Emilia of Kaczorowski and Karol Wojtyła – Karol’s parents

With filial affection, I embrace the threshold of the home of my birth, giving thanks
to divine Providence for the gift of life passed on to me by my beloved parents, for the
warmth of the family home, for the love of my dear ones, who gave me a sense
of security and strength, even when they had to face death and the difficulties of daily life in troubled times.

Karol Józef Wojtyła

With great emotion I gaze upon this city of my childhood years, which witnessed my first
steps, my first words and those “first bows” which, as Norwid puts it, are “like the eternal
profession of Christ: ‚Be praised!”

Emilia Wojtyła – the mother

At twenty, I had already lost all the people I loved and even the ones that I might have
loved, such as the big sister who had died, so I was told, six years before my brith. I was
not old enough to make my first communion when I lost my mother, who did not have
the happiness of seeing the day to which she looked forward as a great day. She wanted
two sons, one a doctor and the other a priest; my brother was a doctor and, in spite
of everything, I have become a priest.

Emilia Wojtyła with her younger son Karol

I had not yet made my First Holy Communion when I lost my mother: I was barely nine years old. So I do not have a clear awareness of her contribution, which must have been great, to my religious training.

Karol Wojtyła – the father

Day after day I was able to observe the austere way in which he lived. By profession he was a soldier and, after my mother’s death, his life became one of constant prayer. Sometimes I would wake up during the night and find my father on his knees, just as I would always see him kneeling in the parish church.

Karol Wojtyła with his younger son Karol

My father was admirable and almost all the memories of my childhood and adolescence are connected with him. The violence of the blows which had struck him had opened up immense spiritual depths in him; his grief found its outlet in prayer. The mere fact of seeing him on his knees had a decisive influence on my early years. He was so hard on himself that he had no need to be hard on his son; his example alone was sufficient to inculcate discipline and a sense of duty.

Edmund Wojtyła – Karol’s older brother with loved ones

My brother Edmond died from scarlet fever in a virulent epidemic at the hospital where he was starting as a doctor. Today antibiotics would have saved him. I was twelve. My mother’s death made a deep impression on my memory and my brother’s perhaps a still deeper one, because of the dramatic circumstances in which it occurred and because I was more mature.

Wadowice, the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries

We know how important are the first years of life, of childhood and of youth for the development of human personality and character. These are the very years that bind me inseparably to Wadowice, to the town and the area around it, to the River Skawa and the Beskid Range.

The Offering of the Most Blessed Mary parish church in Wadowice

With profound veneration I also embrace the threshold of the house of God, the parish church of Wadowice, and in it the Baptistery, in which I was joined to Christ and received into the community of his Church. In this church I made my first Confession and received my First Holy Communion. Here I was an altar boy. Here I gave thanks to God for the gift of the priesthood… God alone, the giver of every grace, knows what goodness and what manifold graces I received from this church and from this parish community.

Wadowice monasteries close to Karol

At the same time, I warmly recall all Religious who perform their service in the Wadowice region, i.e. the Carmelite on Gorka, the Pallottines Fathers, the Pallottines on the Mound, the Sisters of Nazareth at 3 Maja Street. I used to go to an orphanage there.

Studying at a general men’s school

In mind and heart I go back to the elementary school in Rynek (Market Square) and to the Wadowice secondary school dedicated to Marcin Wadwita that I went to.

Karol in the group of altar boys

In those years, my confessor and spiritual director was Father Kazimierz Figlewicz. I had first met him while I was in my first year of secondary school in Wadowice. Father Figlewicz, who was curate of the parish of Wadowice, taught us religion. Thanks to him I grew closer to the parish, became an altar server and had a hand in organizing the group of altar servers.

Places of Karol’s expeditions: Kalwaria Zebrzydowska, Kraków, Jasna Góra, Bielsko-Biała and surroundings

Kalwaria Zebrzydowska, the Shrine of the Mother of God, the holy places of Jerusalem connected with the life of Jesus and that of his Mother reproduced here, the ”little ways”, as they are called. I visited them often as a boy and as a young man. I remember very many of these farewell visits, these special audiences that you, Mother of Jasna Góra, have granted me, when I was still a high-school student and came here with my father and the pilgrimage from the whole of my native parish of Wadowice. I was connected with your city, with Bielsko-Biała, from an early childhood, because my father was born in Biała, my relatives lived here and in the vicinity, and my elder brother worked in the Bielsko hospital – he died there, serving the sick. My love for Krakow is older than my stay.

The building of the ”Sokół” Gymnastic Society. Karol in the theater performances

(…) and from junior high school we went to “Sokół” for gymnastics. There was also ”Sokół”.to performances. I remember Mieczyslaw Kotlarczyk, a great creator of the theater of the word. I remember my friends from Wadowice (…) And on the Wadowice stage, we reached for the greatest works of the classics, beginning with ”Antigone”.

Studying at Marcin Wadowita Junior High School

In mind and heart I go back to those who grew up with me, the boys and girls who where with me in school, and to our parents and teachers.

The house in Krakow and Polish studies at the Jagiellonian University

In May 1938 I passed the secondary school examination and entered the University to study Polish language and letters. My father and I moved from Wadowice to Cracow and set up house at 10 Tyniecka Street, in the Debniki district. The house belonged to relatives of my mother.

Solvay factory, Karol’s place of work during the occupation

In order to avoid deportation to do forced labour in Germany, I began in the autumn of 1940 to work as a labourer in a stone quarry attached to the Solvay chemical plant. This was at Zakrzówek, about half an hour from my home in Debniki, and every day I would walk there.

Young Karol’s masters: Mieczysław Kotlarczyk, Jan Tyranowski and Fr. Cardinal Adam Stefan Sapieha

During that time I stayed in contact with the theatre of living word which Mieczysław Kotlarczyk had founded and continued to direct in the underground. Jan Tyranowski. In his words, in his spirituality and in the example of a life given entirely to God alone (…) A powerful influence on our whole period of formation for the priesthood was exercised by the towering figure of the Prince-Metropolitan, the future Cardinal Adam Stefan Sapieha, whom I remember with affection and gratitude.

Studies in the secret seminary

In the autumn of 1942 I made my final decision to enter the Cracow seminary, which was operating clandestinely. …I took up my lodging in this unusual seminary, with the much-loved Prince-Metropolitan, in September 1944 and was able to stay there with my fellow students until 18 January 1945, the day of the liberation. At the beginning of my fifth year the Archbishop decided that I should go to Rome to finish my studies. And so, a little earlier than my companions. I was ordained priest on 1 November 1946.