Why does the International Festival of Orthodox Church Music „Hajnówka” take place in Białystok?

Hajnówka had been associated with the International Festival of Orthodox Church Music – „Hajnówka” for two decades. During that time, the Festival developed from an insignificant event into the sole zero category art event – and thus, a top-notch one – in Podlachian Province and one of the few such in the country. The event’s organization and rapid development influenced interest in Orthodox Church music all over the world, inspired contemporary artists and composers, and led to the development of the Orthodox parish choirs. They were an excellent promotion of the city and the Orthodox Church in Poland.

Despite its subject matter, the International Festival of Orthodox Church Music – „Hajnówka” (MFMC) has always been a secular event, which was nevertheless organized with the goodwill of and consultation with the clergy of the Polish Autocephalous Orthodox Church (PAKP). Mikołaj Buszko is the originator and initiator of the event – he is the director of the main cultural center in the city – Hajnówka House of Culture (HDK), a center that, for many years, was the Festival’s co-organizer. Since the very start, Fr. A. Dziewiatowski, pastor and builder of the Council of the Holy Trinity in Hajnówka, was a great supporter of the Festival, which is why Mikołaj Buszko approached him with the idea.

In 1982, the first edition of the Festival came about thanks to the collaboration of three people: Mikołaj Buszko – the originator and initiator, Fr. Michał Niegierewicz from the Holy Trinity Church, whom Fr. Dziewiatowski asked to help Mikołaj Buszko and Fr. Jerzy Szurbak (who was invited by M. Buszko to help) – director and conductor of Orthodox Music Group, who has been involved with the Festival ever since.

This event, brought to life during the Polish People’s Republic period despite adverse circumstances, has steadily increased in rank. The process was not halted by the Communist reality, or the beginning of the transformation crisis.

 The year 1996 brought significant changes in terms of financing such projects. To ensure the further existence of MFMC, the Orthodox Church Music Foundation was established. Since then, its goal has been to secure funds to cover the ever-increasing costs of the Festival. Thanks to this, the Festival is emerging from a crisis.

 The worst period in the Festival’s history began in 1998, with a change in authorities – both the head of PAKP and the local authorities in Hajnówka.

In the same year, Metropolitan of Warsaw and all Poland Basil, who was very favorable toward the Festival and its organizers, died and was replaced by Archbishop Sawa of the Białystok – Gdansk Diocese. The clergyman was much less favorable toward the MFMC than his predecessor – a sentiment he had expressed in the past, such as in 1987, when he banned the parish choirs of his diocese from participating in the Festival.

1998 also saw the next Third Polish Republic local elections, with Sojusz Lewicy Demokratycznej (SLD) emerging victorious. Anatol Ochryciuk took the position of Hajnówka’s mayor, while Włodzimierz Pietroczuk became Hajnówka District’s governor.

The festival’s problems began immediately after the change in authorities. Joint actions (under the Metropolitan’s supervision) by Hajnówka’s society – Fr. Michał Niegierewicz, who, after the death of Fr. Anthony Dziewiatowski, became the pastor of the Council Church of Holy Trinity, mayor Anatol Ochryciuk and governor Włodzimierz Pietroczuk were intended to lead to the acquisition and subordination of the independent International Festival by local political and church authorities. This goal was not achieved, but as a result of their actions, an event was created in Hajnówka with a format identical to the Festival, called the Hajnówka Days of Orthodox Music International Festival, which made it necessary to transfer MFMC to Bialystok.

The following text will be an attempt at organizing and presenting the events that led up to this situation. All events have been reconstructed on the foundation of documents – especially correspondence between MFMC organizers and decision makers wishing to subordinate the event.

Overly Independent Festival

A letter sent to HDK director M. Buszko from the office of Orthodox Metropolitan of Warsaw and all of Poland Sawa on 23.11.1999 became the first harbinger of the future conflict. The document informed about the appointment of a commission tasked with the rather vaguely defined development of a model for the Orthodox Church’s cooperation with MFMC. The Metropolitan appointed priests and conductors as commission members: Włodzimierz Wołosiuk as its chairman, as well as Fr. Jerzy Szurbak, Fr. Ireneusz Ławreszuk and Fr. Aleksander Chudobin. The decision for making such a move was – according to the letter – inspired by demands of chanters and choir conductors. A meeting between commission members and MFMC organizers was also supposed to take place in the near future.

However, at that point, it was not known what doubts and reservations the Orthodox Church had regarding the existing cooperation.

The situation only became clear on the day of the meeting, the date of which was set for 24 February 2000. Another letter, delivered to the organizers right before the meeting’s start, clearly defined the Orthodox Church’s objections against the MFMC and its organizers. The main objection was revealed to be excessive independence. The Festival (should be) the Orthodox Church’s greeting card, rather than an independent body functioning solely within its own structures – read one of the demands, which was supplemented by others: A desire for the Orthodox Church having greater insight into the Festival Office’s work and finances or [the Church’s] influence over approving performers applying to participate in the Festival. Other postulates also pointed toward the problem of the Festival’s commercialization (even though no one ever explained to the organizers what form this supposedly took), a necessity for better preparation of masters of ceremonies leading the concerts and Orthodox Church representatives’ participation in the Festival jury – even though such representatives had always been present in the jury. The meeting’s ultimate goal was developing a statute of bilateral cooperation methods and determining the Festival’s place in Orthodox Church structures. The document did not indicate whether the Orthodox Church wanted to take any organizational duties onto itself following taking control of the Festival.

During the meeting, the organizers were represented by Jan Suchodoła — then-incumbent “Orthodox Church Music” Foundation vice president and MFMC director M. Buszko. Meanwhile, the Orthodox Church was represented by all those indicated by the Metropolitan’s letter, aside from I. Ławreszuk. The discussion’s participants agreed on many points, which were expressed in a protocol written by W. Wołosiuk. Discussions over the point on the Orthodox Church’s greater influence over the Festival’s organization were summed up by his note: The discussion on that topic ended with an opinion that the Festival’s director desires cooperation with the Orthodox Church in a form most advantageous to the Festival. A statue of cooperation methods was not developed, but a reading of the protocol — though it was notable that it was practically devoid of notes by those who later opposed the MFMC — in no way indicated that this was to be the start of a serious conflict.

A declaration of breaking off relations appeared a month later. Metropolitan Sawa became displeased upon being presented with the meeting’s protocol. The Metropolitan Office sent out a letter declaring the hierarch’s continued expectation of being presented with a concrete cooperation model. Otherwise, in the future, the current practice has to be suspended, the Metropolitan warned. The note also contained a statement about the formation of a new negotiations commission. A. Chudobin and Fr. J. Szurbak, who spoke positively of the Festival and its organizers during the February meeting, were crossed off its list. The Metropolitan also made it impossible for the latter to ever participate in the MFMC. In the commission, they were replaced by priests: M. Niegierewicz, Mikołaj Kiełbaszewski and Jerzy Tokarewski. W. Wołosiuk remained as chairman.

The next meeting took place on 7 April, in the building of the Orthodox Diocese of Bialystok. At that time, both sides presented diametrically opposed postulates regarding continued cooperation. The Festival’s organizers expected the Polish Autocephalous Orthodox Church to provide active assistance in the Festival’s organization and promotion. They reiterated their request for the appointment of a PAKP representative for contact with the current organizers, pointing toward Bishop Miron of Hajnówka as a suitable person. One of the postulates also spoke of an Orthodox Church’s representative’s participation in the Artistic Commission’s work, which was responsible for qualifying choirs for the Festival. In any event, this was the only postulate shared by both sides, as the Orthodox Church side wished to see its role on a completely different plane to the one proposed by MFMC organizers. It was the first time that a statement was made about the necessity of creating an Organizational Committee, which would have included two PAKP representatives, as well as a demand for creating a position in the Foundation’s leadership for an Orthodox Church delegate. The possible fulfillment of the latter postulate would have set a precedent, as all leadership members always performed their functions communally. Additionally, the Orthodox Church requested to be guaranteed 50 percent participation in the jury. Once again, no agreement was reached.

The atmosphere prevalent during the meeting resembled that of an interrogation. Immediately after returning to Hajnówka, the organizers, worried by the situation, sent a short fax to the Metropolitan: We went to the meeting with thoughts of perfecting the Festival’s formula. We encountered its negation and dictation of terms. We are attempting to save the Festival. We are requesting an urgent meeting. (Signed: Jan Suchodoła, Mikołaj Buszko, and Irena Parfieniuk. That message never received a response.

 

First Sanctions

Meanwhile, the situation was becoming urgent, as the XIX edition of the MFMC was approaching with great bounds. The Festival was set to begin in slightly over a month, while the organizers still did not have the Metropolitan’s blessing for it. The Metropolitan only replied to the request for a blessing and delegating his representatives to the jury after receiving the protocol from the latest cooperation commission meeting. This took place on 19 April. In a letter addressed to W. Wołosiuk and made open to commission members and M. Buszko, the Metropolitan stated: I am disappointed that the Church Music Festival in Hajnówka’s leadership and organizers are not listening to the voice of their Church. It is telling and does not require comment. As an exception, we agree to make the temple of Holy Trinity in Hajnówka available to the 2000 Festival. (…) In the existing situation, I see no justification for the parish choirs to participate in next year’s festival and for it to take place in the temple. I do not give my blessing to Orthodox Church representatives to participate in the jury’s work. (…) It is regrettable that the Orthodox Church’s goodwill was rejected.

The XIX MFMC „Hajnówka 2000” took place. In place of Metropolitan Sawa, who announced an urgent visit abroad during its course, it was attended by Hajnówka’s Bishop Miron. Since the Metropolitan could not prohibit international Orthodox Church representatives from participating in the jury, it included Archbishop Ionafan from Ukraine, Nicolai Ossorguin — representative of Russian Orthodox Church in France — and Dmitriy Dmitrov — Bulgarian Orthodox Church representative.

Immediately following the festival, the matter of determining terms of cooperation between the organizers and the Orthodox Church returned. The result of negotiations was to determine whether the Metropolitan will grant his permission — his blessing for the approaching, jubilee edition of the Festival and thus, whether it will take place in the temple of Holy Trinity and whether parish choirs will participate in it.

Even back then, despite conducting discussions with MFMC organizers, the Metropolitan was taking steps indicating a desire to conduct his own festival. This was indicated by a letter sent on 14 September 2000 to Warsaw local authorities. In it, the Metropolitan, representing PAKP, was requesting finding for a festival he was organizing.

At the same time, another meeting between conductors and church chanters was approaching, which was supposed to raise the matter of the Hajnówka festival as one of its topics. Wishing to hear out the participants’ opinions on that topic and to also inform them about the approaching Festival edition, M. Buszko approached the Metropolitan with a request to participate in the meeting. The response was brief – the meeting is closed.

 

How To Politicize Music?

On 17 October, the Metropolitan’s Office sent out another letter. Another one that recalled the terms set by the Orthodox Church. Otherwise, he warned, we can make the temple available for a fee, at a time convenient for the parish and without a blessing. This time, the list of recipient more than doubled in length. In addition to Mikołaj Buszko, episcopal offices, and church commission members, Metropolitan Sawa decided to also make his decision known to secular institutions: The Ministry of Culture, Bialystok Regional Administration, and Hajnówka leadership — Mayor Anatol Ochryciuk and Hajnówka community head Olga Rygorowicz. The signal, which was ignored by state and regional authorities, was very quickly picked up by local officials: The mayor and the district head, who did not receive any message from the Metropolitan. Hajnówka community head did not get involved in the matter back then. Soon, the two had a meeting with the Metropolitan, during which new agreements regarding the Festival were made – however, the organizers found out about this only during the next exchange of letters with the Metropolitan.

In the meantime, Mikołaj Buszko was called in for a meeting with the local authorities. It took place in Hajnówka City Hall, in the presence of several people: W. Pietroczuk, A. Ochryciuk, J. Suchodoła, and Bazyl Piwnik, who introduced himself as the Metropolitan’s representative. The conversation focused on the establishment of the MFMC Organizational Committee. As the Festival director, M. Buszko considered it natural that he will establish the new body, which drew a reaction from the district head: The Committee has already practically been established and we will be part of it.

This was how, M. Buszko, who already agreed to the Metropolitan Office’s terms (except for PAKP’s participation in the Foundation’s leadership, which — as he stated — was difficult to implement for legal reasons), received a fax on 3 November, in which the Metropolitan changed the agreement’s terms. (…) I see a need — Metropolitan Sawa wrote — to expand the group of people responsible for the festival and to establish a special body, which is expected by the local authorities. I therefore ask you to urgently develop a joint position with Hajnówka local authorities and to kindly submit it to us, in order to (…) calmly and responsibly begin preparations to the Jubilee Orthodox Church Music Festival.

On the very same day, A. Ochryciuk and W. Pietroczuk received invitations from the Orthodox Church Music Foundation to join the Organizational Committee being created. A similar letter – this one bearing a request to delegate representatives — was received a few days later by PAKP. The Festival was approaching and time was, once more, of the essence, but none of those invited responded to the invitations. Instead, in the second half of November 2000, Hajnówka mayor presented the Foundation with a project of a completely new body that, according to arrangements made by local authorities, was supposed to be created in place of the Committee.

The regulations of the International Orthodox Church Music Festival Council – for this was the name of the body being planned by the local authorities – contained provisions granting it far greater competences that the Committee agreed upon earlier with the Metropolitan. Aside from stripping the organizers of the most important powers, the Council also granted itself influence over staffing, including the function of Festival director – a position held by Mikołaj Buszko since its inception. It de facto made the Festival completely subordinate to the City Council — and thus the current political influence, as well as PAKP.

According to article 5 of the regulations, the Council’s full scope of activities was to involve:

– appointing and dismissing the Festival director

– by the director’s request, approving the list of organizers, employees, and main sponsors of the Festival

-appointing jury members for the next Festival edition, in consultation with the Festival’s director

– evaluating the preparations and progress of the Festival’s next edition

– shaping the festival’s program

Article 9 stated:

– the Festival director, appointed by the Council for an indeterminate time, is the executive body

– starting with the day the Council begins functioning, the position of Festival director remains with the person who performed this function until now

– the Festival director represents the Festival externally, with the exception of matters restricted to the Council’s competences

The regulations allowed the Council to make staffing changes via a secret vote and could only be changed themselves by the Hajnówka City Council.

The mayor’s project came under immediate protest from institutions organizing the festival: The Orthodox Church Music Foundation, Hajnówka House of Culture, and Regional Culture Stimulation Center in Bialystok. Aside from noting the festival’s complete dependence on political options, they also pointed out numerous formal and substantive mistakes. They also noted that it is incompatible with existing agreements with PAJP.

Meetings between organizers, and the mayor and district head, along with the exchange of correspondence resulting from them, continued. On 4 December, another conversation took place – participating in it on the organizer side were Buszko M. and I. Parfieniuk and, on the city’s side, A. Ochryciuk and W. Pietroczuk. After several months of pressure, the confrontation between the two projects – the Council and the Organizational Committee, which the Foundation still insisted on – concluded with a surrender of the Festival’s organizers.

Given your statement – Buszko M. and I. Parfieniuk wrote the next day in a letter to Hajnówka’s mayor – made yesterday that „we have nothing to say” regarding the regulations of the MFMC Council being created, we see no point in participating in further work on this topic. (…) We will comply to the best of our abilities and will accept help from any committee supporting the Festival being organized by us – including the Council appointed by You.

 For that entire time, in parallel, contacts continued between both sides and Metropolitan Sawa. MFMC organizers – solely via letters, while local authorities – also in the form of personal meetings.

Meanwhile, as a result of the mayor’s and district head’s actions, the preparations for the jubilee 20th edition of the MFMC were being significantly delayed. The blockade meant that the festival’s Organizational Committee still could not be established. The Metropolitan also did not dispatch his representatives, while simultaneously not abandoning his earlier decision to create it.

Suggestions began appearing among concerned organizers regarding the appointment of a Festival Defense Committee, which ultimately did not happen.

 

Council Outside the Law and Attempt at Compromise

 The mayor’s and district head’s next step was presenting the next Council project to the Foundation. Even though its competences were expressed much less radically than a month ago, the initial legal evaluation by attorney Piotr Juszczuk left no doubts. The Council — as such — would not possess legal status. (…) It would consist of a group of physical persons, who would illegally (as in, without permission from the organizer, i.e. “Orthodox Church Music” Foundation) violate the Foundation’s copyright and organizational rights. (…) The regulations, in their form, seek the legal incapacitation of the “Orthodox Church Music” Foundation and its management. (…) The regulations do not define whether the representatives of organizations creating the Council will not have a conflict of interest between the festival’s goal and the functioning of their own institutions. Additionally, it is unknown what be the financial contribution of each Council representative will be – or whether it will exist at all. (…) The creator of the Council project is obviously unfamiliar with the goal, specifics, or principles of operation and financing of the Festival. In its current form, the Council regulations project cannot be accepted due to being substantively indeterminate and deprived of legal basis.

On 31 January 2001, a personal meeting finally took place between Metropolitan Sawa and Mikołaj Buszko. It results were exceptionally favorable to the organizers and, it seemed, they thwarted all the previous actions taken by local authorities. A compromise was reached. The Metropolitan agreed with the director on establishing a supporting body, instead of one controlling the organizers, promised help from the Orthodox Church in preparing the festival and, first and foremost, he accepted all of the postulated voiced by the organizers during the 7 April 2000 meeting. In return, M. Buszko agreed to PAKP having a greater influence over the Festival. It was supposed to be expressed in designating the Church’s representatives to specific MFMC bodies: To the Organizational Committee – priests M. Kiełbaszewski and M. Niegierewicz; to the Foundation’s management – Fr. J. Tokarewski; to the Festival’s jury commission – W. Wołosiuk and I. Ławreszuk; to the Artistic Commission – Fr. M. Niegierewicz. The latter was also granted authority to represent the Orthodox Church in continued work on the Festival.

Compromise Lost

However, neither the local authorities, nor the newly appointed PAKP representative Fr. Niegierewicz were happy with the Metropolitan’s decision. They negated it from the start. They began acting in order to annul the compromise. M. Buszko, recognizing the seniority of the Metropolitan’s decision, which was not revoked by him, did not want to accept any additional conditions being imposed by Hajnówka. However, his letters to the Metropolitan with a request to explain the situation and to meet remained without a reply.

uring the next (21.02.2001) joint meeting of PAKP representatives, local authorities, and Festival organizers, the provisions from 31 January were ultimately rejected by the first two groups. In a report sent to the Metropolitan, Fr. Niegierewicz emphasized that everyone except for M. Buszko is in agreement.

The Metropolitan’s reaction to the report turned out to be exceptionally harsh. The meeting in Hajnówka proved that Mr. Mikołaj Buszko does not want pragmatic cooperation and the MFMC Organization. (…) Due to the above, I withdraw my blessing and do not grant my blessing for the participation of Orthodox choirs in the eventual Festival. (…) I also reserve the right to the term „Orthodox Church Music Festival.” It belongs to the Orthodox Church. I do not wish to talk with anyone about the Festival anymore. I regret that the people declaring themselves as faithful to the Orthodox Church are irresponsible.

 Jerzy Muszyński, then-incumbent Radio Bialystok president, decided to act as the mediator in the crisis. On 6 March, he presented a project of the Council for the approaching XX MFMC, the creation of which was intended to settle the conflict. That very same afternoon, a meeting took place regarding signing a possible agreement. The agreement was made and the Council was created, but in a different form than that proposed by Jerzy Muszyński. Nobody wanted to talk about his project. They also did not wish to allow Jadwiga Patejuk, Hajnówka’s mayor of many years onto the council, which the Radio’s president proposed. “Orthodox Church Music” Foundation representatives, wishing to save the jubilee festival, agreed to the local authorities’ terms. The Council, no longer appointed just for the XX MFMC, but also for each subsequent one, had rather broad powers and was a legislative-executive body. Among its tasks, one could find, among others, adopting the Festival’s budget, deciding on its final artistic form, developing sponsorship rules, and determining the jury’s composition. On the authorities’ side, the agreement was signed by W. Pietroczuk, A. Ochryciuk, and City Council representative and its head, Eugeniusz Saczko. On the organizers’ side, these were I. Parfieniuk and M. Buszko.

However, while according to original declarations, the join convocation was supposed to have been called together in order to help the organizers, once that happened (during the most intense preparations for the festival), the local authorities sent a letter to the Metropolitan, in which they stated that the Council had been created too late to be of benefit to the event’s organization. The Council can, instead, it was written, perform a thorough analysis and evaluation of the Festival’s matters after its 20th edition concludes, and to draw up a program for the coming years. This letter reiterated the postulate of maintaining the Festival’s secular character and asked the Metropolitan to reinstate his blessing. Meanwhile, M. Buszko brought up the necessity of starting immediate work on organizing the festival — on 20 March, the Metropolitan received a letter from him with a request to activate the Council.

Local Government: This is Not Our Problem

The revocation of the Metropolitan’s blessing, along with subsequent events, was widely covered by the press. Newspapers wondered whether the Festival will take place at all. There were also investigations into the cause of the crisis. However, neither the church, nor the local government side wished to talk about it. Occasionally, there were statements similar to the district head’s comment for „Gazeta Współczesna”: An event of that rank cannot remain independent from local and city authorities. In the same article, the mayor, when asked for an opinion on the topic of the conflict, seemed to completely deny his involvement in it: At the moment, I would prefer to withhold my judgment on the reasons for the disagreement between the Orthodox Church and the organizers. Sometime later, he stated clearly: The City Council is in no way involved in this conflict. Fr. Henryk Paprocki, a press spokesman for the Orthodox Metropolitan Curia in Warsaw, when asked directly by a „Kurier Poranny” journalist whether the conflict is over event management, would answer: This is your comment, not mine. I cannot say anything more than that.

The Festival’s 20th edition took place. Immediately afterward, the evaluation of the Festival’s affairs announced by the Council took place. The Foundation submitted a technical and financial report from the Festival to the Council, but both were rejected. The reason for rejecting the technical report turned out to be an incorrectly presented guest list – secular guests were named before the clergy. The reason for rejecting the financial report was the accusation of an untrustworthy recording of donations posed by the Council. The Council decided to declare an audit in order to verify it.

The same reports were accepted without fault by all institutions financing the Festival, which included the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage.

An audit performed by an independent company (paid for by the Foundation) did not show any irregularities. All accounting was correct. However, neither the church, nor local authorities intended to wait for its official result. Knowing the audit’s details and knowing that it did not confirm the accusations laid against the organizers, precisely one day before its results were announced, they decided to create their own festival. On 28 November 2001, an announcement appeared on the Internet about the Hajnówka Orthodox Church Music Days (HDMC) declared by Metropolitan Sawa and their Social Organizational Committee (SKO). The Committee was composed of, among others, Fr. M. Niegierewicz, Mayor A. Ochryciuk, District Head W. Pietroczuk and Fr. M. Kiełbaszewski, thus partially copying the MFMC Council composition. The District Council where M. Buszko was serving as the first deputy head at the time, was not informed about the new event’s creation.

On 19 December, an MFMC Council session took place. How do you see the organization of the current festival in the newly emergent situation? – A. Ochryciuk, who was already the chairman at the time, asked Mikołaj Buszko. I see no obstacles, the Festival’s director stated in reply, which led the chairman to put to vote the MFMC being taken over and, from then on, controlled by Metropolitan Sawa. Despite the vote being repeated three times, the motion did not pass and the Council, which ultimately failed at taking control of the Festival, disbanded during the same session. This fact was later explained as difficulties with communicating with the organizers.

Hajnówka Orodox Church Music Days – Imperfect Copy

 The Council’s dissolution and the creation of the HDMC by no means meant the end to the Metropolitan’s and the local authorities’ activities, which, from that point on, were aimed not at taking control of, but of eliminating the MFMC. These activities were multi-vectored – from copying the festival’s formula and attempts to take over its legacy and continuity, to the gradual takeover of funding sources, discrediting the current organizers in the eyes of public opinion, denying them presence in media that previously widely reported on the festival, to forbidding Polish Orthodox parish choirs from participating in the MFMC, as well as sending an appropriate letter to hierarchs of international Orthodox churches.

From the very beginning of organizing the HDMC, despite the fact that the event was being organized for the first time, its organizers emphasized their long tradition and rich legacy. The event has the rank of an International Festival (…). Due to its specific kind of music, the Festival enjoys a great deal of interest among both local authorities and ordinary listeners (who frequently arrive from far away, in order to, in concentration, and within the beautiful scenery of the temple of Holy Trinity, listen to the vocal, multi-voiced a capella music). (…) The organization of such an undertaking, with approximately 30 participating choirs, requires considerable expenditures… – Fr. M. Niegierewicz, head of the SKO HDMC, wrote in a letter to sponsors. Supposedly testifying to the Days’ history was a characteristic postcard (issued by the Foundation) from one of the MFMC editions. Causing confusion was information issued to the media, suggesting that only the event’s formula is changing slightly — nothing more. The organizers may have abandoned the official enumeration of the subsequent Days, but during their second edition, they posted information on their webpage that for the 23rd time now, Hajnówka will resonate with the song of several dozen choirs from Poland and abroad. After some time, the Days’ name changed as well – the event was officially titled as Hajnówka Orthodox Church Music Days International Festival.

In contrast to all other Polish and foreign festivals that were inspired by the MFMC and honored the month of May as the time reserved for it, Hajnówka’s Days have been organized at the exact same time. So, for example, in 2003, when the “Orthodox Church Music” Foundation announced the date of the approaching Festival, the HDMC SKO chose an identical date. The Foundation then moved the date by a week. The effect of the Days’ organizers’ actions was such that when one festival concluded, another was just starting, even though it did happen that they ran in parallel.

Despite announcements of changes, the entire formula of Hajnówka’s Days turned out to be identical to the MFMC. Thus, they are inaugurated by a concert of last edition’s laureate (aside from 2002, when one did not exist yet), and then the contest auditions take place, followed by a festive gala concert. Choirs participating in the contest can sign up for the same categories as in the MFMC. The gala concert, following the pattern of past MFMC editions, takes place in Bialystok, as well as Hajnówka. As with the MFMC, the entire event also has its accompanying concerts and events (seminars, expositions, etc.) which take place both in temples and secular locations.

Days’ organizers decide to also copy the Foundation’s publishing activities. Thus, they publish, festival booklets, audio and video cassettes, and CD and DVD, and they create posters and banners – most of them stylistically similar to MFMC publications.

Metropolitan Sawa immediately banned all Polish Orthodox parish choirs from participating in the festival organized by the Foundation. Wishing to also stop foreign parish choirs from participating in the MFMC and to instead attract them to Days, he sent appropriate letters to international Orthodox churches. In order to achieve a better effect, the letters contained untrue accusations tarnishing the Foundation. I am obliged – the Metropolitan wrote – to inform Your Holiness that we withdrew the Church’s blessing granted to the Orthodox Church Music Foundation that, until now, organized the annual MFMC in Hajnówka. The reason for this was a stubborn refusal to hear out the Orthodox Church’s demands, as well as the refusal to comply with the common standards of financial responsibility. As a replacement, I appointed an Orthodox Church Council, which was charged with the task of organizing the HDMC, which will have only Orthodox choirs from various countries invited to participate in it. I hope that when our new Hajnówka Council contacts the management of Your Church’s choirs, they will receive Your Holiness’s blessing. As it later turned out, the Metropolitan’s declaration of only Orthodox choirs participating in the new event did not come true. Today, HDMC includes Orthodox choirs, but also others from select faiths, as well as secular choirs.

Financial Castling

Depriving the Foundation of its existing funding sources was an important vector of attack for the Orthodox Church and the local authorities working with it. Without money, the festival could not exist, after all, and its main sponsor was the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage. On 27 November – so, a day before the official announcement of starting up a new event – the Metropolitan directed a request at the Ministry of Culture regarding funding it as a special and important event for lovers of Orthodox Church music in Poland, for the Podlachian Voivodship, and for the faithful of our church. The Ministry that, since its inception, has never financed undertakings happening for the first time, initially had a negative reaction to such a postulate. On 13 December, the Department of Art and Promotion of Creativity presented the Minister with its stance and opinion regarding the situation that came about. Wondering at the stance of the local authorities toward an event of such rank as MFMC and voicing concern about its continued fate, it stated: In the current, very difficult situation of the MFMC in Hajnówka, it is necessary for the Ministry of Culture to support the organizer, who is trying to keep the festival alive at all costs and prevent the cancellation of such a valuable artistic endeavor, which has no equal in the country or abroad. Being aware of the limited funds available in 2002, as well as the necessity of funding the MFMC in Hajnówka, the Department of Art and Promotion of Creativity sees no possibility of granting financial aid to the new event ” Hajnówka Orthodox Church Music Days,” which, by design, will most likely be a copy of an event with such rich traditions and an already established international reputation. (…) It can be stated with full responsibility that the fact of calling a new Orthodox Church event to life will not replaced the festival that had been organized up until now, while the society of Hajnówka and all of the Podlachian Voivodship will lose a cultural event that brings the city and region to the fore of our country’s important cultural centers.

 April 2002 brought a precedent-setting event. The minister of culture’s stance changed completely. The department, breaking its rule of not financing new events for the first time, assigned 100,000 PLN for HDMC. XXI MFMC received the same sum for its own expenses. However, the Orthodox Church did not show the full extent of its capabilities until 2004. Because in that year, precisely on the day of XXIII MFMC’s inauguration, Mikołaj Buszko received news that the ministry did not allocate funding to the festival. The decision was not caused by concerns of an organizational, technical, or financial nature (in those fields, the department had nothing but good things to say), but by a lack of support from the Orthodox Church – the ministry’s representative also made an official statement about this to the press. The outrage that this move provoked among many representatives of the cultural and political world did not cause the funding to be reinstated the year after.

Similarly to the ministry, the Podlachian Voivodship’s authorities were also changing their decisions. In 2002, the voivodship’s rightwing authorities donated to the festival as they have done before. Meanwhile, in 2003, after the local elections and SLD taking power, MFMC did not receive any funds from the voivodship council. The decision was justified with a lack of funds, while exactly a day after the announcement, HDMC received 100,000 PLN. Since that decision also caused widespread public outrage, in the following year resources were split between the two festivals: MFMC received 60,000 PLN, while HDMC – 80,000 PLN. The council’s decisions were especially controversial given that the donation for the festival written into its budget stemmed from a government contract for the Podlachian Voivodship, which the MFMC organizers secured previously.

Meanwhile, the decisions of lowest-level local authorities – the district and the city – proved to be irrevocable. Since HDMC’s inception, they no longer apportioned any funds for the Festival. Additionally, before MFMC’s 21st edition, the City Council, by the mayor’s request, decided to cut spending on its subordinate Hajnówka House of Culture (HDK) – an institution that was then headed by M. Buszko and which co-organized the festival – by a quarter. In addition to withdrawing funding, in 2006, the city also introduced relevant regulations for announcing bids for carrying out public tasks within the sphere of culture, which visibly narrowed the group of possible bidders. The task regarding the popularization and presentation of spiritual values and artistic merits of Orthodox Church music, it was indicated that proposals can be submitted solely by institutions that will be working on the organization and conduct of the festival in the temple of Holy Trinity.

Starting with 2001, MFMC came under scrutiny like never before – systematic, annual, financial inspections began. The first inspection was conducted by the Hajnówka City Revision Commission. It inspected the HDK, which still had M. Buszko as its director at the time. This was the only inspection whose protocol showed any irregularities. Additionally, it posed a thesis that the Orthodox Church Music Foundation is enriching itself at the HDK’s expense. A later inspection by the Supreme Audit Office (NIK) conducted in the HDK did not confirm these accusations. The inspections conducted by NIK and the Ministry of Culture in the Orthodox Church Music Foundation also left no doubts. The donation was used in its entirety and in accordance with its intent, and with keeping to formal requirements – their protocols stated.

While, until 2001, politicians of various levels were eager to participate in MFMC, a year later they all gave priority to participation in a new event, which was nevertheless supported by the Orthodox Church. Even in 2003, when the inauguration concert was conducted by Krzysztof Penderecki – from that point on, the event’s constant artistic patron – authorities’ representatives chose to be present at HDMC. Prominent Belarusian writer Sokrat Janowicz commented on the situation in the press: If the entire political crew appears at an event, it is clear that they do not care for the event’s artistic value, but solely for using it for their own ends. (…) It is about gaining the electorate. )…) Since it is known that Mikołaj Buszko’s festival does not have the support of the Orthodox hierarchy, it is of course forbidden to turn the hierarchy against oneself.

The backdrop to all these events was the campaign aimed at discrediting MFMC and directly at the person of Mikołaj Buszko, which has been underway since 1999. Its main pillar became accusations of embezzling funds donated to the festival. During one of the public meetings, the mayor stated that the Orthodox Church Music Foundation is a cover for financial swindles. Similarly, Metropolitan Sawa, in a speech posted on HDMC’s webpage, suggested that the festival began to serve as a foundation for building various private interests and goal. Information spread both officially and through gossip, was easily accepted by the small Hajnówka society. The height of the campaign fell to 2002 – the time before local elections, which had both Mikołaj Buszko, and Anatol Ochryciuk campaigning for the position of Hajnówka’s mayor. During that time, the national weekly „Nie” published an article whose author, when describing MFMC’s history, presented all the functioning, more or less official accusations against Mikołaj Buszko. She never contacted him on that matter. As a result, the readers were given a text full of sensational news, in which no one knew what is happening to funds entering the festival’s account. The council created by the XX MFMC had nothing to say, mayor Anatol Ochryciuk and district head Włodzimierz Pietroczuk turned out to be the mediators in this conflict, attempting to rescue the festival, while director Buszko granted director Buszko an astounding remuneration of 18,265 PLN. Nobody explained that this sum was granted to Mikołaj Buszko by mayor Anatol Ochryciuk as annual compensation of the Festival’s director at the behest of the Festival Council, and that its size, dependent on the HDK director’s salary, was affected by the award for 35 years of work. Until then, for all its years, Mikołaj Buszko was not compensated for organizing the Festival and acting as the Festival director.

During the same elections, in his election flier, the mayor named socialization of the Orthodox Church music festival as one of his successes.

  1. Ochryciuk won the elections, and one of his first acts was dismissing M. Buszko from the position OF HDK director, which he had held for 24 years. Immediately afterward, he also eliminated the position of HDK deputy director held by Irena Parfieniuk.

For the entire time, at various occasions, the cause of the misunderstanding was also explained as M. Buszko’s difficult character and the inability to communicate with him. It was stated that the Festival director abused the Orthodox Church’s authority for inappropriate reasons and circumstances and that the festival’s existing formula was not to the Church’s liking. HDMC organizers also stated that their goal is purging Hajnówka’s encounters with song of alien elements. These were very unclear statements and no one could explain what is hidden behind them.

***

The XXI MFMC took place despite adversity. Not having the Orthodox Church’s permission to organize the Festival in the temple of Holy Trinity, the organizers conducted the event in the HDK. After M. Buszko’s dismissal from his position as HDK director, in 2003, the Festival was moved to Białystok – i.e. to the Białystok Philharmonic, which had held the gala concerts before then, and to the Branicki Palace. Since then, the Festival takes place in Białystok every year. It has maintained its previous formula – aside from Orthodox parish choirs from Poland, it still host choirs from across the world and is accompanied by various additional events, such as accompanying concerts organized across the country and abroad, expositions, the European Composer and Conductor Forum Master Class, premieres of author concerts, premieres of unknown Orthodox church music pieces created by Polish composers, etc. This also permitted performances of choir-instrumental pieces, which was impossible in the Orthodox Church. Since 2003, the Festival has gained additional prestige, as Krzysztof Penderecki has assumed artistic Patronage over it.