Visiting the United States of America

Here is another story taken from my life. This one follows from the "Leaving Poland" part and follows through until we came back from the USA. This may be liked by those who are Catholic at heart.

The work of a holy man is never lost. However, a great deal of effort is needed before such work is noticed. The more sophisticated the work the bigger the worry of failing before the completion.

We, Moshe Szweizer and Rivka Schlagbaum, the authors of this article, would like to share some observations with the readers. Our notes are related to the notion of holiness among the lay Catholics. From the time of the Second Vatican Council, such holiness has been presented as accessible and appropriate to any Catholic who wishes to come closer to God. We embarked on that route, and now we would like to share our observations with the readers.

Our choice was not conscious. Rather, many years ago we were moved by life circumstances, and the great desire to find peace in God. Most importantly, we found ourselves in the situation similar to that of Joseph and Mary who had to leave the country of their birth in order to escape persecution. Likewise, we had to leave Poland more than twenty years ago, so to save ourselves from the looming doom.

We tried to pray at that time, but our prayers were very simple. We also tried to read Holy Scriptures, but our understanding of them was superficial. However, we felt very strongly that the time has come for us to go, and not to look back. Where we were going, we did not know. We were like Abraham in that we were gambling with our future. This is a special form of faith provided to some.
We arrived in Italy, and applied for immigration assistance. They had camps for people like us in there, and there were special organizations working with the emigrants to assist them with resettlement. They would choose a country for us, and they would arrange for interviews and the like. We spend two months in the camp and four in Rome in one of the hotels rented by United Nations for the people like us.

In Rome, we entered the four great basilicas through the doors, which open every twenty-five years. We visited the Pope and later on went to confession. This was required in order to receive the total absolution. We needed that.
We were told that our country of destination was New Zealand. We went to the consulate to look at the albums about the country of our future. Before that, we did not know anything about that place. That was the manner in which we gambled with our lives.
When we arrived in New Zealand, we have learned about our sponsor. A sponsor is a person who takes upon himself the responsibility of assisting the newly arriving people with settlement. We had been told that our sponsor was a Polish priest. When we were being sent to New Zealand, he was being reassigned to South Africa. We have never met him.

Instead, a head of Polish society in Wellington met us at the airport. He explained the problem with the sponsor, and informed us about the place he arranged for us. That was with the Good Shepherd Sisters in Lower Hut. They would give us the logging until we find some other place. We thought we needed to learn the local language.

Surely, we were praying and hoping. We even had dreams related to our situation. Most of all, we were terrified, as we felt that we have found ourselves in deep water with very limited abilities to swim. There was a dream, in which we were informed of incoming test. The test came very shortly. One of us was requested to work at a local factory. We wanted to learn English and to enroll at the university. We wanted to study. We lost our unemployment benefit. One of the sisters, who was with us at the time, cried for us.
The sisters gave us some cleaning work. Some Catholic friends allowed us to clean their office. We were able to go to school and to study the language. We had cabbage for dinner. After some time the sisters could not keep us any more. There was a Polish lady who wanted to go on a trip to Europe and North Africa. She allowed us to stay in her house during that time. We were to pay her the rent when she was to return after another two months.

One of the Catholics in Wellington allowed us to clean his factory one day per week. We could stay in that house and have something to eat. Throughout all of this time, we studied English. Before the Polish lady came back, we went back to the man who took our benefit away. He restored it and even gave us some allowance so that we could enroll at the university. We passed our exam. Our nerves were shuttered.

Thus, we became students. We learned and cleaned during the holidays. We stayed in a student hostel. We were provided with everything needed to finish our studies.

After finishing the studies, everything changed. We could not find work and could not effort accommodation. At the end of our search for a place to stay, Wellington City Council provided us with a flat. It was our responsibility to furnish it. There was a concrete floor, and not a single item of furniture in the flat. We stayed there for eight months. Sleeping on the floor like campers. That was the time of our religious strengthening.

We believe in poverty. Our motto is: “You are not to be hungry, you are to be poor”. This is how we understand St. Francis. We have never been hungry, even at the time when we chose cabbage as the main ingredient of our cuisine.
When we stayed in that City Council flat we had no furniture. We were very poor but not hungry. We made sure to attend the holy mass every day and to receive the Holy Communion while doing so. We would also go to confession twice a week. We prayed a lot, but we did not have any requests. We lived in poverty without wanting anything. The main thing is not to be wanting.
In the same apartment building we met another emigrant from Poland. She was a single lady, older than us. She came from southern Poland in the fifties. She worked as a nurse in a hospital in Wellington until she had an accident. She had dislocated her spine. That brought her a lot of suffering.

We visited her often, and she would tell us the story of her life. She had a brother in Poland. When still there she helped him to become a Cistercian Monk. She bought the necessary clothing so he could be accepted. Thus, she had a brother who was a brother. He is stationed in “Jasna Góra”. This is the most important Polish shrine. The monastery is in the old fort located in Częstochowa, where the famous icon of the Black Madonna is kept. One of us had visited that shrine while still in Poland and saw the famous painting. How surprised we were when our friend told us that the painting displayed in Poland is just a copy. The original is kept in an underground place, where only the Cistercian monks have access to it. It is never brought outside as deemed too valuable to be endangered in this manner. How speechless we were when she showed us a photocopy of a photograph of the original painting. It was an A4 size page with the face so beautiful that we were unable to describe it. The woman on the painting looked like a child less than fourteen years of age. Her looks full of divine charm.

Most importantly the painting did not resemble any icons that we had known. The icons are stylistically incorrect. That painting was like a true likeness painted by one of the great masters of Renaissance era. We thought that Leonardo, if he had a really good day, maybe could rise to such level of perfection and beauty.

Thus, we stayed in our little flat. With bare concrete floors, no furniture at all, and with the photocopy of the Black Madonna fixed to the wall in front of our sleeping place. We prayed to the Madonna and to St. Joseph, and we were accepted by one of American universities. We have received a stipend and were going up there to do a Ph.D. in physics. A friend of us provided us with some temporary employment while building his shed, so that we could save some money for the tickets. Another of our trials was over.
We went to America and completed their coursework. We passed their exams but did not write the theses. We decided to come back. The place was not for us to stay. When we came back we started to work on our theses. This was not to be in physics, but rather in the subject of our main interest. The subject of our work was to be related to our prayers.

There is a reoccurring theme in our lives. We tend to leave everything behind and to go into some unknown place. We have done it at least four times already. We would give away all of our belongings. We would wear just the basic clothing, and would keep a small backpack on our shoulders. The backpack would contain our documents and otherwise it would be almost empty. Then, we would buy the tickets to another city or another country and we would go there. When we arrive, we do not know where to go, and we do not have the money to go there. This is supposed to be some form of faith.

This form of behaving also strengthens our faith. “God will provide” is the old saying. When we arrive God provides some form of accommodation, but most importantly, God strengthens the Spirit that is within us.

When we returned from America, the Spirit began to manifest herself in an open manner. This manifestation was so clear and direct, that we felt the interaction through conscious observation. We decided to write about that, or at least about the information that the Spirit was providing to us.

Again, after traveling through another faithful challenge we arrived in Auckland. When we were to write our text a highly paid employment has been provided as well. This was only to be dropped so that we could concentrate on the completion of our work. At this stage however we had our furniture, and most importantly an inexpensive computer, so that it would be possible to write a book. In that work we wanted to describe the power that brought us to such a place.