|Jan Olko snapped the above photo from the front of his apartment in Debica on a cold winter day in January, 2007.|
Jan died on 8 January 2008.
We were blessed by his friendship. We share his loss with his family.
I met Jan Olko and his dear wife Jadwiga in the summer of 2006. He welcomed my cousin Robert and I into his home in Debica. Jan could speak, read and write English. On a memorable hot summer day, Jan spoke to us of his love for his country and his optimism for her future.
Jan loved to photograph all that he saw around him, whether it was towns and cities, countryside, or Polish citizens. He loved to take photos that were informal and that told a story. He could frame a shot with a keen eye that I envied.
Jan loved his family, his three sons, including twins Peter and Paul. As he spoke to us, his wife Jadwiga watched him with love and admiration. Their apartment was cool and cozy, the late day sun was pouring through the picture window and the houseplants were green and lush. We were sipping ice cold mineral water on this blistering 95 degree day, and Jan's apartment seemed like an oasis.
Jan told us about his "baby", his camera, and how he had mastered the settings. He said that he "adopted" the camera from one of his sons, and he wasn't going to give it back because he loved it so much.
Jan had a passion and a lust for life, and a sense of contentment that you could sense all about him.
He told us of his cancer, his pain, his trials with medications, hospitalizations, and his poor prognosis. Jadwiga didn't speak English, but Jan took her hand as he told us that the cancer had come back, and he knew he didn't have but a year to live, at best. He spoke of his deep and abiding faith in God, his hopes that all would be well for Jadwiga, and that his grandchildren would someday be successful and happy, because he knew he wouldn't be here to see it.
Jan wanted to be remembered for his photography.
Jan never stopped smiling the whole time we were there. He promised to continue taking pictures and sending them to us for the site. He was so excited that he could share his photos with others, and he could give people a peek into everyday Polish life.
Jan had strength of character and courage that isn't often seen. I know he was at peace with his condition, and I believe in my heart that now he has eternal peace also.