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Monday, September 21, 2009

Who was Robert Dziekanski?

September 21, 2009
By MATT KIELTYKA, 24Hours Vancouver

A faint smile crept into Zofia Cisowski's face - but only for a moment.

It's a smile that has appeared far too rarely since her son, Robert Dziekanski, died on the floor of the Vancouver International Airport after being jolted by multiple Taser shots Oct. 14, 2007.

But as much as his death - and ensuing inquiry into the circumstances around it - has shredded Cisowski's life, she can't hide her maternal pride when thinking about her boy.

Cisowski, who has lived in Canada for 10 years, often finds her mind slip half way around the world, to a time when her family was whole.

In those memories, her portrait of Robert emerges - one that's different than any clip on YouTube and one that can only be painted by a mother's loving brush.

She raised Robert on her own in the town of Gliwice in southern Poland and worked long hours to support her lone child.

Late shifts were always risky propositions behind the Iron Curtain. She had to sneak around in the dead of night, taking shelter in the shadows of every building on her way home to avoid being caught breaking curfew.

At the age of 10, Robert may have been too young to understand his mom's stress and fear. But he knew enough. "He saw that I was over-worked," Cisowski reminisced, that smile beginning to show itself again. "That's when he made his first meal, crepes. He forgot to add eggs, but everything else was right. He added onions and pepper and everything," she said, eyes shimmering. "I was very thankful he would do something for me. That when I came back from work I would have something to eat. I will never forget that."

That was Robert, always willing to help.

"He would give people everything he had," Cisowski said. "He had a good heart."

Iwona Kosowska, a long-time neighbour of Robert, says that picture of Robert needs to endure. She remembers him as a "fantastic person." The two would spend hours in the garden together and Robert would play with her daughter. "That's how he was and it won't change," she told 24 hours. "This is simply the truth."

Kosowska was livid when she was put on the hot seat at Braidwood Inquiry earlier this year as lawyers asked her about Robert's past, health and whether he had drinking and smoking problems.

To her, it was a thinly veiled smear campaign. "Can we stop this line of questioning?" she pleaded during her testimony March 30. "You are trying to make a bad person out of him, which means that you can kill a bad person but you cannot kill a good person. I'm fed up. I'm not going to answer any more questions. How can you?"

With the Braidwood Inquiry entering its final stretch tomorrow, Cisowski expects more attempts to use Robert's past against him; no matter how little bearing they may have to the events of Oct. 14, 2007.

That's why the heart-broken mother speaks of the Robert she knew and loved. "He had a very good heart, that's the most important thing," she maintains, as determined as ever. "He never did anyone any harm, he was a good person. But in this world, it's the good people that get taken away from us."


Zofia Cisowski's quest for the truth continues tomorrow as the Braidwood Inquiry into her son's death resumes after a lengthy delay. On the agenda: An e-mail that suggests officers planned to use a Taser on Dziekanski on their way to the airport.

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