Warsaw, Poland: Wesołego Alleluja!

This week promises a daily post on Global Mom’s week spent traveling with her family in Poland.

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Why travel to Poland at this time of year? There were a number of reasons, not the least of which was the opportunity to stand with our two youngest, our two teenaged boys, in the sites made infamous by the Holocaust.  In two posts from now, I’ll return to that part of our journey in detail.

Another guiding reason for choosing wintry Poland over a sunny place to the south, was because Poland, as you might know, is a predominantly Catholic country. And this was Easter. And I’d researched how elaborate yet reverent the Polish Easter celebrations are. This drew me.  So much, actually, that I began practicing the Polish equivalent of “Happy Easter”; Wesołego Alleluja!

But, you ask, isn’t Italy also Catholic?  And warm? Wouldn’t you find an Easter celebration there…or two? With the Pope, maybe?

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Actually, Italy is officially 80% Catholic, while Poland is nearly 90%. But you’re right that Italy is a good 20 degrees warmer than Poland when an unexpected Noreaster sweeps down from the Baltic Sea, shizzes through Poland’s primeval forests, crackles over the northern lowlands, and drops a major snowstorm on Warsaw just as the blossoms and pussy willows are being gathered for the holiday bouquets that worshippers gift each other or bring to their neighborhood cathedral. Poland’s Easter is usually brisk; this year it was glacial.

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Still, I think you’ll see in the following gallery that cold temperatures did little to freeze Polish devotion.  Cathedrals full to overflowing. Easter flowers and offering baskets sold and toted everywhere.  And that one little fragile Babcia (grandma), who, upon leaving St. Anne’s cathedral on Warsaw’s Old Town square, stopped, set her basket on the stone floor, unwrapped the shawl around her chin, and leaned forward to kiss the wooden feet of the Christ statue on the entry cross.

(No, I couldn’t – and wouldn’t – get that shot.)

But I got others. So enjoy, and feel free to share.

**

© Melissa Dalton-Bradford and melissadaltonbradford.wordpress.com, 2013. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Melissa Dalton-Bradford and melissadaltonbradford.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

This work is licensed under aCreative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License. . . which means, as long you’re not selling it, you’re welcome to share, but please remember to give me a link and mention my name.

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Standing room only at an evening service in the middle of Easter week.

Standing room only at an evening service early in Easter week.

Every cathedral we visited was like this.

Every cathedral  we visited was like this

Street - as - refrigerator

Street refrigeration

Lazienki Park, or the royal gardens, Warsaw

Lazienki Park, or the royal gardens, Warsaw

Lazienki Park, Warsaw

Lazienki Park

Monument to Polish son, Frederic Chopin, Lazienki Park

Monument to Polish son, Frederic Chopin, Lazienki Park

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5 thoughts on “Warsaw, Poland: Wesołego Alleluja!

  1. Beautiful, Melissa. I visited Warsaw 25 years ago, in the summer of 1989. It was a different political world, but the Poles were warm, welcoming, and faithful to their Catholic roots then, too. At an open-air market I found colorful, wax-decorated eggs and some wooden ones that I am grateful to rediscover each Easter.

    My husband had the chance to celebrate Easter at an Orthodox monastery in Romania in 1996. The pictures and memories he has shared from that experience always underscore, like your post, how meaningful it can be to worship and celebrate across boundaries of all sorts.

    • KM–So coincidental: my first visit to Poland as a newlywed was about 25 years ago, too! It was quite a different world, as you say: the entire atmosphere was muted, although those colored eggs, yes! Splashes of brilliant tradition peeking through the grayness that hung over everything, as I recall. The Poles as people were and are gracious, elegant and welcoming, and it marked my mind then I wanted to return. Sooner than later.

      Your visit to the Romanian Eastern Orthodox monastery sounds just perfect, and is something I would try to do! Like you, I’m committed to worshipping and celebrating across boundaries, and it’s just this that has become a pattern in our travels, which has always enriched us.

      Thank you for adding so much to this conversation, km. I think we have a lot in common:).—M.

  2. What a wonderful variety of people! What was that Chopin sculpture about? It looks like a big bird putting its beak around his head. Sorry, but I really can’t figure out what it’s doing.

    Nancy

    • Nancy-

      You’ve asked a great question! Now I get to lecture. (Excuse this, everyone. Uh-hem…) The Chopin monument is one of the most famous sculptures in Polish culture, and is known as a landmark in Warsaw. Its creation was halted many times due to Tsarist whims and funding, but it was erected before WWI. Because it was so famous and beloved of the Poles, and because it depicted Frederic Chopin (who was no favorite of the Nazi leaders, particularly Hitler himself, who as everyone knows was a total Wagner-phile), it was one of the first things blown up when the Germans entered Warsaw. It was literally decimated.

      Luckily, the original moulds had been retained, and following the war (in the late 1950’s, I believe), it was recast and returned to its original location in Lazienki Park.

      And that thing that looks like a big pterodactyl beak bending over Chopin? 🙂 It’s a willow tree blowing in the romantic winds. (The curve is supposed to suggest Chopin’s own hands, which admirers said were lighter than air.)

      So there you have it! Great question, Nancy. For more info:

      http://chopin.um.warszawa.pl/miejsce/lazienki-park-frederic-chopin-monument

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