Poland is a very traditionally Catholic country. 95% of the population is Catholic. It is the most conservative member of the European Union. When I say "traditionally catholic" I mean Catholic, in terms of religion, but even more in terms of tradition. They do what their ancestors have done for generations. They are very proud of this. Also, the beloved Pope John Paul II was Polish, and that really cemented the tradition and pride more than ever. The country has been through SO MUCH and I think their religion is one thing they feel has helped them through the extremely difficult times.
Now about the LDS church here.
Poland opened to the missionaries in 1990, I think, just after the fall of communism. In Poland there is one mission (Warsaw, Poland) which is divided up into districts which are divided up into branches. I'm sort of guessing on some of this but I think there are about 12 branches total.
Warsaw, of course, is the biggest city and it is the only city with two branches. It is also currently the only place where there is an actual chapel, as in separate, church-built and owned building. The other branches meet in rented apartments, normally in large old buildings where businesses rent or sometimes where people live. Sorry I don't have pictures, but the church remodels the areas so you would recognize them if you were to visit (please visit!!). There is the typical church building carpet in a royalish blue. There are no wooden pews but soft chairs (which are comfortable if you don't have back problems) in a matching blue. There is always the "chapel" in the largest of the rooms, which usually seats maybe 30-150? (depending on the branch). Then there are the other rooms used as classrooms. The chapel is usually used also for Sunday School or priesthood or both.
Now I'll stick to our district down here in the south, because I can give you more accurate information about it. We have three branches (and I think a new, recently started group, which is smaller than a branch. I think there are 4 missionaries and 2 members). Krakow, the one we belong to, is meeting in the third location since we moved here just over 8 years ago. It went from small to big, and back to small again. At this point our branch has 8 missionaries, usually one companionship is sisters. Right now the branch president is one of the missionaries. On any given Sunday I would say there are maybe six to eight members attending. Except when we're there. We almost double the number. We've recently been whittling down the meetings and currently have 1/2 hour Sacrament meetings (so each member doesn't have to give a talk every other week) and then one meeting after that, trading off Sunday school one week and Relief Society/Priesthood the next. We attribute the decline of the branch to the fact that almost all of the young adults that were the strength of the branch a couple of years ago have moved with the rest of their generation to England. This is a tragedy for both the Church and the country. Good bye rising generation! It also means that our branch has a number of older members who are still rather stuck in their old ways and don't provide the strength that they could.
It's very hard for us, living over two hours from our branch, to be very involved in missionary work. It's also hard to be involved in weekday activities. It's nearly impossible for us to attend weeknight firesides or activities. When we talk to people about the gospel here in our town, it's very difficult to encourage them to spend an entire day traveling to and from a meeting, just to see what it's like. There are also no missionaries for us to refer to people in our town (although some have been sent in the past when we've had interested investigators, but the distance problem makes everything very difficult.)
I sometimes feel that I don't do all I can here. I sometimes feel that there is very little I even can do. I don't magnify the calling that I hold (counselor in the District RS presidency). I am far too apathetic about it all. I have done much better in some of my other callings (RS pres, for example, although that was hard to do long distance, too.) When we first moved here people would always tell me that just being in church and sharing a smile was an enormous help. I think it sort of was. But after eight years living here, it seems I should now be doing more rather than less to help out in the church. Right now the main thing that I do is sit with my kids in Sacrament meeting and try to be an example of a good, strong eternal family. Ours is the only one in our branch.
Ours is the smallest branch in the district, so the other two are in better shape. There are some wonderful leaders and we have enthusiastic missionaries. I appreciate the strength of this first generation of Polish saints. They have so much to overcome. There are so many old "traditions" be incorporated into a new lifestyle, and many, many to be broken for good. It is extremely difficult, and requires a great deal of sacrifice. I am so grateful for these strong Poles and their hard work, their growing testimonies,and their willingness to be different from those around them and to set an example for others to see. I really can't imagine how hard it must be. As I say, the traditions are so extremely deeply rooted that most people cannot fathom why or how anyone could change them. It requires amazing faith, determination and dedication. The kind that I hope to have some day.
sorry if this post isn't very clear. I'm not up to trying to make it coherent.