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    • Owlbear

    Written by: Adam Kowalczyk

    The month of April was a tragic one for the L5R community. After losing Josh Davis earlier this month, Przemek ‘Walec’ Kowalczyk left us. He was my brother, my best friend and the person I looked up to most in the world. I cannot put to words what he meant to me and how much good he has done for the L5R community in Poland after 13 years of participating. He had many friends among players and I believe the best way to honour him would be to use the words of one of them, quoting Rory Heffernan from the forums:

    “people are worth more than cards”

    “When I first started playing this game, I came from M:tG. Rares were things to be treasured and traded. If you didn’t have a card you couldn’t play with it, so like dragons many of us sat on a pile of cardboard that will forever lie unplayed under my bed. When I came to L5R however the above line was beaten into us. “People are worth more than cards.” Cling onto those cards too hard and you’ll end up the only one playing the game. And thus the entire foundation of this community, in my mind, is born. The story and the cards tie us together but it is the way we value each other that sets this community apart. I’ve spent the last 5 years travelling the world, meeting people from across Europe and America and my life is so much richer for it. The downside being that dark days, like this, hit home with a lot more force.

    I first interacted with Walec, like many of you, through the forums. We had a discussion about a breeder deck during Celestial and we disagreed on a number of points. Stubborn fools that we were. I finally got to meet him in person at the 2012 Irish European Championships. I was running registration, introduced myself and he greeted me like a long lost brother. We talked numerous times through the weekend and we’ve kept in contact since, meeting again just twice at Worlds Barcelona and at the Swedish Kotei last year where I got to have an excellent meal chatting with him and the other Polish players about everything and nothing. I have been annoyed that I couldn’t get to Poland last year for their Euros but that missed opportunity stings even more.

    Walec was an excellent player, but more importantly he was an excellent person. There are people in this game who think in different ways to many of us. There have been moments of madness in his decks and there have been moments of sheer genius. He was a loyal Spider/Phoenix player and stuck with the two clans as much as he could. As Justin eluded to above, few people could see control the way Walec did. He had his eye on ninja chi-death control for this arc and I know that he’d have built the MOST ANNOYING DECK TO PLAY AGAINST ever as soon as he got the chance.

    To sum up what I really loved about the man I think back to the moments I talked to him after his final losses in Ireland, Barcelona and Sweden. In each case he’d played well and had been pipped at the post. Too often in these situations many people, including myself, take this out themselves; they beat themself up over little mistakes, blame the cards, or feel upset or angry. Walec didn’t. I’ve never known a man so accepting of loss who would come up to me with a big broad smile, shrug, laugh and say “not today.”. For someone with such a serious game face who seemed so determined in his play, I do not remember ever seeing him outside a game without a smile and that is how I will always remember him.

    With the recent death of Josh Davies I found it touching that the community could all honour a player in such a way, but I could not really comprehend what they were going through. Similarly it is touching that many who did not know Walec have saluted him in their own way. For a man who never seemed down it seems wrong to me to mourn his death. I will rather be trying to celebrate his life (thus why I won’t be changing my Facebook image, etc. in case people were wondering). I believe we’ll be having a small memorial at the Swedish Kotei this year for anyone who is thinking of coming along.

    …As always, I’ve rambled. an Irishman with no one to shut him up is a dangerous thing.

    I will finish with one last memory of Walec. I like to try muster a group effort for the Kotei seasons among our community: Last year, some of you will remember, we tried to push Omigawa to become Warlord. Walec made the cut of his kotei and instead chose Goju Sawaki. I did not begrudge him this in any way as I know how fond he was of Sawaki, but later that week I got a PM from him apologising for not choosing Omigawa. Seriously, the guy felt bad for attempting to get some story time for his own card. He even came up to me at the Swedish Kotei and said he was fighting for Omigawa this time, and would not take no for an answer.

    I find it fitting that Walec’s “Winner’s choice” was to give Sawaki the keyword “Immortal”. It’s also finally given me a goal for this season.

    In memory of our ninja brother. I would like to propose that we aim to make Goju Sawaki a Guardian of the Temple of the Three Dynasties that he may forever watch over the wisdom of those who have led Rokugan through its darkest hours.

    Rest in Peace Walec.”

    I want to thank everyone who reached out to me with encouragement in the last few weeks and all the people who attended his funeral last Friday. The pain of losing him will never leave me and it left a gaping hole in my life but I know I will never have to be alone just as Przemek never was.

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