Joseph Vondrak (original Czech name Josif Vondrak) was born on October 5th 1861 in the small but picturesque town of Behine, situated on the river Luznica in Czechoslovakia. He graduated primary school in his home town and vocational school in Linz, Upper Austria, between 1874 and 1878. After specializing in joinery, he moved to Vienna where he worked as an assistant-master in the well-known joiner’s factories owned by Adolf Schpizer, August Wichestham and Richard Ludwig. In order to practise and gain professional experience, he continued attending vocational evening classes.
In 1885 Vondrak left the capital of Austria and returned to Linz where he was appointed the manager of the local joiner’s factory owned by Ferdinand Schteinparzer. He remained in this position until August 15th, 1889.
In July 1889 he was invited by the Ministry of Public Education to come to Bulgaria and become major master-manager of the joinery department of the National Educative Workshop in the village of Kniajevo. This institution aimed at “developing the joinery and iron-smithery in Bulgaria through training well-qualified masters for these jobs”. Vondrak started his new job on September 1st, 1889 and remained in it until June 1st, 1885.
Between 1892 and 1895 the National Educative Workshop in Kniajevo was re-named to National Technical School.
Decree #373 from July 7th, 1895 declared the division of the National Technical School into four separate practical schools dealing with iron-smithery, pottery, weaving and dying as well as joinery.
The Ministry of Commerce and Agriculture believed that there were better conditions in Ruse for the development and improvement of the joinery department so they decided to move it from Kniajevo.
The school in Ruse was opened on October 1st, 1895. Joseph Vondrak was once again appointed master-manager and he taught training classes as well as special drawing.
Here Vondrak, displaying great energy, continued his hard work to overcome the obstacles appearing in his job. To improve the qualification of the staff, Joseph Vondrak persuaded the Ministry of Commerce and Agriculture to send the teachers on training business trips abroad. After that they would come back to school and continue their work with improved qualifications.
One of Joseph Vondrak’s best achievements was the creation of the huge expedient school building we have today. The school building was completed prior the beginning of the 1907/1908 school year after 12 years of hard work. Being the principal of the school, Joseph Vondrak kept on enjoying his work at the new premises. His enthusiasm and doubled energy lead to the further development and progress of the joinery education in the country.
The following list awards proves his great efficiency and excellent professionalism as well as profound experience and skills as a principal: gold medal in 1887 for the exhibition of furniture, produced at Ferdinand Schneiparzer’s joiner’s factory in Linz; medal for public service 5th class from His Highness Prince Ferdinand in 1898 and Saint Alexander medal ( cavalry cross ), again from Prince Ferdinand, for his contribution to organizing the crafts exhibition in Ruse in 1899; gold medal from the International exhibition in Milan in 1904; gold medal from Liege (1905 ) and then his greatest award – “The Honner Diploma” from the Balkan exhibition in London, where he had been sent as a member of the committee for the organization of the Bulgarian pavilion.
In order to revive and develop the Old-Bulgarian style in furniture and interior design of the Bulgarian houses, Joseph Vondrak made a personal donation of 20,000 lev to serve as capital stock fund for the foundation of the “Joseph Vondrak Fund”. The fund’s purpose was to reward the best projects (drawings, sketches, details, perspectives and aquarelle), designed in the style of the traditional Old-Bulgarian tradition.
Joseph Vondrak – a great person, undisputed professional, a man of high patriotic feelings, high morality and constant work for the development and improvement of the joinery in Bulgaria.
All facts mentioned above prove Joseph Vondrak’s great contribution and service to the Bulgarian people, to Bulgaria.