A Pilgrimage to Jasna Góra

Letter From Poland

Three Polish nuns, wearing traditional robes and habits, stand in a circle, studying their train schedule.  Little sleep and the absence of coffee on the night train from Berlin contribute to my slow reasoning.  “Can you direct me to the platform for Cze? stochowa?” I inquire.  The eldest nun points to a platform, and then to her watch.  They, too, are on pilgrimage to the shrine at Jasna Góra (Shining Mountain).  A believer might conclude that Providence allowed a lost pilgrim to cross their path.  Today, however, most would say that it was coincidence, good fortune, or luck.

I have just returned from a trip to Berlin, where I was reminded that the conservative movement has its own shrines and relics commemorating the former Soviet Union’s collapse.  These include the Ministerium fur Statessicherheit (the ex-headquarters of the Stasi, the East German secret police); the last section of the Berlin Wall on the Bernauer Strasse; and the shuttered embassy of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, one block off the Unter den Linden, all in the former German Democratic Republic.  A relic—Lenin’s visage—is still visible on the latter’s exterior.  Another, Lenin’s death mask, can be seen on a desk in ex-Stasi chief Erich Mielke’s office, along with a portrait of the late chekist Felix Dzerzhinsky.  While these are not...

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