LUCHANDO CON LAS MOLINAS
In my Lyceum in Brodnica with so called humanitarian section, we were having classes of three foreign languages with 3 hours a week each of them. It was ever my hobby so I was happy but unsatisfied. I wished more...
Spanish and Portuguese, as many other languages I was learning from self-teaching books and vocabularies, to be a little similar to our Pope John Paul II. These books and even papers in foreign languages I was buying in so KMPIK (Clubs of International Press and Culture), these Clubs were very popular in all the country, but only in the big cities.
During my teenager trips all over the country these Clubs, except churches and libraries were obligatory stop points in my trips.
The first Spanish phrase I learned these days were: "los travajadores de todos el mundo...", because in Spanish language the only press available was coming from Cuba. There were also Angolan papers in Portuguese.
I was never expecting that such a passion may be helpful in my missionary activities in...Russia! I was never expecting that I may met Cubans and Angolans there and pray together. Mostly my story will be about it.
1. Margarita and Felito.
In Rostov on Don perhaps in 13-th October we visited home Angolan student of journalism Felito to pray rosary together. Felito introduced us Nicaraguan student also journalist Margarita. It was really nice people, ever smiling, talking some mix Portuguese Spanish language. They were trying to advise us how to start missions in so big city Rostov. It was Zorge Street 8 in the west part of the city. It was in the future starting point of our pastor visits which I described in separate story.
That pair of foreign students opened our eyes on Russia and also on the world. They were living here about five years and knowing much more about local people than we can imagine.
2. Cardinal Ernesto
Another student house was at front of Bratski Cemetery. It was Technical Institute Student House. Most of students I knew here were Portuguese speaking people. I got to know them thanks to Irish seminarian Philip Andrews. Actually he is Parish priest in Penza. He was studying in Irish Seminary in Rome but after getting connection with abp Kondrusiewicz he offered himself to work in Russia in the future. Archbishop Kondrusiewicz accepted him. I met him during summer time in Moscow and propose to go in Rostov together. He was my first guard angel. In fact I was worry putting my step on Russian land at first to be alone.
Living together perhaps a week in August 1992... we were praying for Portuguese speaking boys daily mass in the deep evening in Russian but with Portuguese songs.
Africans these days were mostly very busy looking for easy and cheap Russian girls to enjoy summer time. They have no money to come back on summer to Africa, for some of them it was a risk that they may not return. In Mozambique and in Angola it was deep war time. With our presence they got new unexpected play.
One of them was Ernesto Mozambique boy baptized in the group of 3 catechumens in Nativity 1992. He and his Angolan friend Ernesto were always close to me.
I was also traveling with Ernesto and organist Nicolas to Moscow in February 1993 to establish relationship with Italian sponsor. He was my body guard as seminarian Philip before.
Dottoressa Giovanna Paravicini (Communione Liberazione - Memores Domini) was asked by Bergamo diocesan priest don Franco Cassera also by Bishop Kondrusiewicz, to help prepare friendly relationship between Rostov Parish and Bergamo *(Entratico). Giovanna realized immediately that we are starting in Rostov from zero and any kind of help is expected. Looking on Ernesto she was very enthusiastic calling him Cardinal.
She wrote to Communione Liberazione in Madrid and they informed Militia de Santa Maria about urgent need of Catholic students' exchange. Relationship with Bergamo had own progressing story and stopped partially with passing of don Franco in 1995, relationship with Madrid is continuous...I got in my heart all the collection of memories about...fighting with difficulties like don Quijote with "molinas". In that my fight I got big number of well organized collaborators from Africa, America and ... Spain.
3. Emilio Benedetti SJ
This is a man who even in Communist Party Secretary in Russia was Brezhnev. He was Jesuit brother native from Catalonia with Suisse roots from fathers and Polish from mother side: Emilio Benedetti. He was coming as participant of so called cultural exchange between Spain and Russia.
Emilio was coming as simple English teacher in Barcelona these days. In Gorbachev and Eltsine times he was working in European Foyer Catholique and all his summer holidays he was using visiting Russia as volunteer again in summer camps for Russian children studying English. He told me that been with them he ever introduces some Christian values to them.
I was told about his activities by Russian parishioners but I never have seen him. It is why I was sad, that he never got touch with me before.
From another hand I was very happy when he finally appeared on Holly Mass in July 1993 in Gallery of Pictures on Gorky Street. It was the day of Saint Ignatius Loyola. I asked him to deliver a speech about his congregation founder and he does it kindly and nicely.
He explained me that being just Jesuit brother and having none priests ordination he had no need to pray a Mass so he did not look for Catholic Parish. He also informed me that Jesuits in Moscow know about him and his activities! It was his report to me apologizing himself.
He was also amazed same as Giovanna when he realized how many foreign students attend the Mass in Rostov. He was inspiring my Spanish volunteers to invite me to Madrid during my deep crisis in 1996.
In the future one of his summer camp students became director of local charitable organization Caritas Priazovye and was helping him in making charitable projects and looking for sponsors.
He also was caring about some English speaking volunteers to visit me in summer even winter time. One of them was German journalist student Erick Händeler. The other was British boy Richard and Philippine boy John.
His Polish mothers; name is Kalitowski, she was living 101 on Majorka in Baleares. Two native brothers are also Jesuits. The older one Bernard was working in Vatican Astronomic Observatory, actually moved to USA, The youngest brother Angelo is successful missionary in India. You may think kind of mafia Benedetti in Jesuit Congregation has in own hands three most important countries in American, European and Asiatic continents.
4. Enrique Sanchez
Enrique economy student, his brother physics student Jorge, two other were: Eduardo agriculture student and Mariano were the first Spanish people I got to know in June 1993.
Enrique, typical handsome Spanish boy with little darken skin and small tendency to be fat. He was talking correct English but he had some complexes and ever withed to ask many concrete things and was sad that his or mine English may be limited to clarify things. In such situation he was inviting some Latino American or African student to ask me questions and to hear answer translated from Russian by them. Margarita was the most helpful girl in these situations. His younger brother Jorge even partially deaf he singed and played guitar nicely.
He told me once that being handicapped was kind of gift in his life because now he easily contact both hearing and deaf society and even may translate each other.
Eduardo was middle size, the most contacting ever smiling person in the group other boy Mariano, most secret and silent personality.
They were planning such activities somewhere in Middle Europe after meeting with John Paul II in Czestokhova 1991. These days they saw so many poor youngsters from USSR in the day of pooch in Moscow. Pope was mentioning his deep solidarity with New Russia these days.
The meeting was funny. The boys came in deep night by the last aircraft. I came with the last trolleybus. I came with delay in the moment when they took their baggage. Thanks God there was our parishioner Irina Mikhaylovna Kajdanowska. We took 2 taxis and have gone to sleep in sisters' house.
These days' parishioners were preparing themselves to the pilgrimage which started in Smolensk and finished in Mokhylev. At first I had 30 candidates to go there. Mostly russian and african students. There were also 4 boys from Taganrog, all the Spanish team, Nicaraguan Margarita and one sister from our monastery in Bataysk.
I had to stay and care archbishop which was expected to visit new established communities in Novocherkassk and Taganrog.
We were visiting these places with loaned small van in which was dozen of African students which has not gone on pilgrimage. They were assisting in my first efforts in mentioned places and helping to organize nice liturgy with singing and answering during the Mass.
These days Enrique, Jorge, Eduardo and Mariano were studying Russia by traveling very simple trains and walking very poor villages in Russia and Byelorussia. They also were participating as spectators together with all the pilgrims in Festival of religious songs in Mokhylev. Afterwards Enrique made beautiful and very detailed report about their activities.
He talked once he had never journalist gift, but perhaps Holly Spirit helped him to describe his experience nicely/ It was printed in missionary paper of Milicia de Santa Maria " Estar - Hagase" in Spain. Thanks such reports people abroad can study our life in Catholic community of Rostowie on Don and all the post Soviet Russia
Thanks this first message there was in the future ever a group of voluntary people even seminarians wishing to come as voluntary to Russia.
Enrique was good organizer and in the future every my visit in Spain was same perfect in organizing meaning like his trips to Russia. His beloved phrase was: "Corto y bueno dos vezes bueno" (short and good twice good). All his trips to Russia were short but very good.
5. Mariano and Olga
Mentioned Mariano was very silent boy from some little town close to Madrid. He was telling almost nothing and doing the people was expecting from him and the entire group with obedience. The only difference was his relationship with a girl. Olga was English language student. She was one of most zeal parishioners. She was ever punctual, loyal, disciplined girl. She was very different from him. He was fragile, she was fat. He had polish roots but they ancestors were from Siberia so perhaps she also was a bit mix blood like her mother with Mongolic large face. She was also silent, but in heart she was like volcano. Her desire to make friendship with a boy was difficult to hide and even her mother was engaged to attract the boy.
They were corresponding all the year and next year Mariano came again with a group but he was not living and acting with Enrique, he was living with Olga family and doing nothing for missions. I got very sad and even criticized them publicly.
Olga was silent, but mother was attacking me with hating face telling that it was providential they meat each other. I feel she was doing projects for future happy life to her daughter.
In fact soon Olga has gone to Spain forever, I was told she got marry in 1999, but I do not know if her husband was Mariano or some another boy.
Other members of 1994 voluntary team were: Jose Antonio-Agriculture Academy, Vincente-architecture student, Carlos-seminarian, Ramon-student of diplomatic school, Jorge Sanchez and his brother Enrique came second time. Plan of activities was similar as a year before: pilgrimage, singing and delivering speeches during the mass, caring about Latino Americans and Africans if possible Russian students.
This time the group was divided in two. Tree volunteers have gone to pilgrimage other three stayed with me helping pastoral activities.
In previous year we concentrate on: Taganrog and Novocherkassk, 1994 we spent in travels to; Kalmyk Republic and Rossosh near Woronez. Enrique as before was collecting material to his second report.
In Rossosh we were visiting Italians during finishing activities in constructing orphanage in the place were existed command point of Italian army in II World War.
Thanks Rossosh people I was getting human aid from Italy, now we were talking with constructors about giving us instruments and constructing materials after finishing orphanage as a gift for church in Rostov.
These days Rostov under Salezians but we were collaborating closely.
Same time in my parish was on his summer practicing seminarian Vladimir from Kaliningrad. Actually he is vicar priest in famous Pskov. These days he was only first year's student of newly opened Moscow seminary. He was very enthusiastic collaborating with Spanish volunteers the best way possible.
He was in Rossosh obtaining promised instruments. All of them were very dirty after 500km travel and work. I tried to make them hot water to take shower. Unfortunately heating system was connected with hot water system and we was not using all the summer because to much hot home. There was some defect and gas system explodes when I tried to put working. My face and hairs burned.
Priest from Rostov was on holydays so I was caring his and mine parishes having wounded bandaged face, even once I was on very important trial concerning church in Novocherkassk with such a face.
I was told that judge was very touched seeing me this way and perhaps it was helpful in taking decision that church have to be returned to us.
These days also two persons in Rostov were baptized. One 12 years old girl had no Baptism Father so one of Spanish Group Jose Antonio became God Father. All of them were very happy.
Jose Antonio had Bask roots and once during the meeting in Krasnodar land he was singing to German family beautiful old bask song.
We were returning from that meeting in the deep night. When on the station boys find a frog it was for them very funny. They tried to make a photo on frog...waiting for the train but there was secret policy and we were escorted for perhaps 2 hours in some place to explain ourselves.
Soviet habits were still very strong and poor foreigners got shock twice in deep provincial railway station.
During our travels we were ever praying rosary and singing. Vincente all these dais was helping to design the walls in monastery picturing last supper picture.
They were wonderful group. The only misunderstanding was Mariano and Olga behaviour, but after so many years as more experienced priest I have to tell you they also played some missionary role. I do not know anything about their lives, but I hope both are good Christians and memories from Russia were helpful for their lives. Their story was some kind of intriguing point which keeps all the parish together thinking, what will happen later, who from our visitors may marry who of them will became a priest.
Even from my local students' one girl Margarita after so deep religious experience with Spanish group as translator decided to enter sisters' monastery and spent two years in Poland as sisters' novice.
My organist Nicolas who was together with Spanish group in Mokhylev became seminarian on same course with Kaliningrad seminarian Vladimir. He became Franciscan priest, his ordination was in 2000. Some time he was superior of new established Franciscan Custody in Moscow. All of 5 or 6 seminarians from Spain which visited me followed years are also respectful priests in Spain.
God has his plans for everybody; we may call it Providence or other ways. The things are as they are. Our duty is to collaborate with God's grace.
6. Gipsy and Cardinal Varela.
In 1995 was brake out. I took sabatical, trying to spent time as Franciscan novice. Spanish boys were afraid coming because of Chechen war which just started.
Sabatical was only half a year. I was missing Russia very much, so I cannot stay all the year to become Franciscan. In these days before entering monastery I was also in Fatima and even informed Enrique and Eduardo about my trip there but they cannot visit me even we were so close.
All the summer time in 1996 in Bataysk monastery was living and supporting me in my entire travels brother Emilio. Conditions in the house were rather better than 4 years before: there was water even a phone, toilets and shower. Emilio was helping in organizing local Caritas; he took mentioned volunteers John and Richard. He saw me very depressed so he organized my trip to Madrid end expected me together with all the others Spanish friends there.
Very first day after my coming on bus station by ALSA company Bus from Warsaw I was visiting with my friends Almudena and looking on me, the gypsy which was staying at the entrance of cathedral said to me: FATHER, EAT MORE, SLEEP LONGER, DRESS BETTER!...
All my staying in Spain we were joking from this adventure. I came from Spain really like new one. Sometime I was thinking being ascetic for me the best way, other time I feel it is not best for my health so I never now what is the best. I cannot be in the middle, my character is extreme.
Spanish people were ever respecting my way of eating, dressing, all my extremism. They helped me during pilgrimage to Santiago 1999 to become Cardinals friend. In 1996 they were doing efforts to have interview with Cardinal and me, but unsuccessfully. The funny and providential was that after so many unsuccessful efforts finally I met Cardinal just after talking to gypsy lady during his walk on some ceremony. It was my first short audience-interview on the street with him.
7. Maria Rosa.
During my staying in Spain I visited Burgos and Valladolid. I had some meetings in Madrid Parishes and talk to seminarians. Ever I was using slides made by Enrique, auction of small gifts and collection of money. I got fax full box of envelopes and other chancellery thing. I got two coats and new sutana as gift from seminarians. Gypsy advice was taken in mind. Fifth coat I got in Toledo from some old prelate. I was there with Emilio, because he wished I enjoy Spain looking on its wonderful tourist attractions.
Second coat was given by fr. Melchior, young priest which was supposed to come and visit me previous years. Every time talking to people especially to seminarians I was very shy, but people were meeting me so enthusiastically that I finally understood well: people like me and like my activities made in Russia, they are interested in spreading Good news there. As testimony I got next year big number of voluntary people. Except seminarian Carlos whom I met before that time came another seminarian Roberto Lopez, Ramon-politician which I also knew before and Enrique. The most surprise was the first girl in the group. It was daughter of Emilio student architect from Barcelona.
Maria Rosa, small, her pure white skin was bit different like other Spanish people, black hairs, round glasses. She was student of history.
At first she looked flegmatic and not very interested in Russia at all. I got impression Emilio forced her to go. She never mentioned what happened to her, perhaps just shy at first visit time. Russia may really fear people I agree her.
Emilio with a help of Oleg, professor of Spanish Language in local Foreign Languages Institute helped to make official invitation from that Scholl and find Russian students willing to have Spanish people home.
That third trip had official status of cultural exchange so the level was higher.
Another surprise was my broken had. Just happened second crazy accident to my land car and my head was still wounded. During first week of staying, Spanish boys were very busy with Russians but slowly they got tired with their laic activities and projects, their main topic was to help a church so they gone from Taganrog to Bataysk as previous years.
During their staying in Taganrog according their words they were mostly visiting museums, restaurants and discotheques. After my talking they helped a bit in cleaning territory around just bayed property for Catholic prayer House. Also they have built from bricks podium for holly Mary statue as memory of their staying.
I was asking them also to make benches, but Russians students protested, so conflict of interests became very deep.
One night before going to Bataysk I had long talk to Maria Rosa. We were hanging pictures of Cross Road in the hand made chapel. During working she was asking about my accident, we were talking much about death. I told her I have no fear of death and that I am even nostalgic to heaven. Surprisingly she liked such a testimony.
Enrique wrote me later that Maria Rosa like other new volunteers were happy by staying with me...even first time they got sad.
These days in Rostov after 4 years of efforts excavators started preparing place for foundations of new church. The last full moon night I took the group to the night visit on that place...I was missing such activities, but first few years I was not experienced at all, so mostly I was doing my pastoral with support of my Spanish friends. I hope they also were impressed that church in Rostov finally started to grow.
8. Jesus, Carlos i Roberto
Two first visits of Spanish volunteers (1993-1994) that was time of humble efforts and searching for missionary activities, the third (1997) was kind of compromise between pastoral activities and cultural exchange, time of tensions and hot discussions between me and brother Emilio. Spanish people took my side and style as more convenient for them.
Fourth staying in Russia (1998) had clear missionary character without compromises, hard work and testimony in most difficult conditions. Enrique got sick from bad food; Jesus and Carlos were dying from heat.
Never mind it was what they were expecting for. They were trying to give some message in new established parishes, physically working and relaxing by plays and songs. That time we were separated during all the week. They got full freedom and responsibility in looking ways for friendship of local people. Carlos and Robert came third and second time, for Jesus it was the first visit, Enrique came fourth time.
Jesus was silent and slow, good, athletic construction of body, handsome. He impressed much people by his playing guitar. He was really shy man. He was ideal candidate for such a mission but he was only starting so perhaps for him most painful time. He was at the end most touched and crying man.
Carlos in his third visit started to talk simple russian words. He was educated as layer before Seminary so he was observing the world with eyes of a layer, very realistic. He had very warm character like most Slavic people do. I made him responsible in one team with Jesus. Same responsibility I gave to Enrique in team with Roberto.
Roberto was the only blond man in the team. He was trained a bit by Opus Dei people; he also was in laic studies before and finished classic languages. During his studies he had as additional...Russian language. It was real blessing for our group. He liked sports; he knew many fanny plays so altar boys were very happy with him.
All my volunteers were using glasses.
I was about to go on Siberia, so it was clear that perhaps for all of them it may be the last experience in Rostov Land, all of us were doing our best.
Atmosphere was very hot; the heat was also extraordinary in that summer time. Enrique was working hardly, but because of sick and lack of knowing language he was more passive than Roberto. At first I gave them Azov and Volgodonsk to care this communities. In future September we were waiting for bishops coming to bless two new established chapels. At the end I send all of them to Leningradskaya.
Conditions were very poor, Spartan life. Especially in Azov. Water was on another street. Toilet only in the garden serving for 3 families, one of them was deep alcoholic. Volunteers were living in the chapel and repairing another room for priest under eye of Russian Volga-German Ivan, catholic but in the past narcotic addicted man.
In Volgodonsk we were trying to make the foundations for future wall around the chapel in the center of the city without any security except Volodia, another local volunteer polish roots man. It was really hard job. The land was like stone hard, we have none instruments doing everything by hands.
They were shopping by themselves by own money. I had really empty pocket these days and none cook to angage these days for them.
Carlos became God Father of Elena parish manager in Azov. Parishioners were trained to sing many Spanish songs thanks to Jesus. They especially liked song Ave Maria. They were not planning to come next year; they were expecting us with a visit during pilgrimage to Saint James shrine in Santiago.
"Holly Year" in Santiago, happens once in 5 or 6 years. It depends when the Patron day 27-th of July happens in Sunday. It is such a strange way of proclaiming "Holly Year". I was in Spain in previous years twice. Ever I was returning renewed and relaxed. Now such a relaxation was proposed to my young parishioners.
Relationship with parishioners became so close, that finally I was ready to bring my children, for farewell as symbolic triumph of so many efforts to make Russians familiar with Jesus. To let them know him as ever carrying God and Human same time.
It was good that such a triumph happened in Spain, so significant to many efforts made together before. Everything was starting 13-th October 1992 in students house on Zorge street. During walking I was giving speed course of catechism to all of them individual way to get sacraments solemn way.
Ten days of adventure walking, I spent with: Jula 16-years old girl from Azowa, Armenian Christina and Russian Vika from Leningradskaya were 20 years old, another girl from Leningradskaya was 16 years old polish roots Yana, Three girls Volga-Germans: Katia and Pavlov sisters from Volgodonsk, Daniel polish roots boy also from Volgodonsk. Such was my "international" Russian group. It was the entire story to take passports and make visas for them. Bureaucracy and corruption in this sphere is huge.
All my youngsters were behaving nicely even it was big effort to keep discipline. I was the only translator in the group so during the travel I was forced to talk Spanish. Also children were studying fast.
Travel was in picturesque old mountains of Asturias and Galicia. We were walking in difficult conditions. Hot was so crazy that in many cases we were getting shower during walking in all our dressings just on the road from special fire defense camion. There was 3000 people in about 30 groups. Our group was number 10 black-red colour. Enrique was our responsible.
We were participating time to time in working group cleaning territory or working in the kitchen. Russians were the only foreigners in the group so people were warm and friendly. 10 days passed like a dream fast. In the airport were many tears in both Russians and Spanish hosts' eyes. Just in the aircraft we got to knew that new prime minister in Russia became KGB-man and same every day 8-th of August started again Caucasus war.
Three weeks later in Volgodonsk one of my parish happened crazy explosion killing 20 and injuring 500 people. Thousends became homeless.
Concerning Enrique and seminarians. Enrique just finished his studies and got good job as professor of Economy in new established Catholic University in Avila. He got nice flat near their parents' home and close to Santa Maria del Europa Church. He got marry with Conchita Verdugo, another girl from Milicia de Santa Maria. They keep all donations from weddings for our group and spent for pilgrimage.
Seminarians were engaged in organizing pilgrimage as responsible people in different groups, but all their free time they spent with us. It was their duty to contact Cardinal and prepare nicely ceremony of getting sacraments by my children in st. Martin church in Santiago.
Daniel was baptized in presence of 3000 youngsters from Madrid. Cardinal Ruoco Varela trained one Russian word POZDRAVLJAJU, to greet Daniel and 4 girls who took first Communion and confirmation.
One year later Daniels mother was also baptized in my presence in Rome on International Youth meeting with Pope John Paul II.
My Spain continues helping me!
On Siberia my friends from Madrid meet me again. We were working together like previous years in Sakhalin, Chita and Kamchatka especially summer time 2000. Next year 2001 four seminarians came to help me in preparing consecration of the church in Yuzno-Sakhalinsk (Toyohara). Carlos which became a priest, Roberto and his 2 classmates from 4-th course were caring also children during summer camp.
Seminarian Gabriel gifted me donations from his priest ordination day.
Carlos and Enrique in 2002 organized action of protest against dismissing priests from Russia. It was twice online in Radio Maria and some another central state Spanish Radio huge program and during that program I was talking be phone my situation after dismissing me from Russia. I was asking more assistance of Catholics in Spain to Catholics in Russia. Perhaps that and other protest resulted that Russia after kicking me stopped dismissing priests even we actually know the black list included about 20 priests, only 5 were dismissed.
In June 2003 I was officially invited to participate in sacerdotal ordination of Roberto and 2 other seminarians which helped me in Sakhalin. Friendship is continuing and my fight with "molinas" is easier than for don Quijote alone and forgotten.
Fr. Jaroslaw Wisniewski
Kharkov, July 14, 2003