TO GLORY OF GOD AND TO RESCUE PEOPLE
It has been 10 years since a Rescue Group ‘Hope’ was set up in the parish of the Holy Cross and which has had the status of an association since the beginning. Its motto is: ‘To glory of God, and to rescue people’. For years the members of the group have helped others, by taking part in a dozen thousand of interventions. Last year they had over 3 thousand of them.
They were inspired by Fr. Can. Andrzej Godlewski, a parish priest and a builder of the church of the Holy Cross in Łomża. 15 years ago the winner of the nationwide plebiscite for a Parish Priest of the Year. An initiator of many ventures serving to parishioners and the city. The chief of the group was 32-year-old Fr. Radosław Kubeł then, coming from Kurpiowszczyzna, a graduate of the local seminary there. He has been the director of the ‘Hope’ with its manager, Jakub Brzeziak, till today.
With a polonaise car for rescue
A few of them began the activity in Łomża under the supervision of a priest. In May 2005 there appeared an initiative group of about 30 people, mainly junior-high school students, whom Fr. Kubeł taught catechesis. Unusual help was given by a doctor Bogusław Opyrchał, who contributed to it in a very important substantive way in preparing rescuers.
– In 2008 our group was formally setup, as a part of the Association of Help to Family ‘Hope’ -says Fr. Kubeł. – From the beginning we had a lot of support from the parish priest. Not only did he support us materially but he also let us use rooms and garages in the parish buildings. A year later the hospital in Łomża gave us an old ambulance – polonaise and the ‘Hope’ began the first trips, that is, securing parish events. A lot of our young rescuers were also fervent fans of the Łomża Sport Club ŁKS and began to secure football matches. And this activity promoted the group.
Today in the half-professional team of the medical rescuers there are nearly 400 people in 12 cities on the area of the provinces of Podlasie and Mazowieckie. Among them there are among the others, priests, firefighters, doctors and nurses, teachers, social workers and graduates of studies of national security and professional medical rescuers. However, after the course of the first aid, over 200 rescuers are qualified to drive privileged vehicles. They bring help in the distance of 150 km from the central unit in Łomża – to Olsztyn, Warszawa and the border with Belarus. They cooperate with the police, the fire brigade, the local guardians and the border guardians. They all run trainings together. They live on ‘one-percent’ donations. Sometimes the local government contributes to it. They also run payable courses of the first aid. However, they mainly work as volunteers. Only 7 people of 360 work full-time. In Łomża and in cities where they work, they are perceived as unusual people, devoted to God and the community. Both the Catholics and the Orthodox work in the team. There are also a few muslims from Chechnya who found their home in Łomża. They know that despite differences they can rely on one another at every moment.
They are a social unit, but placed in all systems of emergency medical service and safety in northern-eastern Poland. They remain in constant disposition of the Centre of Rescue Informing and set off a dozen times a year to calls-up of the National Emergency Medical Service. As a unit cooperating with the fire brigade they have the status of the Volunteer Fire Brigade. So they are called up also by the National Fire Brigade to secure fire fighters’ actions, help in evacuations, rescue actions in water. The third service which uses their help is the police. The ‘Hope’ has a signed agreement with the Police Headquarters about cooperation all over the country. So, being alarmed by the police in the situation of missing people outside the city, who are in danger of losing their life or health. In addition, they are called up by the emergency management on the area of the province of Podlasie – they are needed, among the others, to secure various actions connected with disasters, evacuation or providing people with safety.
– We are able to send 20-30 rescuers to all places during half an hour– says Fr. Kubeł. – A rescuer on duty has 12 local branches on the area of 3 provinces, so it can organize an action quickly. We have a special application to alarm rescuers via internet. In this kind of message a rescuer get information to which situation he is sent, and in what team and vehicle he is going. A rescuer confirms his participation in the application. He has his own uniform and equipment. Everyone is insured.
They are on duty every day, having ambulances, off-road cars and operational vehicles. Vehicles and equipment are generally from donations, also from the used-up and unnecessary property of the national services: police, fire brigade or the border guards. They adjust them to the needs of the rescue group and maintain them effective. They are laughing: if you want to have a profession as a mechanic, a welder or a varnish, join the ‘Hope’. They are aware that equipment must be reliable so they do everything so that it would be perfect. For, defect may cost even somebody’s life. It is not a long time since they have had a boat with an engine, thanks to which they help the fire brigade or the police during searching for missing people in water.
After 10 years of activity they have got allies who help them unselfishly in various matters like letting the use an area without any payment for garages or doing some mechanic repairs of the cars of the ‘Hope’. The vehicles with rescuers are allowed to go on crossroads, greeted by passers-by. When they are going in emergency, it happens that people show their thumbs up in the gesture of wishing good luck.
– We grew up as the ‘Hope’ on the hill of the Holy Cross in Łomża. One can say under the cross – says Fr. Kubeł. – In the church we have relics of the Holy Cross, so, from the beginning identification with faith is basic for us. Most branches of the ‘Hope’ are by the parish churches or we are cooperating with Caritas, like in the archdiocese of Białystok or the diocese of Łomża. Our relation with the Church is something natural. Therefore, we decided to place a motto on our vehicles which we got from the fire brigade ethos: ‘To glory of God, and to rescue people’. And we identify with this motto as believers and also as rescuers. In Łomża or other cities we are perceived positively although there are unfavourable comments against us. Some people think that the Church should not interfere into this kind of activity which is bringing rescue. They forget that the first hospitals or teams of rescuers hurrying into the mountains were created by religious orders. This is our natural area of activity as people of mercy. Some people address unfavourable comments at our motto on the vehicles: ‘To glory of God, and to rescue of people’. But it happens rather rarely. Sometimes we are criticized by people who are fighting with the Church as such and do not look into our activity. Whereas we, as Catholics and the citizens of this country, have a right to deal with this matter and we are doing it, undertaking actions of active mercy. The strictly religious motto on our vehicles stings the eyes of those who would like to close down the Church in the sacristy. Therefore, the unit is working so well, being based on the work of many people, especially the young and must be painful to people being far away from God, particularly those who thought that there was the end of the Church – says Fr. Kubeł and he adds: - Soon we will set off for a foot pilgrimage again, to take care of the safety of pilgrims to Jasna Góra. We will pray for strengthening the work of the Rescue Team ‘Hope’ and its development according to God’s will.