Slag. 30 years have passed since the tragic death of Edward Jancarz

How time flies. It seems that the day that shook the slag world a lot was recently. And it’s been 30 years since the dramatic news circulated in the sports community. “Life off the track interrupted by a knife – Edward Jancarz murdered in his own home”!

Such a headline appeared on the front page of Gazeta Lubuska only two days after the shocking event, but those were completely different times. The times when the Internet was just starting out somewhere, and the main transmission of information still took place through the print media. Of course, there was also television and radio, but the most about the tragedy that took place in the villa in Gorzów at ul. You could find out about Chodkiewicz from the press. Including the industry one, because various periodicals have already appeared, and most of all Tygodnik Żużlowy.

It was a normal day

Saturday evening, January 11, 1992. Preparations for the annual Sportsman Ball were underway in Gorzów on the occasion of selecting the ten best athletes from the Gorzów Voivodeship. And when the ball was already underway, suddenly there was shocking news. The legend of Polish speedway and Gorzów sports Edward Jancarz is dead! Gentlemen in suits, ladies in ball gowns until their wounds could not understand what happened? And I don’t think anyone really understands it to this day.

Photo: Robert Borowy / Przegląd Sportowy

Jancarz Monument

Everyone cried at the funeral, nobody was ashamed of their tears. Even the hardest of the hardest. Many former speedway riders came to the funeral, with whom Edward Jancarz fought on all tracks. But it was the mechanic of the Gorzow speedway riders Stanisław Maciejewicz, who just in 1992, celebrated the 20th anniversary of his work in the speedway sport that experienced the most loss of a friend.

– For several days I did not realize that Edek is dead – he said right after the funeral. – When I started working as a mechanic in Stal, he was already a well-known and respected player. I always respected him for his honesty and integrity. Even when he did something wrong, he could admit it, apologize. I was very friendly with him and there were never any conflicts between us. For many years I learned from him how to prepare the equipment and what I learned is largely thanks to Edek – he could not hide his tears for a long time.

Locksmith by profession

Edward Jancarz was born on August 20, 1946 in Gorzów. He came into contact with speedway at the age of six, when his father took him to some social competition that barely resembled a real speedway, because there was no serious racing in Gorzów at that time. Little Edek immediately dreamed of becoming a speedway rider in the future. There was a long way to go to that, although he did not waste any time. He tried to train in various ways. First, it was cycling madness with my friends. After graduating from primary school, his parents gave him a WFM motorcycle that was bought in installments. He rode it a lot, and at that time he also finished vocational school. He became a locksmith and went to work in Gorzowskie Zakłady Przemysłu Maszynowego Rolnictwa.

Jancarz did not apply to the speedway school until April 1965, when he was almost nineteen. He was quickly noticed by the coaches Kazimierz Wiśniewski and Edmund Migoś. After just a few weeks, he passed his licensing exam.

Two years later, he won the Silver Helmet and was awarded the next season with a call-up to the Polish national team for the qualifying round for the individual world championships. It was a big surprise for him, but it must be admitted that the pace of his sports development gained such momentum that with each subsequent start he made miles of progress.

Darkened stands

Already in his debut in 1968, Jancarz advanced to the IMŚ final in Göteborg. It was a big sensation, but even more so was winning the bronze medal. As the second Pole in history after Antoni Woryna, who enjoyed bronze two years earlier. One of the witnesses to Edward Jancarz’s success was the journalist of the weekly “Motor”, the later author of the book “Żużel, speedway …” Bogusław Koperski. And so he reported what he saw straight from the stands of Ullevi Stadium.

Photo: Archives / Sports Review

The final of the IMŚ in 1968 in Gothenburg. From left to right: Barry Briggs, Ivan Mauger and Edward Jancarz

– Only one spotlight is aimed at the still empty podium. First, the best one, Ivan Mauger, entered the highest rank. He was decorated with a wreath, and one of the prettiest girls gave him a fiery kiss. The second place on the podium was taken by an old hand – Barry Briggs. When an unknown Pole, Edward Jancarz, reached the third place on the podium, initially the stands did not know how to react. At that moment, the announcer of the competition announced that our player is 22 years old and he took part in the world championship for the first time in his life. And then the Ullevi Stadium applauded. The applause for Jancarz lasted much longer than for the New Zealanders. And the citizen of Gorzów stood with his head held high, looking at the darkened stands. And it will not be indiscretion if we reveal that tears were streaming down his face, dusty with slag …

The only championship

The success in Gothenburg became a springboard for Jancarz’s further career. The following year, the Gorzów player led the Polish team to the title of team world champions in Rybnik, and his final list of successes in international arenas was participation in 26 finals of the world championships, in which he won 12 medals in various competitions. Jancarz won 28 medals on national tracks. In league games for 21 seasons of starts, he stood on the podium with Stal Gorzów 16 times. He appeared in 235 league matches in which he collected 2,278.5 points. He was a two-time individual Polish champion and three times in pairs. He also reached for the Golden Helmet three times. From 1977, for six seasons he competed in London’s Wimbledon in the British league. There he was nicknamed “Eddy”, and many called him “Jings” as well.

Photo: Archives / Sports Review

Zenon Plech and Edward Jancarz

In the dark times of the Polish People’s Republic, he was one of the brightest Polish speedway stars outside Poland. He was invited to performances all over the speedway world, at a time when speedway was much more popular, for example in the antipodes or in the United States. In July 1986 he officially pulled off the track. He became a coach. First, he worked briefly in Gorzów, then in Krosno, he led the Polish youth national team.

A knife hanging among the others

Ed. Stefan Cieśla from Gazeta Lubuska, reporting on what happened in Jancarz’s house on January 11, 1992, quoted the first words that the policemen heard from the perpetrator of the murder, Katarzyna’s second wife.

According to her, the husband returned home in the evening in a “strongly pointing” state. There was an argument between them, and then a brawl. Dazed with anger, the woman grabbed the kitchen knife and struck her husband in the chest, right in the heart. The knife was then found hanging among the others in the kitchen. He ran into the bathroom, she called an ambulance …

Photo: author’s archive / Przegląd Sportowy

Farewell to Edward Jancarz with the track in 1986

By the decision of the district prosecutor, Katarzyna Jancarz was immediately arrested, but Polish speedway fans were less interested. Everyone was shocked.

– Edek was my great friend and the news of his death was a big shock for me. After all, it is to him that I owe the most that I was the speedway rider that I was. He just made me a player … – this is what Jerzy Rembas said 30 years ago, who, together with other living members of the ‘Golden team of Stal Gorzów’ from the 1970s, visits the grave of Edward Jancarz every year on January 11.

About David Martin

David Martin is the lead editor for Spark Chronicles. David has been working as a freelance journalist.

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