In the Werther’s Original commercial, the grandson tells us about the first candy he had received from his grandpa. He reminisces that event with great nostalgia.
However, it cannot compare to the gift given to our student – Franek Mirecki – by his grandparents. In early October 2016, we received a special message on the official Snapchat account of the Warsaw University of Technology. It included two photos of a pin of our University attached to a white card reading: “Franek, you’ll make it”. The sender wrote that the pin is a present from his grandparents, and that it’s 60 years old. We decided that we needed to know the history behind this present and – above all – meet Franek and his grandparents.
There’s This Girl Coming, Zośka
Zofia and Jerzy Przeździak graduated from the Warsaw University of Technology. They both studied chemistry. Times were difficult back then, in late 50s; although Stalin had already died, communism was still very much prevalent. Despite this, Mrs Zofia and Mr Jerzy feel nostalgic about their studies.
Mr Jerzy: “How did I meet my wife? Why, I remember it exactly! In the Old Chemistry Building, there was an out-of-order locker room on the first floor. It was a kind of a meeting place”.
Mrs Zofia: “Boys smoked cigarettes there and encouraged girls to do the same”.
Mr Jerzy: “Back then everyone smoked, just so, at the university. We also did other absolutely prohibited things, like playing bridge. I even received a reprimand in my course record for that. Anyway, one day I’m in this locker room with my friend and he says: ‘Listen, there’s this girl coming, Zośka’. She came – ‘good morning’, ‘good morning’”.
Mrs Zofia: “That conversation was a bit casual”.
Mr Jerzy: “It took six months or even a year to turn out that there were feelings at play. Then we broke up, but in the end we decided that it was the real deal. We met in 1954 and married in 1959, on graduation.
Present for the Name Day
Mr and Mrs Przeździak waited 60 years for someone from the family to decide to study at the Warsaw University of Technology. They emphasize that they were very happy when Franek told them where he intends to study. Knowing that studies tend to be difficult at first, they decided to support their grandson in a unique way – by giving him the WUT pin. “I bought it when I was still a student”, says Mr Jerzy. “When I heard that Franek decided to study at the Warsaw University of Technology, I decided to give it to him. His name day was in early October, so the time was right”.
“It’s one of the best gifts in my life”, says Franek. “It’s a kind of a guarantee deposit for my success. Studies are quite surprising and challenging at first. I like it here, but it’s not easy”.
Franek studies engineering physics. “I knew I wanted to do engineering since about third year at junior high school; I began to take more interest in mathematics, physics”, he says. “My father influenced me somehow, too. He is a psychologist, but he was always very curious about various natural phenomena. We talked a lot about such subjects when I was young.”
However, studies in physics weren’t the only Franek’s idea. “I thought that I wanted to study IT, but I miscalculated and decided that I would have better chances with physics”, he explains.
This hesitation is a common trait between Franek and his grandparents. His grandmother couldn’t decide between chemistry and medicine, while his grandfather chose between chemistry and architecture. Finally, they both decided to study chemistry, but their professional careers took a different approach. Mrs Zofia worked for 30 years at the National Telecommunications and Radio Technology Centre. Nonetheless, she did not forget her old passion. She is interested in alternative medicine and jokes that she’s the physician of all her female friends. Mr Jerzy on the other hand had a long career in construction, after which he inherited his father’s metalworks, and he was a municipal councillor in Otwock. Today he is a guild master and sits on the association board.
I Have Seen This Notebook Yesterday
Mr and Mrs Przeździak agree that studies are the most wonderful period in life. They have many memories from this time.
Mr Jerzy: “I remember an organic chemistry test; I think it was in my third year. I took it completely unprepared. Franek, don’t listen to this. There were four of us, bridge fanatics, in our year. That day, we were in particularly good spirits; we sat upstairs, in the Old Chemistry auditorium. The professor came, gave everyone their subjects to work on. I looked them over. I didn’t know a thing, but it would be embarrassing to submit a blank sheet with my name on it. I submitted a blank page without my name and left. Then someone said to me: ‘Jurek, don’t be stupid – here, have these answers, just copy them’. I thought it was a brilliant idea. I copied them and gave them to someone to give the professor. The professor brought the tests to the next meeting and asked: ‘Is Mr Przeździak here? No? Then I shall say how he solved the test. Four gentlemen arrived in high spirits. I asked my assistants to mark the subject number on their sheets. Mr Przeździak sat, didn’t write anything, gave an empty sheet and then wrote everything outside. He would have received an F, but he gets a Z. Now, in order to pass, he’ll have to be extraordinarily well-prepared’. I was so embarrassed. I learned really hard and passed. I also apologized to the professor”.
Mrs Zofia: “Automation lectures… I didn’t understand a thing. Moreover, the professor spoke so quickly, that I scribbled really fast, just so I could have notes. Everyone wanted to borrow my notebook later”.
Mr Jerzy: “The physics tests began at 7 AM. Everyone was supposed to bring their notebooks. If someone didn’t know a particular thing, the professor told them to consult their notes. I didn’t keep my notes particularly well. I borrowed someone’s notebook. It was wrapped in a telling colourful paper. I, being the stupid person I was, didn’t even remove it. When the professor asked me if these were my notes, I said yes. ‘They’re not your notes; I have seen this notebook yesterday’. So you see, Franek, cheating does not pay”.
Mrs Zofia: “I couldn’t draw a cross section for the life of me, unbecoming of an engineer. Not only that, I got very nervous during one test. And I sat there. We had this assistant who fancied me. He approached me, asked about things, and, finally, he drawn everything correctly for me”.
In the 50s, studies included mandatory Marxism-Leninism classes. The lecturer was so devoted to the cause that she didn’t allow people to call her anything other than “comrade”.
Mr Jerzy: “I had a method for her. I didn’t read any of those books, just the annotations. Then I spoke about it, and she said: ‘Well, comrade, I see that you’re interested in this topic, you do know it…’.
Mrs Zofia: “I flunked this exam. My father was always very involved in my studies; so, before I arrived home, I phoned and told him how it went. I didn’t call then; I didn’t want him to worry. I came back sad and said: ‘Dad, unfortunately, I failed’. And he said: ‘I’m proud of you, daughter’. It immediately lifted my spirits. Then I learned and passed that exam”.
Only Positive Advice
Tales of Franek’s grandparents also include parts well-known to today’s Warsaw University of Technology students: sitting together by the fountain at the Central Campus, buying cakes at the B. Wróbel confectionery, lecturers saying how drastically the number of students dropped after yet another year.
“We don’t warn Frank, we give him positive advice”, says Mr Jerzy.
“He is very gifted in mathematics”, Mrs Zofia praises her grandson. “The most important thing is to attend classes and make notes”.
With such support from beloved grandparents, and such a souvenir as the Warsaw University of Technology pin, kept throughout the years, even the most difficult exams don’t seem scary, not one bit.