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Torun. He has made and repaired thousands of shoes. The 93-year-old is still working and has no plans to stop. “I can’t live without work”

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93-year-old Józef Kania from Toruń (Kuyavian-Pomeranian Voivodeship) is probably one of the oldest, if not the oldest active shoemaker in the country. He works actively all the time and paints pictures in his spare time. He became famous in 2021, when the pandemic significantly slowed down his business. There were fewer orders, but Internet users and one of the Warsaw companies came to the rescue. Today, Mr. Józef, despite a dozen or so surgeries, enjoys life and devotes himself fully to his passion for shoemaking.

A small shoemaker’s shop at ul. Radio in Toruń. It is here, every day from Monday to Saturday, before 8 am you can find Mr. Józef. We visited him before 10. The radio was playing in the background. When we entered the plant, Mr. Józef turned it down and greeted us with a cordial handshake.

He didn’t wait long, but immediately began to act, that is, to tell his beautiful life story. We didn’t even have to ask too many questions. He threw dates around like a sleeve, and many teenagers could envy his excellent memory.

Józef Kania in front of his shoemaker’s shoptvn24.pl

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93-year-old Józef Kania from Toruń is still actively workingtvn24.pl

– There was an occupation. In 1944, one of the hosts wanted to enlist me to graze cows. To avoid this, I went to learn to be a shoemaker. Less than a year later, liberation came and I continued my studies in this direction. However, I wanted to be a qualified craftsman, but no one near my place of residence was able to teach me – says the 93-year-old from Sędzina, 45 km away from Toruń, in the Aleksandrów district. He says about himself that he is a small, shy boy from under a thatched roof.

The beginnings of private business

Times were hard then. It wasn’t easy to get a job, but that didn’t deter him. He first looked for a job as a shoemaker in Toruń, then in Szczecin, Wałbrzych and again in Toruń. He succeeded, at the same time passing the journeyman’s exam in 1949. Talking to us, Mr. Józef recalls subsequent dates from his biography. He talks about serving in the army, getting married and suddenly stops at 1966, which turned out to be a turning point for his further professional career.

93-year-old Józef Kania from Toruń is still actively workingtvn24.pl

– In 1965, Gomułka announced insurance for private craftsmen. I started applying for a place in Toruń. Despite our best efforts, something kept getting in the way. I had two children and a wife to support. My father-in-law lived in the railway area, so I decided to make a wooden workshop at ul. Kniaziewicz in Toruń. I went to the Department of Industry and Commerce to ask permission. I started to explain to the officials that it was Drzymała’s car, but without wheels. Finally, in 1966, I received a positive decision to set up a workshop – recalls Józef Kania.

Over the years, his workshop has undergone transformations. From ul. Kniaziewicza, Mr. Józef finally moved with his family to the nearby ul. Radiowa, where he bought a plot of land and built a house with a backyard workshop. And so for 22 years. His studio may be small, but you can feel the spirit in it – the spirit of work. Mr. Józef works several hours a day, of course with breaks. When we ask if he wants more, he answers without hesitation.

Clients from all over Poland turn to Mr. Józef for helptvn24.pl

– I can’t live without work. Work is my passion, especially since I specialize in weaving. Few people do it, and it has spread to such an extent that clients come to me from all over Poland. In addition, of course, I repair shoes and everything related to footwear. Nothing is impossible for me. Clients who come to me often say that they visited all the shoemakers and none of them was able to help them. They only hear to go to Kania, because he will surely help – admits Mr. Józef with a smile.

He does not complain about the lack of work

Over the years, he has created and repaired thousands of shoes. He did, among other for his wife, and today even Varsovians and Cracovians come to him for hand-woven shoes or loafers. He proudly presents us the footwear that he is preparing for a client from Krakow.

93-year-old Józef Kania from Toruń is still actively workingtvn24.pl

But the 93-year-old became famous in 2021, when the internet was informed that he was short of orders. The pandemic meant that people stopped leaving the house, which also meant less earnings for the senior from Radiowa. A certain student came to help, thanks to whom one of the Warsaw companies contacted Mr. Józef.

“She helped me a lot and I’m very grateful to her,” he says.

On Sundays, Mr. Józef takes time off and… he sits down to paint pictures. He specializes in the oil technique. His works – mainly landscapes, landscapes – are really impressive. Some of them are in the shoemaker’s workshop, some decorate the walls at home. In addition to creating and repairing shoes, paintings and writing short poems are his other passions.

Józef also paints in his spare timetvn24.pl

Joseph’s painting studiotvn24.pl

Pictures painted by a 93-year-oldtvn24.pl

When we ask about his health and well-being, he says. If it wasn’t for the doctors, I would have been dead long ago. I’ve had 11 or 12 surgeries. I’m lucky to have the right doctors. They will take me to the hospital, perform the procedure, discharge me in two days and go to work – he laughs.

Main photo source: tvn24.pl



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