Working Out Makes Living Possible

Akos doing his warm-up on a rowing machine at West End Athletic Club

Akos Jankura warming up at West End AC

At 84 years young, today Akos Jankura is a fixture at West End Athletic Club.

DISCOVERING WEST END AC

One day, when chatting with Michael Robinson, a tenant in his building and West End member, Akos learned of West End Athletic Club; there was a free trial being offered, so he figured, why not?

When he walked up to the doors for the first time, he remembers admiring the boxing gym building, but what was going on inside mattered to him more. After his free trial, Akos was sold. He fell in love with the atmosphere and the people, making his time at West End AC priceless.

“Everyone encourages me. If I’m doing something wrong, someone is there to help. I feel looked after and cared for from the staff and the members. Silvia, Jeremy, Steve Rolls, Stevie Bailey, and even Michael at the desk, they never go by me without saying hi. They will drop everything just to make me feel at home.”

AKOS’ JOURNEY

According to Akos, sports were always a way out, at least if you were a teenager in Hungary in the 1950s. Born in Budapest, Akos became an orphan, losing his father when he was 3.5 years old and his mother when he was 7 years old. Raised by his Grandmother and Uncles, he remembers listening to the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki on the radio and longing to compete for his country. You name the sport, and he tried it, anything to escape communism.

Communist tank in the streets of Budapest in the 1950’s

Communism had taken over in Hungary

In 1956, at 18 years old, Akos headed to the closest border to the west, Austria. He left his home and his family, not knowing if he would ever be able to return.

When he was finally accepted to Canada, he was taken to a small village near Montreal, Quebec. He was given the option to stay outside of the city in a convent with nuns or stay downtown on St. Catherines Street in a jail. He chose the jail.

This was a logical choice. It was closer to where his immigration documents were being processed; he was there for a month.

He waited there with hopes of ending up in Toronto, Ontario, but they weren’t taking any more refugees. The next closest option was Hamilton. 

In Hamilton, Akos boarded with a family that kept him well-fed and were kind, but he didn’t know their language and soon found a Hungarian person to board with in downtown Hamilton. This worked well as Akos had gotten a job in a scrap yard making a decent wage, $45/week. During this time, Akos met a girl named Rose. One year later (1958), they were married and moved into an apartment together. 

After leaving the factory job, Akos found work painting cars and in 2 years, he was able to buy a house on credit in Burlington. This is the home where he and his wife welcomed 3 children; a son, Akos (1960), a daughter, Lillian (1966), and another son, Andrew (1968).

In this time, Akos was encouraged to attend University. With a leap of faith, he took the entrance exam and to his surprise he passed and received a letter of acceptance. For 4 years, he studied and graduated with honours.

Akos standing at a chalkboard pointing at a Mathematics problem teaching students

It was time for Teacher’s College. Through Queens University, he could do Teacher’s College over the span of 3 summers, but again the mortgage needed to be paid. He wrote his bank a letter, explaining his circumstances and said that he would not be paying for the summer months and the bank could do what it needed to, but he wouldn’t have the money to give them.

The response was a kindness Akos will never forget. They congratulated him and told him not to worry; he could resume paying his mortgage when he got his first paycheque as a Teacher. 

For 27 years, Akos taught high school Mathematics in 3 different schools in Hamilton. He loved teaching, he loved the kids, it didn’t feel like a job. 

Akos retired at the age of 60 in 1998, but he did not stop there.

GRIEF LEADS AKOS TO MORE LIFE

After a battle with breast cancer, Akos lost his wife of 41 years on May 5th, 2000. Their kids were grown up with kids of their own; they were all over the world, Dubai, Florida, Akos felt alone.

In mourning, he decided to go on a pilgrimage in hopes that the heavenly mother would help him through. And she did. When he boarded the plane in December 2001, there was a woman sitting in his seat. 6 months later, that woman became his second wife, Albina, and he moved from Hamilton to Toronto to be with her.

Physical activity has always been a part of Akos’ life, from his younger days in Hungary playing sports to cycling and spending time at the gym as an adult. To both him and his wife, staying fit is important, so they always went to the gym.

Akos even rode in a cycling fundraising event from Toronto to Niagara Falls to raise money for cancer. He started in 2012 and did this event 5 years in a row, and he didn’t do it alone.

Akos’ son and grandaughter joined him, their team was named ‘Team 3 Generations’, and they raised a lot of money in honour of Rose and the several other family members they lost to cancer.

Akos and his wife Albina celebrating at West End Athletic Club

Akos and Albina Jankura celebrating at West End AC

 Cycling team named “Team 3 Generations” with images underneath of Akos and his son and granddaughter

AKOS’ WORKOUT ROUTINE AT WEST END

Boxing allows his heart rate to get high enough to maintain its strength, he acknowledges that he has limitations with his hip replacement, so he can’t dance around too much. Akos recalled a time when he was doing his boxing rounds, and trainer Masood Popal walked over. He suggested that, just for fun, let’s do mitt work; Akos was so grateful that Masood introduced something new to him that he could incorporate into his routine. This was just another example of how Akos felt cared for by his West End family.

Akos wearing his boxing gloves standing beside Michael inside West End Athletic Club after being chosen as Coach’s Pick

Akos with Michael Figliomeni after being selected as Coach’s Pick!

“When I go to West End, I feel good. When I am there, I feel good, When I come out, I feel good.” So he is sure to get there at least 3 times a week, and if he ever misses, he is sure to make it up the next week.

His typical routine includes (total is about 1.5 hours):

  • First going to a machine, he will alternate these each day, for a 25-30 minute warm-up
  • Next is weights; anything from leg curls to pull-downs
  • After weights Akos does 3 rounds of boxing, he will punch the bag for a timed 3 minutes and then rest for one minute
  • Finally, he finishes with 15-20 minutes of stretching

Outside the gym, Akos spends his time volunteering in 7 different schools in Toronto teaching kids the rosary. Any time they complain to him about not wanting to pray, he simply tells them that they can take their Mathematics textbooks out instead since he used to be a Math Teacher. They respond very quickly, “Ok Mr. Jankura, ok, we pray, we pray.” 

Every Friday, he goes to a retirement home to give communion service to its residents, to sing with them, and pray. He loves to give back; he loves to live.

MOTIVATED BY THE GYM AND LIFE

When asked what motivates him the most, his answer was simple; life. “I like to live as long as I can.” Akos feels that working out makes living possible, and he is sure to fill his life with what gives him joy. He blames no one for anything, he says, “all of my physical problems, with my body, are my fault; I did foolish things.” 

He truly believes that the body was made to move and when he moves his, the pain is eased and he feels more mobile.

“I want to put a used body in the coffin. It’s so easy to talk yourself out of exercising, but after you finish working out you feel so much better. Since going to West End, I no longer need a cane. I love to travel, and I am able to walk everywhere when I go to Europe. Sometimes I need walking poles to keep steady but I don’t let that stop me.”

Akos at West End Athletic Club working his muscles on a pulldown machine

Akos building his strength at West End AC

Akos taking a selfie with Steve Rolls at West End Athletic Club

Akos and Steve Rolls selfie at West End AC

HIS MESSAGE TO YOUTH

“Don’t quit.

Whatever you do, no matter what it is, keep trying until you achieve the level you wish for. Take your muscles to your maximum level, it will take time, but if you work steadily and increase the difficulty, you will get there.

You may never be Muhammed Ali, but you will be satisfied with yourself, your body, and life.”

AKOS IS AN INSPIRATION

Everyone appreciates having Akos as part of the West End Athletic Club community. Silvia Cappuccitti, the owner of West End AC, says “Seeing Akos in the gym is the highlight of our day for many of us. He’s such an inspiration to us all and gives us reason to keep pushing forward and to continue to strive to reach our goals! We are thankful for the day that he walked through our door!”

Follow in Akos’ footsteps and learn more about West End AC. No matter your age or skill level, our boxing and fitness gym can be a place where you can feel good too!