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Wanda Poltawska: John Paul II’s best friend

2010-02-24

That’s where Adolf Hitler’s personal doctor, Karl Gebhardt subjected her to horrific medical experiments. Wanda says her curiosity to find how far human cruelty would go, was the only thing that kept her alive. After the war, she went home completely demoralized and began searching for a priest to help her reconcile with humanity.

Wanda Poltawska
Author ‘Diario di un’Amicizia’

“At the concentration camp, I witnessed an inhumane way of being a man and woman. But at the same time, I also saw heroic acts. That’s why, I couldn’t understand who is the true human person. Eventually, I found the answer with the help of the anthropology and priest and philosopher Karol Wojtyla.”

That’s how her friendship of more than 50 years started. Since 1950 until his death, Karol Wojtyla was a confessor, spiritual guide and personal friend to Wanda Poltawska and her husband. In fact, the couple was the late pope’s advisors when he wrote "Love and Responsibility" and "The Acting Person.” 

In 1962, Wanda was diagnosed with cancer. The doctors gave her little chance to live. Karol Wojtyla wrote to Padre Pio, asking him to pray for her healing. Miraculously, the cancer disappeared without a trace.

Proof of Wanda’s friendship with the pope is spelled out in hundreds of letters they would send each other over the span of 55 years.

Wanda would write to him about her reflections on bible scriptures, Karol Wojtyla would suggest. He would later add his own ideas.

Now Wanda is publishing memoirs of her friendship with the late pontiff. In one letter, Karol Wojtyla recognizes how God had saved him from going to a concentration camp, because Wanda had gone in his place. That’s why he would refer to Wanda as his ‘little sister’ and he would sign the letter ‘your brother Karol’.

Wanda Poltawska
Author ‘Diario di un’Amicizia’

“When I met him, I first wanted to see what he would talk about, how he would celebrate Mass. I witness how he prayed and understood he was a saintly priest, I could see that from the first instant.”

The strong bond between the Poltawska’s and Karol Wojtyla remained even after he became pope. The Poltawska’s would attend some Christmas gatherings at the Vatican and spend some days with him over the summers at Castel Gandolfo. When the pope was sick, Wanda read books to him out loud so he could rest.

Wanda Poltawska
Author ‘Diario di un’Amicizia’

“His secret is that he loved all human beings. It didn’t matter if they were good, bad or thieves. He treated everyone with love, like Jesus would. He was truly a Vicar of Christ on earth.”

Many biographies exist on John Paul II, but the profile outlined in “‘Diario di un’Amicizia” by Wanda Poltawska is special. It documents 55 years of a friendship, and a new side of Karol Wojtyla: the one of a spiritual guide.


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