Karol Wojtyla (now John Paul II) lost his mother and Jozef Zycinski lost his father during childhood. The two were also both raised in southern Poland, grew up in families with modest means and spent many years studying and teaching in Kracow. A brilliant student, Zycinski tutored classmates in math and physics in high school which also helped to subsidize his seminary tuition. In the meantime, his mother cared for a younger son and struggled to survive, financially, in the absence of her husband who died when Jozef was 12 years old.

Like Wojtyla, Zycinski was lively and yet a thoughtful, studious boy. As a teen-ager, he read philosophy and drama as a pastime.

When larger duties called Cardinal Karol Wojtyla away, it was Archbishop Zycinski who replaced him as the head of a club of philosophers, theologians, scientists and historians which meets periodically to discuss fundamental questions — questions of faith, life, the human person and God who oversees it all.