When Mark Dunajtschik escaped Knicanin prison camp near the end of WWII, he was forced to flee his homeland of Yugoslavia. Five years after the war ended, he became an apprentice toolmaker.
The trade he mastered then may have shaped his career, but it was the life lessons he learned that ultimately forged the character of the man he’d someday become.
Supplied, Mark Dunajtschik
With housing in post-war Germany almost nonexistent, Dunajtschick’s only option at that time was living in a housing facility for the mentally and physically disabled. Seeing the daily challenges his housemates faced, he realized how just lucky he was.
“Because I was given the opportunity to live in that home, which was founded by an industrialist in the 1880s, now that I am in a position that I can also do something, naturally I want to do it,” he told the New Zealand Herald.
At the age of 85, as one of the most successful industrialists and real estate developers in New Zealand, Dunajtschik is indeed uniquely poised to deliver on his desire to give back.
Already known for his philanthropic works—having financed the country’s Life Flight Trust helicopter rescue service—Dunajtschik’s latest major humanitarian endeavor is overseeing the construction of a new children’s hospital in Wellington.
In 2017, he committed $50 million dollars of his own money toward building it.
“After a conversation between my business partner and my life partner we decided, why not build it?” he said. (Dunajtschik credits his life partner, 82-year-old New Zealand native, Dorothy Spotswood, with whom he shares a five-decade-long relationship—for much of his success.)
But Dunajtschik had no desire to simply throw money at the new hospital. He takes a hands-on approach to all his projects.
“By utilizing my expertise as a developer we would be able to produce more real estate than if we were to just write out a cheque and leave the bureaucrats to build it,” he explained.
Over the summer, construction passed a major milestone. As Dunajtschik and Spotswood looked on, the industrial support cranes were cleared from the site, signaling the exterior was complete.
Rendering of Wellington Children’s Hospital, Wellington Hospitals Foundation
“It’s exciting to see that in a little over a year the vision will be realized and we will have a magnificent new purpose-built facility that will help generations of sick kids to come,” said Bill Day, Chair of Wellington Hospitals Foundation.
“Those people that are born with a healthy body and mind can look after themselves and those unfortunate to be born with, or suffering ill health, need our help,” said Dunajtschik.
And that’s the lesson in compassion this man who puts his money where his mouth is—plus a whole lot more—hopes to pass along.
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