For five years my life was related with the John Paul II Foundation and the John Paul II Catholic University in Lublin. I’m very happy that through my memories I can express my gratitude for a vast help received from the John Paul II Foundation that I valued and still value a lot.
The John Paul II Foundation gave me the ability to study at KUL. I’m from Kazakhstan, from a small village called Wiszniowka, were most of the people are Polish. For a long time I dreamed about studying in Poland; since the time when my friend from the same village was accepted to KUL to study pedagogy. She and her cousin told me about the Foundation. Before that, in Kazakhstan, I met a warm-hearted and helpful newly employed teacher of Polish language, Larisa Gorska. Larisa’s sister received a stipend from the John Paul II Foundation. Thanks to her help, without any difficulties, I prepared all necessary documents and sent it to Lublin.
I thought at that time, that it must be the God’s finger, as it went so well. Graduating from the high school in Wiszniowka, I was not sure how everything will go. I graduated with excellent results and my grades could get me to study medicine. However, two weeks earlier, I got an invitation from the John Paul II Foundation to attend preparatory and qualification course that played a major role in the stipend award selection.
I decided to confront the unknown future and attend the course having in mind that I can lose my chance to study in Kazakhstan as the academic year starts on September 1st, while the course was going on through half of August and the entire September. In case, I would not receive the stipend award, I would have to go back home and after a year again take the high school exam. My father supported my decision; my mother on the other hand, at first was concerned about our separation, but at the end gave her blessings.
As I couldn’t pass the border by myself at the age of 17, my father for the first time in his life went to Poland with me. It was not easy to say good-by and stay by myself in a foreign place, far away from home. I think that my unawareness of all the obstacles waiting for me in the future as well as my hope for the success helped me a lot.
The first day at the Foundation’s home in Lublin went on meetings with my new friends from various countries: Belarus, Ukraine, Lithuania, Latvia and Turkmenistan. From the next day, our Polish, biology, and English classes started. Our teachers with a great intuition and individual approach conducted classes. Ms. Dr Ewa Dogmała-Zyśk, Ms. Dr hab. Beata Obsulewicz knew how to hand down their knowledge, encourage studying and consequently require our good behavior. It seemed that we had a lot to learn. However, in reality, it was only a forth saying of the studies at the University. It was very difficult time as I went through the course very emotionally. I was afraid that I will not get the stipend award; that would ruin my dreams and hopes. The course was attended by 40 individuals and only 21 of them received the stipend award.
I was so happy to get the stipend award; my family was less happy as it meant a long separation.
At the day of the stipend award announcement, during the Mass, Rev. Dr. Ryszard Krupa in his welcome speech referred to the Biblical story about talents. This topic was well tied to the entire time of my studies. Studies gave a great chance to learn about our talents, to develop our interest and to shape our plans for the future. It was a speech that encouraged us to face all problems that appeared during the 5-years of study.
The beginning is always difficult. This “old true” turned out to be very accurate. Our study schedule was filled out completely. Our classes were starting at 7:30 a.m. and were going on until 8:00 p.m. with some breaks. Study was conducted with a totally different manners and I could not easily adjust myself to this new routine. I had some language difficulties. Professors were going through a lot of materials and we had a lot of homework, so I was spending my time reading and studying. Fortunately, the Christmas break was approaching and I was able to go home for a visit. At home-the safest place on Earth - I was able to relax and get my strength for the return. An easy session was waiting for me. The next six months; however, were more painful. I barely made it to the last exam. My last exam was at 7:30 a.m. and I took my suitcase with me to be able to get my train at 9:00 a.m. and go home. Usually, I had to travel for 3 days to get home.
At the summer time, I was regaining strength while physically working at home or in our garden. From the first year, at the summer time, I had the only chance to help my parents who work hard every day. Beside the 8 hours of their regular work, they needed to take care of the farm and garden to be able to have some food. Salary sometimes is not paid for 6 months or more. With this awareness, I was returning to Lublin to work for a better future for my family and myself.
In September, I was saying good-bye to my family to continue my studies in Lublin. Since I left home and started my education at KUL, I share with my family quality time during my short visits. In the second year, the farewells and welcomes were easier. I already made some friends who were helping me, I knew the city, and I made some new friendships with Polish families.
The 2007 summer vacations are very memorable to me as I got a great present from the Foundation – a pilgrim to France. My dream came true. Only the students from the 5th and 4th year were able to go. Only four seats were available for the students from the 3rd year. Taking my chances in the lottery, my fate “smiled” to me and I was able to go with them! Up to this day, I’m so happy with this journey. We were visiting Remis, Paris, Lisieux, and Lourdes. We got a chance to meet Ms. Krystyna Tomkiewicz and her husband, Mr. Henryk Rogowski, Mr. Jan Konieczny, who was our tour guide during our visit in Paris and many others friends from the John Paul II Foundation. The entire pilgrim was organized by Rev. Msgr Stanisław Jeż, Rector of the Polish Catholic Mission in France.
The third year on the University was also very busy. The satisfaction after all sessions was huge as a trip to Germany was waiting for us. We were sightseeing the beautiful resort areas in the southern part of Germany as well as the magnificent cathedrals in Strasbourg, Worms, Mainz, and Cologne.
The fourth and fifth year at the University was very pleasant. I was able to take extra classes in which I was interested in, e.g. monographic. Professor Stanisława Tucholska was my chancellor. The Master degree sessions under her leadership were not only interesting, but also inspiring and encouraging to write the thesis. Thanks to her care, during every stage of our preparation to the master degree thesis, the defense of the thesis was not a problem. During the 4th and 5th year of my studies, I was able to spare my free time for a voluntary work at the Psychiatric Clinic of the Medical Academy in Lublin.
After the 4th year, the Foundation was organizing for all stipend award recipients, a next trip into one place in the world - Italy. Commonly known maxim states that journeys educate; therefore, my memories from the University will inseparably tie to all unforgettable pilgrims. This “above the standard curriculum” education was offered to us thanks to the kindness of all the benefactors. We had a chance to meet Rev. Prelate Wylężek, the former Foundation’s Administrator. During the evening meeting at John Paul II Polish Home at via Cassia, he was talking and explained that the main goal of the stipend awards is to teach all of the awardees to catch fishes and not to provide fishes that were already caught. I also still remember our meeting with Archbishop Wesoły at Polish Church. Based on the name, it is easy to guess that it was very joyful and hospitable evening. We were staying at the Polish Home and Rev. Niepsuj was our guardian. All the days of our pilgrim were memorable. That was a wonderful pilgrim.
The time passed by and the graduation day was approaching very quickly. In my life, June 16th, 2010 is very important; this is the day when I received the master degree in psychology. The time for my farewell to KUL and Foundation came and this is the time to sail out into the world. I’m very happy that I am the alumna of KUL; however, I also feel sadness that my time at KUL came to the end. Five years, that’s not a small part of life; therefore, I will always feel sentimental to Alma Mater. Now my vocation is to work with a dignity, as that’s was what we were prepared for.
John Paul II had a great heart. A person dies, but the footprints will stay forever. The former Pope left vast heritage that also includes the Foundation that was established to help students from the East. Stipend recipients have a chance to treasure Him in our memories as we had a chance to study, but most of all we had a chance to meet many wonderful individuals who are following John Paul II steps and provide donations to the Foundation. I would like to express thanks from the bottom of my heart that my friends from various parts of the former Soviet Union and I were able to see and experience the generosity of these individuals.
We would like to give our sincere thank you to the Director Rev. Ryszard Krupa for His open attitude full of paternal consideration and understanding. I’m very thankful to Vice Director Rev. Włodzimierz Płatek for His involvement and help in various matters. We are very thankful to all the Priests of the Sacred Heart in Poland and abroad for their good hearts that we experienced so many times. Thank you to all the Foundation’s employees who are taking care of the Polish House. I’m sending my sincere greetings to all the stipend awardees that I had a chance to meet and all my friends. I welcome new students that will begin their classes in October.
I think that every stipend recipient is like a grateful “small brick” that is used to build a monument for John Paul II and is planting the seeds full of kindness and love under our sun.
Valentina Fedorovich from Kazakhstan