Coming to America
Jan Pregowski first heard about Monolithic Domes in 1985. He came to America in the late 1980s to learn how to build Monolithic Domes. Since then, he has started his own dome building business, Monolithic Constructors of Poland. He has worked on more than one hundred dome projects in various countries, including several in the United States.
Going to Iraq
During 1991, a war was underway between Iraq and Iran. Jan was asked to go to Iraq during this time of political unrest to construct 28 domes. Twenty-seven of the domes were grain storages, 117’ in diameter and 58’ tall. In addition to these, one more 117’ dome was built as a mosque for Suddam Hussein.
With the help of Iraqi laborers, a Canadian dome builder and Jan, it took only 4 1/2 months to complete all 28 domes. Don Stephenson, a worker from the states, taught a large group of Iraqis how to spray polyurethane foam while Jan’s crew hung steel and sprayed concrete. With their combined efforts they were able to complete one of the grain storage domes in just 4 1/2 days!
The mosque was bombed during the present-day war in Iraq by a 5000 pound bomb. Although the interior will need massive repair, the dome itself is structurally sound. Photos of the mosque after the bombing were displayed in the August 2003 issue of Government Executive in an article entitled “Remaking Iraq.”
When cultural differences, language barriers and political tension between two countries collide, interesting memories are made.
Jan said, “It was very hot there. We only got one bottled water a day with water from the Mesopotamia, so at night we ate watermelon and grapes. Well, I must have (ate a bad) watermelon, because I was very, very ill for three days. Not a good memory. I almost died there.”
Jan also recalls having to confront Iraqi military personnel and defend his workers while on the job site. He said, “One time, an Iraqi (soldier) was talking to (a worker) about the bible. Another (soldier) came over to the pump where workers were and asked why they were all standing around talking. We were waiting on concrete so (we had) no work to do at the time. (The second) soldier took up a (pipe) and (threatened) to beat the man.”
Jan continued, “I witnessed soldiers beat workers on one other occasion. At this time, I complained to the man in charge of the whole project. I told him in angry way that I did not want military men on the job site or I would quit working and building domes immediately.”
They promised him it would not happen again. Apparently, they valued Jan’s expertise because it did not happen again.
A funny anecdote also occurred during the conclusion of building one of the domes. It is standard dome building procedure to do a final check or walk through of the dome before shutting off the pumps. Jan said, “As I made my last check, I walked outside and gave the signal to the Iraqi by sliding my finger across my neck, signaling to him that the dome is done or finished and the pump could be shut off. He looked very scared when he looked at me.”
Later Jan asked another worker who speaks both languages to explain. The interpreter told Jan the worker had said, “Why Jan want to kill me? He slid finger across throat which means he wants to kill me.” Jan explained to the worker and they both had a good laugh at that misunderstanding.
Anything but smooth!
Building in foreign countries presents many obstacles, but building during a time of war is anything but smooth sailing! Thankfully, the domes were completed as quickly as possible and Jan quickly moved on to other projects in more peaceful environments.
Jan is available to build Monolithic Domes in the states and in many foreign countries.
Note: Monolithic first published this article in August 2004.