The Great

The Great

by Vitoria Wiese

(Karol lays down railroad tracks – hammering and adjusting rails, pulling carts – He has “calloused and split-open hands, drooping with the hammer’s weight, boots ankle deep in mud, and his tired eyes”)

Karol: (Take time for two full-body hammer blows with a pick-ax, loud grunts and gasps of breath) “Mundek – the rail – I’m about ready. (2 more blows, ending with a soft cry of exhaustion and pain. Drops ax, helps pull the rail in place) Forward – a little more.”

Mundek: “Karol – they’re gone.”

Karol: “They’re never gone – keep working.”

Mundek: “Karol, you have to rest. Just one moment. They won’t take away your work card for a minute’s rest. Especially if they’re not here to see you… Karol, drink the water.”

Karol: (Stands up, breathing hard) “Thank you. (Drinks, wipes mouth, hands back water)

(Sits down, blows on hands) Look at us, Karol. Top students at the university, forced to hammer away our lives in order to be deemed “useful”. Useful to who? These Germans? They can go to hell for all I –“

Karol: (Sharply interrupts): “Mundek, enough. It is not your place to wish hell upon the Germans.”

Mundek: “Not my place? Is it theirs, then? Need I remind you of the hell that they have brought upon us? My sister, Karol, you know what they’re doing to my sister. Medical research? If I had the chance to kill her myself I would, just to free her from her misery!”

Karol: “Please, my brother. This anger is destroying you.”

Mundek: “And how can it not be? Tell me, Karol! These Germans have wrecked everything for you, just like for me. How can you not be destroyed by that?

Karol: “When my brother died, I was only eleven years old. Three years had passed since my mother’s death. I remember my father standing by my brother’s coffin. I could not gather up the strength to even approach the coffin, so I stayed back. My father…I remember him holding on to the coffin and weeping. He gripped a rosary given to him by my brother in his hand; I remember it clinking against the coffin as he wept… I was angry at God, angry that so much had been taken from me. But then I heard my father. He was whispering something as he was crying. Over and over again he repeated it… ‘Thy will be done. Thy will be done. Thy will be done.’ Even while he was losing everything, my father still trusted in God. He held no anger towards Him. Neither will I.”

Karol: (writing) All night I stood by the door. I prayed my rosary. And waited. I could hear the Nazis on the floor above me, searching for anyone they could take. I had nowhere to go, I could only pray. I heard them in the hall. I heard them as they walked to my door. But they never opened it. I could hear the screams in the street of all those who had been taken. But they never opened my door. My God, why not me? Why do I live when so many others die?

Sapieha: (knocks, then whispers) “Karol, are you there? It’s me, Sapieha.”

Karol: “Sapieha-“

Sapieha: “There is no time. We must leave, now. The archbishop wants every seminarian to flee to his residence immediately. He will hide you.”

Karol: “But the Germans, they are everywhere. How can we make it there?”

Sapieha: “Pray, Karol. Pray, because your life depends on it.”

Karol: (Breathing like he’s been running) “Sapieha, wait! There’s a light ahead. We cannot go that way.”

Sapieha: “They’re coming down Zak Street; we have nowhere else to go!”

Nazi: “Who’s there? Show yourself, or be shot on spot!”

Karol: “Quick, here! Hide!”

Nazi: (cocks gun) “I said show yourself!”

Child: (sniffling and crying) “Please, I-I-I’m sorry. I was just looking for my father. Please, don’t hurt me.”

Nazi: (grins nastily) “Come here, boy.”

Child: (crying grows) “P-p-p-please. I’ll go back home right now. Please let me go.”

Nazi: “You pathetic, sniveling Pole. You’re supposed to be a man someday, but look at ya! A whiny little babe…I know what will make you into a man. Tell me, boy, have you ever heard of Auschwitz?

Child: (begins screaming) “No, please! Please let me go! Please! Papa! Papa!”

Karol: “Stop! Let him go!”

Nazi: (holding on to boy) “Who’s this? Another Pole rat? (looks at boy with a sneer) Your papa actually showed up to save you. What a surprise.”

Karol: “I am not this boy’s father but please, I am more use to you than he. Let him go.”

Nazi: (pauses a moment, then pushes boy away) “Get out of here! And if I find you on the streets past curfew again, I’ll shoot you through the head… Not the father but you still stand up, how noble.”

Karol: “What is your name?”

Nazi: “What did you say to me? You have no right to know my name!”

Karol: “I mean no harm. My name is Karol Wojtyla. I work in the chemical factory-

Nazi: (Hits Karol with a club) “You do not speak unless I command you to! How dare you address me! You are nothing but Polish scum, and I, a god! You do not speak to me (swats Karol again)!”

Karol: “You are no god. There is only one true God, and He is neither German nor Polish.”

Nazi: (Grabs Karol by the front of the shirt) “Ooh, so I have a Christian in my hands. A Catholic, I suppose? (silence) Catholic. (laughs softly) Then it will be more than a pleasure killing you. (kicks Karol down) Any last words, Catholic?”

Karol: “Am I permitted last words?”

Nazi: “Go on.”

Karol: (Gets on knees) “My God…Thy will be done. Thy will be done… (Sings Seek Ye First)

Nazi: (silent, looks stunned and remorseful) “You are a priest?”

Karol: “Not yet.”

Nazi: “Go. Go, now…Do not show your face on these streets again. Or I – I will –

Karol: “Thank you, Shmi.”

Nazi: “Wait. How do you know my name?”

Karol: (smiles sadly) “May God be with you, my brother.”

Nazi: “You call me brother?”

Karol: (looks up) “If it be His will.”