The greatest Polish element for the citizens is a forest called by the name of John Paul II, Bosque Polones Papa Joao Paulo II. It was the area which was specially prepared for the first visit of Holy Father to Brazil. The place is frequently visited by the inhabitants of Curitiba, they organize many parties on special occasions there, including most of the national and church feasts that are connected with Polish history. The park is one of many attractions of Curitiba. The head of this area is a Polish woman, Danuta Lisiecki de Abreu, who has lived there since the beginning of 50s. She was born in Vilnius, then the fate forced her and her family to move to Zaolzie. During the occupation, she moved to Soviet concentration camp with her father. After the uprising of the General Anders she joined the army and went through war trail. After the war, she had no place to go, neither Vilnius, nor Zaolzie belonged to Poland. She was aware that, at best, she would go to prison. She decided to move to England for a couple of years to later again migrate beyond the great water. Mrs Danuta is very committed to her work. Showing the park to the newcomers gives her lots of satisfaction. It can be easily noticed that Bosque do Papa Joao Paulo II is her entire life. She shows me everything there. Between the araucaria trees with spreading umbrella-shaped branches at the top stand a few wooden houses of 19th century, brought from the area of the state of Parana, where old Polish settles once used to live. The first house functions as a gift shop with local souvenirs connected with Poland, mainly handicrafts. There are, for instance, tiny figurines of Virgin Mary, made in pinecone. However, most of the items were imported from Poland. It is not hard to find here colourful Easter eggs, wooden caskets, dolls wearing regional costumes, emblems of cities, tablecloths, rugs, etc. The second house is full of furniture, tools, house equipment, paintings, and a couple of photographs presenting the history of Polish settlers in Parana. Finally, I reach the most important cottage, where Pope stayed in 1980. During his visit here, the house was located on “Couto Pereria” stadium, where during a Mass, thousands of believers gathered. Later, it was moved to the park, where is functions as a chapel. There is a wooden cross in front of it. In the altar, there is the blessed painting of Black Madonna with an embroidery with the same image right next to it, which was specially ordered and crafted in Częstochowa. This original work of Polish artists evokes great interest among Brazilians. I found the sculpture of Jesus Christ, which was carved for Pope’s visit in Curitiba and given to its inhabitants. In front of the other houses, there are wooden horse carts, brought by Polish emigrants or made by them in Parana. Some of them have ladder-shaped sides, one of them has fully wooden wheels. It is a very exotic view for Brazilians.

Now it is time to admire Polish monuments. Just before visiting the park of John Paul II, I heard a lot of his monument, though the opinions were rather negative. It is the first statue of John Paul II that was built in Brazil, and it was unveiled on 16th of October 1981. So far, I have seen many moments of the Pope in all continents, representing various levels and most of them arouses admiration. This one, however, can be classified as mistake. The image of John Paul II does not correspond to the profile I remember. Priest Benedykt Grzymkowski mentioned that when he told the Pope about the negative reaction to his sculpture, he laughed, saying that not everyone has to like it. Luckily, with no difficulties I can recognize the sculpture of Nicolaus Copernicus, which was brought here from the city centre in 1995 and renovated. The monument was a gift from the city of Toruń on 20th anniversary of People’s Republic of Poland. At the beginning it was situated on the Polish Square. Today, the restored socle has the plaque dedicated to Polish ex-president, Lech Wałęsa, a man who is the symbol of fall of communism in Europe, who has also visited Curitiba. He is a very important and respected man in Brazil. He is so famous, that it is even possible to find vodka named after his surname “Walesa” in Brazilian shops.

After leaving the park I reach another fascinating place with a futuristic and originally shaped Museum of Modern Art. The enormous building, which is visible from far, has the shape of an eye and its height reaches 21 m. Like most of the buildings designed by the famous Brazilian architect, Oscar Niemeyer, it is surrounded by water. It was opened in 2002, while its designer had 95 years and was still an active worker.

Time for visiting another Polish organization. I head again towards the centre. This time I walk along the old and narrow streets. They are so narrow, that they were excluded from the vehicular traffic and changed for pedestrian zone. I reach the seat of another Polish-Brazilian Association named after Marshal Józef Piłsudski. In front of the building there are two cars, both with local registration, but both having a white-and-red stickers and Polish emblems. I am guided by an Italian, who admits he feels more as a Pole than Italian. I cannot figure where his enthusiasm towards our country comes from. Anyway, he knows every detail of the Association. The building looks neglected, the roof is being renovated, but one week earlier, there was a very successful meeting of Poles with Andżelika Borys. Many of our compatriots came to the meeting, the discussion was very interesting, wondering in what way could they help to our compatriots living in Belarus. The most surprising were the inconspicuously-looking storehouses, which at the first sight looked very small, but when I saw what is inside, I was shocked. I have never seen so many folk costumes: various boots and shoes, dresses,  jackets, trousers, hats, etc. They probably come from all regions in Poland and they are the property of Polish Folk Dance Group “Wisła” from Parana, which is the successor of Polish Folk Group from Parana, founded in 1928 by Tadeusz Morozowicz. The members of the group are very active, it happens that around 140 people come to rehearsals. Among them, there are both the seniors and younger children, aged 3 or 4. Their performances are very colourful, characterised by lively dance, beautiful costumes and harmonious music. They are watched by a big number of people. Last year, during the XV International Festival of Polish Folk Dance in Rzeszów, “Wisła” won the hearts of the audience. The team is also very famous in Curitiba and their shows are organized on the stages of the best theatres. Both Poles and Brazilians, including young people, come to watch it. The next rehearsal will be in two days, on Sunday, because most of the members work or go to school during the week.

In the end of another eventful day spent in Curitiba, it is good to relax, to think, to sum up the whole day and drink a delicious Brazilian coffee in one of several parks. The choice is pretty difficult, but I finally decide to go to Parque das Pefreiras, located in the outskirts of Curitiba, where one can also visit the Wire Opera House. It is very famous among the residents of Curitiba, but I admit with shame that I have never heard of Opera de Arame. What I saw was breathtaking. Ultra modern architecture of the building, which was established 20 years ago, merged into the walls of old quarry, all surrounded by lush and diversified greenery, and water. In the pond swam many species of colorful fish, but I can only recognize carps and turtles. The entrance way runs through wire bridges. On the sides there are steep rock walls with a waterfall flowing down from few-metres height and it is all surrounded by many different, colourful and fragrant flowers. The building itself is very fascinating, latticework. The construction is made of steel tubes. From the outside through a polycarbonate roof the huge stage is visible. It has 400 m2 and 2,400 seating places situated like in amphitheatre. There  is no similar Opera House in the world. The unusual, friendly atmosphere allows for a moment of reflexion. A nice end of the day.

Getting to know more city charms, I again head towards one of the many parks in Curitiba. The statistics show that there are 50 m2 of green areas per 1 inhabitant. As far as I know, it is the world record, I have never heard of a similar rate in other city. The Botanical Garden, which is kept in French style and which was opened in 1991, is one of the city symbols. It is very intriguing that the city symbols were mostly built 20-30 years ago. When sightseeing, we usually search for the oldest elements connected with the creation of the city. In Curitiba, it is the other way round.

Apart from the botanical gardens that are typical to this climatic zone, you can admire beautiful fountains, small waterfalls, ponds and sculptures. I am fascinated by the monument of a very famous Polish sculptor in Brazil, Jan Żak, or in Portuguese Joao Zaco Parana. A big statue of a mother holding her child in arms, “Maternal Love”, or “Amor Materno” in Portuguese. It is a copy of a statue, which was created in 1907, situated in Rio de Janeiro in Botofago district in front of the Child Care Institute. The sculpture is very impressive. The water pouring over the statue, the blue sky, greenery, colourful flowers, butterflies and birds intensify the effect. In the horizon, you can notice the greenhouse, whose construction reminds that of Wire Opera House. It is a view that cannot be easily forgotten. In addition, there is the satisfaction that it is a creation of a Polish man. The sculpture of Maternal Love was situated in the Botanical Garden 2 years after it was established, namely on 9th of May 1993. On the pedestal it is written that it was a gift from Polish community to all mothers of Parana state, who give birth to a new life, new spirit to the three-hundred years old Curitiba.

The second famous statue of Joao Zaco, “Sower”, is located in the centre of Curitiba, where the sculptor comes from, on Praca E. Correia Street, in front of the seat of City Council and nearby the university. The monument was unveiled on 15th of February 1925. It was a gift from Polish settlers to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Brazilian independence. The bust sculpture of Joao Zaco is situated in the same square. It was unveiled in 1994, the 100th anniversary of his birthday.

It is worth spending one day on a trip in search for traces of first Polish settlers and pass the route leading from the Parangua port to Curitiba. There are two, both equally interesting, ways of passing it. You can go by car or by railway, though the best option would be joining the two. From Curitiba, you can drive a car along the road called Estrada da Graciosa and you can enjoy the wonderful panorama of the mountains and the views of bays, beaches and ports. Going back by train, which goes up to 934 m beyond the sea level, is also satisfying. The route cannot be compared to the highest railway in Peru, constructed by our compatriot, Ernest Malinowski, but the emotions during the journey are high. The travel lasts more than 3 hours. In the most interesting places, the train stops, so that the tourists have the opportunity of taking beautiful photos. Another attractions are stops at in-between stations, as many merchants come and offer their goods: fruit, juices and various drinks, and sweets. The route goes through 13 tunnels and 67 bridges and viaducts. The greatest experience is waiting in the halfway, when the train gets on a narrow rock slope and it looks as if the train was sticking to mountain on one side, and on the other you could see nothing but precipice.


Photos © Jarosław Fischbach


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