Profile of Jacek Palkiewicza.
TRAVELER • EKSPLORER • DISCOVERER • REPORTER • WRITER • SURVIVAL TRAINER
Jacek Palkiewicz • Official website of the explorer and traveler
Author: Gabriella Bordignon
Based on Jacek Palkiewicz book "Pasja zycia" ("Passion of life"), (Zysk i S-ka Publishing 2007).
At first glance there is nothing to distinguish him from the crowd except perhaps a confident posture, the spring in his step and well-honed powers of observation. Not everyone who meets Jacek Palkiewicz is willing to offer him friendship. Some claim that modesty is not one of his sins and that he is too confident in his own abilities. Others are offended by the arrogance, egoism, impertinence and conceit contained in the following words: "I will win any game you choose to play, not because I am more intelligent or stronger, but because I never tire and you do." Still others remember a sentence broadcast in a commercial for an Italian bicycle: "Wherever you go, we've already been there."
Some accuse him of cultivating an exaggerated image of a tough guy: ruthless determination, emotional camouflage, Spartan self-control, brevity, stony distance and a demanding level of personal fitness by means of training, shooting practice using a Glock, etc. There are also those, primarily individuals who have failed to realize their own ambitions, who are annoyed by the cult of Palkiewicz and out of envy attempt to destroy his reputation – sitting in their comfortable chairs, they make rash judgments.
Those who have been able to get to know this frenetic traveler and born leader admit that this first impression is misleading. Under a seemingly cold demeanor, there is a "normal" man. A strong personality, loyalty, directness, professionalism and charisma with time provoke curiosity and later attract and engender affection. A handful of committed fans are more than sufficient. Each, amazed by his thrilling life, is prepared to forgive him for a lack of sensitivity, an uncompromising nature and raw and brutal honesty, frequently interpreted as an unpleasant way of being.
As a rule people do not hide their jealousy of what he has done and experienced or the richness of impressions and thrills of emotion he has accumulated at every latitude of our planet. The American weekly Newsweek, with appreciation for his obsessive curiosity about the world, included him among the last generation of explorers. His successors will no longer be able to enjoy the fascinating colors of a camel caravan, meadows on the plateaus of Bhutan or elephants in the jungles of Indochina.
Italian writer Vittorio G. Rossi, highly impressed by his passion for life, wrote: "He has a sense of adventure in the same way that he has ears and a nose. On land and sea he has achieved unforgettable deeds. He is tough and able to fight every difficulty, but can also admit that fear and pain are inseparable companions in his life."
"Life gives every person as much as he has the courage to take and I have no intention of giving up anything that is my due," he once wrote. Another time he said: "Life is too short not to search for instant gratification." Palkiewicz is certainly addicted to adrenaline. It would seem that these full and rich emotional experiences are the main value that gives sense to his life.
He speaks several languages fluently and moves with ease in New York, Saigon, Paris and Caracas. As a master of survival he is not afraid of getting lost in the desert or Amazon jungle. Duel citizenship allowed him to be one of the first Poles to enjoy the benefits of European Union citizenship many years ago. He enjoys even greater popularity abroad than in his own country, earning universal admiration in Russia and Italy, where he is called "secondo Polacco", the second Pole (after the Pope).
This daring explorer caught the irresistible virus of curiosity in the world in a provincial town in Mazuria, where he memorized the entire atlas. In 1970 he traveled to Italy, where – in his own words – "he fell into Linda's arms." The elegant Latino brunette of ideal beauty who became his wife tells a somewhat different story: "Initially, I didn't want to see him, but later he gained my affection thanks to a strong personality, engendering a feeling of safety and trust."
Soon after the wedding, he visited Genoa, where he passed an exam to become a 2nd Mate, administered by a commission at the Liberian consulate. Without a seaman's school or experience at sea, he achieved a level which is normally gained after many years of work.
After two years of tortuous, as he describes it, existence, he found a position briefly at a gold mine in Ghana, a job he quit after a good friend died in a mining accident. At those times his greatest fascination was the Black Continent. He traveled to Sierra Leone, where he was employed as a security officer at Selection Trust, an opencast diamond mine in Yèngeme, owned by the British. "Living conditions", Jacek recalls, "were satisfactory: a spacious lodge with servants, silverware, French wine, a terrace with a view of a golf course ..."
Work was another story and involved patrolling a terrain of 400 km2 by jeep to drive off trespassers, which necessitated a constant series of shootouts. But this wasn't the worst. Everyone was subject to a claustrophobic atmosphere of paranoia and obsessive suspicion, similar to the logic that prevails within the intelligence community – trust no one. Soon he left and returned home to Bassano del Grappa, near Venice.
In order to receive a daily dose of adrenaline, in 1983 he founded the first survival academy on the European continent. All of the cards were in his hand. Eight years earlier he conquered the Atlantic alone in a life raft, completed a survival course in Arizona and underwent training in the famous Leo Gleser Israeli school of counter-terrorism. In Japan he observed methods of educating managers, a true school of character and test of spirit that unleashes the growth of dynamism, faith in oneself, team spirit and risk awareness – in other words, exactly the skills needed by a modern leader.
Jacek's initiative met with unquestionable success. His week-long courses were attended by representatives of various professions, including state employees, students, military pilots and even missionaries – all of whom were eager to learn how to cope with extreme situations. Si vis pacem, para bellum — prepare for war if you want peace. The master frequently reminded his students "in order to counteract evil, one must know and foresee its negative consequences".
Extreme physical exertion, pain and suffering are the daily bread of Palkiewicz's school, but these are precisely the tools that reinforce the psyche and guarantee the ability to access greater determination in life. A certificate from the school has for many become a prestigious calling card and a status symbol. Once well-known Italian actor Enrico Montesano and his producer attended the classes with the intent of creating a sensational film about Palkiewicz and his school. One year later Uomini duri (Three Tough Guys) became the biggest box office hit of the year.
With time Jacek turned his attention to ambitious scientific-research exploration. In 1992 he received permission from Vietnamese authorities to live among the isolated local Jaraj community, which maintained a one-thousand-year tradition and continues to live in the heart of the jungle.
Two years later he found a small group of Yanomami in the river basin of the Upper Orinoko that had no contact with our civilization. In that same year, he made contact with the Bausi tribe on the Mamberamo River in West Irian, a prehistoric enclave, where headhunting and cannibalism are practiced. What others can only dream about, he experiences in the waking world.
In 1996 Jacek led a scientific expedition to establish conclusively the source of the Amazon, later officially confirmed by the Geographic Society in Lima. In Poland a few envious individuals engaged in a distasteful intrigue. The explorer, whose find was questioned, reacted to this insinuations and dishonest manipulations calmly. As usual he disregarded those who did not like him, deriding their stupidity and meanness. I suppose he had cause for pride when the discovery became a frequent topic for Master's theses and doctoral dissertations, particularly when Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi honored him in a decree issued June 2, 2003 for "a significant contribution in the field of geography" with the highest distinction – the Order of Knighthood of the Republic.
Photos from Palkiewicz expeditions, travels, meetings and more.
Articles by Jacek Palkiewicz and about him in press and magazines.
Books by Jacek Palkiewicz (published in Polish and other countries).