What do I owe to the Polish school? It is difficult to measure it, it is difficult to balance it, because we carry it in us so much that we simply identify with it. That's us! It has been given to us. It has been inculcated in us. A human being can be himself through culture. (...) I would like to kiss the hands of all my teachers and all the catechists who taught me in the primary school, in the middle school, until the graduation exam, laying the foundation for the future of man.
John Paul II
Karol Wojtyła passed his entrance exams at the end of June 1930 and became a student of the Marcin Wadowita Public Middle School. A few years earlier (1924), his older brother Edmund graduated with honours from the same school. At that time, the level of teaching in the middle school was high. The teachers were very well prepared for their profession, and among them, there were outstanding teachers. The building at that time was smaller because it had no gymnasium, and on the first floor, instead of classrooms, there was a director's flat. Narrow and dark corridors led to classrooms and workshops, where tiled stoves and rows of double benches stood. As there was no gymnasium, young people were taken to sports activities to the “Sokół” (“Falcon”) building.
The life of Karol Wojtyła, as a middle school student, was rather orderly. After breakfast, he went to the parish church, then he went to school, where he spent time between 8.00 AM and 2.00 PM. Then, he would come home for dinner, after which he would study and do his homework. If he had to prepare a lot for the next day, he studied until evening.
Karol initially read books suggested to him by his father and Fr. Kazimierz Figlewicz, and then he started to choose his own literature. He reached for “top-shelf” works that were difficult for his age. He also chose the classics of the Polish literature, such as: Norwid, Mickiewicz and Słowacki.
Because the humanities middle school in Wadowice had a neoclassical profile, the curriculum included Latin and Greek. The students were taught not only grammar, but also correct pronunciation. Jerzy Kluger remembered that whenever Karol came by, his father, Wilhelm, spoke to him in Latin. John Paul II himself, years later, remembered that learning classical languages was something wonderful.
The atmosphere during lessons was different, depending on the subject, and sometimes the students played tricks on their teachers. One day, the boys nailed professor Józef Heriadin's wellingtons boots to the floor with nails and then glued the sleeves of his coat. Kluger was always among the suspects, but never Wojtyła.
Those who knew Wojtyła well valued his subtle sense of humour. He had a philosophical disposition and was a bit reserved that made him respectable. Everyone felt that it was not appropriate for Karol to behave differently or to speak brutally or indecently. Often, when the boys joked about each other, they also joked about him, and he said: Oh, you stupid, stupid! and he was never offended by it.
Karol was a distinguished but modest student. When no one in the class could answer the professor's question, Wojtyła was called to answer it. His colleagues documented that he never allowed them to copy his work because he thought it was fraudulent. But when they had an extremely difficult phrase to be translated from Latin, he allowed them to copy his work.
Both teachers and middle school students had a great influence on the formation of young Wojtyła. He met valuable people in each of these groups. It was a public school, so it included children from different social, economic and religious backgrounds. Eight years of education resulted in lasting friendships, which later Karol continued as a bishop, cardinal and then as the Pope John Paul II.
Currently, the building houses the M. Wadowita Secondary School No. 1, which continues the traditions of the former Middle School.