Solidarity Activist Swordsmith Turns Out Gift for Pontiff With PM-Pope-Poland, Bjt
TARNOW, Poland (AP) _ A Solidarity activist who specializes in making copies of swords and guns once used by Polish aristocrats has turned his hand to making a gift for Pope John Paul II.
Marian Mikula handcrafted a copper plaque, one of seven gifts from the people of Tarnow for the pope. John Paul arrived in this southeastern city Tuesday night, on the third day of his pilgrimage to Poland.
Mikula makes replicas of dueling guns and swords used in past centuries by Polish noblemen to challenge their rivals.
He uses his blacksmith’s shop to fashion everything from elegant wine pitchers to recreations of armor carried by the Crusaders of the Middle Ages.
″My links to the papacy go back to the time when I made a gift for Pope Paul the Sixth in the late 1970s,″ the 41-year-old Mikula told The Associated Press in his shop. He said he preferred not to specify what the gift was, although he said the pope had received it.
Then he held up the copper plaque.
″We, the Poles, always do things at the last moment. I just finished the plaque,″ Mikula said in the interview hours before the arrival of the Polish- born pontiff.
The plaque, a gift of the town’s farmers, is inscribed, ″For the peasant masses, the faith and the church are bread.″
Mikula, who professes a strong interest in art and military history, began making swords 15 years ago. Using books, drawings and military memorabilia as his guides, he created replicas so precise that historians began asking for them.
Sitting beneath a set of armor for a Crusader and four wrought-iron chandeliers, he gestured at dozens of swords.
″The swords are of excellent quality. Some battles may have had different outcomes if the soldiers had used my swords,″ he said, smiling.
Mikula employs two assistants in the two-floor shop.
An activist of the outlawed Solidarity labor union, Mikula says he is looking forward to completing a country house where he plans to exhibit his antiques and swords.
He also hopes to take his collection to the United States, where he has a brother and two sisters in Chicago.
Mikula says he makes a comfortable living, earning $150 for each sword, and has no desire to emigrate to the United States.