19 October 2000

It was time to depart Kamiensk, and rejoin the bulk of his party that had remained behind at Góra Kalwaria, near Warsaw.

Maks was travelling as “Captain Młynarski.” And his men were wearing Polish civilian clothes. There were too many Soviets in the vicinity to be seen as Americans.

They had a UAZ with a full tank of alcohol. They’d travel on the highways for the most part to conserve fuel, and at night.

map - local area

Party’s path in green.

Beyond Piotrków, the group encountered a large group encamped next to the highway. It was a pilgrimage.

Dozens of travelers, from all walks of life. All were Polish, except one.

Jean-Jacques Durand – French journalist

Motivation cards: Hearts 6&10 – Sociable + Sociable = Extremely sociable I’d reckon.

Records everything in journals. Accompanied by Skała (“Rock”), a Pole serving as cameraman/bodyguard (JVC camcorder & Skorpion machine pistol). Maks, being Eastern European, has never seen a small Japanese movie camera.

jean-jacques durandDurand had been attached to the German Third Army during the NATO offensive last summer, and accompanied its subsequent retreat as well. He decided to journey out this direction to document happened to the US 5th and 8th Divisions.

Maks stuck to his cover identity as a Loyalist Polish Army officer when speaking with the inquisitive Frenchman. When asked if he’d seen any Americans, Maks replied that he knew they were now mostly travelling to Germany for the evacuation, but a few remained behind, having married into local communities.

Durand relayed some fascinating news. There were several divisions of the American military holding territory in a pocket on the Poland coast. They were stuck behind enemy lines, though Warsaw Pact forces had shown little appetite to tangle with the Americans there. As of three weeks ago, they had not broken out, and were there Durand reported.

The units are detailed in Going Home, page 13.

map - american units on n poland coast


Maks was introduced to Seminarian Feliks. 

He was leading the pilgrimage you could say. Feliks was in training to become a priest. He is from Torun, well downriver from Warsaw.

Motivation cards: Spade 10 – Very Ambitious; Wild Card. Claims to be on pilgrimage to give thanks for his brother’s miraculous cure from cancer. Also wants to transfer to seminary in Krakow; more prestige and opportunity there.

The pilgrims were mostly from Torun, though others came from elsewhere in the north. Maks was able to get more intel from Feliks and other pilgrims. Too bad he likely wasn’t going in that direction.

Maks had occasionally pondered taking the tug down the Vistula River to Gdańsk, and then continue westward along the Polish and German coastline toward Bremerhaven.

map - coastal route

The problem was Denmark. If the Kiel Canal was closed (a safe assumption), that would mean crossing the storm-prone seas around Denmark. Or landing and continuing west by road to the American flotilla massed at Bremerhaven. He wondered if the river tug could handle the open sea, and if not, could they count on finding an available ship at Gdańsk?

No, he was still leaning toward the railroad option.

The pilgrims themselves were an eclectic lot. Poor, tradesfolk, farmers, and a wealthy man of the szlachta class. A few soldiers. Elderly, children, families. Nuns. Horse riders. Some wagons. One fellow brought sheep.

christian pilgrims 3A few in camp had been making at least part of the journey on their knees, judging by their wounds.

They were heading for Kraków; they’d heard the Black Madonna had survived destruction, and miraculously reappeared there. In this, Maks could reassure them that Our Lady of Częstochowa was in Kraków. Indeed, the Pope himself had visited his city for the last time.

Black Madonna photoThe travelers were grateful and joyful to hear such confirmation. Some were making the journey to give thanks for past blessings and miracles (diseases cured, families reunited). Others planned to pray at the holy relic for divine intercession.

All brought offerings of some sort (coins, money, candles). Some made handcrafts of wood; others sewed altar covers and banners.

pilgrimage banner

Maks was at first surprised they hadn’t been accosted along the way, but the pilgrims did have a few guards. And it was Poland, after all. The Poles – and even the supposedly godless communist Russians – were devout Christians. Only the most fallen of men would court eternal damnation by attacking a holy pilgrimage. In fact, Maks surmised a few in the procession were ex-marauders themselves.

Maks gave them as much information as he knew about the route. In particular, to avoid the Kalisz-Łódź-Częstochowa region as food was scarce and bandits plentiful.

A couple of tradesmen in the camp were pushing a plan to head for Warsaw, and then take boats upriver from there to Kraków. They’d heard that the river had been cleared of pirates, and that merchants traveled along the waterway. Maks, maintaining his cover, could confirm he too had “heard” that the river pirate menace had been broken. Nonetheless, he advised him that option wasn’t without its dangers as well, such as the Baron Czarny.

The travellers debated the topic. Most wanted to continue on foot to Kraków.

Maks bid them farewell.

I now rolled for random encounter under the “Road” column. Kinda hoping for some action. Alas, I rolled a “6”… None.

The remainder of the group’s journey was uneventful, and they were reunited with the bulk of Maks’ band at Góra Kalwaria.

map - local area