STORIES OF KAROL: the Unknown Life of John Paul II, by G.F. Svidercoschi

STORIES OF KAROL: the Unknown Life of John Paul II, by G.F. Svidercoschi

Br Barry Coldrey

the Unknown Life of John Paul II
by G.F. Svidercoschi
(Gracewing, 2003, 150pp, $29.95. ISBN: 0-85244-396-X. Available from Freedom Publishing)

by Pawel Zuchniewicz
(Catholic Youth Studio, Toronto, Canada, 2006, 194pp, $39.95. ISBN: 0-97809-790-4. Available from Freedom Publishing)

Stories of Karol is a clear, simple and detailed biography of Pope John Paul II from his birth in 1920 at Wadowice (a city some 70 kilometres from Cracow) through his childhood and youth until as a university student in 1939 he faced the overwhelming German invasion and occupation of Poland during the next six years.

It was during this appalling time that Karol decided to become a priest although the seminaries were closed and the students dispersed by the occupying Germans. However, the Archbishop of Cracow, Adam Sapieha, maintained a secret 'seminary' in his palace where Karol was able to pursue his studies on a part-time basis.

In fact, the biography is at its strongest in portrayals of the inhumanity of the Nazi era and displays a familiarity with the realities of war-time (and Cold War Poland) and how they shaped the young Wojtyla's life and thought.

Stories of Karol follows the future Pope's trials and triumphs as a young man, starting from the Nazi invasion of Poland, through the long years that followed dominated by a Communist government under the thumb of Moscow, and culminating with the 1978 papal conclave.

There are dramatic descriptions of young Karol's Nazi-era experiences with the Rhapsodic Theatre, an underground cultural resistance movement; his wartime employment in a quarry, which left him with a profound respect for the dignity of manual labour; his kayaking trips with young people as a young Krakow priest; and his dramatic confrontations with the Marxist authorities, especially over the controversial church at Nova Huta, the new "city without God."

Stories of Karol would make for ideal family reading, especially in the year of Pope John Paul II's beatification.

The second book concerning Karol Wojtyla, Pawel Zuchniewicz's Miracles of John Paul II, was an instant bestseller when released first of all in Poland and then across Western Europe.

This is a powerful book which describes the life and impact of Pope John Paul II as told by individuals from all over the world who give moving personal testimonies how they experienced healings through the intercession of Pope John Paul II during his lifetime.

The testimonies range from little children to adults, even seniors, and include cardinals, well-known lay people and many others. These detailed statements reveal amazing healings and answers to prayers apparently through the direct intervention of John Paul II while he was still alive.

This book also takes us behind the scenes of the 13 May 1981 assassination attempt on the Pope in St Peter's Square, shedding new light on this event by presenting it in the context of the Third Secret of Fatima. World Youth Days are also examined, revealing the incredible spiritual impact the Pope had on the young people as testified by many of the youth at WYD events all over the globe.

Miracles of John Paul II is lavishly illustrated and accessible to a wide range of readers, including families, schools and tertiary institutions.

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