Karol Wojtyła was born in Wadowice on 18 May 1920. His mother, Emilia Kakorowska, died when he was just seven years old. His father never remarried. Instead, he dedicated himself completely to educating his sons. He was a low-ranking official. In Wadowice, Karol went to elementary school and then to Marcello Wadowita, the state gymnasium.
Wadowice is on Mount Tara, in the only mountainous region of Poland. The villagers have a strong sense of their unique identity—a great love for the countryside and the serenity of the land and for their own tradition and customs.
In the years in which Wojtyła went to the Marcello Wadowita gymnasium the local luminary was the poet Emil Zegadlowicz, whose journal Czartak opposed the cosmopolitanism which, through the influence of the Skamander circle, dominated the national stage. For young Wojtyła, however, the contemporary poet was less an influence than the great romantic writers of the nineteenth century: Adam Mickiewicz (1798-1855), Juliusz Słowacki (1803-1849), and Zygmunt Krasinski (1812-1859), as well as their followers and commentators, Cyprian Norwid (1821-1883) and Stanislaw Wyspianski (1869-1907). Well into his adulthood, Karol counted Norwid his favorite poet.