I have known Father Joseph for over 28 years since I was a little altar boy serving to masses in our Parish in Warsaw.
Father Joseph became a very close friend of my family in the 80s when Poland was just after the Communist State of War and people were lacking everything from food and clothes to the most basic items such as soap and toilet paper. Father Joseph was the driving force in our parish to organize and receive charity help from various countries including France. Since back then I was going to a French grammar school and very fluent in French, very quickly I was the translator and kind of the tour guide for groups from France that were coming with humanitarian help to our Parish. To the French people I was known as Le Petit Jean meaning the Little Yaneck:)
20 years ago Father Joseph received a calling to go to Belarus to start a Parish in Barysaw . Barysaw is a city about 60 miles away from Minsk (the capital of Belarus) with a history of over 1,000 years! This is where Napoleon army was defeated by the Russians, through the history belonged to Russia, Lithuania, Poland, and Germany, and was destroyed with 33,000 deaths during the Second World War. After the fall of Communism many churches that were used as warehouses, ping-pong practice centers, or museums of atheisms(!!!) while part of the USSR were left abandoned in total ruins.
Father Joseph was asked to start a parish in one of the ruined churches (the only catholic church in Barysaw). When I saw the photos of the church from 1990s and saw how the church looks like now I was astonished how much work Father Joseph did. Especially since his initial parishioners were about 15 old ladies (babushkas).
For the first good few years there was no running water there, restroom was outdoor, and he slept in a tiny room barely fitting a bed above the church. But with Father Joseph hard work and help from God he was able to establish this parish in Barysaw and build a beautiful new church in another city close by – Zodzina.
Last week when I went to Belarus I knew I had to visit Father Joseph. I took of course all my camera gear and was prepared to take some photos. Father Joseph being 80 years old and not posing for photos before did amazing as my portrait subject. We didn't have too much time to do it but I think the photos turned out really nice. I am so happy that I was able to photograph Father Joseph where he spent the last 20 years of his life.