The Portrait of an Inventor – Peter Florjančič
Man of Many Stories
Peter Florjančič is a Slovene inventor from Bled, who was born there in 1919. Although almost hundred years old now, he is still active and his mind still sharp and full of ideas. Peter now lives in a nursing home in Radovljica, but you can still often find him in his office in Kompas Hotel at Bled, where he is working on new projects. He is the only Slovene who worked as an professional inventor for all of his life. His profession lead him out of Slovenia and into the world, where he lived among the movie stars and kings of Europe. He likes to remember his friends and acquaintances from the past, who include Coco Chanel, Charlie Chaplin, Swedish king Gustav and British prime minister Winston Churchill. Peter talks about the past with great passion, and listening to his stories, one might thing that he often exaggerates them. Even he says that sometimes he cannot believe all the things that happened in his life, but he can prove all his stories with photographs that he was making and collecting throughout his life. He lived a life of a star, one of which we can only dream today. But despite all the glamour and success, not all was that great. He remembers the second World War and how he was supposed to be sent to a concentration camp, but Nazis pulled him out of the line after they found one of his inventions. Later during the war he also “died,” and at Bled they even had a mass in his memory. He staged his death to run from the gestapo and flee to Switzerland, away from the war madness of the Nazi. But it was not the horror of the war which hurt him most in his life. His greatest pain in life comes from the loss of his daughter Cvetka, who died in a car crash on her twenty-first birthday. When he speaks of her, one can see the great love he still feels for her. This is a wound that has not yet healed. He tells in a shaking voice that every morning when he wakes up, his first thought is of Cvetka and that he still cannot understand, how it came to that car accident in which she died. But the hard moments of life did not stop him. He fought through them and he still fights today. He is focused on the future and he keeps looking what else he can do, how he can still improve the world.
Focus on the Future
I started working with Peter and on his story with the intention to bring his life story, his unique view of the world and his way of thinking closer to people, especially the young. Peter is definitely one of the most successful Slovenes, and most important factor of his success was his way of thinking. I decided to reach out to him so that we can work on this project together and bring some motivation to the young. I meet with him in his home and his office at Bled. I used our time together to gather some video and photographic material, but mainly to analyze his way of thinking. Our meetings took place in a relaxed atmosphere, often with some coffee and a glass of Williams brandy, which Peter enjoys to drink every now and then. We talked about the stories of his past and his plans for the future. We worked on some new ideas and he often pointed out how excited he is about our collaboration (apparently he even could not sleep because of all the ideas that he got during our meetings). It did not take me a lot of time to see how he is working and thinking. If he was not as persistent and optimistic as he is, he would not succeed as he did. His greatest quality must be that he is always focused on the future and always searching for new ideas. He is an optimist and perfectionist. He always sees the best in the situation and he always tries to improve it. For many people it is hard to start thinking in such a way, but if we try, we get used to it and it becomes a part of us, as it became a part of Peter Florjančič.
He likes to laugh and make people laugh.
The thing that really caught my attention was Peter’s optimism, his pride of his work and his desire to make people laugh. When sharing his stories, he likes to tell them in an amusing way and he always has to tell at least one involving women of his life. He says that only if you make your audience laugh, the performance is successful. Sometimes it is not about the story itself, but making the other person forget their troubles and simply laugh.
He likes to share the story of how he and his wife met Swedish king Gustav, when he was playing tennis in his old age. Peter’s wife asked him who is that old man playing tennis and the king heard her. He turned around and said: “Madame, I might be old, but I can still hear well.” But the old king did not resent her. They actually became good friends. Another story is of when he was a young man ski jumping in Planica. After the match a woman invited him to join her and the other jumpers in her house for some tea. When he arrived to her house, she was alone, saying the rest could not make it. She went to kitchen and returned with two cups of tea and with no clothes. Young Peter just stared, as at that time, he says, he still thought that babies were brought to this world by storks.
But despite his extravagant company Peter settled down with his wife Verena, for whom he still feels great love, for over sixty-five years, until her death. She was a beautiful woman and seeing her photograph, I first thought she was some movie actress or a princess. When talking about her, Peter’s eyes start to shine and he often says how great she was and how lucky he is.
Man of ideas, who is proud of his work
After spending a life as a professional inventor, one is used to constantly and ceaselessly search for new ideas. It is a way of thinking that you can learn, but after a while it becomes a part of you. And so today, Peter is still looking for new ideas and projects all the time. In September he was attending Celje fair MOS, where he had a short lecture for a full hall of excited listeners. He also opened an exhibition about his inventions, which was put up by Slovene Patent Office and Technical Museum. Recently he also designed a ring in a shape of paddle of traditional Bled boat called “pletna”. The ring has a special symbolism that is deeply intertwined with the history of Bled, his hometown. Peter is also preparing to publish a new book, and we also talked about working on some project, more photographic in nature. Among his most recent inventions is also a special bird house that you can attach to the window. There is a lot more inventions and ideas hiding in his head, just waiting to come out.
When asked, which invention he is most proud of, he says immediately that he is most proud plastic injection molding machine. It brought him a check of one million and a half of German marks. He is proud of his work and he clearly states that. If you are ashamed of what you do, you cannot succeed in your profession. If you want to be successful you have to believe in yourself and work hard. Only combination of self-trust, strong will and hard work will lead you to success in your profession and life. Well, and a bit of luck is also good to have.
For inventor it is most important to be observant. Peter says he got his ideas as he was sitting in a hotel and observing people. He saw what people need and what he can improve. He told me a story of how women carried the big perfume pumps around and he thought how impractical that is. So he invented the small perfume atomiser, which we still use today (in a bit modified form).
Peter says that it is important to know, that everyone can be inventor and everything is an invention, not only material things. Inventions can also be more spiritual in nature. Every new idea that we get is an invention, every new thing we create. Even every lie we tell is an invention. We are all inventors, and it is up to every individual what he decides to do with that.
The Wisdom of the Past, Motivation for the Future
I have already said what is the reason for this writing. My goal is simple. I would like to bring the story of this inventor closer to people. It is not in my interest to write of the old stories of Peter’s past. You can find those in his books and documentaries. Of course I cannot leave them out completely, as they are part of who he is. What I would like to accomplish here is that you take a few moments and read about how a man of great experiences and who changed the world, is thinking and what made him successful. I would like that you take a moment and look within yourself. Try to find these element in you and become successful as is Peter Florjančič. This post is not a collection of long forgotten tales, but a simple portrait of an inventor. Shortly I will publish a new post about some tips which Peter shared with me.