Jaroslaw and Karolina Kordys were sentenced to 8 years in prison for leading ayahuasca ceremonies in the Czech Republic – but the president of the republic has announced that he will pardon them. We interviewed Karolina to mark this occasion.
Drugreporter: How do you feel about the news that the Czech president is going to pardon you?
Karolina Kordys: I am very happy and grateful. From the first moment I just couldn’t believe and was sure that someone was making a joke. I don’t have words to describe that amazing feeling, that finally all this nightmare will stop; that we will be free again. That’s a miracle I was praying for.
Can you talk about yourselves: What is your background, how did you end up being ayahuasca healers in the Czech Republic? What kind of training did you undergo and who was your teacher?
We are Polish, Karolina and Jaroslaw. I study psychology and have a musical education. Jarek worked as a manager at financial department. He wasn’t satisfied with the luxury life he had. We have been looking for the sense of our lives.
After his first ayahuasca ceremony he changed his way of thinking, started to notice things he never noticed before and thought about priorities. He decided to leave his job, went to Peru, and over there learnt from shamans about healing plants. His teachers were Don Enrique Lopez from a center in the deep jungle outside of Iqutios, and Don Jose Campos from Pucallpa. Every year we travelled to the Amazon with the goal of doing special ‘dietas’ with healing plants called ‘master plants’. Those were plants who are very powerful with a long list of benefits for the body and mind. Shamans say those plants can teach.
Dietas are very demanding and last from a week to a few months. It is a holy time only with the plants and their wisdom. Together we visited some tribes and met many teachers in the jungle where we found inspirations for our work and music. Jaroslaw discovered that he wished to help people to heal and find inner peace, so he started to provide different kinds of retreats and ceremonies (cacao, kambo, ayahuasca, rapee, sweat lodge, relaxation concerts, meditations). I met Jaroslaw through our mutual friend, then I slowly started to get to know what his world looks like. I really liked it, as I understood that helping and supporting others is also my mission, as nowadays everyone needs some kind of help.We chose to live in CR because of the law.
There was a plan to create a meditation center here, to make a beautiful healing space for the people, where they could find traditional healing methods, release their problems, relax, and connect with nature. We planned to have little donkeys and horses, chickens, and many other animals. My dream was always to make an animal therapy center for kids. We planned to create special quiet rooms for meditations called vipassana, where you can stay for 10 days away from the world and mobile phones, and just focus on the meditation. We wanted to be self-sufficient in our house which we bought in the Czech Republic. Also we had a plan to make our garden bigger to have even more eco veggies and fruits. We had even more plans for the future, everything was connected with the service for others. We started a band called Cura Sana which we shared during the retreats and our concerts (3 CDs with shamanic music).
Could you explain for those who don’t know this subject what an ayahuasca ceremony looks like, and what your role as healers is? How do you help people?
An ayahuasca ceremony usually starts in the evening and it lasts about 6 hours. The meeting takes place in a well prepared space where everyone can feel safe. At first we explained all the important rules and course of the ceremony. We sat down in the circle, shared intentions, meditated together and then we started to drink the medicine. Music is an important part of the ceremony, it works as a tool that we use for different purposes. We used special traditional shamanic songs called ‘icaros’, that are intended to navigate the energy and process. Our range of instruments is big – shamanic flutes, drums, Tibetan bowls, gongs, rattles, guitar, charango, Celtic harp, etc. All of these can very strongly influence the mood of participants.
The effects after drinking ayahuasca are usually diarrhea and vomiting. It is the way the body cleans up, and also it works on the mental level – it clears the mind and emotions and brings up more conciousness. All of this helps to release deep traumas and problems from the subconcious.
The role of the shaman/guide is to help the navigation of the process. Everything needs to be done carefully, with patience and an open heart, and it is also best if it is supported by doctors.
After every session we had a ‘sharing circle’ where we could talk about the experiences and find missing answers. Guides of the ceremony should take care of everything, not only physically, but also spiritually. The guide accompanies people and goes down with them to even the darkest places, when it’s necessary. Experiences bring more understanding, clarity, and wisdom, and it should be integrated later on with the life of a person. It is perfect when someone does the therapy at the same time, as it is a good tool to open up and realize what should be seen or released.
Do you think ayahuasca can be helpful only when it is used in a traditional, ritual context, or can it become a modern medicine without the traditional context?
I think ayahuasca is very helpful and has huge potential for healing. In my opinion both options could be great. The shamanic context is powerful and shows the deep meaning of the tradition itself and the wisdom of the plants from the spiritual level. It is pure and raw. It had a beginning in here. From the other side everything evolves and changes. New methods and ways will appear and be shaped into new forms. It’s very important to point out that differences on every level are big and visible between the mind of Europeans and indigenous people.
I believe that Ayahuasca itself tries to find its own paths to every type of mind and human. It is happening already. People in Europe, and elsewhere, have started to work with it in the new, unique way, in the safe and controlled environment, under psychotherapeutic supervision, which I think is great. During my stays in the jungle I found out that the typical shamanic style of the ceremonies, were not correctly selected for me and didn’t meet my expectations. My needs are clearly defined, I know exactly what is good for me, especially in the context of such a deep, psychedelic experience. There is some level that must be assured, otherwise I am not able to open up fully for the experience.
I believe there are many people like me who couldn’t discover the deeper layers of their counciousness during the ceremonies with indigenous curanderos. What was missing was a contact with a person who can ensure special care and psychotherapy. My mind works on different frequencies than the mind of a person who grew up in the jungle, and that’s why I think it is beneficial to use ayahuasca according to the needs, mentality, and environment. I would rather want to understand every detail from my experience, which I didn’t find while working with the indigenous shamans. In my opinion ayahuasca can become a modern medicine without the traditional context, as maybe for Europeans it doesn’t have a bigger meaning. Ayahuasca will bring to a person exactly what is needed for the healing and understanding, at least if it’s treated with respect and responsibility. It can’t be used only for the money, but with deep intention to change, to heal, and to increase awareness.
Many people think that ayahuasca can only be used in the Amazonas region by local curanderos, and that importing it to Europe is a bad idea. What do you think about this?
I don’t agree with this. I have seen frauds, disrespect, and abuses of ayahuasca in the Amazon. Many local people treat it as a commodity to trade, where only cash counts. In Europe though I saw a sacrifice, esteem, deep surrender and tribute to the Ayahuasca. While we were travelling through the Amazon we got know that local people often didn’t know what ayahuasca is. I had a feeling that many people were afraid of it and don’t need it for their spiritual growth. That’s why I came to the conclusion that ayahuasca itself wants to be shared also in other places of the world where people need it. Many people in Europe don’t have enough money or time to travel to the Amazon and take part in some dietas or ceremonies, and many can’t go due to health reasons, but those are exactly the people who need it the most. In my opinion sharing the medicine, anywhere in the world, for people in need, should be allowed and available, at least if it would be done with respect and wisdom.
How did you recruit people to your ceremonies? What kind of people came, with what kind of problems?
Jaroslaw provided a multilingual website through which people signed up. The people who decided to come were suffering from: depressions, addictions to drugs/ alcohol/ nicotine, different kind of diseases like allergies/ migraines/ PTSD/ Crohn’s disease/ cancer/ obsessive-compulsive disorder/ postnatal depression, etc.. Some people were healthy, but unfortunately weren’t happy and were looking for a sense of their life, wanted to understand themselves and the world better. Many people had spent years in psychotherapy and taking psychotropic pills that didnt help them at all. Before the ceremony we always asked about the intentions and when we got an answer that someone is just looking for another ‘high’, we clearly refused. Ayahuasca is meant for serious work.
How did the police catch you, did someone snitch on you? Can you explain how the police treated you?
Within a year three of our packages of ayahuasca (containing DMT) were stopped by customs. Probably at this moment everything started. We were under police observation for 10 months. On the 15th Oct, at 6 am, while we were still sleeping, a special unit forced their way into our house in CR. They smashed the door with a crowbar. At first we were shocked and convinced that it’s the gang of thieves. We were treated as the worst villains by them. They put us in handcuffs and we couldn’t even say a word to each other. After the long house search we were taken into custody where I stayed 5 months and Jarek 2 years.
Any message to people who are interested in trying ayahuasca?
Yes, they should definitely look for a good recommended place and shaman who really helped others. A consultation about state of health (diseases, medications) is absolutely necessary. The prior time to the ceremony should be special, as the proper preparation includes a few levels – physical (special diet), mental (meditation, relaxation) and spiritual (why I want to do it/ what I need to change and understand).
Interview by Peter Sarosi