When Jacek Halicki first discovered the Wiki Loves Monuments photo contest through a banner located on top of the main page of the Polish Wikipedia, not only hadn’t he realized he could actually edit Wikipedia by himself; he could never have foreseen that contributing to Wikipedia would soon become a passion and a way to overcome the barriers in his life.
Hailing from Kłodzko in south-western Poland, a city referred to as the Little Prague due to its high number of culturally significant buildings, Jacek Halicki is a former photojournalist, amateur radio operator, jazz lover and perhaps most importantly to his story, a pensioner with severe mobility impairment.
When asked what made him stay with Wikipedia, he says that it is a natural consequence of the active life he lived before falling ill. “It is a great use of my free time to the benefit of others and also a way to prove to myself and others that illness does not mean idleness, apathy and depression,” he adds.
Halicki’s contributions to the Wikimedia movement certainly reflect this positive attitude. Since September 2012, he has uploaded more than 4,000 pictures to Wikimedia Commons; more than 100 of them have been assessed to be of quality image standard by his fellow Commons contributors, with an additional dozen or so being awarded featured picture status on the Polish Wikipedia.
A local patriot, Halicki expresses his fondness for the city of Kłodzko by creating new articles about its culture and monuments. He also improves existing articles about Kłodzko and illustrates them with the pictures he takes from his tricycle, a modified e-bike that he operates with an electric motor.
Describing the way in which he took his first pictures for use on Wikipedia — through a car window and on a per procura basis, — Jacek Halicki expresses his gratitude to his daughter Asia and his friends Krzysztof Motylewski and Maciej Wardach, without whom, he says, he could never have participated in Wiki Loves Monuments. He also makes sure to mention Krzysztof Brożyna, a friend with whom he travels around the Kłodzko area on a very special mission to document the rich cultural heritage of the region.
A die hard Wikipedian by now, Halicki is determined to make full use of the time he is spending on Wikipedia; only recently did he apply for a grant to Wikimedia Polska, the Polish Wikimedia chapter, to purchase a book that would allow him to create dozens of more articles about the Kłodzko area. He even admits to having bought a camera so that he can take even better pictures for Commons. “A good lens is next on my shopping list,” he adds with laughter.
When asked about his future participation in the Wikimedia movement, he says that he will contribute as long as his health permits. “I’m glad I’ll leave something good behind when I’m gone from this world. I’m glad that my pictures will live on and perhaps, will be useful to people…”
(You can read an English translation of Jacek Halicki’s interview for the Polish Wikinews on the Wiki Loves Monuments website).
Tomasz W. Kozlowski, Wikimedia community volunteer