Jan “Jano” Kralik
Jan ‘Jano’ Kralik, was born June 22, 1952, and grew up in Predajna, Slovakia, in the house his father built with his own hands. As a young man, Jano excelled at soccer and played on a team that was allowed to leave communist-controlled Slovakia to play other counties. It was at a match in Vienna, Austria in 1979, when Jano slipped away from the team’s minders and into political freedom. It was that desire for freedom that led Jano to the U.S. - first to Oregon and California, where he discovered that gold mining could give him the independence and self-reliance he valued so dearly. With his newly learned skills and passion for gold mining, Jano decided to make his living as gold miner and headed for Nome, Alaska.
Jano worked as a panner on the massive offshore dredge, the Bima, and when the ship was decommissioned, he and a friend did the final cleanup on the gold ship. Jano then turned to solo dredging offshore. Always first in the water in spring, and last out in the fall, he was perhaps Nome’s hardest working and most successful dredger. And when stormy weather drove him from the sea, Jano headed inland to Gold Run Creek, to prospect, pan and dredge.
Jano was also an accomplished jeweler, spending dark winter nights turning nuggets into beautiful earrings, necklaces and other jewelry pieces.
When the seas were frozen and the land covered with snow, Jano kept himself fit by cross-country skiing and skate-skiing upwards of 20 to 30 miles in a day.
He lived in White Mountain one winter, and fell though the ice on the Fish River. Even as the current carried him down and under, Jano kept his wits about him, and managed to push off from the bottom until he found the opening where he’d fallen in. In 1988/89 – the winter of record breaking low temps across Alaska - Jano skied alone from Nome to Anchorage.
Jano’s solo life changed on February 4, 1991, when he and Jane Immingan became parents to a son, Michael Lewis Immingan Kralik, whom they both adored. As Michael grew he joined in his dad’s mining ventures. Some say Jano could ‘smell’ gold. In the summer of 2003, when taking turns dredging with Michael at Gold Run, the two of them discovered a 40 oz. gold nugget - the 22nd largest known nugget in the world.
On October 5, 2001 Jano’s family increased again with the birth of his daughter, Maria ‘Maya’ Kralik, with Helen Kowchee. While Jano tutored Michael in the art of goldmining, he instilled in Maya his love of cross-country skiing, at which she excels, keeping his spirit alive on the frozen tundra. Jano also leaves behind a ‘family’ of soccer players, whom he tutored in the sport for a number of winters in Nome.
Jano was a successful miner even when gold was only $300/oz., but as the price of gold rose dramatically in recent years, it brought a flood of miners to Nome, leading to a chaotic scene unlike the many years when he had been one of a small band of offshore dredgers. He decided it was time to again make a major change in his life, and moved to a small farm he purchased in Nicaragua. He continued to visit Nome, and his family in Slovakia, but his remote and simple farm became his latest home – although friends there say he also searched for gold wherever he went in the country.
It was also in Nicaragua that Jano contracted an unusual blood disorder that depleted his blood platelets. Being such a physically fit and mentally strong individual, Jano delayed seeking advanced medical care, but once he did, his condition had become irreversible. It was with great sadness and disbelief that his friends and family, from Alaska to Nicaragua to Slovakia learned that on March 18, 2018, Jano’s worldwide adventures finally came to an end.
Jano was preceded in death by his father Jozef Kralik, and his partner Jane Immingan. He is survived by his mother Maria Kralikova, his sister Katarina, a young son Lucas, and many cousins and friends in Slovakia; his children Michael Kralik in Savoonga and Maya Kralik in Nome; and the many friends around the world who loved and admired him.
Jano’s remains have been cremated, and his children will release them to the winds and the waters in the many places Jano loved. A memorial service was held at St. Joseph Church, Nome on Friday, April 6, at 2 p.m