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"DZI" 2007 Obituary


DZIEKANSKI o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2007-11-16 published
DZIEKANSKI, Robert (April 15, 1967-October 14, 2007)
A public celebration of the life of Robert DZIEKANSKI will be held on Saturday, November 17, 2007 at 11 a.m. at Kamloops Funeral Home.
Robert, the much loved only child of Zofia CISOWSKI, was born in Bielawa, Poland. He graduated from the Technical High School as a miner in Gliwice, Poland, and later upgraded his trade to work in construction, before leaving for his new life in Canada.
Robert died tragically in pain at the Vancouver Airport. He is deeply missed by his mother Zofia CISOWSKI of Kamloops, his step-father Peter CISOWSKI of Logan Lake, and his uncles Zygmund and Zdzislaw DZIEKANSKI on Poland.
Memorial donations may be made to Zofia Victims Trust, account 74666, Valley First Credit Union, 100-180 St. Paul Street, Kamloops British Columbia, V2C 2E3.

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DZIEKANSKI o@ca.on.york_county.toronto.globe_and_mail 2007-11-17 published
'He was a really good boy'
Relatives describe the 40-year-old as courteous and devoted to his mother. He led a quiet life, collecting maps and cataloguing the countries of the world - including the one in which he died
By Doug SAUNDERS, Compiled by Rick CASH, Page A1
Pieszyce, Poland -- During his 40 years of life here in the sleepy towns of western Poland, Robert DZIEKANSKI developed the hobby of collecting maps and cataloguing information about the countries of the world. He had a special fondness for Canada.
His closest relatives, in their first interview with the news media, portrayed him yesterday as a big, gentle man who, aside from his cartographic hobby, saw his main social connection and closest friend as his mother. His aunt and uncle remembered a courteous man who had an only child's devotion to his mother, and a life that was in some ways lonely and solitary, but also well organized and happy.
So it was especially heart-wrenching for the family here to learn that Mr. DZIEKANSKI, on his first trip abroad, died after being tasered by Royal Canadian Mounted Police officers at Vancouver International Airport, where he had been held up for 10 hours while trying to find his mother.
"He was a really good boy, really interested in geography and the countries of the world, that was his hobby," said Zdzislaw DZIEKANSKI, 52, his mother's younger brother. "He thought about that, and he thought about his mother."
The scenes of Mr. DZIEKANSKI flailing and screaming in desperation seem incomprehensible to these relatives. They say he did not have a short temper and had given no indication that he would react in such a way to a difficult and confusing situation.
"His mother really looked after him; he was really well cared for," his uncle said. "He wasn't any kind of a hooligan or anything like that. He was calm and peaceful."
Mr. DZIEKANSKI had been coming to meet his mother, Zofia Helena CISOWSKI, and her Polish-Canadian husband of eight years to start a new life.
"He wanted to get back to his mother. That was all he wanted," said Teresa DZIEKANSKI, Robert's aunt, who explained that his mother had launched a cleaning business and Robert was eager to join her. "The real dream for him was to be with his mother. Everything else would just come naturally."
As the DZIEKANSKIs spoke yesterday afternoon, the phone rang. It was Robert's mother, calling from Kamloops at 4 o'clock in the morning. She couldn't sleep, tortured by thoughts of her son. Despite warnings from relatives, she had seen some of the amateur video that shows him dying in pain and confusion. Leaked onto the Internet, the footage has sent waves of outrage around the world.
"How could they [kill] the only one who mattered to me?" she asked from Kamloops, in Polish. "He was the precious one. He was my beloved son."
In 1967, when Robert was still a baby, Ms. DZIEKANSKI found herself alone with her son; family members declined to discuss the circumstances behind the father's absence.
"The father had vanished, so the mother had brought him up alone, from babyhood. It was tough, but everyone managed," Zdzislaw DZIEKANSKI said. "They became really close, like best Friends, the way only children sometimes do. They really loved each other and spent all their time together."
The uncle, although only a dozen years older than his nephew, developed something of a fatherly relationship with Robert. "He was more than just a nephew to me. I was 12 when I first held him in my arms, and from then, he always felt like a son to me."
Robert did reasonably well in school, especially in geography. He and his mother moved to Gliwice, about 200 kilometres from here, but stayed close to the family in Pieszyce. During Poland's final Communist years, in the late 1980s, he worked as a typesetter. Then he found work in the coal mines. The last two years, he had been unemployed, collecting state benefits.
Eight years ago, his mother fell in love with a Polish-born man who had set down roots in Canada. She married and moved to Canada, hoping to pave the way for her son to immigrate.
He lived alone in a flat in Gliwice, but saw the family frequently. He had never married, and his relatives say they don't know of any serious relationships with women. "There was a lady who cleaned the flat, washed his clothes and so on, a maid. But no other women around him. He would stay at home, not go out at night."
But, while he lived the life of a loner, he was far from disengaged. His relatives say that he was a warm and eager participant in family gatherings, and that he was especially meticulous in keeping his apartment organized and maintaining his map collection. "He was a really thoughtful man," said his aunt. "He always remembered the holidays -- Easter, name days -- he would always send some nice cards, decorated in his special style."
While he had never strayed far from his birthplace, his family were no strangers to the difficulties of migration. They had originally lived in the far east of what was then Poland, until Joseph Stalin expelled the ethnic Poles from the land after the war, claiming the region for Ukraine. They were forced to march across the country to the western region of Silesia, a former German province that had been awarded to Poland as a war reparation, its German residents evicted.
So Robert's grandfather, a shopkeeper, made an awkward start here, keeping the family going in small rented apartments. The post-Communist years were difficult for the family, but they held together. Now they are watching as the town, with a population of 10,000, loses its youngest generation in another great migration, this one to Britain, Ireland and North America. A surprising number of people here have moved to Nottingham, England.
The DZIEKANSKIs are the only ones they know who have attempted a move to Canada. Zdzislaw DZIEKANSKI, who is skilled in a number of home-building trades, knows that his skills would put him in demand abroad, as would his wife's experience working for medical clinics.
Teresa DZIEKANSKI reacted with alarm to this suggestion.
"We can't even think of moving to another country, Zdzislaw," she said. "I couldn't do it, after learning what can happen to people."
The fateful trip
Pieszyce, Poland, 3 a.m.
Robert DZIEKANSKI's journey to Canada began in Poland at about 3 a.m. on October 13, when he left his hometown of Pieszyce for a flight to Germany.
Frankfurt, 12: 15 p.m.
He met a connecting flight on Air Condor departing Frankfurt International Airport at 12: 15 p.m. for Vancouver. The 40-year-old construction worker, who spoke no English and had never travelled on an airplane before, was emigrating to Canada to join his mother, Zofia CISOWSKI, 61, who lives in Kamloops.
Vancouver, 3 p.m.
Mr. DZIEKANSKI's direct flight from Europe arrived at Vancouver International Airport about 3 p.m. His mother, who has been in Canada about seven years, had arranged to meet him at the baggage carousel in the international terminal, unaware that this was inside a secure area. Outside, in the public area, his mother spent nearly six hours pacing the corridors, and, in broken English, asking airport officials for help in locating her son. At about 10 p.m. she left after being told her son wasn't there. She made the five-hour drive home, only to find a phone message waiting, saying her son had been found.
Vancouver, 10: 30 p.m.
Mr. DZIEKANSKI passed through initial customs screening about one hour after his flight had arrived from Germany, but then spent almost 6½ hours in the baggage-claim area. At 10: 30 p.m. airport officials helped him find his luggage. Two hours later, he had passed through immigration and exited the secure area of the airport. He then tried to re-enter the controlled area, eventually succeeding, but growing increasingly frustrated and eventually becoming frantic.

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