Martin and Jana Jurek

Valentine’s Story: ‘Mail-order bride gone wrong’

Campbell River's Martin Jurek shares his story of finding love when you least expect it

You never know where you’re going to find love.

Martin Jurek, the soft-spoken father of two who runs Campbell River Hearing Clinic with his wife Jana, likes to tell the story of “a mail-order bride gone wrong.” It’s the story of how he and Jana met.

Jurek’s improbable love story began in 1987 with a casual remark he made as a teenager to his grandfather, who was visiting from Jurek’s native Czechoslovakia.

“My brother Lucas and I didn’t have girlfriends, so as my grandfather was leaving I said, ‘Hey Grandpa, find us a couple of girls!’ I said it as a joke, but he took it literally,” Jurek says. “A month later I received a letter with a couple of pictures. It was Jana and her sister.”

After two years of casual correspondence, Lucas visited the girls in the newly formed Czech Republic. Liking what he saw, he convinced Jurek to send them some money for plane tickets to Canada. Although their developing relationships had been nothing more than friendly, there had been a distinct “pairing” of Jurek with Jana’s sister and of Lucas with Jana. But that all changed within a few days of the girls’ arrival.

“After a couple of days, we knew it wasn’t going to go as planned,” Jurek says. “Jana and I became really good friends and started hanging out together, which was a bit awkward because my brother liked Jana and Jana’s sister liked me. Jana was just this cute 16-year-old with a spark that really drew me to her; she really let you know her opinion!”

When the girls returned to Europe, Jurek and Jana exchanged occasional letters for about a year as friends. Then Jurek finally crossed the Atlantic for a return visit, ostensibly to visit family but really, he says, to find out if there really was something between him and Jana.

“I went to her grandparents’ place the night I arrived, and the moment I saw her I knew the spark was still there,” he says. “So we went for a walk into the hills and I asked her to marry me. It was a pretty spontaneous thing!

“I had to ask her right away,” he says. “Because I only had three weeks there and wanted to spend it all as boyfriend/girlfriend. She was my first girlfriend and the first girl I kissed or even held hands with. But I knew she was the one.”

So it was, that on that December evening in 1991, Jurek and Jana got engaged and, moments later, shared their first kiss. The two were officially married in Canada six months later. Against all odds, Jurek and Jana took a relationship that really didn’t span more than a few weeks together and stretched it into 20 years of marriage, raising two children along the way.

“When I visited her in Czech 20 years ago I wanted to spend every minute with her, and I still do today,” Jurek says. “She still has that spark that made me fall in love with her; I think I fall more in love with her every day.”