FORMER firefighter and bodyguard Robert Klimaszewski is originally from Poland but says he will always love Cork for the great life he had been given in the Rebel County.
The 57-year-old moved over from Warsaw in 2015 where he had been working as a bodyguard for some of the wealthier residents of Poland.
Originally working with the fire service after being enlisted for two years of mandatory military service as a young adult, Robert stayed with the fire service for 13 years before leaving to start up his own business in sports nutrition.
“When I was young, all young people in Poland had to do two years of military service, you could choose the police, the army or the fire brigade, I chose the fire brigade,” Robert explained.
“I stayed on after two years as a professional firefighter, but I left to startup own business in sports nutrition. It was a mistake, I left because I needed time, but fire fighting was the best thing I did in my life.
Then the global recession hit and Robert’s business collapsed. He started working as a private bodyguard and driver while also helping out as a volunteer firefighter for seven years.
“It was the same job, but with no money.” Robert said.
Describing his life as a bodyguard, Robert said he didn’t enjoy it, most of the time.
“Rich people in Poland are terrible, one client was very demanding I was working 24/7 and sometimes he called me back from holidays. I saw how he treated other people and didn’t like it. I did have one good experience minding a young french woman, I worked with her, drove her and taught her self defence, but it was a short contract, just three months, then she left Warsaw.” While he has no specific certification in security, Robert said he was well able to mind people thanks to his high level of fitness, his knowledge of Warsaw, his experience in the Fire Service and constantly training with his friends in the Special Police Forces.
“A lot of my friends are in the Polish version of the SWAT team. They are Special forces, anti-terrorist group. We grew up together, we are still in contact, even now.
“I used to train with them and I had a gun permit and my own gun in Poland. I knew Warsaw, I had lived there for almost 50 years, I knew the city and the people and I used to do bodybuilding and wrestling, I was pretty fit!” Then in 2015, Robert made the decision to look for work outside of Poland, he was offered a position in Cork as a truck driver and he accepted.
After coming to Cork, Robert was quick to integrate into society and is now a regular volunteer with Penny Dinners as well as a member of the Civil Defence and he also helps out with a Polish Scouts Association, teaching young Polish children the history, language and traditions of their native country.
Robert is also a dedicated blood donor, giving blood every three months.
“I became a blood donor when I moved to Ireland straight away, I always gave blood, I think it is an important service I did the same in Poland.” The hardworking kind-hearted Polish native said he started volunteering at Penny Dinners after meeting Catriona Twomey who runs the charity.
“She is such an amazing person, I didn’t believe there were people like her in the world, I just wanted to help.” Robert said Penny Dinners is very busy at the moment with fewer volunteers due to the virus and increased demand. “I try to help as often as possible.” Robert’s partner Paulina used to be a radio and sports magazine journalist in Poland, but here in Ireland, she is a cleaner in a school in Blackrock.
Robert and Paulina are here with their youngest child Maria, who is almost 18 and in fifth class at St Angela’s college Back in Poland Robert has two older children, Ewa, who is a physiotherapist with a one-year-old son Gustaw and his son Filip, who is a photographer.
“The lockdown in Poland isn’t nice,” Robert said, “People don’t get the same support from the Government as here.” Robert said his children visit him every couple of months. “At Christmas, my son and daughter and grandson surprised me by travelling over to Cork for Christmas. It was a complete surprise there was a knock on the door and I answered it and they were all standing there. It was brilliant.” The truck driver said he loves his life in Cork and enjoys the friendly people here.
“It is a beautiful place and the people are very nice. In Poland, people are very different. I have started saying hello to people walking down the street, you would not do that in Warsaw.”