Richard Jany: Weathering the ups and downs

SINGAPORE (EDGEPROP) - Before arriving in Singapore from Poland in 1978, Richard Jany had a rather exotic vision of the city state. “I envisioned I would be living in a bungalow in the middle of the jungle, and sleeping with a gun next to me in case I was attacked by tigers,” he relates. “But when I arrived, I thought, ‘This is like New York.’” He was 16 then.
Richard Jany and his daughter, Sharon (Photo: Samuel Isaac Chua/EdgeProp Singapore)
Jany attended Singapore American School and had hoped that he could go to the US for his tertiary education. “Because of the political sensitivity as Poland was still under communist rule, my dad said I should study in Singapore,” he says. Jany became one of the first Caucasians to enrol at the Singapore Polytechnic, where he majored in mechanical engineering and sported a moustache.
Hopes of entering the Singapore Air Force were also stymied by “political sensitivity”. Hence, he joined the Singapore Fire Service and was based at the Central Fire Station on Hill Street. Again, he was one of the few Caucasians in the fire service – “probably not since the colonial days”, he reckons. “I slept on the third floor of the building and there was a fireman’s pole where we used to slide down.”
He believes his term at the fire service was “very good training”. He says: “After that, whenever you face difficulty, you think, ‘What is this compared to being in the fire service?’”
Jany, his wife and his mother returned to Poland in 1991 (Photo: Bloomberg)

Career switch

When Jany’s father passed away, his mother decided to return to Poland in 1991, and he went with her. He brought along his Singaporean wife. “The iron curtain had lifted [in 1989], and there were many business opportunities in Warsaw,” he says. He became involved in a company that manufactured telephones, and the business took off.
A year later, Jany’s...