Professor Ondrej Sykora
1951 - 2005
PromMat (MSc), RNDr (Comenius), DSc (Bratislava)
Professor of Computer Science
Co-Director of the Parallelism, Algorithms and Architectures Research Centre (PÅRC)
Ondrej Sykora died in hospital in his native Slovakia on Thursday, 12 May
2005 following an illness.
His loss is deeply felt by colleagues and students at Loughborough.
Below you will find three longer and many shorter tributes to Ondrej, contributed by staff and students - if you would like something added, send me an email
I believe Ondrej began work in the department in January 1998, whilst I was on my year out. I first met him as my lecturer for the Algorithm Analysis module in the September of that year. The list of final year projects had been available for a while, and Ondrej did not have any students. He was quite difficult to understand at that time, even though his English was good. I think he found lecturing difficult because of this. Having found one of his final-year projects that looked interesting, I asked to speak to him about it after one of the lectures. Others have mentioned that he was always smiling, but I think that the smile that spread across his face at that time was really one of the biggest that I ever saw.
Ondrej's generosity and hospitality are well known. Nearly every time I have been to his house here in Loughborough I have been offered a meal, even if his family had not been eating. Denying these offers was not an option given.
Slovakia is a beautiful country, and I thank Ondrej for the two opportunities that I have had to visit. Firstly to Bratislava, where I worked with Ondrej and Imrich during the summer of 2003, unfortunately due to other constraints this was for only a week. Secondly, with Hongmei and Xuan as we went to the ITAT conference in September of last year. The High Tatra mountains in Slovakia are a fantastic area, and I would never have even known about them if it hadn't been for Ondrej. I really would encourage anyone else to visit*.
If one was to travel from Loughborough to Bratislava, the most obvious choice by many would be to fly. Secondly, maybe you would take a train, maybe even drive for a few days. I was quite amazed when I first found out that Ondrej's choice method was to drive, non-stop, for about 23 hours. (I would like to do this journey by motorcycle myself, although Ondrej would not approve as he felt I was not safe on a bike, but I would aim to take 3 or 4 days to do it.)
Lastly, I remember when we discovered that we both shared the same Christian belief, and how much that affected our working together. For me, it means that this time of sadness is one that is only temporary (1 Cor. 15:50-57, e.g.), and that there is a sure hope of life to come.
I no longer have a record of my last electronic conversation with Ondrej, which was via instant-messaging, but his last e-mail to me was at 01:43 in the morning on Sun, 24 Apr 2005, only a few hours before he travelled back to Slovakia, and he was concerned about the correctness of the parallel computing exam. To be so concerned about his work, even at that time, was incredible.
Hongmei and I just came back from Slovakia for Ondrej's funeral four hours ago. There were hundreds of people went to his funeral including Interior Minister of Slovak Republic,Vladimir Palko.
As one of Ondrej's Ph.D students, I have shared with him so much time during the last four years.
I have to say that Ondrej is such a hard-working person.It is quite normal to receive his email which was sent at 5:00am in the morning. Also, we always had to meet after 6:00pm due to his schedule was full before that. His last email to me was still try to help my research before he went back Slovakia for treatment. I do agree with what Mr. Newton said that "To be so concerned about his work, even at that time, was incredible.".
I don't want to recall the kindness he had given to me at this moment, because it will make me too sad to finish this email. What I only want to express is that he treated me like my father. He always thought about his friends, students, but he never thought about himself. I think his kindness is well known to all of us. His smile and help to everybody was sincere.
Slovakia is a beautiful country. But what impressed me most is the people of Slovakia. Slovakia is a great country not only for the attractive natural scenery, but also for the outstanding people, Ondrej is a vivid example to us all. I think, no matter what religion background he comes from,or what language standards he does have, Ondrej will always be blessed by the God and remembered by all of us because he is a successful professor, a sincere friend and a smiling family member. What a shame that I could not express all my feeling here for my poor English. But I believe that even though my English is not so gorgeous as Mr. Newton's, it will not affect my deepest sorrow for Ondrej. I do believe as well, that he is still working there, in his office and in front of the computer......
Xuan and I just came back from Bratislava for Ondrej's funeral, we still feel so much bad for Ondrej's passing away. Ondrej got great esteem from his friends, colleagues, and students, there were almost 300 people taking part in his funeral, including Interior Minister of Slovak Republic, Vladimir Palko. On the funeral, his colleagues retrospect ondrej's life in the past, A lot of people were moved to cry. His old colleagues in the Institute of Mathematics, Slovak Academy of Sciences joined together to recall him until 21:00 on that day.
I made a CD for Ondrej before going to Bratislava, and brought it to Ondrej's family. I collected latest activities of Ondrej, including two Theory Days in PARC Group in 2002 and 2004, some pictures on conferences, papers and talks Ondrej supervised, and last emails before Ondrej left for Bratislava. This is only what I can do for Ondrej.
I have worked with Ondrej for almost 3 years. When I came to the UK for MSc study in 2002, Ondrej was my personal tutor. His kind smile gave me a lot of encouragement to face with a new study and living environment. After MSc study, I follow Ondrej to do my Ph.D research. Ondrej was a very good supervisor. Graph drawing is a new research area for me. It is he to lead me enter this area step by step. I will try my best to do my research. I think this is Ondrej's will too.
Ondrej worked very hard. The light of his office always lasted so late. Even when he had known he got so serious illness, he still considered his work and his students. I cried every time when I read the last emails Ondrej gave me. I remember that I once joked: "Just because Ondrej work hard, I have to work hard", when I had first review meeting with Helmut and Ondrej. Like Mr. Xuan Liu, I can't express my sadness with my poor words for Ondrej's passing away. But I believe Ondrej will live in our hearts forever!
Best regards, Hongmei
From Ondrej's family...
I am the Ondrej Sykora's daughter, Zuzana, and I am
writing you in the name of my mother and my brothers. I know, Martin had already
written to you, but still let me say thank you one more time.
We were so happy to see, which nice, moving and sincere entries we could find in the Book of Remembrance. It is a good feeling to know, that everybody at the Lboro Uni held Ondrej-our dad and husband, in a high regard and that he will stay in your hearts forever.
For us it is a unreplaceble loss, he passed away so quickly, that it is still difficult for us to realise what happened. We want to thank you for your prayers and thoughts.
Dad - Ondrej was as like as people do describe him in the book of remembrance - warm hearted, sincere, friendly, with a big smile on his face and his heart.
Ondrej had always time for his family and he was always loving!
With best regards
Zuzana, Maria, Ondrej (son) and Martin Sykora