Jan Wnek was born in 1828, at Kaczowka, Poland. His family operated a farm, and young Jan seemed destined for life as a farmer in rural Poland. He apprenticed to a wood worker and became skilled at carpentry. His artistic abilities are demonstrated by the numerous religious sculptures he produced for the Odporyszow parish, under the encouragement of Father Stanislaw Morgenstern. Some of Jan Wnek's sculptures may be seen today at Cracow's (Krakow's) Museum of Ethnography, and in a museum devoted to his work, located at Odporyszow, Poland.
Jan Wnek is reported to have constructed a glider, which he named "Loty," from ash wood and linen in 1866, and to have managed a flight with that glider in June of that same year. It appears that his aeronautical work is virtually unknown outside of Poland, and the reason is unclear. He reportedly made gliding flights during religious festivals, such as Pentecost. He is reported to have made a number of other flights through 1869, especially at church carnivals, in, apparently, the same ash wood and linen glider. The distances involved in his glides are said to have been substantial, aided by a prevailing thermal updraft. There does seem to be reason to believe that he may have made at least a few true glides in his aerial apparatus. Jan Wnek reportedly died from injuries sustained in a failed flight made during the Pentecost Carnival held in May of 1869 at Odporyszow (some sources cite June of 1869, but Pentecost fell on May 16 in 1869). An assistant, Michal Sowinski, was reported to be implicated in his death, in one fashion or another. Jan Wnek's injuries were not immediately fatal (a fact which adds weight to the belief that he had used a gliding device to slow his fall), for he lived another two months before passing away.