Grzegorz Górny

In life of Karol Wojtyła what was stronger than fear of death were three desires: first, the desire of knowledge, later art and finally God.

The future pope had been interested in humanities since his early youth. Before the outbreak of the Second World War, as a teenager, he began to write poems in which one could see the influence of the Polish romantic poetry with its characteristic feature of messianism. He chose studies of Polish literature at the Jagiellonian Univeristy in Cracow.

In September 1939 Hitler and Stalin removed the Republic of Poland from the maps of Europe. In the same year the Soviet and German occupiers began an extermination action aimed at liquidation of Polish students and professors as the social class. Before the attack on our country activists of the German minority in the Second Republic of Poland prepared proscription lists with surnames of Polish social activists, lawyers, doctors, officials or entrepreneurs. On this basis, German occupiers arrested and murdered indicated people in collective places of execution. Their only fault was belonging to ‘the Polish leadership group’. It recalled an operation of lobotomies performed on an alive body. The nation without elites was supposed to change into a passive mass.

For this mass the Germans created a marionette state – the General Governorship, in which they treated the local people worse than they had used to treat the Black people in their African colonies. They ripped them off any citizen rights and made them subordinate to a process of cultural degradation. They closed down all universities, secondary schools, museums, archives and libraries. They ordered everybody to confiscate all radios and listening to the radio was punished with death penalty. The Germans treated other’s possessions as theirs, they stole lots of art works, of which half a million have been missing Poland till today. It was possible to learn in Polish only in primary schools, lasting four years, in which one could learn only skills of reading, writing and the simplest calculations. Subjects such as Geography or History were forbidden. The nation of slaves did not need anything more. For a few years, the nation of a few dozen million people did not have a university in its own mother tongue and only one secondary school – in Hungary where Polish refugees hid. A similar policy of de-polonization was carried out on the lands conquered by the Soviet Union.

In this situation education became a conspiracy activity, which was punished with death penalty. The so-called sets of illegal lectures were created, which were given in private flats by professors. One of the students taking those illegal education was young Karol Wojtyła. His desire to gain knowledge turned out to be stronger than probability of losing his life. Another illegal activity, strictly punished by the Germans was the theatrical activity. Despite that, theatrical performances were given in private houses. One of those who risked their life because of it was Karol Wojtyła. His desire to have a contact with art was stronger than the threat of death.

Danuta Michałowska, one of the future pope’s friends, performing with him then, when asked after years, why most plays of Polish romanticism writers, like Adam Mickiewicz and Juliusz Słowacki, had been given during the conspiracy performances, answered: ‘when being forced to die, so only for the best ones’.

Karol Wojtyła was connected with the Rapsody Theatre during the war occupation. In performances he played even main roles, among the others, in a drama by Juliusz Słowacki ‘King-Ghost’ he played the role of king Bolesław – a murderer of the bishop of Cracow St. Stanisław. And it was just during that performance when he felt the spiritual conversion. At that time he decided to reject acting and choose priesthood. Soon after that he joined a conspiracy seminary in which education was forbidden by the German authorities. A similar situation had taken place for the third time. But, this time, what was stronger than losing his life, was his desire to follow God.


Niedziela 47/2018 (25 XI 2018)

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: