With two students in their midst who count Polish as their first language, Bus 10 pilgrims have had an insight into the response of local people to the hundreds of thousands of pilgrims who have come to visit their home for World Youth Day week prayer and events.
The language advantage has also helped at the airport in Warsaw, when a Youth Ambassador for the group’s luggage got lost in transit, and when people have needed directions or chemist medicines to navigate the next few days safe and well.
Fellow Bus 10 group members count Freeman Catholic College Bonnyrigg Heights Year 10 student Michael Letner and St John Bosco College Engadine Year 10 student Jade Banach as a blessing.
Both have so far enjoyed their time in Krakow after their Florence to Rome pilgrimage, with stops in Siena and Assisi.
“It’s been interesting to return home and have a chance to catch up with all the people here in my own language,” Michael said. “It’s a new experience. Both my parents were born in Krakow.
Michael said he had enjoyed the Mercy Walk.
“It was interesting,” he said. “Very, very beautiful inside the church. Probably the papal Mass is the thing I am looking forward to the most. My sister was at World Youth Day ’08 in Sydney. She said to make the most of the experience and get involved in everything.”
“I’ve talked to a lot of Polish people. They love it [World Youth Day] because normally it would be a lot more quiet around here. They say that it is different for them to see so many people around her from different cultures and of different backgrounds.”
Wherever you walk there is a sense of history.
Michael said the best thing about the Polish culture was the religion, with about 92 per cent of nationals identifying as Catholic, though there has been a lot in the country’s history to test their faith.
“It has managed to survive hundreds of years no matter what has happened – World War I, World War II, civil wars,” Michael said.
Jade said she loved being able to identify with her family’s culture.
“I’m so proud that this is where my background is and my whole family,” she said. “Within this week and Poland so far, just meeting the people and talking, sharing stories and interests, and just being welcomed by everyone, especially the Polish people the atmosphere has been a real highlight.
“They ask us how long did it take us to get here, ‘Why are you here?’, ‘Are you enjoying it?’, ‘Do you love Poland?’, and they are welcoming us most of the time because they love Australians.
“The main difference between Poland and Australia is that here you feel like there is more history to the places as you walk around; In Rome and in Italy as well. Wherever you walk there is a sense of history.
“Australia and European countries are both extremely friendly, but the difference has been more cultured around the streets. In Australia we’re pretty multicultural, so to see that one culture expanding all throughout the place is different.”
So what will be the next highlight? “Definitely meeting the Pope. That’s going to be a strike of emotion.”