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Born Of Polish-German parentage in Swientochlowice, near Hajduki in the Upper Silesian province of Poland, at the stroke of midnight on 30-31st July 1924, Katja Kowalec celebrates her birthday on 31st July.
This interesting circumstance in which she greeted the world could have been a sign that Katja was destined for an unusual life. Having spent a happy childhood during her early pre-war years, commuting between the two countries visiting with relatives, we learn in her biography of a very determined young child. A girl who developed into a creative and discerning woman with good business acumen, a sense of humour and an adventurous spirit.
Katja, who learned to overcome fear through her faith in God, is prepared for the challenge to ‘try anything once!’ The tragic loss of her only child Veronica, through a freak accident in 2003 whilst attending a baby’s party at a friend’s house one afternoon, where she suffered a fatal fall - was one of the worst setbacks that Katja felt she could have ever endured.
Her life-long friendship with the late Ala and Lolly Sussens meant that Katja often spent time with the Sussens family on their game farm in Hoedspruit (Mpumalanga) where she enjoyed with them, the wildlife and this picturesque slice of African bushveld.
In 2011, Ala Sussens, her closest friend and a Polish biographer in her own right, was killed tragically with her son Ian in a head-on collision en route to visit with her in Nelspruit. Ala was on her way to an event to promote a Polish translation of her book This was another intense blow for Katja, who was known to refer to Ala as her ‘little sister’.
Through her absolute faith, Katja rose above these and other adverse happenings during the latter part of her life. Being a much-loved member of her community, she is mentor to many, volunteering much needed support and encouragement. She enjoys entertaining her friends in her home.
Katja keeps herself busy with her Divine Mercy ministry, teaches Polish to friends and attends many ‘oldies’ events. She potters around graciously in the little garden of her cottage living independently on the property of her granddaughter Katja, Bruno her grandson-in-law and their two daughters, Jessica and Emma - her only family members in South Africa.
Not to be outdone by technological advancement, Katja enjoys the occasional ‘Skype-chat’ with her German and Polish family overseas on her android tablet, referring to it as ‘my companion.’
Often seen around town driving her little yellow ‘Atos’ as she goes about her business, Katja maintains her independence and good health. All who know her feel blessed by her presence. Truly a pint-sized lady with a giant-sized heart, is this much-loved and admired Woman of God, by all cultures and nationalities in her home town and beyond.
It was originally not her intention to write a book for publishing as she said: “I just felt the need to record my life’s experiences in book form for posterity to give to the future generations of my family, that they will know of my background and how life was during the Second World War. I carry a particular message in my story, especially for the young people - to strive for peace and love towards one another in this world.” Those who read the draft manuscript of her story were in awe of the content and encouraged her to publish a book for a wider readership. Katja released a limited edition at the age of 90 years, which became sold out in 2014. Due to popular demand, “Those Miraculous Sunflower Seeds” was re-published a year later.