A TALENTED artist who was inspired by the life of a Polish Catholic priest said it was a dream come true to have her work displayed in his museum in Warsaw.

Esther Pape learnt about Jerzy Popiełuszko when she started her Art & Design diploma at Carlisle College.

Popiełuszko became the religious figurehead of the Solidarity freedom movement during the 1970s and 1980s. His outspoken criticism of the Polish government meant he drew attention from the internal security forces and he was killed at the hands of the communist state secret police in 1984.

Esther, 18, of Stanwix, Carlisle, researched and produced series of art works based on his life and brutal murder, attracting the attention of Paweł Kęska, curator of the museum of Jerzy Popiełuszko based at the Stanisława Kostki Church in Warsaw.

Earlier this month, she and her friend Karolina Grobelna, were invited to the museum and met the late priest’s friends and family.

She was also shown where he lived and visited his grave, next to the church where he held his mass.

“I felt very emotional,” she said. “I found it very exciting as well. It was just so amazing to see how grateful they were for the artwork.

“They were just so happy. I think that’s the best feeling in the world.”

Esther, a former Newman School pupil, never studied art at school but convinced Art & Design course tutor Alf Phillips to give her a place in 2018.

As well as becoming fascinated with Popiełuszko’s tragic story, she developed an interest in embroidery and the three dimensional construction of fabric elements.

Esther produced a shrine based on the life of the Catholic priest as part of her final exam unit during her first year and this drew attention from the museum who asked her to send photographs for display.

During lockdown, as part of her second year of study, Esther created a cassock, which has now been put on display at Stanisława Kostki Church, the sanctuary and museum dedicated to Popiełuszko, having first been displayed in the flat he lived in.

Speaking about her inspiration, Esther said: “Jerzy was very brave and had massive courage. He was really heroic.

“The secret police were always trying to kill him because of his work and he just kept going.

“I think it’s amazing that he couldn’t be beaten. Even though he was killed in the end, he still isn’t beaten because his memory is very much alive in Warsaw.”

She continued: “Ever since his death millions of people have come to his grave including prime ministers and presidents.

“The Polish people who I met had so much devotion. A woman I met called Inna Meshkorez goes to his grave every single day.

“I just think it’s amazing how he’s made such a massive impact on their lives. They refuse to forget him.

“His close friends have given their lives to making sure he’s remembered still.

“When he died they were afraid the secret police would take his body and even to this day they are standing watch at his grave, even at night time.”

In return for her piece Esther was given a relic of Popiełuszko to bring back to Carlisle. This will now be kept at Our Lady’s and St Joseph Church in Carlisle.

Mr Phillip’s said Esther’s had worked hard over the last two years and it is her passion for her art that has taken her into Europe at such a young age.

“Esther is amazing and that is something all her tutors agreed. When she first came to the course as a young 16-year-old she could talk passionately about Georgian artists, clothing and literature,” he said.

“You really don’t meet many young students who are passionate about such historic art. The thing about Esther is she can apply that passion to new subjects too - as long as embroidery is involved.

“I am really pleased with her for her success.

“Esther is a maker more than a drawer but she is a very talented and passionate maker.

“We get lots of students who like to embellish pages and work but Esther took it to a whole new level of seriousness and meaning by applying that to symbolise Jerzy Popieluszko’s life and tragic death. That is a very rare thing in any student.”

Esther said her tutors were very supportive. “Alf Phillips, Paul Taylor and Wendy Oxley are the best art tutors I have ever had,” she said.

“The amount of enthusiasm and support I received from them was just amazing.

“They are a credit to Carlisle college and there teaching is first class.”