The twins Wojtek and Jurek Stasiak with family.
Photos: Thanks to SBS and the family
Wojtek Stasiak was last
seen at Parramatta, Sydney on 2nd February 2001. He was living in the area at the
|Reported missing to:
Parramatta Police Station.
How a tennis star lost his way
Twin refuses to accept his missing brother could be
Each year, more than 38,000
people are reported missing in Australia. Although 95 per cent are found within
a week, about 2,000 people remain missing long-term. Wojtek Stasiak is one of
them. His story is part of an SBS series on missing persons from multicultural
For more than 20 years, identical twins Wojtek and Jurek Stasiak were rarely
They shared a bedroom, attended school together – and, both gifted tennis
players, toured the world together, competing in the same tournaments.
The Polish city of Gdansk was the twins' birthplace. Their family migrated to
Australia in 1985, settling in Parramatta, in western Sydney.
At nine, they began playing tennis. Coached by their father, Bogdan, Jurek rose
to number one, and Wojtek to number four, in the Australian junior rankings.
In 1996, to his family's dismay, Wojtek abruptly gave up the sport. As Jurek
continued to travel and play, his brother drifted, anchorless and unhappy.
One afternoon in February 2001, he left the family home and never came back. He
The boys' mother, Eugenia, was distraught, as was Bogdan. For Jurek, it was
devastating. His twin, his other half, the closest and key person in his life,
had vanished. And no one knew - still no one knows – what happened.
"Was he harmed in some way, or maybe coerced into something messy, like drugs?"
muses Jurek, a decade-and-a-half on.
"Or did he make a decision [to disappear]? We just have no idea."
After Missing Persons posters went up around Parramatta, there was a flurry of
reported sightings – but, in a cruel twist for the family, they were not of the
absent Wojtek, but of Jurek, his spitting image, still living locally.
At his wits' end, Jurek combed the parks where his brother used to commune with
nature, and travelled to the Blue Mountains, one of Wojtek's favourite spots.
Bogdan and Eugenia searched, too, visiting NSW country towns such as Orange and
Broken Hill, and showing Wojtek's photograph to locals.
In Australia, after a person has been missing for seven years, they are
generally assumed to be dead. In 2008, the state coroner declared Wojtek
Jurek, though, rejects that finding. "It's an artificial line in the sand, and I
think it's meaningless and wrong. How can you declare someone dead when there's
no evidence? Who's to say that he might not turn up?
"What if he's alive somewhere and can't make his way back? I As far as I'm
concerned, he's still out there somewhere."
Friends could scarcely tell the Stasiak twins apart. Temperamentally, however,
they were different.
To Eugenia, Wojtek was "very soft and sensitive". Bogdan regarded Jurek as
"emotionally and mentally stronger". Yet Jurek thought his brother the "more
logical and rational" of the two, considering himself better at writing and
His missing twin was also a loner.
"Like if I heard a good song or saw a great movie, I wanted to share it with
him," explains Jurek, draining a latte outside a cafe in central Parramatta's
main artery, Church Street.
"Whereas if there was something he liked, I didn't have to know about it."
And Wojtek had a reckless streak. "He was a risk-taker, and impulsive, while I'm
more cautious and conservative," says Jurek.
Once, he recounts, he dared his brother to jump off a 10-metre diving board. "Wojtek
said, 'Just watch me.' And he went up there and straight off the end of the
board, without even pausing to look down."
Born on 23 April, 1978, the boys were seven when they left Poland; their little
brother, Andrew, was two.
"My parents wanted to get out of a former Communist country and start a new life
somewhere else," says Jurek. "They left with $20 in their pockets."
After a spell in Canberra, the Stasiaks put down roots in Parramatta. Bogdan
found a part-time job teaching PE. Eugenia worked as a nurse.
The twins quickly learnt English. They attended Parramatta Public School, then
Arthur Phillip High School, preceded by a brief stint at St Patrick's Marist
A fellow student at St Patrick's, Dan Palmer, describes them as "strong, tough
guys, but also fairly quiet and quite religious".
He recalls a fight outside the science labs one lunchtime between Wojtek and
another boy, in which the former, caught off guard, was floored by a punch that
split his eye.
As Palmer tells it: "Wojtek groped at his eye and started yelling: 'I'm ruined,
I'm ruined!' I think he was so embarrassed at losing face, and that upset him
more than being hit."
For the most part, the brothers stayed out of trouble. They also kept mainly to
themselves. "Culturally, they were quite different," says Palmer. "The mix of
the school was Anglo-Australians, a lot of Lebanese and a pocket of new arrivals
from China and Asia, and everyone pretty much stuck to their own group."
At the same time, with their heavy accents and serious dispositions, the twins
– already pursuing tennis careers – found themselves the butt of jibes and
bullying. It was "pretty full on", relates Michael Ekmekjian, another
"They seemed a lot more mature than the rest of us," observes Ekmekjian.
"We were into having fun and mucking around, while they were very focused and
driven, I guess because of their upbringing and the professionalism of their
chosen sport. Academically, they were very smart, very intelligent."
Although the Stasiaks could look after themselves, they tired of being picked on
Arthur Phillip was more congenial. One friend, Shadi Kanj, remembers arm
wrestling contests with the pair, who were both "really nice guys". Wojtek
played chess with another friend during lunch breaks.
Jurek says he and his brother "hung out together all the time... We had our
fights, sure, but we got on well. We were very close."
Ekmekjian recollects seeing the twins play tennis at a weekend school camp in
Vision Valley, a bushland retreat in Sydney's north-west.
"They were remarkable, just outstanding. It was like watching two pros go at it.
The way they moved, the way they struck the ball – it was like watching the
Other students, similarly impressed, bombarded the pair with questions, and
Ekmekjian recalls an impatient Wojtek exclaiming: "Look, he's number 1 and I'm
number 4, that's just how it is, OK? We're trying to practise here!'"
The twins played soccer and basketball from a young age. Tennis, though, was
something else. "As soon as I saw a tennis racket, I wanted to pick it up,"
recounts Jurek. "I felt a strange attraction to the game, and then it became a
passion to play it the very best I could."
Wojtek underwent the same epiphany. And the pair were good at tennis, really
good. The sport came to dominate their lives as, under their father's watchful
eye, they toured the world, playing and excelling at junior events.
In 1995, at almost 17, they joined the professional tour, competing on the
satellite circuit and, as they climbed the world rankings, gaining entry to
increasingly high-profile tournaments. (Wojtek reached number 701 in the world,
Playing at that level requires hard work and dedication. The training and
competition schedule was gruelling. "But it was what we wanted," states Jurek.
"We made some great results, and we got to travel the world and see a lot of
With Bogdan coaching the boys full-time, Eugenia bankrolled the trio's travel
and other expenses, sometimes by working double shifts.
Bogdan was tough. Says Jurek: "He demanded a lot of us. In his experience, you
needed to be pushed, and we were pushed. He wanted us to play our best. And if
you didn't win, you felt his dissatisfaction."
Eugenia worried about the strain on the boys. But her husband insisted: "If they
want to be champions, they have to be strong."
In Jurek's eyes, Wojtek was the better player. "I never felt quite as good as he
was. I felt I had to work a little harder to get somewhere. He had a great game.
He really was very talented."
There was also life outside tennis, Jurek stresses. At weekends, when the twins
were not on the road, "we'd go to the beach, and listen to music, and hang out
By 1995, according to his brother, Wojtek "was beginning to hate tennis... He
was still making great results, but the highs and lows of winning and losing
were too much for him. No matter what he achieved, he felt it wasn't good
His twin, who had started to read the Bible, also branded tennis "evil".
In late 1996, the pair competed at a tournament in Uzbekistan. Wojtek lost a
match and, relates Jurek, "he took it really badly and got really drunk".
Back home, the 18-year-old announced he was quitting. Jurek was flabbergasted.
"I couldn't understand it. I was like, 'You've put all this effort into it and
now you're walking away?'"
He admits: "But it's a hard game, especially if your whole family's involved. I
think he felt under a lot of pressure. He felt he couldn't meet dad's
Wojtek told Eugenia: "Dad can kill me if he wants, but I'm never playing tennis
In the Stasiaks' three-bedroom unit in Parramatta, resentment clouded the
atmosphere. Bogdan, in particular, was at a loss to comprehend Wojtek's
Wojtek, meanwhile, was struggling to adjust to life after tennis. After
finishing his HSC at Granville TAFE, he hung around at home, playing guitar and
devouring books about philosophy and Eastern religions.
Depression began to grip. Yet Jurek says his twin was "still a sociable person
... He had friends, he had a girlfriend. He was great to have around. He was a
funny guy, he made you laugh."
In 1999, Wojtek won a tennis scholarship to study economics at Texas State
Despite his antipathy to the sport, the move initially went well. However,
within a year he was back home, "too sick by this time to concentrate on
anything", in Eugenia's view.
In Sydney, he resumed his aimless existence. He had a brief stint as a delivery
driver for Domino's Pizza. His relations with Bogdan and Jurek deteriorated, as
did his mental health. Diagnosed with bipolar disorder, he was prescribed
Most days he would disappear on long walks, listening to music or religious CDs
on his Discman. He meditated in Parramatta Park, "talking loudly to himself and
talking to trees", as Jurek describes it.
Wojtek's obsessive reading perturbed Bogdan, who feared that "his brain would
explode... It was like he was searching for some kind of meaning of life."
Periodically, Wojtek would stop taking his medication. In 2000, his family had
him admitted to a psychiatric facility, Cumberland Hospital. He was discharged
after a few days.
Although the family was Roman Catholic, Bogdan and Jurek had recently become
Born Again Christians. They both "put a lot of pressure" on Wojtek, as Eugenia
later told police, and argued with him frequently about religion.
Bogdan acknowledges that he "tried to force my views on to him [Wojtek] about
Christianity... He wouldn't listen."
Wojtek's father also refused to accept he was mentally ill, considering him
"possessed by the devil", according to Eugenia, a former psychiatric nurse.
Bogdan and Jurek were apparently convinced, moreover, that Wojtek's doctors were
"from the devil".
Alarmingly, Wojtek began to talk about suicide.
His mother said: "He was asking me to kill him. He also asked how he could kill
himself, because life had no sense any more."
Once, he stood in the middle of the road, arms outstretched, yelling: "Come on,
come on, kill me."
To Jurek, Wojtek would often say that he needed to "depart" or "go to another
place". And he declared: "I should just go to the Gap" – the Gap, with its
towering cliffs, being a notorious Sydney suicide location.
On 30 January, 2001, Wojtek met up with a friend, John Sotiropoulos, and told
him: "In three days' time, something is going to happen. It will be the end of
Two days later, the twins had a heated row about religion. Wojtek railed at his
brother: "Your Christian belief is bullshit, and Christianity is bullshit."
Jurek was deeply hurt. The pair still shared a bedroom, and that night, Jurek
recollects, Wojtek was exceptionally restless, constantly "tossing and turning
and cursing God".
The next day, Eugenia saw Wojtek at home at around lunchtime. He seemed "very
depressed and down". He declined to tell her his plans for the day, and rebuffed
her suggestion that they do something together.
At 2.15pm, in Westfield Parramatta, Wojtek withdrew $100 from his ANZ account.
(His bank account has not been touched since.) At about 5pm, he called home from
a public phone box. Jurek answered.
"I'm sorry about our fight," Wojtek told him. "That's OK, I'm sorry too," his
twin replied. Wojtek said he had met up with some old schoolfriends, adding:
"Don't worry about me, I'll be home soon."
"When I hung up, I just felt like something's wrong," Jurek recalls.
"He didn't sound himself. And then that was it. He never came home."
Wojtek never stayed out all night. When he failed to return that day, his
family were immediately anxious. They tried calling him, only to discover he had
left his mobile at home, along with his wallet. All he had taken, it seemed,
were his keys, ATM card and Discman.
At 5.30pm the next day, 3 February, Eugenia and Jurek reported Wojtek missing at
Parramatta station. His mother was especially worried, telling police he "would
always ring me and tell me what he was doing, or when he would be home".
The Stasiaks also called around friends and relatives, none of whom had seen
Wojtek. They posted flyers around Parramatta. They even hired a private
investigator. The only thing the latter established was that Wojtek had often
haunted the grounds of Macarthur Girls High, a local school where the twins had
formerly played tennis.
According to staff, he would usually be there at dusk, singing and meditating.
The last time they had glimpsed him was on 31 January.
A week before he disappeared, Wojtek was reportedly seen entering Parramatta
railway station, carrying bags. Jurek, though, could not identify anything
missing among his brother's belongings.
Jurek visited the Gap, "just to have a look". Meanwhile, his parents became
convinced that Wojtek had joined the Church of Scientology. The church insisted
he was not a member.
A family friend thought she had spotted Wojtek entering a house in Harris Park,
near Parramatta, but police could find nobody in that street who recognised him
from a photo.
Michael Ekmekjian, who knew Wojtek at St Patrick's, came across a Missing
Persons poster on the railway bridge at Parramatta.
"I read the name, and I saw the face, and I was like, 'Wow, that's one of the
twins from school,'" he recounts.
"I wondered how his brother would be coping, remembering how close they were as
In 2007, an article in the 'Parramatta Sun' prompted a reader to inform police
he thought he had seen Wojtek in the psychiatric unit at Liverpool Hospital, in
It proved to be another false lead.
In 2009, Eugenia died of cancer. She and Bogdan had split some years earlier.
"She never came to terms with it [Wojtek's disappearance], and she never got any
answers," says Jurek.
Eugenia told police before her death that she believed Wojtek had probably taken
his own life.
Bogdan, for his part, speculated that their son had been kidnapped by a cult or
killed by drug dealers – Wojtek had once boasted, he said, that "he could buy
the unit we were living in for cash".
When his elder brother vanished, Andrew Stasiak was 18. Without any evidence to
the contrary, he likes to think Wojtek is still alive.
Jurek wonders if his twin's rashness was his undoing.
"If someone said, 'Hey, I bet you can't do this,' he probably went, 'Yeah, I bet
I can.' And he was stubborn. Once he'd decided to do something, there was
nothing you could do to change his mind."
He regrets that he and Wojtek "didn't really connect" in the latter days. Not
only was Jurek frequently overseas, competing in tournaments, but his brother
"did become distant at the end, and I couldn't understand what was going on in
After Wojtek went missing, Jurek stopped playing tennis. He later resumed, but
"there were times when I absolutely hated the sport", he reveals.
"I mean, why play this wicked game that does this to humans? The sad thing is
that, without tennis, he [Wojtek] felt like a failure. He felt like he no longer
had any place in the world."
Over time, Jurek has "found ways to dull the pain". He writes poems and lyrics
about his twin, and named his own son Wesley, in Wojtek's memory.
"You never stop thinking about him. It's a huge loss. He was the key person in
my life. Losing a brother who's the same age is not in the natural course of
"And you don't know whether you really have lost
him. Personally, I don't feel that he's gone. I feel like maybe he found a group
of people he connected with, and gave promises not to contact his family again.
"It would be good for us to know that he's alright. And if he's not alright,
what help does he need?"
Helped by his religious faith and pragmatic nature, Jurek has reconciled himself
to Wojtek's absence. He asks: "What other choice do we have but to live on?"
If you have any information regarding a missing person, please contact Crime
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