Pawel 'Pawko' Grzadkowski (1984-2005),
PL-VACC Controller

It had never been an easy life for him. Pawko joined us on 19th of February, 2004. He had been suffering from a very serious form of Cystic Fibrosis (CF) disease, but we only learnt about it much, much, later. Because of his illness he sounded like a child and this was causing some confusion. Nevertheless he was always kind, very understanding and patient enough to explain to us how an easy assumption might lead to wrong conclusions. He had also had serious problems with his daily life activities for quite a long time, but when he joined VATSIM, they all became easier to deal with. He realised he had a new dream - a dream about VATSIM.

Despite his serious breathing problems, Pawko longed to become a virtual ATCo. Those who had the privilege to talk to him via internet communicators know exactly how strong his dream was. After a long period of hesitation he finally contacted the Polish VACC and coincidentally was assigned Michal Zazula, a VATGOV member and PL-VACC CTR+. His mentor did not know about his problems, but to Michal's full credit he was able to put aside Pawko's strange voice and perceive a man and controller-to-be. Their mentoring sessions were sometimes difficult due to Pawko's breathing and speaking problems, but Pawko did prove to be a really good candidate with no special treatment needed whatsoever. He was able to demonstrate his deep knowledge, ability to handle a large volume of traffic and, above all, his commitment - all the attributes of a good virtual controller.

During one of his last training sessions, Michal asked the PL-VACC Director and a VATSIM INS Michal Rok if he could have a closer look at his promising candidate. Pawko was dealing with a significant traffic at the main Polish airport, EPWA, with confidence and ease. Michal Rok was surprised and very impressed by Pawko's performance and that was it. In April 2005 Pawko passed his practical STU exam and his dream came true - he was now one of us, VATSIM controllers. He made it despite all the adversities and showing us a true fortitude. We will never forget how happy and satisfied he was.

Everything seemed to be perfect so far - a young man fulfilling his dream, a fairy-tale with the happy end. Sadly, it was not to be a fairy-tale. In fact, no one really realised how serious Pawko's condition was, how difficult it was for him to pass his clearances to pilots. Not even a month since passing his STU exam Pawko suddenly disappeared and no one could get in touch with him any longer. Two weeks later we were contacted by members of Pawko's family and we heard that on a sunny May day he had received his final clearance and had departed for his eternal flight.

We were shattered and utterly devastated, but then we heard something which was really beyond our expectations - Pawko had asked to be buried in his PL-VATSIM T-shirt to express his love for his hobby. His last request was respected. Everyone who knew him was left speechless and in tears... What can VATSIM and virtual flying mean to some of us? What can we learn and share through our beloved hobby? It is clear that we can learn how extraordinary Pawko was and what a true spirit is...

This is a story of making a dream reality, a story of pride and sorrow and finally a story of a man and his great spirit that we can all undoubtedly learn from. Pawko never lost his spirit and we all are feeling honoured and privileged to carry his legacy and a fond memory of Pawko.

To keep Pawko's story and his great spirit alive, fellow PL-VACC controllers decided to create an annual fly-in called "PapaGolf" after Pawko's initials.

We are very pleased to announce that at the request of PL-VACC, Pawel 'Pawko' Grzadkowski has been upgraded post mortem to the VATSIM CTR (Controller) level. We would like to thank VATEUD authorities for their understanding and demonstrating the true VATSIM spirit and making our request possible. This is important, both for us and Him.

This story has been published with the consent of Pawko's family members.

May he rest in peace.

To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die.

Thomas Campbell, "Hallowed Ground"