In 1991, I left the United States for an extended tour of Europe which lead to almost five years in Poland. In that first summer, with the Berlin Wall barely dismantled, I found my way, without a guidebook or plan, to Krakow and hooked up with a 20,000 person pilgrimage to Jasna Gora in Czestochowa.
The Pope, a native of Poland, was returning home for the first time after the Soviets had pulled out of Eastern Europe since 1945, and he had invited young people from around the world to meet him at the spiritual center of his homeland, the Shrine of the Black Madonna.
Over one million accepted his invitation.
Through my Polish boss' wife's colleage's daughter's boyfriend's parents, I had a place to stay. They also gave me two tickets, which, it turns out, gave me access to the stage where John Paul II would be speaking to the throng of backpacking kids and enthusiastic fans below.
I will never do justice to the dark, tangled, magnificient pagant that unfolded before me (even though I spent four years trying to do just that in words, paints and prints).
I will miss the man who electrified so many young people, even when his body, frozen by Parkinson's, was not able to communicate the spirit inside of him.
Rest in Peace, Karol Wojtyla, and my you be lifted up on eagles' wings.
(see more etchings and linocuts inspired by four pilgrimages to Czestochowa between 1991-1995)