SO THAT THE WORLD WOULD REMEMBER ABOUT THE POLISH POPE
WIESŁAWA LEWANDOWSKA: - A few years ago you wrote a book about literary works of Karol Wojtyła which came out – and other authors writing on it, too, might be envious of it – in a few languages. What readers did you address this book? It is known that the literary works of the Pope do not belong to the easiest ones….
MONIKA JABŁOŃSKA: - My purpose was to reach to readers living in various parts of the world. This is a book about life of Karol Wojtyła, about his acting work, about his literary works – so about this activity of the Polish pope which still remains unknown to many people. It is true that poems, dramas by St. John Paul II are not easy either in the original or in translation, but they are a beautiful challenge for a reader who wants to make effort to get to know the Polish history, culture, literature. Literary works of Karol Wojtyła are a real treasury of knowledge about the Polish pope and his homeland.
What fascinated you in the literary works of John Paul II when you met with it for the first time?
On the one hand I was fascinated by the rich and complex topics of the Pope’s works, whereas it helped me understand Karol Wojtyła better as a man, philosopher, theologian or also as a poet. On the other hand, I perceived a big divergence in interpretation of the literary works of Wojtyła. Not mentioning poor translations into foreign languages, often even wrong. When I begin my studies on it, the topic of reception of his works in Italy – it was the topic of my MA thesis – was still uncovered topic in Poland. So, in one area I had space of many possibilities, but it was a big challenge for me, too. At that time I was studying not only literature but also law, so I had a lot of work and little time. I was doing studies in Rome, and I was studying materials for work in Italian and English languages.
Literary works of John Paul II is considered by critics as difficult, hermetic, too mystical for the so-called ordinary reader. How were you coping with the studies on the literary works? Did you simply get to like this unusual literature?
For a few long years I was studying the topic of literary works by John Paul II. In the beginning of my studies I was looking at the literary works by Karol Wojtyła through the prism of Poland and my Polsih experiences, and later there appeared other experiences – the Italian, American, Portugese ones and others. My point of view and interpretation of some topics or facts became definitely richer, fuller than in the beginning. I would not say that I simply got to like this literature; I was getting to understand it little by little, and it was a long process. I devoted some part of my life, my heart and my work to it. For years I had been collecting a lot of valuable materials, which would be sufficient to write a lot of PhD thesis…..And my book is the effect of a really hard and long work. I was writing it in various parts of the world, thanks to which I contains tastes and smells of various places, cultures, meetings with people.
What are you going to write another book about, concerning John Paul II which will come out next year?
It is going to be a book, among the others, about the strength and significance of a word, acting work of the Polish pope and Ronald Reagan, and not only. For the first time I have faced up a difficult, ambitious but interesting topic which has not been investigated either on the American or Polish ground. I hope that this book will get popular.
You do not remain writing about John Paul II but you also undertake actions for the sake of remembrance about political merits of the Polish pope for the world, for example, you co-organized a September conference in Washington devoted to John Paul II and Ronald Reagan – people who changed the world…
It just happened that on 26 September in Washington there was a conference entitled: ‘President Ronald Reagan and John Paul II: Partnership, which changed the world’. I feel honoured that I could help in organizing everything and also cooperate with the best ones, and also have a pronouncement during one of panels, in order to tell everybody about St. John Paul II. The conference was attended by prominent panelists, among the others: the ambassador of the United States in Washington Callist Gingrich, Arturo Mari, dr. Paul Kengor, John O’Sullivan, Peter Robinson, Ed Meese, Craig Shirley, Fr. Sławomir Oder, dr. John Lenczowski, dr. Marek Jan Chodakiewicz and others. There were topics connected with Poland, Polish history, literature, culture and also warm-hearted memories and conclusions of the pontificate of John Paul II. How does today’s America – ordinary Americans, American elites remember John Paul II? John Paul II has his supporters and opponents here, but….I did not hear anybody in America question his greatness or enormity of work which he did for the world and the Church. I think that the Americans feel friendliness and respect to John Paul II, despite that they are not demonstrated so openly. What is an unquestionable fact is that America – precisely speaking: president Reagan and his America – needed John Paul II, Polish faith and Catholicism to achieve their purposes. And Poland needed strength, contacts and particular help from American and president Reagan, in order to overcome difficult years of communism. Without these two leading people, John Paul II – the leader of the Catholic Church and Ronald Reagan – the leader of the American policy, we would not celebrate freedom in Poland and in Europe, and who knows, how the further fate of America would be like. We must remember about it. Today the world looks a bit different than years before, president Reagan is not with us any more, nor John Paul II, but… the Americans have faith in values, faith in people and faith in the power of the word. Despite various whirls American remains strong.
Do you think we can still hope that beside the mentioned merits, poetry, philosophy and the whole message of John Paul II will be appreciated one day?
I think that we still need more time to realize who Karol Wojtyła was. We, Poles, used to consider him as ours, and we even got possession of him, which somehow gives us monopoly for knowledge about the Polish pope, but, in fact, we know very little about him. In order to understand poetry, dramas by Karol Wojtyła, we need to understand his Polishness…. Without knowing Polish history, culture, literature, without learning the basic topics of philosophy and theology, we will not make a step forward. What is more, in order to reach to the roots – understand the Pope as a man, his mission, activity, purposes – we need to be ready to reach to the depth of our souls, as only there will we find the light, chastity, power of knowledge and love which – as he always said – wins everything.
Translated by Aneta Amrozik
Niedziela 42/2018 (21 X 2018)