Powazki Cemetary

Inspiration for the Making of Messenger of the Truth

There are moments in your life that you recognize as important when they happen. You open your eyes wider, breathe deeper, try to take in all the senses and lock it in your memory forever. There are times in your life that you don’t recognize as important until they are long past. When only the wisdom of time and experience can imbue those moments with the gravity that you know changed the course of your life forever. And then there’s Poland, 2012. I knew going in that this was going to be important, but there was so much to do that any time to savor the moment is put off for later. Until then the bustle and hurry of the moment blurs the memory. Only now, safely back in the very warm confines of Jacksonville, Florida, can I slow those memories down and reflect.

The last blog post left off before our trip to Krakow, so that’s where I’ll start. On the way to Krakow we detoured to the Jasna Gora Monastery in Czestochowa. In the chapel off of the main cathedral, behind a plate of silver, hung the Black Madonna of Czestochowa. Her skin and the skin of the Baby Jesus darkened by fire damage, her cheek scarred by Hussite raiders in 1430, the Black Madonna is intrinsically linked to Polish Catholicism. Every year faithful Poles make a pilgrimage to see her. We stood in the chapel looking at the silver protective sheet. Pilgrims went to the front, knelt, and walked around the shrine on their knees. The walls were festooned with gifts to the Madonna; rosaries, lockets, cast-off canes and crutches. Then a sudden blast of trumpets from the sound system. The silver sheet rose, slowly revealing the Madonna and Child underneath. She is known as the Queen of Poland. Hearing the gasps, witnessing the faithfulness, it is easy to see why.

The next day in Krakow we interviewed Cardinal Dziwicz, a longtime friend and secretary for Pope John Paul II. After that we had some time to enjoy Krakow before leaving for Warsaw. It was beautiful. Warsaw was destroyed by World War II and rebuilt by the Communists, but Krakow was largely untouched and the architecture was amazing.

On Tuesday the 6th we found ourselves being led through a warren of hallways, elevators, and more hallways of the offices of the IPN. The Institute for National Remembrance has been tasked with sifting through the mountain chain of files left behind by the Communists to determine what really happened during the 40 years they were in power. There was a whole section of the files dealing with the clergy. Somewhere in a file in a room of that building is a report filed by some Communist functionary detailing what cigarettes Father Jerzy liked to smoke. Creepy stuff.

The next day we interviewed Waldemar Chrostowski, Father Jerzy’s driver. He was tasked with looking out after Jerzy and driving him to masses. He was the last friend to see Father Jerzy alive. His tale is of heroism and heartbreak, and I will save it for another time when I can give it the attention it deserves.

On Thursday we went to Kostka church for two interviews, one with Monsignor Cielecki who blessed our venture to tell Father Jerzy’s story. Then we met Michal Wysocki and drove to nearby Powazki Cemetery. In 1983 Michal drove a 17-year-old Grzegorz Przemyk from the police station to the hospital. Grzegorz died of massive internal injuries the next day. Even though there were witnesses and expert medical testimony the authorities covered up the beating by police officers and blamed the boys’ injuries on Michal. It ruined his life. I couldn’t help but be struck by the story of these two when Michal stood in front of Grzegorz grave.

The next day Paul and I hunted down stock footage while Tony and Caitlyn hunted down b-roll footage. Tony and Caitlyn went to Rome for some more footage of the Vatican and St. Peters while Paul and I stayed behind. There are miles of footage held by the new television studio, the old Communist studio, and private hands. In order to tell this story the right way we’re going to need to get a look at as much of it as we can. We flew back to Jacksonville Wednesday having accomplished what we went to Poland for. We have some great, insightful interviews that tell Father Jerzy’s story and the story of his country. We have wonderfully shot footage of Warsaw, Krakow, and Rome. We have footage from those times to help us put the viewer in Poland in the early 1980′s. A very successful trip. One to remember for a lifetime.

The Priest and the Policeman

This documentary feature is based on the book, The Priest and the Policeman, written by John Moody and Roger Boyes.

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