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Stefan Jacek Michalak

Stefan Jacek Michalak, fot. Barbara Ostrowska

I was born on 25 September 1943 in Warsaw. I am educated as a physicist and engineer. My father was dr Stefan Michalak, a ship’s physician and traveller. Today, his statue stands before the Medical University of Gdańsk.

I studied electronics at the Gdańsk University of Technology, and Warsaw University of Technology. Thanks to good grades, in 1966 I received an apprenticeship offer at Siemens in Brunswick, West Germany. At the beginning of 1967, I came back to Poland and started working on my Master’s thesis, however, I failed to finish it - my wanderlust caused me to leave Poland in 1968, this time – for France. Soon afterwards, I was back in West Germany, where I found work as a radio-technician at the Blaupunkt company in Hildesheim.

However, I was unable to stay in one place for long. The books I read when I was little about the far north and the gold fever pushed me to leave Germany for Canada in 1969. Once I was there, I got a physics degree at the University of Waterloo and worked in large R&D laboratories and telecommunications companies, as well as published articles in academic journals.

I admired lighthouses near the mouth of the Saint Lawrence River where I had my summer home and thought “Wouldn’t it be great to have my own lighthouse someday...”. As it turned out, my lighthouse was awaiting me back in Poland, in Gdańsk. In 2001, I purchased a historic, but very neglected lighthouse in Nowy Port from the State Treasury. After the renovation and required maintenance works, I opened a lighthouse museum. A crowning of my efforts was the reconstruction of the 19th century time ball at the top of the lighthouse in 2008.

interview excerpts
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A running commentary by Magdalena Świerczyńska-Dolot on Stefan Jacek Michalak
>>> Read the transcription