During the summer I had the privilege of attending the World Youth Day in Krakow, Poland with my two friends, Maria and Ana and a Spanish parish, which included 200 young people, who were getting together to share their faith with people their age. It lasted for a week and it was such a rich life experience!
In the hot midday of the 27th of July we travelled from Madrid to Berlin, where some of us had the privilege of sleeping at the Cathedral in our sleeping bags on the floor, while the others had comfy beds in the City Hostel. The following morning we started making our journey to Poland which apparently took six hours drive to Czestochowa, (where the Black Madonna from Poland is) but in fact took us around ten hours, and we were all very tired.
On the 29th we had a long journey to Jordanów, a small town near Krakow. When we were in Jordanów we were assigned to a Polish family where we would be staying. Whereas nearly all of the others in the group had a family who understood English or Spanish, our Polish Mother didn’t understand one word in English or Spanish. It was a great experience, as we had to try to make ourselves understood through the use of gestures, trying to pronounce some Polish words or even trying a Polish accent!
Sadly, since we were a very big group and it was not easy to get everyone organised, we arrived late to some events. One evening, we tried arriving at the Stations of the Cross with the Pope but we didn’t make it in time. Very late that same evening, we arrived back to our Polish home, hoping to go straight to bed, but that wasn’t the case… Since our Polish wasn’t great, our Polish Mother didn’t quite understand we had already had some dinner and that we were so tired we only wanted to go to bed. We had our second dinner, with some quirky Polish food!
The following morning was the big day – the Vigil Mass with the Pope. We woke up very excited and curious. Curious for what our Polish mother was going to give us for breakfast and excited for the big day we had ahead of ourselves, we were going to see the Pope!! Our Polish mother surprised us with some typical Polish vegetable jelly which consisted of chicken, peas, carrots and eggs. Also included was the previous night’s leftover sausages and meats and also boiled egg with cream. As we made our way to the camp where we would be sleeping that night, we could feel the heat of the summer day on the tops of our heads. We were told that we only had to walk for two hours – which actually ended up being 5 hours under very hot conditions – but that didn’t bring us down as we were all cheerful and met groups from other countries passing and singing songs about their country. Not only were the other young people kind but the Polish families whose houses we passed were spraying us with water to cool us down and providing us with food and drink. It was such a nice atmosphere and everyone was so happy.
We arrived at the spot where we were going to sleep and organised ourselves. When the Pope arrived everyone was cheering him and it was wonderful to see. Unfortunately we couldn’t quite hear him as we were far away from the altar and there were 2 million young people around us! During the vigil the volunteers handed out candles and it was an incredible sight when they were all lit. The Pope then prayed with us. I was a bit terrified about sleeping outside, especially as one of the boys from my group said he saw a snake a few meters away from where we were!
The following day we woke up quite early with the sun shining. We patiently waited for the Pope to come back to celebrate the Mass at 11am. Luckily I got to see him in his Popemobile as he passed quite close to where we were. Everyone was screaming “Esta es la juventud del Papa” (this is the Pope’s youth). During the Mass, Pope Francis told us not to be afraid of being ourselves. He said that today with all the technology and social media, we are constantly comparing ourselves to one another, and that we shouldn’t! He said we should try to be the best version of ourselves; to be the best Ines I can be, the best Ana, Sofia, Maria, I can be. To look at all the good things we have and make them grow, whilst, at the same time, accepting our limitations. I would like to say that this has been a great life experience and I realised just how privileged I am to have been on such a journey. In particular, I will cherish those 2 nights I shared with my Polish Mother, whom provided us with two dinners, one lunch and three breakfasts, all in which we were given the same food. At that moment I might have complained, but now looking back, I realise that this woman used the little money she had to spoil us with some typical Polish food. Having the same food for all meals made me realise how little she had and how lucky I am that I can have different types of food at home. This woman ate until there was nothing left, showing me how sometimes we take food for granted when we throw it away.
In addition it was a trip where I could build on the friendships I have and I got to meet some amazing young people, all sharing our love for God from all over the world.
Ines – Deputy Head Girl