priestly place requiring real civil heroism, despite being imprisoned for the third time.
No wonder that later he arrived in Poland three times, although for a short time. Here he wrote his unusual ‘Memories of Kazakhstan’, impressing with their modesty and authentic love to enemies. They were published in 1979 in the Library of ‘Meetings’ in Paris, and in the 80s – also in Poland, out of censorship, certainly.
Fr. Bukowiński in a Polish documentary
Developing knowledge about this historic person who is Fr. Władysław Bukowiński, is a blessed fruit of his meritorious and relatively quick beatification. However, we must also appreciate the role of the film in it. The biographic documentary made by Krzysztof Tadej, entitled ‘Man of God’, broadcast on TVP 1 on 11 September – has fulfilled and will still fulfill this function well. In other words – the function of an interesting, clear and visually attractive source of information about this really steadfast and saint priest, unknown for tens of years in his homeland.
It is not the first story about Fr. Bukowiński. The priority in it belongs to a documentary entitled ‘Vocation’ – the last film made by Irena Kamieńska, one of the best Polish documentary directors, who died a few months ago. However, that one, lasting nearly half an hour, and made on the occasion of another one, in 2002, was not approved of by the public television.
Whereas, the documentary by Tadej was first well-prepared. And it was made according to the requirements of today’s TV esthetics. Relatively quick setup, effective open-air snapshots, a lot of penetrations of short archival fragments, give the rhythm, especially to the initial part of the film. What is particular in it, is a colourful photo of contemporary shots, so as to bring them closer to the uniform colour of historic materials.
This film also includes statements of important people related to the canonization process of Fr. Bukowiński, that is, miraculously healed Fr. Marian Kowalski from Kazakhstan and also the …….of the process Fr. Assoc. Prof. Jan Nowakand a historian Fr. Dr. Andrzej Scąber and the metropolitan of Cracow cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz. For, Fr. Bokowiński not only studied in Cracow, but he also stayed in the parish church of St. Florian, whose parish priest was Fr. Scąber, whenever he came to Poland from Kazakhstan. It was the same parish church in which Karol Wojtyła was an academic priest.
It must be emphasized that the biggest value of this film biography of the beatified Polish priest, born in Berdyczów in 1904, are testimonies of several people who met him – either directly or indirectly – and could testify about his dramatic life and undoubted holiness. Their reports add a lot of interesting details to the film biography of the well-remembered priest Władysław and build his spiritual portrait.
The Apostle preaches also after his death
What is particularly dramatic are the reports by Zofia Helwing and the bishop of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of Kiev Patriarchate Matfiej Szewczuk about a miraculous rescue of the main character of the movie from bloodshed of 6 thousand prisoners in Łuck, which was done by NKWD from there, before the conquer of the city by the Germans in 1941. Lying under a pile of corpses, wounded Fr. Bukowiński, was still able to give confession to a dying boy.
Other nonconventional forms of his priesthood are presented by Apolonia Słobodzian. She says about a Liturgy celebrated by Fr. Bukowiński secretly at night, about segregated envelopes on the table to be given to the poor, and his whole property which were only two suitcases: one full of his personal accessories and another one full of things necessary to celebrate the Liturgy. Bronisława Tokariewa similarly emphasizes that the beatified priest ‘taught people how to pray’ and s. Maria Oliania, a Carmelite nun from Oziornoje, remembers the priest as a fireman from a boiler room and his ‘joy to serve to God’. Whereas Ludmiła Wierzbicka says about the Holy Mass celebrated at private home which was discreetly shown in the movie and which was told about by the very film director in an interview with Lidia Dudkiewicz on pages of ‘Sunday’ (no. 36/4 September 2016).
The key lynx of the attitude of Fr. Bukowiński – forgiving to enemies by whom he suffered a lot, is proven in the documentary ‘Man of God’, by, among the others, a doctor pediatrician Maria Niedoborska from Priszachtiensko and also a steadfast supporter of the idea of love civilization Anna Pruszyńska from Cracow. A kind of the crowning of the presentation of the new Polish beatified priest are the statements about him by Fr. Andrzej Waksamański, the former parish priest from the parish church of St. Szczepan in Cracow. He says, among the others, that this ‘homeless missionary (..) even evangelized in prison’ and that in emptiness which remained after his death in Karaganda, his grave is still evangelizing according to his desire and lifetime intentions.
The documentary ‘Man of God’ is not only a return to history forgotten for years, but is also a glimpse at the current situation of the Catholics in the East where Fr. Bukowiński used to evangelized: in Łuck and Kazakhstan. And the fact that today young priest publicly speak about continuing his work in better but difficult conditions, and also about joy of priesthood for Christ, is a great posthumous victory of the ‘God’s steadfast wanderer’ , as the rector of the seminary in Karaganda Fr. Piotr Pytlowany calls him. Whereas, in the movie he enlivens a fragment of his homily in which he speaks about joy given even in sufferings, about victorious joy of Risen Christ. It is particularly beautiful and significant conclusion of the whole movie devoted to him.