World War II deprived an entire generation of youth happy Poles and the most beautiful time in their life turned into hell, which lasted five long years. On September 1st, the German army invaded Poland, starting the second global conflict. Wanda was 17 years old. Wanda was a scout, which was considered an obligation in Poland, as you learned to love your culture and important Christian virtues. It is no wonder that during the occupation Wanda decided to enter the secret structures of the Polish resistance movement, where she was a courier for AGS (Union of Armed Struggle ). Unfortunately, on 17 February 1941 she was arrested and thrown into prison in Lublin – where she was beaten and tortured when she did not disclose the names of their conspiracy comrades. On September 22, 1941 she was taken with other prisoners to the concentration camp in Ravensbrück. Behind the gate of the camp, Wanda ceased to be a person with a name and became the number 9077.
During the war about 130 thousand women from 27 countries (40 thousand Polish women) were imprisoned in Ravensbrück. Only 8 thousand women survived. The prisoners at Ravensbrück, were badly fed and kept in cold living conditions. They were forced into inhumane labor, tortured and gunned down at a later date. On the grounds of the concentration camp was a crematorium where the bodies of the dead were burned to ashes. Wanda was not shot, however a much crueler fate awaited her as a “Kaninchen”. This word in German means “rabbit”, but in Ravensbrück it had a more terrible significance – “Kaninchen” were the prisoners held for “experimental” surgery performed by a medical team from a nearby clinic for the SS, headed by Professor. Karl Gebhard. “Experiments” were alleged to create new medicines for infection treatment of soldier wounds. Prisoners were deliberately subjected to open wounds, broken bones and infected bacteria. In some wounds pieces of wood or material were deliberately placed to cause gangrene. Then, these wounds were treated with new drugs to determine their effectiveness. Other experiments involved the regeneration of bones, muscles and nerves, and possibilities of transplantation of bone from one person to another. While some women only suffered amputation of limbs, others only had broken bones.
And that is how Wanda became a “rabbit” or “guinea pig” for these experiments. She was subjected to a leg surgery, and this “experimental” treatment caused her great pain. She started having suicidal thoughts – such as throwing herself at the high voltage barbed wire fence that surrounded the camp. Germans planned to kill all the participants of the experiments however the other prisoners stood in their defense and in the end some “Kaninchen” remained alive. However several still died during the operations and several were shot. The camp was liberated by Soviet troops on the 30th of April in 1945. Wanda was finally free and managed to return to Lublin. But she did not want to remain in the city – because every part of Lublin reminded her friends and acquaintances who died during the war. For Wanda it was unbearable, also she decided to study medicine. These factors encouraged her to move to Cracow to study medicine. Unfortunately, the change of residence did not erase from her memories of the camp. When someone asked who she was, she spontaneously answered “number 9077”. Many survivors of the Holocaust wondered where was God while they were dying; Wanda, after her experiences of the Nazi hell, wondered: who is man? She sought to answer this question to understand herself. However medical studies did not give her an answer. She received an answer to her question when she met a man who was philosopher and priest –
She went to St. Mary’s Church, where Priest Karol entered, whom she knew from pastoral doctors. He went into a confessional. She followed him as if she was pushed by some greater force. Wanda then confessed and felt great relief and peace. After so many events and misunderstandings with so many peoples she had finally found someone who really understood her. After the confession, the priest told her: “Come to Mass every day”. She understood immediately that he was a holy priest with rare the ability to listen. For this reason Priest Karol became her confessor and soul guide.
Priest Karol’s method was biblical meditation: everyday after Mass, he prepared a short fragment from the Bible for her to base her meditation upon. During the day she meditated upon the text and wrote her reflections. Priest Karol read everything Wanda wrote and added his own reflections to them.
Her relationship with Priest Karol was not only spiritual, but also professional. She was a young psychiatrist providing counseling for young people. Many couples came to her in crisis and seeking help. Immediately she realized that she needs the help of a priest. Priest Karol was already involved in this type of ministry, so he began to help her. This joint work created a strong bond between them.
During her imprisonment in Ravensbrück, Nazis left newborn babies to starve to death or the newborns would be thrown into the furnace. Wanda witnessed this horrifying scene. It was then that she promised herself that if she survived, she would study medicine and defend the lives of children. Priest Karol was part of the doctor’s ministry, so he and Wanda met frequently. In 1956, in communist Poland, the law against abortion was lifted. Wanda, as a doctor, and Karol, as a priest, were shocked and horrified by this decision against life. They began offensive operations in the defense of unborn children, to oppose this bill. Measures to save each unborn child began then, and still continues today –
Priest Karol was a philosopher and was always interested in anthropology and ethics. In addition, he was also the academic chaplain. He was particularly interested in the fate of youth, their love between man and woman and the sanctity of the family. Priest Karol believed that family forms the personality of every human being. At the same time he noticed that love within the family depends on the proper understanding of the physical relations between man and woman.
When Priest Karol was in Rome for the Second Vatican Council, Wanda felt ill. Her husband sent a telegram to Priest Karol which informed him that Wanda was in the hospital, and he – on the advice of a priest from Italy – turned to Father Pio. In his letter to Father Pio he asked Father Pio to pray for the sick forty-year old mother of four daughters, but did not give her name. Wanda, as everyone in Poland, knows nothing of the friar – Communists hold society well isolated from the West. When she recovers she learns about these letters and felt chills when she discovered their contents. Her miraculous recovery instead of throwing her to her knees in gratitude for God, awakened in her a kind of rebellion. She was afraid of the great power of God. It terrifies her that we solely depend on him (God).

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