June 4 – June 10, 2001
By Indradyumna Swami
While planning our festival in Lodz (the second largest city in Poland), we received a call from town council officials in Gorzow Wielkopolski, the capital of northwest Poland and the site of our final program last autumn. They desperately wanted us to participate in their forthcoming annual city festivities. We explained that we were in the middle of a tour in the center of Poland and that it would be difficult to move the show north. The town secretary said, “Your program last autumn was the biggest festival we’ve had in years (eight thousand people attended), and without your presence at our annual event we’re afraid we’ll get a poor turnout.”
I argued that we’d have to take a financial loss if we dismantled our festival and drove north. The secretary said, “You name the price, we’re willing to pay.” We told him the cost, and after some negotiation he agreed on a price which included transportation and lodging for one hundred devotees. So the next day we set off for Gorzow Wielkopolski, leaving a small team of devotees to prepare the Lodz program.
Traveling northwest, devotees felt Krsna was giving us a chance to recuperate from the difficulties we had faced in the Lodz region. In a recent meeting with our professional security team, the firm’s manager asked, “Do you know that in choosing Lodz for your festivals this spring, you picked one of the most dangerous areas of the country?”
But another ray of sunlight appeared when we received a call from the Gazeta Lubuska, Poland’s most widely read newspaper. Word had already spread about our participation in the Gorzow Wielkopolski festival, and the newspaper wanted information. Because time was short, the reporter asked us to write the story and they would print it. That was a first for us with such a prestigious newspaper!
Upon arrival in Gorzow Wielkopolski, we were escorted to a hotel not far from the festival site and introduced to the head of the Cultural Affairs Department. She showed us the poster the council was putting up all over town. It listed both our hour-by-hour stage program and named the festival’s sponsors: the European Union, Polish National Television, Polish National Communications, and several national banks. Devotees smiled upon seeing the poster. We were being treated like celebrities. When we asked the woman for permission to perform harinama the next day, she said, “You don’t even have to ask. In fact, if you don’t chant on the streets we’ll never invite you back to our town!”
So we went out on harinama. Sri Prahlada was distributing invitations when he was approached by a man who presented him with his card. It read, “Town Secretary—Gorzow Wielkopolski.” The official said, “Can you tell me how to get in touch with the Hare Krsna reggae band, Village of Peace? We’re planning a big concert here in a month and want them to play.” He added, “Personally they’re one of my favorite bands in Poland.”
The man was surprised when Sri Prahlada replied, “Yes, of course I can help you—I’m the band’s lead singer.”
Our participation during the five days of festivities in Gorzow Wielkopolski, delighted the crowds. During that time, Nandini and Radha Sakhi Vrnda traveled north to the Baltic Sea coast to make arrangements for our summer festivals in that region. Their first stop was Trzebiatow, a town of 15,000 people. Because it is near the base where we start our summer tours, we have begun our summer festivals there for the past eleven years. Our festival has therefore become a town tradition, and each year every man, woman, and child attends. They know many of our bhajanas, songs, and plays by heart, and most teenagers know the words (in English) to the Village of Peace songs. Before going to the town hall in Trzebiatow, Nandini and Radha Sakhi Vrnda first ran an errand to the post office. They were wearing nondevotional clothing, but as soon as they approached the counter the attendant called out, “The Hare Krsnas are here!” The other postal workers crowded around to ask the dates of the festival. “Will there be a Ramayana play again? Who are the special guests this year?”
Nandini and Radha Sakhi Vrnda politely answered their questions, then hurried off to meet the head of Trzebiatow’s Cultural Affairs, Mrs. Novak.
Arriving a few minutes before the office closed, the secretary (who didn’t bother looking up from her computer) told them that Mrs. Novak had already left work for the day. As the devotees turned to leave, the secretary looked up, and realizing who they were called out, “Oh, wait a minute! Are you from the Hare Krsna festival?”
Nandini turned. “Yes, we are.”
“Then please come back. Mrs. Novak will see you now.”
Mrs. Novak welcomed them into the office, saying, “We were wondering when you would come. You know the Hare Krsna festival is the biggest annual event in our town.”
After leaving Trzebiatow, Nandini and Radha Sakhi Vrnda visited Kolobrzeg, one of the largest and most prestigious resorts on the coast. Unfortunately, because of opposition in the town council, we usually struggle each year to secure a site for our program. Undaunted, the devotees approached the town hall and were surprised to meet the newly elected deputy mayor, who turned out to be quite friendly.
“Of course you must do your festival again this year,” he said. “I was a reporter for a local magazine a few years ago, and I attended one of your festivals. It was wonderful! You pick the spot you want and we won’t charge you anything.”
Nandini said, “Some influential people in your town are opposed to our festival. Aren’t you afraid they might try to stop you from helping us?”
The deputy mayor replied, “You know that politicians always grant each other favors. I have a few favors coming my way in this town, and I’ll use them for your festival. Don’t worry. You just tell me where you want to do the program.”
The pair looked at each other and smiled. Nandini said, “We want to do our festival on the boardwalk, next to the main beach entrance, on July 21 and 22.”
The deputy mayor gasped—these are two of the most important days of the summer along the coast—then collected himself. He smiled, “Anything for my friends.”
Things didn’t appear so easy at their next stop, Swinoujscie, another of the largest towns on the coast. There the council was not interested in hosting cultural activities for the summer; they were interested only in making money. Nandini and Radha Sakhi Vrnda were shocked to learn that the council had rented the entire boardwalk (part of which we rent every year for our festival) to two businessmen who planned to sell beer and rent the space for small business enterprises. When they asked the council secretary if they could have the businessmen’s phone numbers, he laughed and said, “They wouldn’t be interested in talking to you.”
Disappointed, the ladies went to the boardwalk to speak to the local people. Perhaps there was a private place left they could rent. They were given the same news: two businessmen had rented the entire boardwalk for the summer. No one else could get even a centimeter of that land.
Feeling hopeless, the devotees entered a cafe to make a phone call. While waiting in line for the phone they overheard two men boasting nearby. “We got the whole boardwalk! Can you believe it? We’re going to make a fortune!”
Realizing that a golden opportunity was at hand, Nandini walked over to their table and asked, “Excuse me gentlemen, are you the businessmen who have rented the boardwalk for the summer?”
“Yes, we are,” one of them replied.
“We were praying we’d meet you. We’d like to rent part of the boardwalk for a couple of days this summer.”
“I’m sorry, but we’ve already rented the area for the entire summer. What did you want to sell, beer?”
“No,” Nandini replied, “we’re from the Hare Krsna festival.”
When she said that, both men’s eyes lit up and they exclaimed simultaneously, “The Hare Krsna festival!”
The man who had been speaking said, “I’ve been to three of your festivals. In fact, every summer my little girl looks for you everywhere on the beach. She loves going to your festivals and dressing in a sari.”
The other man said, “We’ll find a space for the Hare Krsna festival. Just name the location you want.”
Glancing at Radha Sakhi Vrnda, Nandini thought she may as well aim for two more of the biggest days of the summer. “We would like to do our festival on the main boardwalk near the beach on July 14 and 16.”
One of businessmen smiled, “We’ll give you that space only if you do a four-day festival. If you’re going to do it, do it big. Those will be the four biggest days of the summer in Swinoujscie, as we’ll be organizing little events along the boardwalk. We’ll charge you only for the electricity you use.”
The other businessman said, “I have another proposal. I’ve watched you singing and dancing in the streets every summer for years and figured out that that’s the secret of your success. There’s something special about your singing. That’s why thousands of people attend your festivals. Instead of singing to advertise your festival, can I hire you to sing and market my products? I’m sure I’ll become a millionaire!”
Nandini laughed. “The chanting works because it glorifies Krsna. He’s the success behind our festivals. He makes all the arrangements because He wants these festivals to go to every town and village. Radha Sakhi Vrnda and I have personal experience of this!”
Although numberless incarnations of the Lord are described in the Sruti and other Vedic literature, who except for the Lord Himself has the power to describe the glories and opulence of Lord Gaura? How many times have the devotees personally seen that their beloved Lord Gaura is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Hari? Alas! Alas! Still the fools refuse to believe that Lord Gaura is the Supreme!