I first met Kris in Stony Brook in the northern hemisphere summer of 1984. We were both graduate students in the Department of Physics at the State University of New York at Stony Brook. I had already been there a year when Kris was assigned to the student office that I was in, a typical, gloomy, windowless, concrete bunker with partitions unimaginatively arrayed to form cubicles down the centre. Kris would wander up from his cubicle for a chat. He had already spent a year at the University of Georgia and his command of English was already excellent, but his speech somewhat ponderous. That, coupled with his elaborate opinions on politics, did not make a favourable first impression (he was aware of this and we would laugh about it in later years). Nevertheless, the more time I spent with him the more I appreciated his diverse and powerful intellect. We developed the habit of spending an evening a week at the Graduate Student Lounge where we would spend hours discussing politics, Poland, history, literature, physics, women, beer, music, basically everything except sport. Something he talked about from almost the first moment I met him was his family, his sister Dorota, his Babcia (grandmother) and his parents. In particular, he felt very close to his sister and felt an older brother's responsibility for her. He even wanted to help her to come to the states.
I met his sister the following summer when she visited Kris at Stony brook and we fell in love. I left Stony Brook shortly after and Dorota and I eventually settled in Australia. Kris, although now alone and lonely at Stony Brook, worked ferociously hard. He went to Stony Brook to work with Martin Rocek, a rising star at that time, and he also started collaborating with Blaine Lawson from the Dept of Mathematics. I am not compentent to comment on his scientific career, other contributers to this site will do that. However, it was clear to me, even at time that he was going to be successful.
I feel we became very close friends over the twelve months we were together at Stony Brook. Furthermore by marrying his sister, we were not in a position to drift apart as we might have. We lived through the communication revolution of the last twenty years. We initially communicated by actual hand written letters. This progressed through to letters typeset with TeX, then electronically through clumsy gateways between the then separate commercial and academic networks, through to the internet as we know it in 1995. In 2007 he was video calling on a daily basis with his family. This was important for him and his family. I would watch and listen to Dorota and him talking in Polish. She would tease him and lecture him and give him advice (all of which he ignored) and they would be laughing and laughing.
Over the years we were able to get together many times, in the US, Europe or Australia. These would be magical times of friendship and conversation with the three of us. In 2005 just Kris and I were able to meet in Cardiff for a few days. As everyone who knew him knows, or as the most superficial perusal of this site demonstrates, Kris loved the mountains. I was there for work so I was the host. I decided to take us to the Brecon Beacons. Of course, for any serious mountaineer these are nothing more than small hills, but they have a striking and stark beauty. Unfortunately, I was very unfit so I struggled and wheezed up these hills while Kris strolled along side me in his sandals. On the way back down, he spotted a small pond. It was not on our path and required a descent of about 100m, which we would need to climb up again. I was tired and reluctant, but how could I refuse? When we got down he wanted to swim, so he stripped naked and swam. I have some pictures of him in the freezing water, smiling and laughing with the pleasure of this small adventure. Many fine Welsh ales were drunk that night.
I am not a mathematician, but I did have the privilege of working with him on one project. He wanted me to write a computer program to perform some calculations based on his work on Einstein Metrics (with C Boyer and J Kollár). (He was very proud of this work, he said it would still be cited in 100 years). The program was to help explicitly calculate specific metrics in dimensions not covered by this previous work. The program itself was relatively simple and Kris certainly could have done it himself, however he was not particularly interested in computer programming. As we worked on this I got a taste for the way he worked. There were long periods of apparent quiescence, but then there would be periods of intense activity, lasting only a few days, with mails flying at me faster than I could read them. The clarity and precision of his mind, as we refined the program, was a pleasure to work with. Perhaps all mathematicians are like this (I do believe that mathematicians and physicists are a lot smarter than biologists), but for me it was insight into a part of him that I had not previously experienced.
To say that Kris was a big part of my life is an understatement. I married his sister. I spent many, many months over the years in his home in Wrocław with his parents, where I was welcomed into their family like one of their own. I am the father of his two nieces. (I know he was looking forward to seeing them grow and make their way in the world.) He was a big person, with a big heart, a big intellect and a big personality. He has left an enormous hole in all our lives.