Dentist Halina Ciberowska and her husband Janusz, a renowned scientist, enjoyed a certain freedom of movement in the People‘s Republic of Poland, so in 1979, they were able to celebrate their 35th wedding anniversary in Japan. During their journey, these faithful Catholics paid a visit to the Franciscan Community in Nagasaki, where they made friends with Father Sergiusz, who also hailed from Poland. The three of them decided to attend Pope John Paul II’s upcoming first visit to Poland together. The Polish government had allowed the highly symbolic event despite the recommendation issued by the Soviet leader, Leonid Brezhnev. Not only did the Pope indirectly refer to Human Rights, but he also openly declared his solidarity for the striking dockers, calling out, “Solidarność“. The year 1979 was in many respects particularly special for Halina Ciberowska. She greatly enjoyed her stay in Nagasaki, particularly at the Franciscan Community. She was feeling as if newly in love at the time of her 35th wedding anniversary. And the Pope‘s visit was both a religious and a political highlight of the 70s for all Polish Catholics. Halina sensed the optimism people derived from it in a very direct manner in her job, because the dentist‘s chair often served as a confessional, where her patients spoke freely about their political opinions.
- The Pope’s visit
- The Pope‘s visit created great expectations. In this picture you can see Pope John Paul II flanked by his coat of arms on his left, the Polish coat of arms on his right, and St Peter‘s Church in the background. The text proclaims: “We may now experience what we have been longing for for so long.“
- Niepokalanów is a small town that was founded by the missionary and martyr Maximilian Kolbe, in the vicinity of Warsaw. Some time later, the Franciscan Minorite Kolbe and Father Sergiusz also founded a missionary convent in the vicinity of Nagasaki. In 1979, Father Sergiusz returned to Niepokalanów in order to attend the Pope‘s visit to Warsaw.
- Postcard Text
- "Niepokalanow, 29th March 1979 Dear Mister J. Ciborowski, I have finally arrived in my beloved Poland. If you wanted to, I could pay you a visit after Easter from the 20th of April 1979 onwards. I‘m staying until the 20th of June in Poland. A small Japanese missionary. Father Sergiusz (Nagasaki, Japan)"
- In 1930 Father Sergiusz and Maximilian Kolbe broke the ground to establish a Franciscan missionary community in the vicinity of Nagasaki. In 1979 the Ciberowskas met Father Sergiusz. The three of them soon agreed to attend the Pope‘s upcoming visit to Warsaw together.
Speech of Edward Gierek, the First Secretary of the Communist Party at the celebration for the 150th anniversary of Warsaw Polytechnic. Janusz Ciborowski, head of the faculty of chemical engineering, is sitting to the right, higher than the microphone.
Halina Ciborowska and her husband Janusz in Warsaw, in the 1970s. Thanks to Januz’s position as head of faculty at the University, Halina and he could enjoy the privileges reserved to members of the élite, e.g. access to rare goods like television sets, dining at expensive restaurants and visas for travel abroad.
Halina Ciborowska as a dentist in the 1970s. Since its foundation in 1952, the People’s Republic of Poland had a free healthcare system. Nevertheless, national health care was hampered by poorly maintained, out-dated equipment, and limited access to medical care and facilities. Although nominally open to all, access to social services was in fact limited by the availability of funds businesses could allocate for their workers.
Halina Ciborowska and a friend going for a walk in Świeradów, in 1981. Świeradów is a spa town located in south-western Poland and was a popular tourist destination.
Ciborowska with her husband, shortly after they came back from Japan. The occasion for their journey was an invitation that her husband received from the Japanese Ministry of Education to give a few lectures. Formal invitation from foreign institutions were one of the only ways it was possible to get a visa to travel abroad.