At first, it seemed that Czechoslovakian Jan Telensky had his life set out for him. Born under communist rule in 1948, he was banned from following his religion, and was told, at the age of six, to “forget about school” and concentrate on earning money as a miner or bricklayer. Telensky, however, had other ideas. He was an enthusiastic supporter of the Prague uprising, and fought against the Soviet invasion of 1968, flinging stones at tanks and Russian army officers as they passed. Within months, however, he was forced to flee. Facing a bleak future, he acquired a forged passport under an assumed name and got on a flight to Britain. As it turned out, that was a good move. He now presides over an empire of his own, stretching from the UK to Slovakia.
When he landed on these shores on 21/08/1969 exactly one year from the invasion of Czechoslovakia by Russians, he had just £2. “I couldn’t speak English, I had nowhere to live. So I slept for two weeks in the cemetery at Dunstable.” At least, he says, “I had extremely quiet neighbours”. Through a family friend, Telensky eventually landed a job on the assembly line at the Vauxhall car factory in Luton, and then a job as a security guard at the town’s airport. His aim in these jobs was always to improve his English. Then in 1973 came an opportunity to buy a delicatessen on Barry Road in Luton, catering mainly to Italians, Poles and other Eastern Europeans. “The old boy who owned the shop was going to retire and there was nobody to take it off him, so I bought it.” Telensky built up the business, selling it in 1976 for considerable sum.
Then, aged just 28, he decided to retire – but rapidly became bored. “I didn’t realise that retirement is a state of mind.” So he put the money from the sale towards buying four houses for £10,000-£12,000 each. He did them up and rented them out – it was his first move into property development, a business he’s been involved in ever since. But it still wasn’t enough. “After four months I was so bored, I took a part time job at Scheideggers”, then the largest secretarial training institute in Europe. He eventually became the company’s UK sales manager. Telensky “liked the product so much that I started the competition”, as he puts it. He raised £20,000 to set up his own commercial training firm in 1981, eventually putting his former employer out of business when he bought Scheideggers for £50,000 in 1989 from the liquidator.
All the while he was also buying property – he owns many properties in United Kingdom. When the Iron Curtain fell, he bought many apartments in Prague. His current focus is on what he says is the world’s most environmentally friendly resort. Aqua City, which he first established in the Tatras Mountains in Poprad, Slovakia, back in 2002, uses geo-thermal energy from an underground lake to keep the resort’s pools and saunas warm all year round. In 2012, he was an Olympic attaché for Slovakia Team which had headquarters at Pall Mall Institute of Director building. It certainly helps keep Telensky from getting bored – his chain of businesses now turns over in excess of £70m a year. Not that this is his main priority. “I never work for money – I began to make money when I stopped counting it… I’m interested in the result, the idea.”
Jan Telensky’s Motto – “Strive for a clearly defined objective and make the impossible possible without an excuse”