THE CROSS & THE TOWEL
Part 1: The Problem of Leadership in the Church:
Embracing the Sword and the Shield
Chapter One: Adopting Secular Symbols of Leadership
(Excerpts from Chapter One)
I am a first generation American. My parents were Polish prisoners of war; Mom was held in a Siberian gulag and Dad in a German war camp. They didn’t know each other in Poland but they certainly had in common the pain and heartache of lost family and friends. When Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin made an agreement to evenly partition Poland in 1939, everyone in that wonderful historic country feared for their lives. My Jewish mother, twenty years of age and newly married, awakened one morning to the sound of barrage of rifles banging on the front door for entry. My mother, all 4’11” of her, opened the door to six Soviet soldiers screaming obscenities at her and wanting to find her husband. Before she could answer, they knocked her down and began their search through the farm house. Not finding her husband at home, the soldiers divided into groups; some stayed to interrogate my mother, others searched the barn and fields.
Beaten and violated, Maria Klimczuk honestly did not know where her husband was hiding. Their marriage had been arranged. Josef Klimczuk, twice my mom’s age and a widower, was not inclined to share his business or schedule with her. Confident that my mother knew nothing, the Russian soldiers left her body bruised and spirit broken. Her tear-stained face was only one symbol of the humiliation that she suffered that morning.
Josef was a wealthy landowner and a person of influence in the tiny village surrounding Torczyn. Within minutes of the Russian soldiers leaving their home, my mother heard screams. The shouting was first in Polish, then in Russian; and then, there was silence. My mother was barely able to lift herself to the window to see her husband leave in the custody of the Soviet soldiers. She would never see him again. One week later, there came another knock on the front door by the Soviets soldiers. This time, it was my mother that they seized; they gave her a one-way cattle train ticket to Siberia.
The two symbols of Soviet leadership were similar to those of the Roman Empire in the time of Jesus - the sword and the shield. They acquired power (the sword) through the brutal means of their military might and protected their power (the shield) through their Gestapo equivalent, the NKVD. In between the acquiring and the protecting of power, the propaganda of the Soviet regime under Joseph Stalin was in full force to justify their actions. Stalin used his governmental internal security, the NKVD, to eliminate all the real and perceived enemies in Poland. The Soviets arrested, deported, and executed hundreds of thousands of Poles simply because they had the power to do so. The sword and the shield always come with false promises of peace and safety. The Roman Empire promised the first century Palestinian PAX ROMANA if they complied; the Soviets justified their actions with a summons and a statement to the Polish Ambassador to the U.S.S.R.
On September 17, 1939, at 2:15 a.m., Ambassador Waclaw Grzybowski was told by Kremlin officials that they believed the Polish government had disintegrated due to the Nazi invasion of western Poland sixteen days earlier. In essence, according to the Russians, the Polish government no longer existed. According to the Soviets, the Polish people were without leadership and they, the Soviets, were there to help them live a peaceful life (Polish White Book, pp. 189-190). The Polish government and their people saw it as a betrayal of the non-aggression pact between the Soviet Republic and Poland that was made in 1932 (ibid, -. 187). Over the course of the War, the bloodiest battles were held in eastern Poland between the two aggressors. Using a sharper sword and a stronger shield, Nazi Germany eventually made significant inroads into the Soviet held territory of Poland. The Nazi “acts of protection and words of peace” killed three million Polish Jews and tens of thousands more Catholics by the end of World War II.