Milena Kindziuk set off into an unusual journey in search for traces of the woman’s life who gave birth to the future Pope. And a portrait of an unusual mother was created…

A journalist of ‘Niedziela’ took on herself a very difficult task, because knowledge on Emilia Wojtyłowa has been fragmentary till now, and, in fact, there was silence around this person. The journalist broke this barrier. She travelled throughout Poland in search for documents and memories about the mother of John Paul II. She save the last traces.

Journalistic investigation

Milena Kindziuk talked with the members of the Kaczorowski and Wojtyła families and the closest co-operators of John Paul II, mainly with cardinal Stanisław Dziwisz and Sisters of Jesus’ Heart, that is, to the Vatican family of the Holy Father. She wanted to save other fragments of memories about Emilia Wojtyła. She looked into parish books, urban chronicles, old newspapers, advertisements, museum collections. She found photos which had not been published earlier and documents which had not been known so far – she saved everything in photos and made detailed notes. It allowed her to reconstruct probably the first portrait of the mother of the Holy Father John Paul II, which is very important because there are no more people who remember her, she did not write diaries and none of her letters remained. ‘Emilia appears as the great absent. Quiet. As if she deliberately moved away into a shadow, so that Her son would be seen better’ – writes Milena Kindziuk. And she also informs that in Italy two books came out which are about Emilia Wojtyła (in 1988 and 2012).

The line of Kaczorowscy and the line of Wojtyła

Thanks to this book we get to know the whole family of the Polish Pope from the line of mother, that is, the line of Kaczorowscy, which has its roots in Mazowsze and Zamojszczyzna, and also from the line of father, that is, the line of Wojtyła rooted in Czaniec, near Kęty. We get to know many details. We find out, for example, that Karol Wojtyła – the father of the future pope was orphaned by his mother Anna, when he was only two years old. Family threads described in the book are set in a wide historical, cultural and custom context. We get to know members of John Paul’s II family, also approaching the epoch in which they lived. We find out what, for example, on a particular day, like the day of Karol Wojtyła’s parents’ wedding, newspapers in Cracow wrote, what news were placed in front pages and what announcements were printed, we get to know fashion of those years, we find out what vehicles moved on roads and what the weather was like on that day, we even get to know the moment in which a cradle was replaced with a baby pram. We read the pages of old newspapers in order to find out how the outbreak of the first world war was informed about, or later – we find out about independence gained by Poland. We received a valuable interesting story entitled ‘Pope’s Mother’, leading us through old times and bringing the Polish history closer to us, which is close to every Pole.

Who was Emilia Wojtyła?

In the book, the basic information about the origin of Emilia Wojtyła were arranged. Her grandfather – Mikołaj Kaczorowski was born in Magnuszewo. He was registered and worked in the Zamoyski’s Palace in Nowy Świat Street in Warsaw. It was the window of this palace, through which Chopin’s piano was thrown away in revenge for an attempt of assassination at the imperial governor. Surely, MIkołaj Kaczorowski heard about these incident. Emilia’s grandfather died in Warsaw, and his funeral was in the church of the Holy Cross. Not only the grandfather, but also Emilia’s father was strongly related with the line of the Zamoyski counts. Both of them worked in their estates as coachmen, gamekeepers and even as estate managers. They travelled through various parts of Poland with the Zamoyski family, and they settled down in Zamojszczyzna. A document was found which proves that Emilia’s father – Feliks Kaczorowski had been born in Michałów in the district of Szczebrzeszyn in the Polish Kingdom (in Zamojszczyzna), in the estate of Zamoyski family, not in Biała – as everybody has informed about it so far.

After Count Zamoyski died, Feliks Kaczorowski moved to Biała, where in 1875 he got married to Maria Scholz, a daughter of a shoemaker. Later he moved to Cracow with his family. His daughter, Emilia, was born there on 26 March 1884, as his fifth child. In the church of St. Mikołaj in Cracow, the baptism certificate of John Paul’s II mother remained, and we find out from the baptism book that, among the others, her father was a saddler. The current parish priest of the parish of St. Mikołaj – Fr. dr. Tadeusz Nosek, gives information as a trivia that little Emilia Anna was submerged in the same baptismal font in which God’s servant Jerzy Ciesielski and gen. August Emil Fieldorf, pseudo-Nil, had been joined to the Church.

Emilia was brought up in Cracow, in a house full of children – there were nine of them from the first marriage of Feliks Kaczorowski and later there were four of half-siblings. A retained photo of the family from the last century shows a high standard of life. ‘In the average family daughters did not have such beautiful hair done, elegant high-heeled shoes or dresses, which great actresses could wear as well in the streets of Cracow’. So, Emilia was an inhabitant from Cracow, a Miss from good home, she graduated from female school run by nuns, it was probably a school of Sisters the Daughters of Divine Love (no documents remained). Later she could finish a faculty school. So, she spent her youth in Cracow of Wyspiański, Solski. She gained good education, besides the Polish language, she also knew the German language, she had good manners. She was a personalization of womanhood. She was beautiful and well-prepared for adult’s life….

In her childhood and youth of Emilia, there were many painful moments, first of all, she faced death and she had to ‘get accustomed to’ it all the time – as Milena Kindziuk writes. She had faced up the death of her two siblings. As a thirteen-year-old girl, she had to be reconciled with the death of her mother Maria, who died at the age of 40. Later Emilia lost her other two sisters, and the age of 24 she said farewell to her father for ever. The author of the book concluded that in the family of Kaczorowscy one can see a clear tendency to early death of women.

Parents and siblings of Karol Wojtyła

It is not known where parents of the future Pope met each other, some sources inform that it was in one of churches in Cracow. Whereas, the date and place of the wedding of Emilia and Karol Wojtyła were uncovered – on 10 February 1906 in the church of St. Apostles Peter and Paul in Cracow at Grodzka Street, which functioned as a garrison church at that time. The author of the book notes that the pope John Paul II did not manage to get to know these facts, although he wanted so much to. For, it was not possible to find either the wedding certificate of his parents or its copy, during his life. The Wojtyła family lived in Cracow at first, and then in 1913 they moved to Wadowice with their several-year-old son, Edmund, where Karol Wojtyła started work in the Military Recruitment Commission.

The book contains new facts of Emilia and her family’s life. It is the first time, the circumstances of her journey to Morawy in 1914 were defined, where Emilia lived with her husband and son Edmund in Hranice for a year. The Wojtyła family met with the cruelty of the war at that time, because the wounded and ill soldiers were transported there from the frontier. There is an interesting discovery that at the same time, in Hranice, in the military hospital, Edyta Stein worked as a volunteer. And it can be concluded from her reminiscences what Emilia Wojtyłowa experienced at that time, who was touched by death of others. Other new findings concern Edmund. It turns out that he had attended a school in the Upper Austria, in Enns, and Emilia visited him in Wadowice. Nobody has discovered it till now.

When Emilia was expecting her another baby, there was still the war. Her husband took her to their family in Biała, for the sake of her safety. And on 7 July 1916 she gave birth to a baby girl there, who had respiratory problems though. So, she had her daughter baptised in water, giving her names Olga Maria. The baby lived only for 16 hours. The reason of her death was reported as ‘choking on fetal water’.

John Paul II never found out when his sister had been born and died. He might have not got to know her name, because the documents, in which the name was written, were not known during his life. They were found in November 2012, by Grzegorz Polak with the team of Museum of John Paul II and the Primate Wyszyński, established at the Centre of Divine Providence in Warsaw. The Pope mentioned his sister in the testament.


The third child of the Wojtyła family was Karol who was born in Wadowice on 18 May 1920. In the article of Milena Kindziuk printed last week in ‘Niedziela’ (no 40 on 6 October 2013) we find out that the child was born thanks to the heroic decision of his mother, made in the situation defined by doctors as hopeless. But a big healthy boy was born, who became pope and the most known in the holy world.

Emilia Wojtyłowa’s dream was that one of her son would become a doctor, and another one would become a priest. And it happened so, although she did not succeed in living up to that moment. Death which had accompanied her and then it demanded her. Emilia Wojtyłowa died on 13 April 1929. She probably had an inheritable inborn heart illness. Her son Karol was nine years old. His mother managed to teach him to make a sign of cross and the first prayers. The Primate Stefan Wyszyński once noticed that the mother had left ‘ similarity to herself in legacy to thePope. The combination of these two faces of –mother and son- is very significant.

The author of the book noted down a few important episodes concerning the death of Emilia Wojtyłowa and the atmosphere after her death. For example, we find out in the chapter ‘A closed living room’ that her husband and orphaned sons had not used the room, in which Emilia had died. Eugeniusz Mróz – a friend of Karol Wojtyła mentions that ‘Lolek had peeped into the living room occasionally, mostly at daytime for a few moments, in order to kneel there and pray’. The living room for the father and sons changed into the holy place.

Family souvenirs

In the book ‘Pope’s Mother’ we will find new documents, among the others: handwritten biography of son – Edmund Wojtyła (the handwriting character was very similar to the handwriting of Wojtyła) and his photo with his fiancée Jadwiga. Being a young doctor, Edmund died on 4 December 1932, after he had been infected with scarlet fever from a patient, whom he had been saving her in hospital in Bielsko. Now we find out that in 1997 in Italy, a committee for beatification of Emund Wojtyła has been established.

Milena Kindziuk collected letters which Karol Wojtyła – John Paul II had written to his family for his whole life. There is an unique photo of Emilia’s bag kept in the Curia in Cracow and her medallion which John Paul II had with himself in Vatican. We will also find a photograph of John Paul’s II parents, which he received after being elected for the Holy See – it stood on his desk till the end and he could look at it every day. There is also a photo of the necrology of Emilia Wojtyła and a manuscript of the only poem of the Pope, devoted to his mother and beginning with the words: ‘On your white grave’.

Reading the biography of Emilia Wojtyłowa proves that John Paul II somehow beatified his mother, and that she was the mother of two saints: Edmund and Karol.

The book of Milena Kindziuk ‘Pope’s Mother’ answers the questions who this unusual woman was, what her life was like and what her home was like in which the future Pope was brought up.


"Niedziela" 41/2013

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: redakcja@niedziela.pl