The elder of these daughters was Edith Zierer. In January 1945, at 13, she emerged from a Nazi labor camp in Czestochowa, Poland, a waif on the verge of death. Separated from her family, unaware that her mother had been killed by the Germans, she could scarcely walk.
But walk she did, to a train station, where she climbed onto a coal wagon. The train moved slowly, the wind cut through her. When the cold became too much to bear, she got off the train at a village called Jendzejuw. In a corner of the station, she sat. Nobody looked at her, a girl in the striped and numbered uniform of a prisoner, late in a terrible war. Unable to move, Edith waited.
Death was approaching, but a young man approached first, "very good looking," as she recalled, and vigorous. He wore a long robe and appeared to the girl to be a priest. "Why are you here?" he asked. "What are you doing?"
Edith said she was trying to get to Krakow to find her parents.
The man disappeared. He came back with a cup of tea. Edith drank. He said he could help her get to Krakow. Again, the mysterious benefactor went away, returning with bread and cheese.
They talked about the advancing Soviet army. Edith said she believed her parents and younger sister, Judith, were alive.
"Try to stand," the man said. Edith tried - and failed. The man carried her to another village, where he put her in the cattle car of a train bound for Krakow. Another family was there. The man got in beside Edith, covered her with his cloak, and set about making a small fire.
His name, he told Edith, was Karol Wojtyla.
The rest of the article is a moving tribute not only to this act of love, but to the goodness that already infused the young Polish seminarian, a goodness born in a sea of hatred, despair, and misery. It is yet another, albeit very personal, testament as to why such a person as this will be hard to find again in the world.
Just a reminder, though: You don't have to be a Catholic or a Pole to love, and you don't have to be so good and perfect all the time. All that is necessary is that you aim to be good. And for those that believe, know that when your time comes to offer your own light to the world, an open heart will help the spirit of God to move you to incredible feats.
[Cross-posted at Between Worlds]