It's based on a folk song recorded by Adolf Dygacz
in the Silesia region in south-western Poland; "Where has he gone, my dear young son" (Kajze mi sie podzioł mój synocek miły), which describes a mother's mourning for a son lost in war.
The second movement here
is based upon
an inscription scrawled on the wall of a cell of a Gestapo prison in the town of Zakopane, which lies at the foot of the Tatra mountains in southern Poland. The words were those of 18-year-old Helena Wanda Błażusiakówna, a highland woman incarcerated on 25 September, 1944. It read "O Mamo nie płacz nie—Niebios Przeczysta Królowo Ty zawsze wspieraj mnie" (Oh Mamma do not cry—Immaculate Queen of Heaven support me always). The composer recalled, "I have to admit that I have always been irritated by grand words, by calls for revenge. Perhaps in the face of death I would shout out in this way. But the sentence I found is different, almost an apology or explanation for having got herself into such trouble; she is seeking comfort and support in simple, short but meaningful words". He later explained, "In prison, the whole wall was covered with inscriptions screaming out loud: 'I'm innocent', 'Murderers', 'Executioners', 'Free me', 'You have to save me'—it was all so loud, so banal. Adults were writing this, while here it is an eighteen-year-old girl, almost a child. And she is so different. She does not despair, does not cry, does not scream for revenge. She does not think about herself; whether she deserves her fate or not. Instead, she only thinks about her mother: because it is her mother who will experience true despair. This inscription was something extraordinary. And it really fascinated me.. "
The third movement is a prayer by Mary to Christ on the Cross. "O my son, beloved and chosen, Share your wounds with your mother …" (Synku miły i wybrany, Rozdziel z matką swoje rany …)
and speaks of that miraculous event, depicted in the Passion narrative, of one person trying to take the pain of another away. The sorrow is that such a thing is not possible. The miracle is that such a thing is possible.
Gorecki seemed to have a very profound and remarkable insight into the nature of human cruelty and suffering and he had the amazing talent of translating that insight into fantastic art.
He died this last month (November 12, 2010). God rest him.