FOLLOWING JOHN PAUL II
Iwona Flisikowska talks with Marcin Pospieszalski
IWONA FLISIKOWSKA: - How did you react to the news that Karol Wojtyła – cardinal from ‘a far-away country’ had become pope?
MARCIN POSPIESZALSKI: - I remember that day very well as at that moment I was returning from a dormitory in Katowice, where I was attending a Music Secondary School. Everyone were celebrating the fact that cardinal Wojtyła had been elected pope. But it was difficult to believe! Great joy. Soon after that everyone at my home were very enthralled because my dad Stanisław and people related to the diocese of Częstochowa (my dad was an architect, an expert for sacral art in the Curia) were to go to Rome for the beginning of the pontificate of John Paul II. Thanks to that event we had a direct relation with the Holy Father. And, what is interesting, soon before the election I saw cardinal Karol Wojtyła from a close distance. First it was the Day of the Oasis Community in Chochołów in 1978 and then in September, a year and a half before the election, cardinal Wojtyła appeared in ‘Sacrosong’ concert in Częstochowa. I remember that he was sitting in the first row, and I was playing in the orchestra at the desktop of the first violins. The cardinal was sitting and listening, he was literally at the hand’s extent. Later it was 1979 and the first pilgrimage to homeland. From the roof of a tenement house, where there was a flat of my grandma, I saw the papal helicopter landing. A curiosity: we were directly engaged in preparing an artistic frame of the visit of John Paul II in Częstochowa. A lot of his images, painted by my oldest brother Antoni, an artist, also the papal coat of arms, were placed on the landing field. My brother’s task was to prepare images of John Paul II and art elements which were to be placed where there were meetings with Pope. Because Antek was not able to do everything by himself, he ‘employed’ his younger brothers to help. We were painting contours, backgrounds, whereas details and artistic final works were completed by Antek.
You mentioned that once your dad had met Karol Wojtyła…
Yes, we found out about it after years…And the story is as follows: our dad Stanisław, a young student of architecture studies then, was resettled with his whole family from Poznań to Częstochowa during the war. In 1943 he took part in conspiracy vows at Jasna Góra, renewed every year, despite the war. From the prewar times, students from whole Poland were vowing in front of the image of Our Lady. This custom was maintained despite the threatening danger of the war – probably in 1991 a Book of Jasna Góra Vows was published in which there is a photo of the vows in 1943. Among signatures of students representing various regions of Poland there is a signature of young student from Cracow and two signatures below – of my dad. He did not remember students vowing beside him, they were trying to introduce themselves only with names in a conspiracy way, but he remembered details of that evening when, being led into a sacristy by Pauline Fathers, they were vowing to the image of Our Lady, in a closed chapel.
An incredible family story. Was anyone from your family or friends at a meeting with John Paul II in Warsaw, on the square of Victory (today the square of Piłsudski), where the significant words were said: ‘May Your Spirit descend…’?
Unfortunately, no, because there were many restrictions in travelling at that time, and also the Pope was to arrive at Częstochowa. But I remember those incredible words, calling up the Holy Spirit which was expressed by John Paul II. And although we were watching only what was on TV, we felt the significance of that message that it changes the reality, changes the earth’.
The Polish Pope in homeland got through the iron curtain…
It can be described so in a picturesque way. That prayer-like call had and still has an incredible power of renewal and change – I think that not only of Poland.
How did you experience the World Youth Days in your home town – Częstochowa?
The youth’s meeting is one of the most beautiful events in my life. A kind of the touch of Heaven. It was unusual time, the year 1991 when one could feel the touch of alive Church. When the Pope arrived at the homeland, it was known that he was addressing his teaching to Poles. And here, ‘suddenly’, it turned out the universality of Church is incredible and various. All ‘peoples’ and languages appeared near our home. And this beautiful young Church – beautiful due to prayer, music, community – is appearing around us…
Did that incredible, memorable meeting of John Paul II with the youth have an influence on Your personal life later?
Such a meeting with the youth from all over the world remains in memory throughout one’s life sometimes we do not realize that. As for me – a year later it became New Life, later the retreats Deus Meus for musicians which have existed till now. It was the beginning for later evangelization ventures. In my personal and family life the person of St. John Paul II is still present.
It was your hard work to get prepared for the both unusual concerts: in Wadowice on the occasion of the 99th birthday of Karol Wojtyła and in Warsaw on the square of Piłsudski on the 40th anniversary of the first pilgrimage of John Paul II to Poland.
All the time, following him, we were preparing a musical ‘John Paul II – a Shepherd of the World’ – Decalogue which took place in Wadowice. On 18 May 2019, on the 99th anniversary of his birth, on the Market in Wadowice, musicians from various parts of the world sang and played music, among the others, Fr. Stan Fortuna from the Grey Friars from New York, Levi Sakała from Zambia, and also other prominent musicians, including leading artists. And in Warsaw on 2 June 2019 there was also an important solemn concert commemorating the 40th anniversary of the meeting on the Square of Victory. As a music manager of the both events I had a lot of work, stress but also joy!