Today was a travel day, and on our 9-hour bus journey (which included lunch and bathroom breaks) from Prague to Krakow, our tour director Paul Vladu showed us the movie made in 2005 about Karol Wojtyla, the Polish priest who became Pope John Paul II and served from 1984-2005.
It was a stark introduction to Poland as we will stay the two nights in Krakow and two nights in Warsaw (I will actually stay an extra night in Warsaw while most of the tour group moves on to Berlin.)
According to Decent Films:
Karol: A Man Who Became Pope isn’t the first TV movie on the life of Karol Wojtyla, the future Pope John Paul II, but among the crop of 2005 Pope TV movies released in the wake of the Holy Father’s death, it was the first, if not the best, and the only one to be seen and praised both by Benedict XVI and John Paul II himself.
Brian Lowry of Variety wrote:
Nearly the entire first half of the production chronicles Karol as a young student during World War II, a stout lad who literally carries his ailing father on his shoulders once they become refugees. They take up residence in occupied Krakow, where Karol spends part of his time debating the best paths to resistance and discussing man’s capacity for evil with a noble priest (“Under the Tuscan Sun’s” Raoul Bova).
Evil, alas, is there en masse, personified by Nazi governor Hans Frank (Matt Craven, one of the few U.S. actors in this English-language production), whose brutality results in several grueling moments as innocents are gunned down,
Prior to seeing this movie, I was somewhat unaware of all the suffering the Polish people had to endure over the years of the Nazi and Soviet occupation. Tomorrow, in fact, we will visit Auschwitz, where 6 million Poles lost their lives; half of those were Jewish.
It is believed that when Karol Wojtyla became Pope, it was a strike against communism. For further reading, I recommend Steven Gertz’ article, “What part did John Paul II play in opposing communism in Eastern Europe” in which he writes, “to understand Karol Wojtyla (John Paul II’s birth name) and his part in the collapse of Communism is to remember this man lived under oppression and tyranny for much of his life.” In fact, he inspired the rise of Lech Walesa, the Polish electrician who formed the only Soviet trade union, Solidarity.
In talking about this movie to some of my fellow travelers, I was reminded of my visit to Rome in November 2015, when I saw Pope Francis only 6-8 feet away from me. Go back and check out my post, “The people’s Pope.”
The entire three hour movie is available free on YouTube which you can view here.