I asked Wojciech Kucharz, his close friend, to read these words at the memorial service held in Albuquerque.
It was 2am on the 9th of July, Monday morning in Australia. My brother’s best friend rang and said: “it’s Krzysztof, he had a terrible accident and it doesn’t look good”. After a pause she added in disbelieve as if she was asking why: “we were hiking; the mountain was not terribly high and not really difficult. The weather was good”. My world fell to the ground in an instant and I needed to call my parents. How do I tell my mother and my father that their son is dying? He meant everything to them. He was the best son any parent could wish for. Warm and loving, caring and supportive. The distance and the busy schedule was never an excuse for not keeping in touch. His visits were frequent and a little chat over the phone or the webcam was in his daily routine.
As a little boy he was very sick. Our mother and grandmother looked after him day and night for years. He suffered and they suffered with him. But when he grew up he was their pillar of strength, their pride and joy. When our father recently had a stroke Krzysztof paid all the medical expenses and provided continuous moral support to my mother. He never complained. He never wanted to be seen as weak or confused. This quality gave people around him the feeling of comfort and reassurance. Since early childhood Krzysztof excelled in many areas. Science however was the love of his life. It was our father who begun to teach him mathematics and physics. The two of them were extremely close and this closeness was brought about by their love of science. I remember them having fun while talking numbers and formulas. Arguing about some experiments, and then laughing.
Our childhood in Poland was truly magical. My brother and I were exceptionally close from a very early age. He was not just my brother but my friend, soul mate and mentor. We were so happy doing things together, long summers playing in the garden or by the river, picking mushrooms in the forest. Cold winters skiing and skating. We read the same books, listened to the same music. We both loved theatre. We spent hours upon hours talking, laughing and dreaming. He was a dreamer, but unlike many of us, a dreamer that realized most of his dreams. I loved him to an extent that I can not put into words today. Jealousy was foreign to us. I always admired him and looked up to him. He always treated me as his little sister. He was there whenever I needed him. When I was in high school he often took time to explain math to me. It was truly an amazing experience. I sat through hours of teaching at school not knowing what it was all about and after coming home I asked Krzysztof. He took a blank page and wrote things very carefully in his very neat writing. He talked simply and patiently and suddenly it all made sense. It was truly unbelievable and I will never forget it.
Krzysztof was passionate about many things. He loved reading and he loved books. His dream was to have the biggest and the best library. All Polish people love literature, but in those days publishing in Poland was a haphazard affair. However, Krzysztof spent time cultivating his contacts in the Wroclaw bookshops and would not only know when a much anticipated book would be published, but would be one of the first to get his hands on it. He loved theatre. There were times when he would travel several hours on the train to see a new play staged in another city and return on the night train after seeing it. He loved swimming. He spent hours upon hours in the pool. He was a marvellous swimmer. He loved music. I remember when he asked me if I could teach him to play a piano piece he particularly liked to listen to. It was a difficult piece and he never played piano before. I showed him how. He worked very hard on it. He played it and it was fantastic. And of course there was his love of the mountains. We all know how he felt about hiking. There are a couple of pictures of Krzysztof in the Swiss Alps, one taken a day before the accident and one just two hours before. Happy, healthy smiling face. Bright eyes. Relaxed. As he said many times in his life: “I have the best life. I have everything I need”. He looks it. On top of the world metaphorically and literally. To do things well was never enough for him. The best was what he aimed for and the best was what he frequently achieved. His passions were contagious. When he talked about things he loved it made others fall in love with them too.
Krzysztof’s generosity is famous amongst his family and his friends. He enjoyed giving, giving and sharing his professional knowledge but also his love, his time, his sense of humour. He was generous as a grandchild, son, brother, friend. He was a loving uncle to my two daughters. He was looking forward to contributing to their education. They know him as “Wujek” – uncle in Polish. Their room is filled with books and toys from him. My older daughter is only seven but she remembers him well. She has met him so many times and he was fun to be with.
My husband Evan has been Krzysztof’s friend for the last 24 years. They met in Stony Brook, where they shared an office. They forged a life long friendship over hours of conversation and litres of weak American beer. Krzysztof appeared to be lucky in his career, but this is misleading. He was brilliant, he worked hard and he made his own luck.
We miss you Krzysztof. Our pain and our loss will never be consoled. We need to go on without you and it seems totally impossible at present. One thing is certain we will never forget you. You will live on in our hearts and in our memories. To us you are unique and irreplaceable. Sadly there is no grave we can visit. But many candles were lit and flowers laid for you in Poland and Australia by your friends and your family. Goodbye and rest in peace. We must let you go now. For this journey we all must take and each must go alone. Be assured our love will be with you forever.
There are two quotes I would like read today as they describe Krzysztof in my view so well.
First one is by Albert Einstein who Krzysztof so admired:
How strange is the lot of us mortals! Each of us is here for a brief sojourn; for what purpose he knows not, though he senses it. But without deeper reflection one knows from daily life that one exists for other people.
Second one is by Henry David Thoreau from his work “Walden”:
I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.