My testimony about the year 1956
Fr Ireneusz Skubis
On 26 August 1956, together with some one million pilgrims, I was in the commons at the foot of the Jasna Gora hill to participate in an extraordinary event, which was the Vows of Jasna Gora made by the Polish society to Our Lady; the vows were modelled by the historical vows of King Jan Kazimierz in 1656. I remember the photos of that day taken by Br. Cyprian from the monastery of Niepokalanow. Then I did not know many details of that event but we all knew that it was something very important. The national vows before the Miraculous Picture of Our Lady, which was brought to the field altar, were made in the absence of the spiritual leader of the Polish people the Primate Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski, who was imprisoned in Komancza then. Repressions against the clergy and society being in the chains of communism… One should add that the celebrations constituted a turning-point in the life of the nation. On 11 January 2010 the TV Theatre – the Scene of Facts presented the spectacle entitled ‘The Primate in Komancza’ directed by Pawel Woldan. It reminded us of the reality in which we had lived. Thank God that these pictures are shown today. Since we remain in some strange oblivion. The older people who experienced so much trouble then do not want to remember that time. The people of culture deal with it to a small extent and the young generation is practically unaware of what the system was. Some are even inclined to shout, ‘The communist system, come back!’ The spectacle also showed, although very generally and gently, the functioning of the Security Office and its officials who had arrested Primate Wyszynski, who watched him, eavesdropped him; who had no values – they simply obeyed all orders of the Security Office. Naturally, they also tried to force people to collaborate with them and to inform on others, and they sought methods to break those who opposed them. The existence of the Institute of National Remembrance, which has a lot to do, is one of the evidences of those methods. It was a good thing that such a spectacle was staged. Perhaps it will be easier to explain some things which young people, whose attitude towards us is so critical, need. This is also a very important chapter in the history of the Church. To remind young people that the Primate was arrested but also that he made concrete requirements to the communists, that he knew what methods they used and first of all, that he was always a priest of prayer who had to look at all people, even at those who seemed to be his enemies, through Christ’s eyes. Finally, it was important to show the Primate’s Institute (the so-called Eights), which had just started then and which was transformed into the Primate’s Institute of National Vows. The female representatives of the Institute collaborated with the Primate closely, copying his speeches, reflections and sermons. Let us remember that during those days there was no freedom of printing. Therefore, the great legacy of the Primate was preserved. We know what the Primate of the Millennium taught, what he preached, how he taught and foretold. Today we have wonderful documents: his books, brochures, tapes and photos. This should be merited to a large extent to the women working in the Primate’s Institute. One should also know that Primate Wyszynski was an educated man – a theologian, lawyer and sociologist. Hence his wisdom in contacts with the government and running the Church as the people of God. And his complete confidence in God – Soli Deo – and his filial dedication to Mary let him see good effects of those real struggles with the system. What I know from some eye-witnesses is that the Primate had reflected on the Vows of Jasna Gora earlier before he quickly wrote them by hand (enclosed, please find a copy of the hand-written Vows). We do not place the later version but his own version, which was the strongest one. In my opinion it will be good if we read the Vows after having seen the spectacle. The Vows are still valid since the fight against evil inclinations, weaknesses, sins practically never ends. Our pastoral care should refer to the Vows as often as possible because only with the help of Our Lady one can subdue evil, creeping to our families, to each of us. And we can see our weaknesses. For example, see how Catholics quarrel in political parties; see the overwhelming hatred, see how much evil there is… We are called Christians. This was a great lesson that the public television prepared for us; the material reminding millions of TV viewers of the great Pole and of the important events. We thank all those who contributed to that.