My heart was conquered: Story of my life in Santa Cruz


Santa Cruz! Finally, we make it to hogar (orphanage). I think it’s about 1.30 am, middle of the night. The climate is hard. Very hot, tropical air surrounds us. I can’t fall asleep. I am a classic winter being, can’t stand high temperatures. I go to my room, lie down on my bed with a glimpse of hope, that maybe somehow will manage to catch some sleep. But there’s another problem.

I listen diligently to the night surrounding me. What seemed to be a distant buzz turned out to be a real noise. I get up, turn on the light. I close my eyes with a grimace on my face. Standing still i still listen carefully. I am trying to find my enemy, who wants to infect me with some kind of disease. Now I hear the trees moved by a gentle breeze. The bad mosquito is silent. He doesn’t make himself visible even with the lights on. I can’t see him anywhere near my bed. I am sure, that there shouldn’t be any mosquitos, when the fan moves the air around. That's what I think. I wait, 30 more seconds, turn the lights down. - Let it be! - I think, no time for playing hide and seek now. At 8 a.m. we have Mass, and then a day full of activities with the kids. I don’t know them yet, a little afraid of them. They speak spanish, I am just starting to learn. I need a decent sleep. Ahead of me lies the uneasy task of entering the world of hogar. I need to sleep. The mosquito is not that important. I fall asleep in a blink of an eye, that is surely the result of the five-hour drive by bus from Concepcion to Santa Cruz.

The alarm clock goes off. No! I still have time, it is too early. I turn it down. But, after while, I get up with a plan: to learn spanish. But no, it's too early, I set the clock half an hour ahead and lie down. Back in Poland half an hour of morning sleep lasts five minutes, here – thirty minutes is thirty minutes. Enough to grasp some strength for the day to come. I feel quite regenerated. From behind the door I can hear br Christopher Walendowski SVD, asking me „are you ready”? I check my watch, it’s 7.40. Still some time before the Mass starts. We are in Bolivia, time here is more flexible, everyone is always on his time, and everybody’s happy with that. 7.50, it’s time to go.

Between the house and the chapel there are at least 100 steps. Sister andrea welcomes us at the entrance, and leaves to bring the kids for the Mass. So, we are the first to come, I think. We take the last pew in the chapel. The interior is nice, humble and simple. On the wall behind the altar there are some pictures of angels, with faces looking like children from all of Bolivia peoples. - It looks a little like the chapel in Ocypel – says Br Krzysztof Walendowski SVD. Actually, it is true. On the left, there is a picture of Our Lady of Fatima, surrounded by a big rosary. Rosary… today is the 7th of October. Back in Poland the huge event, Rosary to the Borders starts right now. What a coincidence.

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First children appear in the chapel. Accompanied by a priest from Poland, a redemptorist. He comes every Saturday at 8 a.m. to say the Mass. The chapel is full in just a few minutes, there are almost 40 people inside. In front of me I can see a white girl holding a three years old child on her knees. She doesn’t look like someone from here. She is a voluntary from Belgium, she studies psychology and tries to put some knowledge into practice while working with children from hogar. Someone pulls my sleeve. It’s a little boy – Angel, maybe three years old. Together with his friend they jump on my knees. It looks like they found their place for the whole Eucharist. There are four altar girls, probably no altar boys here. Maybe because of the age difference, girls seem to be 10 – 11 years old, most of the boys are between 5 – 8. I think my plans to teach them how to play volleyball will have to wait a little while.

Time after time I am curious to see dark eyes looking at me. I am as exotic for them, as they are for me. I can feel, that this is going to be a good time.

The priest gives his sermon, kids are listening and try to answer his questions, with different results. But that is not the most important thing! The time for the blessing comes. The priest takes a huge sprinkler, and crosses the nave, giving everyone an honest drop of blessed water. So much joy! Sister Bonawentura wants to make an announcement, children turn their faces towards her. - Today we would like to welcome a voluntary from Poland! Mateusz will be staying and working with us for some time. She is not given a chance to finish. Everybody runs to me: Mateo! Hola! Mateo! - they greet me, welcome me, hug me, asking seven million questions which I don’t fully understand or just can’t hear. I ask for their names, trying to memorize them. Some of them sound strange to me, some are just different, it will take some time to remember them all. Their spontaneous reaction is like the sword of Alexander, cutting through the Gordian knot. The conquer my heart with just one, bold move.


The word of Mission is the place where I belong now. It is a good place for me. It is my place... This is my hogar. This is my home and I don’t want another one.

By Mateusz Wlosinski