“When he said we were approved to go to Canada, I cannot even tell you how happy that made me. There was nowhere else I wanted to go.”
In a series dedicated to Janina’s history, Andrzej outlines how he came to Canada and his first impressions of his new home.
Following Sound Advice
With Mr. Eisler’s advice in mind, Andrzej began looking to learn more about goldsmithing. In a world without the internet, the resources to learn about other professions – even finding out where you could learn the profession – were more limited.
So, he headed off to the provincial building. When he arrived, a lady asked him what he was looking for.
“Goldsmithing,” Andrzej said.
She stared at him, then said, “Let’s see what we can find under ‘Jeweller.’” From the shelf behind her, she pulled down a large binder and they began leafing through it, page by page, until they found one:
“The Watchmaking Institute of Canada. Offering courses in goldsmithing.”
Andrzej took down their information and wrote a letter to the institute. They responded, informing him that the course was $300, and they would also require an additional $350 fee for materials and tools.
Call it an impulse, call it destiny: Andrzej knew that taking this course was a necessary step in his life. So, using the money he earned doing odd jobs around town, he sent the money to this institute.
A few weeks went by. Eventually, he received a package. Inside was a bunch of booklets, ten lessons on goldsmithing, some tools, and a few men’s signet silver rings – rugged rings which served as a blank canvas for his new craft.
As soon as Andrzej started, he realized that – despite sending a soldering torch – he was missing a very important material: the gasses needed to use the torch. The bottle needed to light the torch contained oxygen and acetylene, which are illegal to transport via mail.
Able to speak a minimal amount of English, Andrzej searched for a place to purchase the necessary gasses to use his soldering torch. A trip to Grande Prairie’s industrial area provided Andrzej with the right materials to complete his lessons.
A Lesson Worth Translating
With all the right materials, tools, and lessons, Andrzej sat down at a small wooden desk pushed into the hallways of their apartment and started on his new craft. As he leafed through the booklets – all written in English, a language he was nowhere fluent in – he knew he had a new difficulty to overcome.
He took out his dictionary and translated each document, word by word, into Polish. Bit by bit, he pieced together these goldsmithing lessons. He learned how to size rings, how to fix gold chains, how to shape metals, and more.
Evening after evening, he worked away at this craft, spending his days working. Any spare time he had was dedicated to finding a goldsmith in town who was willing to help him receive more hands-on experience than he was getting from his workbooks.
Searching for Opportunities
An old jewellery shop in the Prairie Mall called Warrington’s provided a small opportunity for Andrzej. After walking in and introducing himself, Andrzej asked if there was anyone on site who could teach him how to be a goldsmith.
The man replied, “No. But, hey! If you ever learn, you come back and see me because I have a job for you.”
Andrzej walked away from his meeting ecstatic: he didn’t even know this profession yet, and he was already being offered a job? He could hardly believe it.
Continuing the Grind
He returned to talk to the owner of Warrington’s every once in a while, but he continued to study goldsmithing with his paper booklets and his cozy hallway workspace.
When he finished all his modules and lessons, he sent in his final work. It included a written exam and the assessment of the rings he had been working with. What had started as some rugged, silver signet rings turned into his final exam.
He waited patiently to get the results, nervously remembering that – should he pass – he might just have a job waiting for him. He continued working and caring for his family, waiting for the news of his marks to come in the mail.
This post is part of a ten-part series on the history of Janina’s. To learn more about our local roots – and to stay up-to-date on events and promotions – make sure you’re following us on Facebook and Instagram.