As Silvio Berlusconi grapples with the greatest crisis the Italian republic has ever seen, a member of his extended family has gone on a long retreat to Medjugorje. Ania Golędzinowska, the Polish girlfriend of Paolo Enrico Beretta, the Italian prime minister’s nephew (he is the son of Silvio Berlusconi’s late sister, Maria Antonietta), has moved to the town in Bosnia and Herzegovina to lead a life of prayer.
How did you end up in Medjugorje?
The first time I was invited by a friend who also paid for the trip. I had a sort of an allergy for priests and the Church. But that first trip changed my life, so much so that for the following two years I was no longer able to live serenely, because I realised that I had never been really happy in my entire life. What I was living was an illusion, not true happiness. I became depressed. I had a privileged life that I no longer liked. Instead, I wanted simple, normal things. One morning I woke up, called a friend and asked him to find me a place to stay in Medjugorje – or I would have jumped out of the window. I left Italy with two bags without telling anyone. And here I am.
How long have you been in Medjugorje and when are you going to come back to Italy?
I’ve been here almost three months. Actually, my first thought was to come here just for a few days, because on June 25 I should have started a PR job in Porto Cervo, Sardinia, at the billionaire Flavio Briatore’s club. But June 25 was also the 30th anniversary of the apparitions in Medjugorje. After five days here I terminated the contract and have decided to remain. I am in a Marian community and I live with priests and nuns.
How do you spend your day?
I wake up at five in the morning. We climb the mountain Podbrdo to recite a rosary, then we go down, we have prayers, then Holy Mass. Until noon we work. I clean the rooms and bathrooms, then I do the ironing, or peel potatoes. We also have a vegetable garden and chickens. After that we recite another rosary. In the afternoon we rest, then at six there are other prayers.
You’re spending the summer in a place of prayer, far enough away from everything and everyone. Don’t you miss Formentera, Sardinia and other places like that?
Absolutely not. Many of my old friends cannot comprehend what I am doing. They don’t understand how I can be happy doing what maybe my cleaning lady did before. In fact, I think I have never been so happy. I feel like when I was a child, when I was little and I lived with my poor and simple family. Everything
I do makes me feel satisfied. I feel loved by God and by those around me, without having to disguise myself by what I have never been. I know that people are close to me for who I really am, not for profit. I left everything. I get dressed with the “clothes of Providence”, which sometimes the pilgrims leave here, because my clothes did not fit in Medjugorje. I could not come here wearing Chanel shoes…
What was the reaction of your boyfriend, Paolo Enrico Beretta?
At first he was shocked. For almost two weeks he did not know where I was. We met again a month later, when I returned to Milan to terminate the lease of the house and to sell the car: I decided to move permanently to Medjugorje. We met, we talked a lot and he understood my choices. He told me he respects them and that he will always and in any case be close to me until I will be ready to come back. And he knows very well that this can happen in a year as in four. Meanwhile, he is preparing to visit me. Now I do what the Lord wants from me. If the Lord wants me to come back, I shall come back to Italy. But I do not think this will happen in the near future.
In the newspapers we read that you have chosen chastity. Again, one would wonder if your boyfriend welcomed your choice.
He is perhaps the only man who has always respected me. We have had a chaste relationship, even though we have known each other for three years. Maybe that’s why our relationship is so deep. I decided to create an association “pure hearts” for those who have chosen to live in chastity until marriage, respecting God and themselves. As a sign recognition there are numbered rings for all members.
Why do so many people in the Italian showbusiness world go to Medjugorje?
I don’t know. Some do it for advertising, but there are also those who really need to find answers. In the end we are all people, and newspapers usually don’t tell stories about regular people. I believe that today’s world urges us to seek the truth, because we live in a false reality.
Where did your story begin?
It’s a long story and I have written about it in the book Con occhi di bambina (“Through the eyes of a child”). It begins when I was a little princess who dreamed of a castle and of her prince, but I found myself kicked out of the enchanted castle when I was four years old. I had to struggle with insincere people, harassment, abuse, drugs and much else besides.
It’s reported that in 2008, wearing just a bikini, you came out of a cake donated to prime minister Silvio Berlusconi and sang “Happy birthday” to him. After Medjugorje would you do that again?
After Medjugorje I would not do many things, but I do not regret anything. I had to live the good and the bad things of my past in order to give testimony today that you can change, that real life is something else. Jesus came and died for sinners, not for healthy people. I am the first of sinners. I do not want to lose the privilege of enjoying the mercy of the Lord.
From parties, perhaps with cocaine, to Our Lady… Do you think you want to escape from the world?
I have had nothing to do with drugs for about six years. I do not want to escape from the world, I know that the real battle is out in everyday life. But first I have to heal my soul to help others, to fight in the battlefield for the only true King, who is God.
From Medjugorje what do you want to tell our readers?
Three things: love, forgive and do not judge. Just as you want to be forgiven, also others have the right to a second chance. Forgive, but do not do it for others: do it for yourself. You must empty the hatred and the resentment that you hold in your heart. Only then can God work in you. Otherwise he has nowhere to put the graces that he has reserved. If you decide to come to Medjugorje do not expect to see the sun spinning or other miracles. The real miracle is your departure. Our Lady will take care of all the rest.
Open your heart.
Paolo Gambi is a contributing editor of The Catholic Herald