Epic journey in daughter’s honour
Fri, 27 Jul 2012 10:10:00 BST
A devoted father cycled more than 1,800 kilometres across six countries to attend his daughter’s university graduation in Portsmouth – with just hours to spare.
Jerzy Jablonski, 55, left home in Starachowice in south-east Poland on a racing bike and cycled for 10 days to see his daughter Monika, 25, awarded a BA (Hons) in International Business Studies.
He cycled for around 12 hours every day of his epic journey, from 7am-7pm, and only stopped briefly to eat and to sleep.
Several people that he met along his journey were so amazed at what he was doing that they gave him free accommodation and food.
He arrived with just a few hours to spare before his daughter graduated on stage at Portsmouth’s Guildhall after crossing Poland, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and France – and finally cycling across south-east England.
The final leg from Dover to Portsmouth was nail-biting for Monika and her father as heavy rain and high winds made the last 100 miles tortuously slow and he phoned his daughter to say he might not make it in time.
Jerzy travelled with no spare clothes and only his documents, a small bottle of oil for lubricating his bicycle chain, a puncture repair kit, some money and a mobile phone with him so he could get there as fast as he could.
Twice on his trip he got lost and was offered a place to stay and food by kind strangers. When he couldn’t find Calais to catch the ferry to Dover he cycled instead to Dunkirk.
The weather didn’t improve when he landed in England and he couldn’t find his pre-booked hotel so ended up spending the night in the ferry port waiting room. The next day was the hardest of all as driving rain and high winds threatened to scupper his plans, and he telephoned Monika from Maidstone to say he didn’t think he would make it in time.
He cycled approximately 180km each day – but sometimes more as he battled to get to England to see his daughter graduate.
Monika said: “When he finally reached England, and thought he was on the home straight, he was lashed by the rain and storms so the last few hours were very tense and I started to worry he wouldn’t make it.
“He arrived with sore knees and a sore hip and exhausted, but he got here in time.”
Meanwhile, Monika and her mother Ewa, 50, travelled from Poland to England by the more traditional method of car.
Monika, 25, is Jerzy’s only child and so he is naturally proud of her graduating but that doesn’t entirely explain his strong desire to propel himself across Europe to see her graduate.
Monika said: “He was always a little extreme. When we were growing up he’d go off hiking for days in the mountains, camping in the open air. Cycling became his passion since about five years ago and whenever he has a day off work if the weather is good, he leaves the house at five in the morning for a whole day trip.
“His first big cycling trip was last year when he cycled from Poland to Germany to visit me during my work placement in Munich.
“The trip to see me in Germany was one of his dreams, to prove to himself that he could do it. Once he had done that, he looked around for the next challenge and cycling to my graduation in Portsmouth was the answer.
“He has always enjoyed being outside and active, but this trip is the most extreme he has ever done.
“I can’t believe he cycled all that way just for me – I am so proud of him.”
Jerzy said: “I didn’t want to carry any change of clothes or luggage; it would only slow me down.
“I wanted to do this trip by bicycle because I was just so proud of my daughter and I wanted to do something that would make her proud of me.
“I also think you have to do something with your life – not just sit there waiting for something exciting to happen.”
Monika will now move to Germany to take up a job as a telemarketing manager – but she won’t start work straight away – first she is cycling from Munich to Italy with her boyfriend on a camping holiday, the first time she has cycled long distance.
She said: “You could say my father has had a great impact on me.”
Monika’s father decided to go home a more traditional way and put the bicycle in the boot of a car and drove home together after spending three days seeing the sights of Portsmouth. Their journey home by car will take approximately 20 hours.