I DID NOT KNOW FR. MAKSYMILIAN
Artur Stelmasiak talks with Adam Woronowicz – a performer of the main role in the film ‘Two crowns’
ARTUR STELMASIAK: You are a ‘saint’ actor. You have already played the role of beatified Fr. Jerzy Popiełuszko, and now St. Maksymilian Maria Kolbe. Who will be the next whose role you will act?
ADAM WORONOWICZ: - Firstly I am not a ‘saint’ actor, secondly I do not plan it and I do not know whose role I will play in the future. And as for these two saints, history has somehow come a full circle. There was even a scene in the film ‘Popiełuszko. Freedom is in ourselves’, when little Alek Popiełuszko was looking through and reading ‘Rycerz Niepokalanej’ (‘A knight of the Immaculate’). Fr. Jerzy was fascinated with Fr. Maksymilian.
The title ‘Two crowns’ means chastity and martyrdom. The two crowns in the title are also the common denominator for beatified Fr. Jerzy and St. Maksymilian.
Who knows whether little Alek, looking at the person of St. Maksymilian, did not want such crowns for himself. History showed that it happened so. Fr. Jerzy lived in the cult of primate Stefan Wyszyński and Fr. Maksymilian. I remember my pilgrimage in the 80s when I was an altar boy, during which we visited the grave of Fr. Popiełuszko and Niepokalanów. Somehow my life is also inscribed into the cult of these two unusual priests.
Have you acted in this film for religious, missionary reasons?
In my opinion we should remember about our great saints. Like the elected nation passed on the history of great miracles to other generations, we also must develop our memory of great people in Poland. we should tell others stories about them anew so that nobody would forget them. We can build the spirit of the nation on the saints and strengthen our faith. This film was made in order to present uniqueness and timelessness of St. Maksymilian. It seems to me that we presented him in a new light, not known before.
You are the only actor in Poland, or maybe all over the world who has played the role of the two martyrs of two totalitarianisms of XX century – Nazism and communism. Which of these saints is dearer to you?
In fact this is an unusual experience as these saints are an important part of the Polish history and our spirituality. I am glad that I could present the person of Fr. Jerzy and now St. Maksymilian. Certainly beatified Fr. Popiełuszko is dearer to me as my personal memories are related to him. When he was murdered I was 11. But from my childhood I remember also memories of my grandparents from the Second World War. The 70s and the 80s were the time when memories from the occupation time were very lively. Everyone was glad when in 1982 Fr. Maksymilian was proclaimed a saint. He was also the first martyr of the Second World War who was beatified. So I am from the generation which used to visit Niepokalanów and Częstochowa during pilgrimages, and saw what was happening in communist Poland. Fr. Jerzy and Fr. Maksymilian are inscribed into the history of Poland and God’s care about us.
Can we say that at the gloomy times of our history the saints were enlightening our road?
At the time when St. Maksymilian was devoting his life in Auschwitz, a dozen kilometers away young Karol Wojtył was working in the Solvay quarry, and just near that quarry s. Faustyna Kowalska, unknown to anyone at that time, died in 1938. It seems to me that suddenly in the history of the world Poland is growing spiritually. Primate August Hlond noted that is a victory came, it would come thanks to Mary, and cardinal Wyszyński often said that the final victory over communism would appear in Poland.
One could feel messianism…..
I am far from such slogans as these phrases can disturb us and deprive us of oxygen needed for spiritual development. When I was acting as young Fr. Stanisław Dziwisz in the spectacle ‘Totus Tuus’ for the Polish Television, I realized that on 13 May 1981 on the St. Peter Square it had happened something which providentially changes the fates of the world. The assassination was real evil, from which Immaculate Mary did the great good. She miraculously saved Pope’s life and directed the whole attention of the world to the mysteries of Fatima. A few years later the whole communist eastern bloc collapsed like a house from cards. Maybe entrustment to Mary done by primate Wyszyński and later John Paul II saved our whole world.
Fr. Maksymilian also wanted to save the world with the help of Immaculate Mary.
Fr. Maksymilian completely entrusted himself to Immaculate Mary. He even often said that if She wanted, She could let him die. Fr. Kolbe wanted to gain the world for Immaculate Mary , so his life and death were providential in the perspective of what happened later. Let’s think: primate Wyszyński entrusts Poland to Mary, and John Paul II entrusts Russia and the whole world to Her. One can say that Fr. Maksymilian was a kind of an igniter and the great flame spread just after his death.
So, his victory and fates of Poland are in the hands of Mary?
Whether we like it or not, Poland is the kingdom of Mary. This mocked at, simple and unleavened religiousness of Poles to Mary is our greatest trump card. We can see that all great people in our history had always paid tribute to our Queen at Jasna Góra. The only king who did not do it was Stanisław August Poniatowski.
And it was not a happy ending for Poland….But let’s return to the film ‘Two crowns’ and St. Maksymilian.
His complete entrustment to Immaculate Mary is inscribed in the history of Mary’s care about Poland and the world. Even our film is going to be released in October 2017 – on the 100th anniversary of the apparitions in Fatima and on the 100th anniversary of establishing Knighthood of Immaculate Mary. This convergence of dates was not planned as the film was being made very long and in a lot of difficulties. Today I am very glad that we can show it to a wide audience.
I think that the film is uncovering the person of the Franciscan from Niepokalanów. What is St. Maksymilian like in the ‘Two crowns’?
TV stations from the whole world were broadcasting the pilgrimage of pope Francis to the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp. Everybody saw the Holy Father praying in the prison famine cell of St. Maksymilian. At that time the whole world asked: Who is this Kolbe, what person is he? And I think that this film is an answer to this question. I hope that the whole world has heard about St. Maksymilian now.
You get prepared for every role very carefully. Making the film about St. Maksymilian must have been like a retreat with another saint for you. What did Adam Woronowicz get to know about St. Maksymilian at that time?
I realized that I knew very little about Fr. Maksymilian. I had packed my whole knowledge into a picture on which Fr. Kolbe is wearing a camp stripy coat. A scrawny elderly man wearing glasses is looking at him, for whom Fr. Maskymilian devoted his life. It is shameful to say that I did not know him.
The film shows that Fr. Maksymilian was a volcano of positive energy and fully enjoyed life. Can one say that he was somehow crazy?
He was a man who was strongly out of his time and schemes of those times. watching the film ‘Two crowns’, a lot of people will wipe their eyes by surprise to see what Fr. Maksymilian was interested in, what ideas he had and he was trying to implement in life. In my opinion all saints are somehow crazy. After all, Mother Theresa of Calcutta was going to the airport without a single dollar in her pocket and she said she had to fly. In the film we show Fr. Maksymilian going to Japan, not knowing this exotic language at all or without any financial means, and after a month of his arrival there, he publishes the ‘Knight of Immaculate Mary’ in Japanese, which has been published till today.
You have already acted as the Security Officer, a serial killer, Fr. Dziwisz, beatified Fr. Popiełuszko and St. Maksymilian. You have played a lot of roles. Who do you prefer to act – the good of the bad characters?
All these characters are joined by one word: the man. Evil must also be acted well and should be clear. I try to present the man who is in a dramatic situation. These are often people at the very bottom of humanity. Maksymilian shows us that the man may be at the very bottom of inhuman evil and also experience unusually presence of God. When the man can include his suffering into the Sacrifice of Christ, the world is becoming better then. Thanks to such people the good wins and this world can survive.