She greeted her patients with a smile. She would touch their bodies without using gloves. And when asked about the most effective medicine, she would answer that it is vitamin L, that is to say, love. This is how Wanda Błeńska was – a Polish doctor who dedicated her life to the sick of Uganda.
It began as a dream
The circumstances of Wanda Błeń- ska’s birth did not particularly presage her long 103-year life. When she entered the world in 1911 in Poznań (Poland), she weighed barely 2.25 kilograms (4 lbs. 15 oz.), and there was talk of her impending death. Later things were better, albeit she kept a fragile physique throughout her life. As a child she would often say how she wanted to be a missionary doctor. Years later Błeńska would regard this desire, confirmed through subsequent choices and hard work, as the basis of her calling. “I always told young people: if you have some brilliant ideas, nurture them. Don’t let them fade. Don’t abandon them just because they seem to be impossible or difficult to achieve. You have to nurture your dreams!” In 1928 Błeńska’s dreams were turning into reality when she enrolled at the Poznań University Medical School. At the time she was not quite 17 years old, and was the youngest student in her class.
In her studies she tried to never miss a class. She liked to study at the cemetery “because it was the only place that was peaceful.” She tended to associate with the other girls, and the older boys treated her protectively. And even though there were more than a few young men who caught her fancy, neither then nor later did any of them manage to become her husband. There was one simple reason: she didn’t love anyone more than her desire to work in missions. She saw this as her life’s calling.
The forge of mission enthusiasts
From the beginning of her studies Błeńska took great care that her dream to become a doctor in the missions shouldn’t perish in the quagmire of other pressing duties. In her first year she joined the University Missionary Club. Together with other members she organized meetings with missionaries, sent packages to Africa, and read literature on the subject. As time went by, she herself gave lectures, traveled to symposia, and became the editor of the first missionary magazine in Poland, Annales Missiologicae. The work at the club was demanding but brought ‘Wandeczka’ – as they called her at that time – joy and fulfillment. Years later she would say: “enthusiasm for work is gained in one’s youth, at school, and in one’s studies. The enthusiasm accumulates and should grow to such an extent that it will endure late into life. If you start work with this enthusiasm, this is a blessing from God.”