Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Agnieszka: A joy to behold

Good news?
Originally uploaded by Agnieszka.
I stumbled across this picture yesterday while visiting Flickr, and immediately fell in love with it. This is a young lady named Agnieszka, who lives in Poland. Through the message board on the Flickr site, I have exchanged some interesting and worthwhile correspondence with her, and she has graciously given me permission to post this wonderful snapshot on my blog. (Her English is excellent, by the way, which is good because I am entirely ignorant of Polish.)

This photograph of a young woman talking on her cellphone is simple both in concept and in execution, but if ever a picture truly spoke a thousand words, it was this one. Agnieszka told me she hesitated to post it on Flickr, believing it would simply become "one more boring self-portrait," as she put it. Instead, I regard it as a gift, and the reaction of others to this picture suggests that I am by no means alone in that belief. She exudes goodness, decency, and virtue, all of which are capped off by that zillion-megawatt smile. I was not at all surprised to learn, by the way, that Agnieszka is apparently deeply religious, and attends church regularly. Somehow, I was able to sense that just by looking at this picture, which provides a glimpse into her very soul. This should be enough to brighten up just about anyone's mood, be it ever so dour, which is why I wanted to share it with the people who are important to me.

This image provokes another thought as well. Agnieszka is 25 years old, which means she was born while Poland was still behind the Iron Curtain, but is not old enough to remember the 1979 visit of Pope John Paul II, the Solidarity movement, the Jaruszelski regime, or the threatened Soviet invasion that dominated the news back in 1980 and 1981. I've paid tribute in these cyber-pages to Pope John Paul and Ronald Reagan, in part for the role they each had in bringing down the Iron Curtain; and in this simple image of joy and goodness, we see -- in my view, at least -- a sort of microcosm of the fruit of their labors. This is not, after all, the image of someone who fears a midnight knock on her door by some shadowy secret-police organization.

I hope all of you enjoy this picture as much as I have. And as for Agnieszka, I hope she receives oodles of "good news" over the course of her lifetime, by cellphone or otherwise.

"Beato, anima bella, chi ti vede!"

-- Dante, Vita Nova XXIV.


Blogger Julie D. said...

She is adorable and it is that quality of happiness and liveliness that makes it come alive. Loved your reflections too ... very pertinent (to this Catholic, Reagan-lovin' gal anyway!)


5:07 PM  
Blogger JMichaelPaul said...

There is hope in her eyes.
Just perfect for a young person about to take on the world...
a world that is changing rapidly.

6:53 PM  
Blogger agni_m said...

First of all, thank you for all your kind comments about me! After such an introduction, I hardly know what to say ;) It feels great to know that my picture evokes such positive reactions. I didn't expect it :) I appreciate it that you thought it was good enough to post here, and that you contacted me first. Thank you!

As you said, I was born after Pope John Paul II's first Papal visit to his homeland (a month later, to be precise). Naturally, I don't remember it, but I've seen it so many times on TV and have heard so much about it that I feel as if I were there. By the way, I'm proud to say that I belong to what is referred to as 'John Paul II's generation' :)

What I *do* remember, though, is the final 10 years of the communist regime. These are a child's memories, but still. Of course, I wasn't afraid of the secret police, but I remember empty stores, no chocolate, no toys.. We had family abroad, which is the only reason why there was some colour in my childhood. I bet not many kids remember the first time they ate a banana - I do. I was nine, and the bananas were brought from Germany by a family friend.

I remember the first free elections in 1989 and the difficult transformation period that followed. As a matter of fact, the recent years have been even more difficult than the ones following the collapse of the regime, and it's still the aftermath of the 50 years of communism. Unemployment rates have reached 20% and still increase. People lose their jobs and have no chance of finding another. University graduates leave Poland to do menial jobs abroad for little money.

Now, I don't want it to seem like I'm complaining, or that I don't appreciate our freedom! Nothing of the kind. We don't take freedom for granted here. My point is that life in Poland has never been easy, and it still isn't, so don't let my joyous smile mislead you. The thing is that you can't postpone smiling till later, when better days come. What if they don't? You just have to count your blessings and smile, even if sometimes you smile through tears.

1:31 PM  
Blogger Garry Wilmore said...

Thank you for that touching comment. I'm sure some of my other contributors will be weighing in on it soon. I might add that your own introduction is far better than the one I gave.

I know enough about history and the world at large to be fully aware that Poland has a tragic history, and that life there has always been relentlessly difficult. I recall that Pope John Paul referred to Poland as a sort of typification of Christ, a status achieved as the result of its suffering. (I was going to refer to that fact in my post, but time did not allow me to say much more than I did.) I don't think any of us here in the United States can imagine having to wait until age 9 to have one's first banana. (I love them, and they tend to vanish quickly when my wife buys them at the store.) What I really meant to commend was your attitude, which clearly is healthy and positive. And you're right; we can't wait until better times come before we start smiling. (That's a lesson I had a hard time learning, by the way; for years I struggled with a pessimistic streak that I inherited from my mother, and it has only been in recent years that I have really begun to overcome it.)The best people I know are the ones who have somehow managed to find joy and happiness in the face of adversity, and I think what sets us apart is the way each of us deals with it.

I enjoyed this comment very much, and I predict that others will do the same. And my instinct tells me you will somehow manage to do very well with yourself in life. Meanwhile, you may count all of us as members of your cheering section!

And speaking for myself, you appear to be a worthy member of "John Paul's generation!"

1:57 PM  

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