Mother of Robert Dziekanski has died during visit to Poland: friend

Mother of Robert Dziekanski has died during visit to Poland: friend

KAMLOOPS, B.C. — The mother of Robert Dziekanski, whose death after a confrontation with RCMP officers in 2007 led to a public inquiry, has died in Poland.

A friend confirmed the death of Zofia Cisowski, who had been a British Columbia resident since 1999.

Jurek Baltakis says Cisowski died on Nov. 18 in Gilwice during her annual visit to her home country.

Cisowski lived in Kamloops and Baltakis says a funeral for the 73-year-old will be held in Poland on Friday, followed by her burial in the same grave as her only son.

Cisowski’s life changed on Oct. 14, 2007, when 40-year-old Dziekanski, who had never travelled and did not speak English, became lost for 10 hours inside Vancouver International Airport as he moved to Canada from Poland to live with his mother.

Frustrated and agitated, Dziekanski had an outburst, four RCMP officers responded and used a Taser within moments of arriving at the airport, jolting Dziekanski five times.

Cisowski’s tearful demands for accountability eventually led to an inquiry that determined the officers’ decisions were wrong and that they had misrepresented their actions to the inquiry, leading to perjury charges. 

Baltakis said Cisowski visited her brother and his family in Poland for the last several years and was due to return to Canada within days when she suffered a stroke in her apartment in Gilwice.

“A neighbour saw the lights in her apartment were on all night and sent a son to check on her,” said Baltakis, who described himself as a close friend of Cisowski. 

She was unconscious but Baltakis said she was revived in hospital where she suffered a second, fatal stroke.

“It’s so sad,” Baltakis said, referring to Cisowski’s death and the anguish she endured in the 12 years since her son died.

Many people have called to offer their respects since Cisowski’s death was confirmed, said Baltakis.

He said he remembers Cisowski as grief stricken in the years after she lost her son, but persistent and determined to seek justice for him.

“It seems that her legacy will live on. It will not be forgotten quickly,” he told The Canadian Press in a telephone interview from Kamloops.

In the days after the 2007 death, the RCMP released statements about how police responded to the distraught Dziekanski, but those details were disproved by a cellphone video recorded by one of the few people in the airport during the late-night confrontation.

That eventually led to the inquiry in 2010 and rulings against the four officers.

Although two were cleared of perjury at trial, Kwesi Millington, the officer who used the Taser, and Benjamin (Monty) Robinson, the ranking officer at the scene, received jail terms.

Millington was handed a 30-month sentence while Robinson received a two-year term, one year of probation and 240 hours of community service.

Both men appealed but the Supreme Court of Canada upheld the convictions.

Cisowski created the Robert Dziekanski Memorial Scholarship at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, using funds received in 2010 after the settlement of a civil suit against the RCMP.

A private memorial will be held by members of the Polish community in Kamloops on Friday. (Kamloops This Week, with files from The Canadian Press)

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 28, 2019.

Christopher Foulds, Kamloops This Week, The Canadian Press

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