Monday, July 04, 2011

A Grief Observed on Independance Day

This past spring I have been blessed with a new friendship in the person and family of Joe Czyzyk.  Joe and his family came to CMFMC in January and began worshipping with us.  Joe grew up in Michigan and then has had a world encompassing journey, one of those dear places was Poland.

In April of 2010 the Polish Presidential plane was going to Russia for a memorial service.  In it's attempt to land it crashed and all those aboard lost their lives.  Joe, having lived in Poland for 8 years, found himself grieving in a place where few understood the ramifications.  He shared his writing with me and it reminded me of C.S. Lewis' A Grief Observed.

I've re-read it today, and I'm deepened by Joe's thoughts regarding the price liberty, the risk people take to have a nation, a home; the peril that is involved in being self-determinate as a people and community; the costliness of peace.

Independence Day is generally celebrated not with Grief, but with great festivities, but let us not forget that grief has been borne by a countless millions, and today in the world there are those who continue to strive for liberty. Let us give thanks for the many graces given to us, and pray for peace and liberty around the globe.

Below is Joe's reflection from April 2010. 

Reflections on Polish History This Week

Ecclesiastes 3

There is a time for everything, a time to be born and a time to die,

2 a time to kill and a time to heal,

3 a time to weep and a time to laugh,

4 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
time to refrain,

5 and a season for every activity under heaven: a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to tear down and a time to build, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to embrace and a

6 a time to search and a time to give up, away, a time to tear and a time to mend,

7 a time to love and a time to hate,

8 a time to keep and a time to throw a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time for war and a time for peace.

As many of you know my wife, Ewa, is Polish. You may not know that I spent 8 years in Poland myself.
This has been a very difficult week for the country of Poland. There is a time for every activity under
heaven, and this week seems to embody nearly all of them.

A Time to Die

A week ago Saturday a plane filled with Polish government officials, military officials, church officials
and civilians crashed in Russia. 96 people were killed. Any plane crash is tragic, but this accident has
greater ramifications. The plan crashed just outside of the Katyń forest.

A Time for War

In order to understand the gravity of what happened, I’d like to review some history. In 1939 both
Germany and The Soviet Union invaded Poland starting World War II. The country was devastated.
Germany and The Soviet Union who had partnered together to divide Poland then became enemies for
the remainder of the war. The United States joined the war helping The Soviet Union and others defeat
Germany and its partners. Germany committed atrocities on Polish soil, and those scars still remain.
Auschwitz, Treblinka and Majdanek are examples.

A Time to Hate

You may not have heard much about the Soviet atrocities in Poland. Seventy years ago the Soviet
secret police took a number of Poland’s elite to a forest in Russia. That forest was Katyń. The Polish
government, military officials, university professors and church leaders were taken to the forest. In
Katyń they were murdered one by one. One of Poland’s Nobel-winning poets said that history measures
skeletons in round numbers. The number of skeletons in Katyń was 20,000. This was the decapitation of

With the elite out of the way, it was easy for The Soviet Union control Poland from the end of World War II
until 1989.

A Time to Uproot and a Time to Build

In 1989 Poland threw off communism in free elections. In 2005 Poland entered the European Union with
other countries including Germany. Partnering with Germans is not easy for many Poles.

Relations with Russia have not been as easy. Only recently did Russia admit to the Katyń massacre.
They originally blamed it on the Germans. Many of the records are still sealed, and Poland was pushing
for transparency to find out what happened in the forest 70 years ago. Last week, government officials,
military officials, church officials and family members of those who died went to Katyń for a memorial
service for those who perished.

It was time to tear down the wall and to rebuild relationships. It is significant that Vladimir Putin was in
Katyń to attend the ceremony.

A Time to Weep

The plane attempted to land in heavy fog. It attempted three times unsuccessfully. It made a fourth
attempt but misjudged the runway. The plane went down in the forest … in Katyń. The president, high-
ranking government officials, the top level of the military and church representatives perished.

Putin immediately expressed sorrow. He had to or the questions would begin. Had Russia again
decapitated Poland? This time, it hadn’t.

A Time for Silence and a Time to Mourn

Poland immediately declared one week of mourning. No parties, no sporting events, televisions and
radios were quieted with all commercials banned. People poured onto the streets. I experienced it when
the Pope died a few years ago. Respect for the gravity of the situation.

A Time to Heal and a Time for Peace

The state funerals took place yesterday and today. The wound of Katyń has been torn open. It is now
time to heal. The rift between Poland and Russia has continued too long. Perhaps this sacrifice of
human blood will help us all - both Russia and Poland, both East and West - will help us to realize that
cooperation is better than domination. The time of peace is at hand.

The Time for Silence has passed. It is time to speak. The time for mourning continues. The time for
dancing has not yet come.

The time for peace is here.


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