Will the Church in Poland experience the event of this type as the VI World Youth Days in Czestochowa in 1991? Two years before there was the first free election and a year before that the Berlin Wall was pulled down. The system collapsed like a card house, which had killed over 120 million people. What was the contribution of the saint Pole in this collapse, we will probably find out only when documents of secret archives of many countries are revealed. In the memorable year of 1991 Czestochowa became the spiritual capital city of the world. It became the capital city of two lungs: the East and the West. And it was the intention of the unusual Pope who allowed over 200 thousand young people from the former Soviet republics to feel free. Because we have always been free at Jasna Gora – he said to us, Poles, and young people from the East felt this freedom.

A list like a passport

Young pilgrims were arriving at Jasna Gora on foot, by trains, by coach, by plane or by hitchhike. Inhabitants of Czestochowa, parishes in and near Czestochowa, schools and public service buildings – gave accommodation to the Australians, Americans, French, Belgiums, young people from the African land, New Zealand... But they also accommodated people from Moscow, Kiev, Grod. Organizing a week-stay in the town of 260 thousand inhabitants for over 1.6 million young people from all over the world at the time when not every inhabitant of the town had a telephone at home, and when only vinegar was on the shelves of shops, demanded a lot of organizational talent and sometimes very exhausting effort. Jasna Gora and its reliable Pauline Fathers and the Church of Czestochowa with its bishop Stanislaw Nowak undertook to do this task. Personally, the organizational responsibility was laid on the Pauline Father from Jasna Gora, Fr. Jan Pach and a priest from Czestochowa, Fr. Marian Duda, who organized what was impossible, with a group of young people. Moreover, a lot of effort was made by a newly-created local government of Czestochowa with its president Tadeusz Wrona. - At that time there were systemic and personal talks. Legal frames of a new system were being created at that time. And, just at that time, there were preparations of Czestochowa to become the host for over 1.6 million of pilgrims – says Tadeusz Wrona. - It was very difficult from the logistic point of view. But everyone knew who they were working for. The Holy Father was a person who united everybody – he adds. The biggest problem was the participation of the youth from the East, but it was possible to overcome it. A lot was done by our priests and nuns, working in restoring parishes in the Soviet Union. There was a quick rush of young people to get registered on lists of pilgrims going to Czestochowa for the World Youth Days. A signature on this list replaced a passport, a visa or a ticket to Czestochowa. It was also possible for young people from the East to arrive in Czestochowa, because the Czestochowa Committee had sent thousands invitations to parish groups and provided them with free accommodation. They had free food, accommodation and transport- - says Fr. Prof. Marian Duda.

A hierarch and borowiec

The prior of Jasna Gora at that time, Fr. Jerzy Tomzinski, says: - When the World Youth Days were coming soon, we got slightly scared of their enormity. Applications for participation in them were coming all the time. We were thinking of organizing the meeting at the back of the sanctuary where there is a car park and a Pilgrims' House now, but the Holy Father definitely said 'no' and added: 'I want to have Our Lady close to me, behind my back'. Later, on 14 and 15 August 1991, when John Paul II was having a meeting with 1.6 million people from 80 countries, Fr. Tomzinski and his co-Brothers had to deal with everything and have their eyes open on everything around them: he also made contacts with the Vatican and gave food to borowcy, as nobody had thought about such an ordinary thing. And the fact is that at that time Jasna Gora was space under a special supervision. Legal, medical and organizational responsibility for millions of young people, church dignitaries and representatives of many governments put state and local services on a serious duty. The eyes of the whole world were looking at Czestochowa. On those memorable days, every part of the town, every house and every parish square were given to pilgrims. - In order to get to their work, inhabitants of Czestochowa often used the 'pilgrimage' transport, as the local one was not possible. People were travelling around the town among mats laid on streets, often among the bodies of exhausted pilgrims – says the Editor-in- Chief of Sunday, Lidia Dudkiewicz.

'Abba, Father'

And young people were travelling to Black Madonna, learning the Hymn 'Abba, Father' for the VI World Youth Days on their way. They did not know that the one who had called them from all over the world to come to the Mother reigning at Jasna Gora, had been the first one to come to Jasna Gora without a cassock, on a bike, later as Fr. Wojtyła with the youth, a bishop and a cardinal. He brought young people here and today mainly young people go to Jasna Gora, while dancing and singing – says Fr. Tomzinski. And here, on August days, young people sang the Pope the hymn for the VI World Youth Days. When the hymn sounded with millions of voices, it seemed that an ocean sounded so and raised it to the sky. - I felt as if I had started my life anew – says Fr. Jan Gora, a dominican, who was the author of the hymn with Jacek Sykulski. It was just Fr. Gora and the youth pastoral ministry of the Dominican Fathers who were given the extremely important task: preparing musical vigil prayer in a few languages. - It was an excellent catechesis which was easily understood and accepted by the youth from all over the world. 'Maria Regina Mundi' (a song also prepared for the VI World Youth Days) and 'Abba, Father' were sung by everybody. Young people sing these songs even nowadays. This is one of beautiful fruits of the Jasna Góra meeting of the youth says Fr. Jan Pach.

I am, I remember, I am in vigil

- When as the first ones, in a group of five people, we started saying the Appeal Prayer of Jasna Gora in 1953, we did not realize the deep meaning of these simple words: I am with you, I remember and I am in vigil. Saying them, the Pope exposed what is the most important for Poland. His prayer spread all over the world. It was the best comment to the Appeal Prayer of Jasna Gora – says Fr. Tomzinski. The Jasna Gora Appeal Prayer has been an unprecedented event for young people till now. - When the White Shepherd appeared at Jasna Góra, it seemed as if the sky bowed towards the ground and Jasna Góra was getting bigger and bigger , as the wave of enthusiasm was spreading further onto whole Częstochowa – says Fr. Jan Pach. - It seemed that trees in the parks surrounding it got enlivened and the nearby houses were moving in the rhythm of music and singing – he adds. Young people were praying and singing till late night hours. They did not want to go to sleep. Neither did the Pope. - He was praying long in our monastery chapel. We were peeking at him from a window of our Knights' Hall, from where we could see the while silhouette sunk in a prayer very well, which looked like an alive statue – says the Pauline Father.

Enthusiasm passed onto the next day. The Eucharist of the youth, entrustment act of the youth to Our Lady, the Jasna Gora Appeal Prayer were full of symbols which deeply fell into heart and memory. Even today witnesses reminiscence the altar gifts, the Holy Communion received from the hands of the saint Pope. And he thanked the town, the diocese and Pauline Fathers. Pilgrims interrupted the Holy Father's words with a loud applause, in this way thanking him for warm-hearted welcoming them in Częstochowa.

Two lungs of Europe

Young people from the East found the meeting with John Paul II and the whole stay in Poland an experience which fell deeply into their memory. Their parents and grandparents had lost their health and life in death camps for wearing a cross. Whereas, here, they could express the faith of their fathers loudly in the crowd of multi-language people. They distinguished with such peace and quietness, being shy by what was going on around them. - They came here only for a few hour, in order to have a wash and take rest and then they went away not to lose any moment of the World Youth Days program – says an inhabitant of Czestochowa, in whose garden 30 Moscow inhabitants had put up their tents, and other few put their mattresses in his house. On those days in Moscow there was a coup of Janajew and young Russian people did not know what homeland they would have to return to. These quandaries were understood by the Holy Father very well. When the farewell moment was coming and he was going to an airport, Pauline Fathers shared their remark with him that at Jasna Gora about 100 thousand of young people from the East were saying the Rosary prayer with archbishop Tadeusz Kondrusiewicz from Moscow. - The Holy Father reacted definitely: we are going to Jasna Góra. And he did. The meeting lasted 40 minutes. The Pope gave an improvised speech, gave blessing to young people from the East – devoted them his time despite any kinds of protocols.

Częstochowa 1991, Cracow 2016

Now, the World Youth Days in Cracow – the meeting with pope Francis will be attended by children of parents who arrived in Jasna Góra in Częstochowa 25 years ago. They will arrive with the same faith in the power of a prayer, like their parents did in 1991, they will arrive in royal Cracow from the whole world, and will walk on the streets on which the young priest, bishop and cardinal Karol Wojtyła, the saint pope, walked to Wawel, and who knew what power youth has got in changing the world. He called young people on all continents, and they thanked him for his trustfulness. They will arrive in Cracow even from a far-distanced Easter Island on the Pacific. The World Youth Days have such a strength. Young people in Cracow will be observed by St. John Paul II, with his characteristic smile and from the heavenly throne, in the same way as he used to look at their parents whom he told: ‘Do not be afraid!’. Have more courage, change the world and fill it with the Holy Spirit; after all, you have received the Spirit of adoptions as sons. And pope Francis will cuddle everyone to his heart, as it was done by his predecessor and will send young apostles of mercifulness to all continents.

Anna Salawa from the National Organizational Office of the World Youth Days in Warsaw, a participant in meetings of the Pope with young people from all over the world since the meeting in Madrid, says that now everyone lives with Cracow, like Częstochowa before. And we must remember about it, as there might not be Cracow 2016 if there had not been Częstochowa 1991.


„Niedziela” 33/2015

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: