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Poet, Holocaust Survivor Befriended Future Saint

by Navar Watson

Poet Lena Allen-Shore holds an undated photo of herself pictured with Blessed John Paul II, whom she considered a dear friend. Allen-Shore is Jewish and was born in the late pope’s native Poland, where her family managed to avoid being taken to a Nazi concentration camp during the Holocaust.
Poet Lena Allen-Shore holds an undated photo of herself pictured with Blessed John Paul II, whom she considered a dear friend. Allen-Shore is Jewish and was born in the late pope’s native Poland, where her family managed to avoid being taken to a Nazi concentration camp during the Holocaust.

PHILADELPHIA (CNS) – Hanging on the wall in her office is a painting of horses standing in a field with overcast skies and a vast, fallen tree, struck down by lightning in a ferocious storm.

This painting, Lena Allen-Shore was told, would never sell, as no one would want a plain picture of horses. But Allen-Shore doesn’t just see the horses. She sees the fallen tree and the ones standing around it, as well as the horses, which endured the storm.

Despite a traumatic past, one still has the strength to carry on.

This is something that Allen-Shore, a Jewish Holocaust survivor, learned from her “dear friend,” St. John Paul II, through various letters, poems and visits over the course of some 25 years.

“He gave me something very important,” Allen-Shore told Catholic News Service in an interview at her home in Philadelphia on April 2. “He taught me how to believe that good people exist.”

To her, he was a man of compassion, someone who built bridges between different cultures, despite any tensions of the past. To her, he was the “Apostle of Hope.”

Their friendship began in 1978, shortly after Cardinal Karol Wojtyla was elected pope. A fellow Pole, Allen-Shore wrote to him, addressing their similar experiences during World War II and her hope for a better future.

She received a response, and the two corresponded back and forth until his death in 2005.

In 1996, Allen-Shore contacted now-Cardinal Stanislaw Dziwisz, who was secretary to Blessed John Paul, and organized a visit to the Vatican. She and her family visited John Paul many times afterward.

Allen-Shore has written numerous poems, songs and even a book based on her life and experiences – many of which were inspired by her time with St. John Paul.

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