He has spelt out “Jadzia” – the name of his wife, who passed away, on Poland’s map, he jumped on a bike and started his travels. Mieczysław Parczyński from Gdańsk was 65 back then. During 94 days of travel, he rode 5730 kilometres. He gave an extraordinary proof of love for his wife – the retired cyclist’s friends say.
I’ve done everything to maintain the exact shape of each letter. Sometimes, somewhere in the woods, on marshland or a swamp, there were no decent roads. I had to be satisfied with the ground tracts or even paths. During 94 days I rode 5730 kilometres, dividing the route into 62 phases. I dedicated this tour to Jadzia – Mieczysław Parczyński wrote in his hand-made album.
The album weighs 11,2 pounds and is a specific chronicle of the tour in memory of his wife. It’s full of pictures. There is a map with “Jadzia” written on it on one of the pages. The letter “J” starts in Koszalin, the letter “a” ends in Przemyśl. It’ s a bicycle therapy to handle the sadness after losing his beloved Jadwiga.
I loved her so much. She passed away so silently – says Mieczysław.
After his wife’s death Mieczysław reached another cycling level. Until 2010 he had ridden 216 thousands kilometres all over Poland. He can still remember his first bike. It was a folding bicycle – a gift from his other half.
Riding a “gazelle” across Poland
You should buy a bike and start moving your legs. Otherwise, you might face legs paresis in the future – said a doctor to Mieczysław. He was 50 back then and led a sedentary lifestyle. He was a photography retoucher. The doctor deeply frightened Mieczysław. His wife was so concerned that she bought him a bike.
At first, he would cycle 10 or 15 kilometres a day. However, the obligatory, healthy ride changed into a passion after a while. The wife gave him another folding bicycle. He bought the third bike himself. It was a “Gazelle” – a lady’s bike with 27″ wheels, bought during Gierek’s rules (communist Polish Prime Minister). He would ride 150 or 200 kilometres a day on it.
In 1986, when his wife died, Mieczysław reached the kilometre count of the Earth’s perimeter for the first time. He decided to honour his wife’s memory with a bike tour. He started his journey 3 years after his wife’s death, in 1989. After having finished the ride, he went to the cemetary, prayed over her grave and said: “Jadzia, I dit it for you” – says Stanisław Staniewski, amateur cyclist and a big fan of Mieczysław.
Travelling by bike across the whole country became a new way of life for the retired Gdańsk resident. He would take 3 sets of underwear, extra clothing, shoes, a pot and some maps with him. He wouldn’t take a sleeping bag and a tent because these items are too heavy. He used to sleep in people’s houses, stables, sheds and youth shelters.
I have around 100 families in Poland which would take me under their roof if I asked – says Mieczysław, happy with his new acquaintances.
The cyclist appreciates people’s kidness. He is a very optimistic person. He can talk about all the unpleasent moments of his travel with a smile on his face – Once, there was one beanpole who stood up, came to me and said: We want to steal your bike. I responded: Sir, I’m from Gdańsk, I have driven thousands of kilometres on it, how am I supposed to get back? He went to confer with his guys and I managed to run away – says the cyclist.
His bike counter was measuring the kilometres he rode, and the camera film was being changed all the time. Mieczysław documented his journey very precisely.
He used to take pictures, notes, gathered tickes from the museums and receipts for the accommodation. When the cycling season ended, he started to create another album/chronicles. It’s a Benedictine’s work. Mieczysław gets up at 5am and starts working on it – explains Marek Mazur, miniature cameras instructor, Mieczysław’s friend. Mieczysław likes to relax drinking green tea and eating halvah at Marek Mazur’s workplace.
154 pounds of travel
Mieczysław came to my workplace with his camera. During our conversation, I found out that he rides a bike. I looked at him and thought that maybe he rides to the church. After 15 minutes, he came back with an album. I was astounded when I saw what Mieczysław did – admits Marek Mazur and adds – He’s a good and modest man.
Despite having ridden over 216 thousands kilometres and visiting every town in Poland, the majority of Polish museums, castles and sacral objects, he did not seek fame. – There are many people who achieved more – explained Mieczysław when one journalist suggested that he may win a prestigious Kolosy Prize.
Finally, he agreed to “add” another 11 thousands kilometres, which would make a total of 80 thousands and his bike counter would show 200 thousands kilometres. He rode, he won an award and countinued riding, as if nothing special had just happened. It’s a great example of how actively we can live and how actively we can grow old – says amazed Michał, a famous traveller and alpinist.
Short and skinny Mieczysław will celebrate his 89th birthday in May. Although he does not ride his bike anymore, he exercises every day and pays a lot of attention to his second passion: preparind another photo albums. Recently, he has given 14 volumes of his manuscripts to the Gdańsk Library. They weigh almost 154 pounds. We can find in them 12 thousand photos, many maps and thousands of notes from his travels.
For 400 years the library in Gdańsk has been gathering relations of Gdańsk residents who travelled all around the world. I have to admit that those which Mieczysław gave to us have a great value for scientists and their value will grow – evaluated Zofia Tylewska-Ostrowska, the Director of the Gdańsk Library of Polish Academy of Science.
No one has done anything like that in Poland – adds Michał Kochańczyk. And all of this came from the love for his wife.