GLOSSARY
Poland glossary

Krzysztof

(POLAND 22)

Sex

male

Age

60

Occupation

scientist

Location

Stronie

Date

July 1999

 

transcript

Section 1
Could you introduce yourself, please?
My name is Krzysztof Lorenz. I work at the Technical University of Wroclaw, Environment Protection and Engineering Institute. My permanent address is Stronie Slaskie, with which I have been linked since í75. For five years, I worked there as a forester in the Strachocin forestry district, and now I am in the Ladek forestry district.

Why did you choose this kind of job?
I graduated from the chemistry faculty, I worked here, in the chemistry department, and I was dreaming about seeing what itís like in the forest. My great-grandfather worked in the forest, my grandfather had a forest-related job - perhaps it was something in the genes? Anyway, my dream was to experience this kind of job myself, so when Iíd done my PhD in chemistry, I went to a forestry secondary school, and then went to University.
This is my hobby, and it was my job for several years. After that, I returned to the Technical University, attracted by an interesting job in the Institute offered by the then pro-rector, and thatís how I ended up in the environment protection - trying to merge my interest and my job into one.

Has the climate changed?
Yes. I would say that it has changed in the neighbourhood of Stronie. The summers have always been short there, in the area where I lived, but there has been a shift. The late autumn months used to be the coldest ones. Now, judging from my own observations, the mid-winter months were very cold as well. Now, practically speaking, they are not.

Whatís the cause of that?
There are a number of theories. I think the climate in the whole of Europe has changed. There has been a major climatic change, and if you look at some meteorological data, you could draw further conclusions. I have never been interested in that, really. What I do notice, though, is that Novembers tend to be very frosty, whereas you can wear just a shirt in February or January.

Have the mountains changed?
The mountains have changed a lot, and perhaps that influences climate changes as well. You can see with a naked eye that a lot of mountain forests have disappeared. All the peaks of over 1000 metres have lost all their trees, they are bare. New trees are being planted on them now, thereís serious work going on in order to change the forest structure, but it doesnít change the fact that they donít hold water, they donít provide wind shield any more. The environment behaves totally differently in relation to the forces of nature.
Section 2
What factors have brought about the de-forestation of the mountains?
That has to be traced back mainly to the air pollution. The situation is not as drastic as it is in the Western Sudety, near Szklarska Poreba or Swieradůw, where over 30 thousand hectares of forests have died out. It looks like there has been an atom bomb explosion. Only bare trunks sticking out. Certainly, the situation does not look that bad around here, but I think that it may be related to the acid rains and the general pollution of the atmosphere noticeable in this part of the Sudety.

What did farming use to look like? What were the most popular crops?
Yes, thatís something I was interested in, cause when I was working in the foresterís lodge in the village of Sienna, there were only five houses. Before the war, it used to be a large village, with two churches, a school, a post office, a power station, it was a rich village. All the surrounding land was tilled, whatís more, they sowed wheat there. They were some special varieties of wheat, including short-straw ones, imported from somewhere in Switzerland, from the Alpine areas. The wheat crops were so important for the people living here that they brought them profit, irrespective of oats, rye or potatoes.
I remember numerous plantations there, there was a number of villages that still existed after the war. Sienna basically existed until mid-seventies. The village became deserted when the uranium mine in Stronie Slaskie was closed down. The no-longer needed Russian staff and miners left an uninhabited housing estate behind, so it was easier to get a flat. Those were flats with electricity, running water. In Stronie, there was electricity. It was there before the war and during the war as well. Moving to the town of Stronie was an unquestionable nobilitation (rise in status?) for the inhabitants of the forgotten village, without electricity, where kerosene lamps were still used. So the village became deserted quite quickly, the women got jobs in the hospital in Morawka, in Stronie, one of the largest hospital for the mentally disabled, and the men got jobs in the developing quarries.
As a result of that, young people left the village, and the elderly moved away with them, or they stayed in the farms that they had taken over from the Germans after the war. There were practically no original inhabitants, Germans, also because of the political and strategic reasons - after all, uranium was mined there, so it was a closed zone. Those of German origin, who stayed behind after the war, had been displaced. Those who came there were as if in an isolated region, special passes were needed to leave the area, or to visit the place. It was a closed zone because of the uranium mine.

Did people use to live in harmony with the nature?
Yes, especially directly after the war, they certainly did because they had such conditions. They certainly did go to bed early, they got up at dawn. If you live close to nature, even if you have - as I did - electricity and running water, you follow the natural pattern of going to bed and getting up - it simply makes your day longer. When you look at how those houses were built, the conclusion is that they were aiming at material self-reliance and independence in the way they went about farming. After the war, they made their living through working in the forest, some of them commuted to the quarries which were developed after the war.
Section 3
Were there more animals in the forest in the past?
Yes and no. Depends on the species. Some animal species, that lived there for centuries, either changed their biology or moved to other regions as a result of the environmental changes, human activities, wood cutting or the disappearance of forest above certain altitudes. For example, the heath-cock has always lived in the region of Puszcza Bialska primeval forest. However, in the 1980s, it started disappearing almost completely. It became more and more rare. It moved to the region of Mount Snieznik as it probably felt safer there. I think it is connected with two reasons. Firstly, old trees were cut down, the trees that were a natural shelter for the heath-cock. Secondly, human penetration increased. The heath-cock does not tolerate human presence very well. When it moved to the dwarf mountain pine on Mount Snieznik, it found the peace and quiet it was looking for. As a result, it changed its biology in the way that it now mates on the ground, not in the trees as it used to. As far as I know, you can still find trace of the heath-cock there, but itís more difficult to be spotted in the thick dwarf mountain pine. On the other hand, the population of the fox has increased considerably in the region. They have decimated the heath-cock population by eating the chicks hatching on the ground, where eggs are laid. And the population of the heath-cock has generally decreased in Poland.
The black grouse is yet another species that has become almost extinct in that area. That was caused probably by the melioration work taking place there after the war. It brought about the changes in the black grouse natural habitat. It needs water, marshy meadows. If they are not available, it moves away. Also, it has little tolerance for human presence. Increased human penetration in the area brought about the migration of the black grouse. I remember in í78, there were 20 black-cocks mating there. Now, there is no place in Poland where you could see something like that. Just individual ones, somewhere near Marcinkůw, Biala Woda, but at lower altitudes, near Idzikůw or Goworůw, where the black grouse used to live, now it isnít spotted at all.
On the other hand, the wild boar is an example of species that appeared in the area. The wild boar did not live there after the war, but it wasnít imported there as a nuisance for the local farmers - as some like to believe. It moved there on its own accord. The wild boar is capable of long journeys after the food. It found ideal conditions for living there, and now weíve got quite a lot of them. The deer population is probably larger now than it was after the war, when the land was tilled around there. The deer had much worse living conditions then. Simply, there is more land available to it, although the food available is of worse quality. There is less farming land on which to graze, but there are more and more meadows turning wild available. Recently, I watched over 15 deer grazing, from a close distance.

How about other animals? Have they been affected by changes?
Yes, the exceptionally cold winters. There have been a few such winters harmful for game animals. They brought about the deaths of the weaker specimens. For example, there was the so-called winter of the century, í79-í80, it decimated the roe-deer population considerably. Since then, the population has been recovering slowly. Also at the same time, in the same area, small fowl, like the partridge and the pheasant, died out because they couldnít find food. They couldnít reach it. Even the food that people displayed for them. They were simply immobilised due to the weather conditions, and a lot of them died. Unfortunately, such extreme winter situations recur every few years. Itís not just low temperatures, but also the fact that itís wet after a rain, then the temperatures drop below zero, a frozen shell is formed on the ground, and small animals cannot get through it. They just cannot reach the food thatís there. There are blackberries, raspberries, it is all there, but itís covered with snow and that frozen shell of ice, so they are out of reach for the small animals and they die of starvation.
Another thing is that some animals do not migrate, change their habitat. They all need access to water - from the hare to the deer. And, despite what might be expected, when thereís snow, they donít get water from snow, they need running water. Even if the temperatures are not too low, but there is the ice shell, they cannot move, they collapse in the ice, hurt their feet. And like a man in the desert will die after a few days without water - even if staying in the shade. The organism gets dehydrated, it gets weaker and weaker, and then they have no strength to go to the water or to the pasture. These are the reasons why the animals get so decimated in unfavourable weather conditions. And human feeding wonít help much, cause if there is no access to water, then... The fact that there is hay or even beetroots displayed by humans, is not that useful as might be expected.
Section 4
Was the mountain stream water good to drink in the past?
Yes. I think there are numerous places where you can still drink it safely.

But I donít think theyíre too many?
Well, not too many, but up there, in the mountains, yes. It all depends on... I would say that now itís even safer than it used to be because these areas have got so deserted. So, where there used to be a village and waste collectors - there was no sewage system - all the waste finally found its way to the ground. And from the ground to those streams. So the streams were not useful as sources of drinking water then. They were contaminated biologically, not chemically. There was no chemical contamination. There were no detergents, no phosphorus substances, no mercury. No heavy metals, so popular nowadays. So the water could only be contaminated biologically, through those waste collectors.
Now the situation is a bit different. There is no bacteriological contamination, thereís no source. The water is highly saturated with oxygen. Micro-organisms fight any possible contamination, chemical contamination that could be harmful. On the other hand, there surely is contamination with lead, if it is near some kind of transport route, or heavy metal contamination from the rain. It is all in the ground and finds its way to the water. The water, by the way, in this region, near Ladek, Stronie, has another characteristic feature, namely, they are slightly radioactive - due to the ores deposited there. Practically speaking, everywhere in this region. The famous springs of Ladek, the curative waters, they are no less then products of radioactive processes. As a result, this region is so interesting from the curative point of view. It is all connected with the natural radioactivity. Because of the higher ionisation of the air, people coming there with, say, catarrh, they are alright within one day. Thatís very characteristic. A friends of mine recently went to such curation in Ladek. She came there with a catarrh which disappeared within two days.
Section 5
What is the influence of the industrial development on the environment?
Well, Ladek practically has no industry, apart from timber or food processing. In Stronie, there are two industries. One of them is the Crystal Glass Factory. It definitely has adverse effect on the environment.

In what way?
The trees surrounding the factory, especially the less resistant ones, like the fir, simply die out. They are a sort of a bio-indicator of environmental pollution. You can see that. Now, as far as quarries go, they simply change the way the environment looks. I donít think there is a direct influence of the quarries on the more distant environment. Certainly, the explosions chase the game away. Animals tend to avoid such noisy places. But they are not so burdensome to the environment as industries like the glass factory. The situation has improved now, they have installed hydrogen chloride eliminating facilities, which was the main source of harm to the environment. The production output has been decreased as well, so altogether the situation looks better, but generally speaking, industry is not neutral to the environment.

Can nature protects itself on its own - at least partially - against the influences of the industry?
Well, to an extent, nature can protect itself. But when you cross a certain level... Itís like the human health. To a certain extent, there is the natural defence of the organism. But when the harmful factors are just too many, especially those bringing about the weakening of the organism... Itís not only the matter of there being too many viruses out of a sudden. The viruses can be as many as they were, but the organism gets weaker for various reasons - the cold, malnutrition or whatever. Some other disease that exists within the organism. The same happens in nature, in the forest. I think that similarly, nature can defend itself up to a certain point, but when it is crossed - it canít any more.

Did tourism flourish in these mountains in the past?
I would say it did. This region here, the Eastern Sudety Mountains, I mean the neighbourhood of Stronie, Ladek, was a well-known area before the war, among others Biala Woda, Puchaczůwka Pass between Idzikůw and Stronie Slaskie, was a typical holiday village for the pre-war high life of Wroclaw. The people lived there in the summer, and in Wroclaw in the winter. There were beautiful houses. I still remember, in the 1960s, there were about twenty houses, beautifully designed, typical summer houses. Directly after the war, there were two large hotels in the region. Both have been demolished. Now there are only ruins. There was also a time, also after the war, when the Employeesí Holiday Fund was very active. There were numerous holiday houses in the region. Now they practically donít exist any more. Some of them have been demolished, some have been sold out for renovation and totally changed their character. The way of spending leisure time in the region has changed as well, also by the visitors to the region. The tourism itself is a bit different. In the past, people would hike the mountains. Now people walk less and less.
Section 6
What is your opinion about farming in the mountains? Can it be at all profitable?
Certainly, it is not profitable in the usual sense of farming. Still, I think, or I imagine and know, there are many people who manage do make their living. It can be in the form of agro-tourist farms. There are rooms for visitors, farm food, home-made stuff is sold to them. It may cost a bit more then normal, but you can be sure itís healthy, organic food, manufactured without artificial fertilisers, free from heavy metals. All other ideas for farming here have been proven wrong. Breeding sheep is unprofitable because of the lack of demand. Producing feeding stuffs on a large scale is a very expensive, economically unprofitable undertaking.

And the quality of crops, is it lower than it used to be?
Yes, absolutely. I work in the forests, and now, being in Wroclaw, and going there hunting, I often appraise damages done to crops by game animals. Because of that I have good knowledge about the quality of crops in the mountains and mountainous regions compared to lowlands, the region of Wroclaw or Niemcza, Zabkowice. There definitely is a considerable quality difference.

How often do you go to the mountains?
Three, four times a moth.

Does it make any difference to you where you live?
It certainly does make a difference where Iíve got a home or a piece of a house. Letís put it differently. When I was looking for a place, looking for a foresterís lodge to work at, it took me two years to find a proper place.

Only in the mountains?
No, not really. I searched in various places, but after some time - only in the mountains. I decided they were the most interesting places, the nature there is most interesting. So it does make a difference to me. There were a number of more attractive proposals - from the point of view of facilities offered. Where I finally decided to go, the house was in a bad condition and it required general renovation work.

Did you spend your childhood in the mountains?
No. When I was very young, I lived near Wieliczka, and then, in my school years, after the war, I lived in Opole.

So, the place you choose to live in has to be surrounded by nature, but it doesnít have to be in the mountains. Is that right?
Yes, yes. I feel well in such places.

What do mountains mean to you?
I feel equally well in the lowland forest, it doesnít have to be in the mountains. The forest is a kind of shelter for me, a refuge in which like being.

How would you describe the beauty of the mountains?
Oh, well. I would say mountains are like women. They look different at different times. Probably thatís why they are so beautiful.
Section 7
Thank you for the conversation.