Three Polish men living in Merida, Mexico – Adam Kowalski, Józef Matusiak and Jan Żak – have pooled their skills to construct desirable seaside houses and beautiful city homes. How did it all begin?
Adam and Józek are childhood friends, they were neighbours in their home town of Zakopane and grew up and spent their youth together. Both are fluent in the local Highland dialect, although their families come from different parts of Poland: Adam’s are from the Eastern Borderlands and Józek’s are Highlanders from Zakopane and Rabka.
When Adam and Józek go sailing on one of their regular boat trips they often ask themselves the question: “Could we have ever imagined that we, mountain dwellers, would ever sail together in the Gulf of Mexico?”
Adam graduated from the Tech School of Building Construction in Zakopane and, as a young man back in the 1980s, he went to live with his father in Los Angeles. At first he worked on a building site with his father, but soon he started his own construction company and brought in the electrician Józek from Zakopane to join him.
Renovating and building houses, they slowly built up their wealth, but their personal lives were a different matter. Both divorced their Polish wives; Adam married Gabriela Cornellio, an architect from Merida, but Józef didn’t find a partner. Adam and his wife started thinking about moving to Mexico. They began planning a journey through the country, to find the best place to settle down, but all that was disrupted when the prospect of a new member of the family suddenly loomed on the horizon. So they decided to come straight to Merida, famed as the most peaceful city in Mexico.
Two years later Józek showed up. And so the two mountain dwellers from Zakopane set up a company building houses on the ocean-side. In Telchac Puerto, a small fishing town about 50 miles from Merida, beautiful houses began to spring up, combining modern architecture with typical Mexican elements – white walls, wooden balconies and terraces shaded by palm trees. Standing out from neighbouring houses with their delicate and intriguing features, their houses immediately caught the eye of Jan Żak, an architect from Elbląg, who, after arriving in Merida, went to Telchac Puerto to look for his countrymen. He instantly recognised the houses which were built by Polish hands and as he drove a bit closer he heard Polish being spoken.
In the early 1980s Jan had emigrated from Poland to Canada. In Victoria, where he had his own architectural firm, he met Juanita Stein, his present wife. They both dreamed of living in a tropical country, so they decided to go to Merida to look around. They fell in love with this quiet, historic town, and bought a colonial house which Jan renovated. They lived there a few years, but then sold it to finance their next dream ‑ an ocean-side home. Designed by Jan himself using ultra-modern techniques, it proved to be everything they hoped for.
Unfortunately and with great reluctance, Jan and Juanita had to sell this house as they decided it would be better to move closer to Merida, due to Juanita’s work as editor-in-chief of Yukatan Today. In a small village a few miles outside the city, Jan has designed and is currently building their next home which features a swimming pool and a large workshop.
Those few years together in Merida have strengthened the three men’s friendship. Adam, Józef and Jan help each other, not only in their professional lives but in personal matters as well. Merida’s Polish community is very small, and that’s another reason they stick together. But the paths of the “Polish trio” will separate shortly, as Józek has decided to go back to Zakopane. Jan and Adam will stay in Merida, and continue to design and build their beautiful houses which are becoming more and more popular amongst sun-starved Canadians, Americans and Europeans.