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82nd anniversary of the death of Karol Wojtyla senior

publish date: 18.02.2023
John Paul II
Karol Wojtyla senior died 82 years ago in Krakow. His son found him in his apartment bent over a glass of half-drank tea. He was said to have said to Maria Kydrynska at the time that "he was not there at the death of his mother, at the death of his brother, and now at the death of his father." It must have been a harrowing experience for him, especially since for many years his dad had been his best friend, authority and teacher of faith.

Father and son

In the summer of 1938, Karol Wojtyla and his father moved from Wadowice to Krakow, where the future pope was to begin his studies at Jagiellonian University after the summer vacation. They settled at 10 Tyniecka Street with the Kaczorowskis - relatives on his mother's side. In the first days of the war, nineteen-year-old Karol and his father left Krakow and headed east. This was in connection with radio announcements calling for men fit to fight to head east, where a new front line was to take shape. The Wojtyls almost reached the San River, but due to the deteriorating health of Karol senior, they decided to return to Krakow:

"I was on the run, but from the Tarnobrzeg-Rzeszów road we retreated with Dad back to Krakow. Father - not surprisingly - could no longer endure this heavy wandering."

Beginning in 1940, Karol Wojtyla was an employee of Krakow's Solvay Soda Works, then called Ostdeutsche Chemische Werke GmbH. He also cared for his father, who had increasingly serious health problems. On February 18, 1941, the future pope returned from work to find Charles senior dead. He had lost the last person from his immediate family.

Years later, he reminisced about his father and bore witness to him on many occasions, such as in his book "Gift and Mystery," he recalled:
"My seminary preparation for the priesthood was, in a way, romanticized, prejudiced. To some extent, my Parents in the family home contributed to this, especially my Father, who was widowed early. (...) I was able to observe his life on a daily basis, which was a rough life. He was a military man by profession, and when he was widowed, it became even more a life of constant prayer. Sometimes I would wake up at night and then find my Father on his knees, just as I always saw him on his knees in the parish church. We never spoke with each other about a priestly vocation, but this example of my Father was some kind of first home seminary."

Life of Karol Wojtyla Sr.

Karol Wojtyla senior was born on July 18, 1879 in Lipnik near Biala. As a 2-year-old boy, he lost his mother, Anna, née Przeczek (1853-1881). His father, Maciej Wojtyla (1852-1923), who came from Czaniec, was a tailor by profession.

Karol attended school in Biala from 1885 to 1890, and then entered a German gymnasium in Bielsko. After compulsory military service and graduation from the Infantry Cadet School in Lviv, he decided to remain in the army.


We know from surviving documents that he was not an active soldier, but did more clerical work. At first he served in Cracow, where he married Emilia Kaczorowska on February 10, 1906. In 1913, he and his family moved to Wadowice, getting a job with the State Supplementation Commission. The Wojtyls had three children. On August 27, 1906, Edmund was born in Krakow; on July 7, 1916, Olga was born, who died shortly after birth; on May 18, 1920, Karol Joseph, the future Pope John Paul II, was born.
In 1918, Karol ended his service in the Austro-Hungarian army and transferred to the Polish army, remaining in Wadowice. In 1924 he was given the title of lieutenant and three years later ended his military service with that rank. The surviving military documents paint a picture of an honest, reliable and competent military officer who enjoyed the respect and affection of his colleagues.

After retirement, he took care of his ailing wife and the care of his sons. After Emilia's death in 1929, he did not remarry, but took care of the house himself. Three years later his older son Edmund, a doctor at the Bielsk hospital, died.

Karol Wojtyla died on February 18, 1941, at the age of 63. He was buried in Rakowicki Cemetery, in the tomb of the Kaczorowski family. John Paul II's parents are candidates for the altar today. On May 7, 2020, their canonization processes began.