Poland heard my ugly cry. Poland heard my joyful laughter. Poland gave me heart palpitations and got me a little loopy. Poland is coming back to family in souvenirs touched to relics. Poland brought my heart back to Mary. Poland helped prepare my heart for the next journey I take in life. Poland is calling me back.
We started the trip off with driving through the night on Thursday, arriving in Czestochowa at 6am on Friday. Fast-walking, nearly running, we made it to the Basilica where the image of the Black Madonna resides. Cool story about that image: two Nazi’s tried to cut it down once and they both died instantly, so ever since then, she has been treated with respect and cherished for the countless miracles experienced in front of the image.
Then, after some free time, breakfast, and space to catch our breaths, we departed for Auschwitz and Birkenau. It is so fitting that went on Friday. The day we remember Christ’s passion. We received a 3-hour tour of Auschwitz and then walked through Birkenau concentration camp for about 2 hours. Afterwards, we very somberly, emotionally and physically exhausted went back to our hotel for dinner and sleep.
This trip started under the mantle of Our Lady’s protection on purpose. There is absolutely no way one can make it through five hours at concentration camps without her strength and support. Part of me NEVER wants to go back. Part of me would like to go back a second time to experience in a different light. I can say I have been there and that is all. I’m not even sure if that statement is something that holds any value. Should hold any value at all.
While there, one sees the worst of humanity and you can’t even fully grasp it. Not all of this evil can or should be preserved. These victims truly did walk into the gates of hell. Despite all of this though, it is amazing and almost impossible to understand the feeling of peace and relief that takes over both of the camps. And, even in all the darkness there were Saints in these camps. Most notably St. Maximilian Koble and St. Edith Stein. We were able to see the cell where Kolbe was put in isolation and the one where he received his lethal injection, “glowing” with a radiant light. This is one of the many stories about this amazing man. Look him up, he won’t disappoint you.
Walking through Birkenau, after Auschwitz, on a gravel path that goes along the train tracks leading in, I felt peace. Something, I was not at all expecting. As if all of the souls that were in hell on earth are finally at peace and no longer suffering. I still get choked up thinking about it. And, I believe that it was only through Jesus’ passion and the love of Mary that the peace can reside in both of these places that once showed the worst of humanity. At one point, it was hell on earth, and now it feels like perhaps, the peace one feels in heaven is now on earth.
So, after that day, I went back to the hotel and mentally and spiritually recharged with some prayer and much needed sleep. The next day, Saturday, we got to tour Krakow, Poland, have Mass, and then go to the St. JPII Center and the Divine Mercy Shrine. This is where the ugly cry happened. I thank Jesus every day for the presence of the TOR sisters with us on our trips, one really helped me with that spiritual and emotional crash and burn. Despite being drained from two very long days, my heart felt the lightest it had ever been after the Center and Shrine. Jesus’ mercy is so overwhelming and loving that it really does lift any burdens off your heart. Anyway, I ate dinner in the hotel restaurant with some good girlfriends and processed that entire day.
Before I finish up with the last day, I would like to let y’all know that at the end of the second day my left hip decided to stop working. It was extremely painful to bend at the hip in any way so I ended up walking very slowly and with a very noticeable limp. My friends all thought this was entertaining as I appeared to look like Santa Claus. I think the Lord knew some laughter would be good for our souls at this point, and I was fine being the vessel we laughed at.
The last day was great! I got to tour the Salt Mines in Poland with friends and then we all went to Wadowice, Poland where St. JPII was born and had Mass at the Church he received most of his sacraments. After Mass we loaded the buses and arrived back in Gaming at 5am on Monday morning. Luckily, we had Monday off to recover.
I must also let y’all know that my hip still wasn’t back to fully functioning on Sunday morning, so I decided to take some Tylenol before going in to help with pain and make my mobility easier since it was a walking tour. Well…going 300 meters underground with Tylenol, extreme lack of sleep, and just purely exhausted isn’t really the best combination. After about 30 minutes into a 3-hour tour I began to feel a little loopy. And a little loopy I was. Apparently, the depth and acetaminophen don’t mix well together, and my equilibrium was also thrown off, so I was little wobbly. This made for an unclear brain. Needless to say, I had a great time in the Salt Mines. I got some great pictures and licked some salt too!
I left a piece of my heart in Poland. The beautiful country is calling me to someday go back.
I got a significantly lesser amount of photos this trip because of how intense it was and it just felt more appropriate to experience the emotions than try and capture the moment with a photo.
Hope you enjoy the ones I did manage to take and that turned out alright!
Now, I get to study for midterms and I leave for Lourdes on Thursday afternoon!!! AHH!! Super excited to go, and HUGE thank you to all who have donated to the mission trip. I will be praying for everyone while there.
‘Til next time 😉