Windows were his life – beautiful stained glass windows through which light streamed in magical colours. Reds, blues, greens, burnt orange, pale translucent aquamarine, alarizian crimson; the entire spectrum captured and split in endless delight. To Alex Kanovich, stained glass windows were the high point of man’s endeavours, the ultimate expression of mystery and reverence, the supreme artistic creation. Ever since a boy, stained glass windows had produced in him a rare feeling of exhilaration, an almost mystical sense of light and happiness.

In his native Cracow there were hundreds of stained picture windows and he had loved them all. From the magnificent masterpieces in the cathedral to the smallest stairway pane, all had the power to set him marvelling at their beauty. It was in his blood; for generations the family had been glassmakers and artists. His father had designed and completed the windows for the archbishop’s palace, a task that had taken him five years. For that he was made a Knight of St Stanilaus.

He remembered the day his father sent him to Warsaw to begin his apprenticeship with an artist of high reputation.

“Alexander, remember, a window is like a soul, it belongs to God,” his father told him on the platform.

That was in 1938; the next year Germany invaded Poland and he never saw his family again. He survived the terrible years of the camps and forced marches but when he tried to find his family afterwards they had all been killed.

He could no longer stay and eventually he found his way to Australia. Here he began to work with glass again. In the turmoil of relief and sorrow at all that had been, he found a never-ending source of inspiration. He created windows all over the country, in churches, town halls, and libraries, even in RSL Clubs. It was hard labour and paid little but labour for which he had been prepared since his birth. At times he felt part of a sacred crusade, a great mission to capture and transform this bright new light, so different from that of the old country, into an evocation of hope.

There had been glorious years, bringing a hint of fame among a small circle and enough money for his needs. He never married, which he regretted; now there was no son to continue the family tradition.

Just as well in a way, his accident would have caused a family pain and then the problem of finding other work to support them. It was better that he had no one depending on him since his accident.

Now he came to the cathedral every day to sit in the soft light from the high windows. It was quiet and cool and he could sit for hours undisturbed while the sunlight made a silent symphony through the glass.

These were his favourite windows, the first he had seen when he arrived in the country. They had re-awakened his urge to create again after the nightmare of the war.

Above the high altar was especially fine; Christ surrounded by his disciples as a dove descended from Heaven. Angels and saints stood suspended in a celebration of God the Father, the whole transfused with the slanted light from the late afternoon sun. To his left, Abraham about to sacrifice his son, his robes a rich purple that turned to deep red when the light streamed through in the morning. Further along, Mary Magdalene was haloed in a prism of golden sunlight.

He was not a particularly religious man, childhood family prayers had been long forgotten and he had no fear of dying. It was the windows he came for – to be near them was enough now that he could no longer work. At times he felt anger rising at thought of his accident. It seemed so unfair to be forced to stop creating when he was at the height of his powers, when he had so many windows to complete. But over the years he had come to accept his handicap and had learned to be grateful for the fruitful years before. All over the country his windows were giving joy and happiness to thousands of people.

 And even if he was now blind, there were always the windows of the soul.

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