Before the pope became the pope he was simply Karol Wojtyla. He was born in Wadowice, a town of 8000 Catholics and 2000 Jews on May 18, 1920. He was the second son of Karol Wojtyla Sr. and Emilie Kaczorowska Wojtyla.
The Wojtyla family were firm believers of the Catholic Religion, but accepted the people of other religions. Growing up, Karol was known as "Lolek." Lolek's best friend Jerry Kluger was a Jew and the two of them spent may hours at the feet of Lolek's father listening to him tell stories.
Wojtyla was a brilliant student and seemed to excel at everything. He was extremely intelligent and superbly athletic. He skied, hiked, kayaked and swam. Life seemed to love him and Lolek loved life.
Death waited just around the corner, though. Just a few months before his ninth birthday, his mother died of heart and kidney malfunctions. That wasn't the end of his sorrow, though, for just 3 years later his older brother, Edmund, died of Scarlet Fever.
Lolek, himself had a few near misses with death, but, came out unscathed. Once he was hit by a streetcar and a few years later he was hit by a truck.
Lolek and his father moved to Spartan and settled into a one-room apartment behind the church. His father threw himself into raising his son. He sewed Lolek's clothes himself and made him study in a cold room to build his concentration habits. Even though his father was stern, he definitely didn't forget about play. Friends often remember seeing them playing with soccer and footballs they had made themselves.
After graduating from secondary school, Wojtyla and his father moved to Krakow so he could enroll in university. He was a scholar of literature and philosophy. He joined a theater group and...