GLOSSARY
Poland glossary

Andrzej

(POLAND 23)

Sex

Full name:

Age

47

Occupation

construction engineer

Location

Ponikwa

Date

P

 

transcript

Section 1
Could you introduce yourself, please?
My nameís Andrzej Kocinski, I was born on 6th August 1952 in Klodzko, and the first part of my life I spent in Dlugopole Zdrůj, more or less until I was sixteen. After that, I went to Wroclaw, to get some education. I graduated from the school of art in Wroclaw. After that, I had a year pause in my education. I got a job because I hadnít managed to get into the University for the lack of extra points. I worked at the Technical University, and I finally managed to get to the faculty of construction. After graduation, I became a construction engineer, which Iím doing until this day. Construction engineer is my job, and also a hobby, especially as construction as such goes.

What did you do after graduation?
When I was still a student, I worked in design bureaus, then there was a relatively short practice, after the diploma, in the construction industry in Upper Silesia. I constructed flats for miners in such a huge construction company. But not only that, I worked for the ďKatowiceĒ Steel Works, we built some office and social facilities for them. Those were my first experiences as a construction engineer. That was also the most intensive period of practical life and practical construction. Because I had a son when I was still a student, and he was of rather poor health, living in Upper Silesia was out of the question. So, my wife and myself thought we should come back to our homeland.
My wife originally comes from Bystrzyca Klodzka, I come from Dlugopole, as I have already said, so we thought about looking for some place to live there, as we didnít have our own flat. In Upper Silesia, there were interesting offers for young couples, but we couldnít accept them for the sake of our childís health. So we returned here, and were looking for some place to live here. It took us about a year, we found a house in Ponikwa, the one in which we still live. At that time, I was already working in a construction company in Bystrzyca Klodzka. I mean the house is not exactly the same, as the old one burnt down in a fire after a year. There must have been some bad fate hanging above us, I had a fire before, and we had to go through the tragedy as well. We decided there was no point in looking for other opportunities. There was some other offer, I donít remember exactly, in some block of flat, in a housing estate. The idea of living in a block of flats was so awful to me, that I promised myself I would dig a dug-out and live in it in the country, where the sky is blue and the grass is green, and so we stayed.
It was is if a time for a new adventure, it was 1980. We bought the house in 1980, we moved to the country in 1981, it was a memorable time of the martial law in Poland, which was quite a nuisance, especially for me. In the company I was working for, there were so many workersí and farmersí commissions, so many military commissars, that I said, enough is enough. And we decided to try our luck in farming. Besides, there were a lot of people trying to change their jobs, they called it an internal emigration. I mean I didnít feel a mission to emigrate or anything, I just escaped to a normal life in the sense I understood it, looking for some alternative to what was going on around. And well, living in the country is living in the country. The farm was quite a large one for our conditions, we had very little start-up capital, we improvised a lot, we received a lot of help from our relatives, our parents, some savings of our own. And we set up a mini zoo. We had 7 pieces of cattle, 12 sheep, an old, grey horse, some pigs, but we started off with hens. They supported us for about a 1.5 years. I was proud to achieve the level of 80% egg laying index - 80 eggs from 100 hens a day. It was a success for an amateur like myself. It couldnít last long, though, but there was a time that I liked it a lot.
I was healthier, stronger. If it hadnít been for that fire, I would have probably developed the farm, I was going to buy some equipment, a tractor. Unfortunately, all the money we had was spent on reconstruction and building of a house, some sort of roof over our heads, so that we could spend the next winter at ours. And so we played the game of farming until 1986, more or less till í87.
When we went on holiday to our friendsí to England, a period of recession started. The problems of the state economy could be felt more acutely, we used a lot of hired labour, equipment, and the costs grew so high, exceeding the profits, it was difficult to go on living like that, and there was a time that I decided to go back into the construction business. I mean, I did it sort of gently, I got a job as a construction supervisor in... whatever the name of it was... some sort of educational facility in Miedzylesie. After that, I returned to construction design, getting orders from friends, acquaintances. It started developing quite well despite the gap Iíd had milking cows and looking after hens, so the experience was quite painful. But I managed to get through it. At the moment Iím only in construction, construction design to be precise, that is my profession, so itís difficult to get hold of me, as you have noticed yourself. Iím like Gypsy now, all the time on the move. The construction sites are so scattered, and you have to be where thereís a job for you.
Section 2
How were you treated by the locals around here when you first came here?
I must say they were quite alright. I mean, Iíve never been a stranger in Ponikwa, I come from Dlugopole Zdrůj, which is almost round the corner, just over the hill. I think I knew most people at least by sight, if not by name. And they knew me, they knew my parents, so I can say I simply returned to where I belonged from the very beginning, to my childhood world. I think they looked with some sympathetic irony at our attempts to become farmers: Ďpeople coming from town, wanting to be farmers, weíll see what comes out of ití. I got a lot of help from many people around. It was extremely nice, especially after the fire, it was all just a heap of burnt debris, a tragedy. We had to organise some place to store feeding stuffs, grain, hay, we had to protect what had been salvaged. And later, I earned some sort of respect when I managed to breed some calves or bulls of export quality. That wasnít so difficult, really. We looked after those animals as if they were pets. Under such conditions, we managed to breed quite outstanding specimens. So, all in all, it was more of a romantic farming than an economic undertaking. But there was a deep sense in that, it made living possible, that was very important.
Section 3
Did you look for friends among the local people?
I donít think so. Friendship is a precious thing, but because itís so precious, it is very rare. I just looked for human sympathy, I was just trying to have warm relations with the people, and I think I managed most of the time. I canít recall any unpleasant encounters. Most of the time people smiled at me. But there was no friendship. I had a few friends from my school years or from the university. The funny thing about those friendships was that some time before, with a group of friends, we were planning to live together somewhere in the country just like that. We had this idea to buy a few neighbouring farms, and create such a colony of mutual assistance. It wasnít quite an original idea, I had come across something like that somewhere near Bydgoszcz. We were planning to do the same. But a few couples of my friends turned out too sceptical about those prospects, and they decided to try their luck elsewhere in the world. One couple found themselves in New Zealand, and others in Canada, in Calgary, where there was the Olympiad, and still another couple went to New York, and I donít know whatís happened to them. We lost contact with them. And so we stayed alone. We were the first ones to put our ideas into practice, and we bought that farm. I remember, we bought it between Christmas and New Year in 1980, on 28th or 29th December. Besides, we had a small child, our friends didnít have children. We didnít fancy a journey into the totally unknown. Besides, I liked this area, so I didnít feel like going to the world.

Was it difficult for you to change the way of living to the country mode?
No, I was brought up half in the country. Although Dlugopole is a spa, it is surrounded by villages, and is half village, half town itself. So I had contacts with the country on everyday basis. Besides, I have always had some warm feelings towards the country. Maybe, if my familyís history had turned a bit differently, especially my grandfatherís. I had grandparents near Czestochowa, living in the country, and I spent almost all my holidays there. They had quite a big farm there, and my dream was to play the game as well one day, and become some sort of a cowboy. But unfortunately, my grandfather died prematurely. I was probably the only one who was willing to take over his farm, and he was willing to hand it over to me. What would have come out of it? Who knows? Things turned out differently. But the soft spot for farming remained. So I had no problems, no psychological barriers to break when moving from the town to the country. I felt at ease, at home in the natural environment. In the madness of the then world, crowded with military uniforms, stupidity and some idiotic aggression, it felt like a paradise on earth.

So you have never regretted your decision, have you?
No, no, no. I think that if I found myself now in the realities of that time again, I would make the same decision again. I wouldnít hesitate at all. I would probably organise the whole thing differently, now Iíve got some experience, but I still think it was a wonderful decision.

How are you now treated by the people living in Ponikwa?
To be quite honest, I donít know what my neighbours think about me, but I can feel some friendliness. To what extent it is sincere - I donít know, but what difference does it make? If I feel some friendly feelings from them, I think Iím treated well. They are always very friendly and respectful towards me. Unfortunately, there arenít many occasions to meet and talk, but if we do, the conversations are very interesting and, I would say, spontaneous, good. When I meet someone and stop to have a chat, I feel well, they make me feel at home, really.
Section 4
Could you try to compare the living in the town and in the country?
You know, I think it is all connected with the notion of provincialism in human life. I mean, there is a category of provincialism - a psychological one, not a geographical one. You can be a complete provincial living in a huge city, or you can be a worldly person living in the country. Thatís the first thing. If you have something inside yourself, some sort of a treasure, willingness to learn about the world, some drive towards getting to know things, resulting from your dreams, your sensitivity - then it doesnít matter where you are, whether itís in the city or in the country.
On the other hand, obviously, each environment creates different conditions. For some people such a shift would be so difficult, so important that it would not always be easy to change the environment. As I say, I donít feel that. Well, I like visiting the town. Maybe I am a provincial in that respect that I like the natural world. I donít like the noise of the town, I find it tiring. On the other hand, I like meeting my friends, I sometimes like to be a part of the crowd in the street. Recently, Iíve had too many occasions for that, so I stop liking it. I prefer spending my time at mine, under the pear tree. But, obviously, it is very pleasant. I must say, for a couple of years, I had such a nice sequence during the holidays. At the beginning, I worked a bit to earn some money for the rest of the holidays. Then I went to the Tatra mountains - to get some distance. When I left Zakopane, after two weeks of not seeing the town, I got on a night train to Sopot, which I reached in the morning, and I went straight to the main street leading to the pier. There, I enjoyed being a part of the crowd. The colourful, careless, exotic crowd of people in the main street of the seaside resort, Italian ice-creams, things like that. There was a wonderful jazz club, where I liked going to all-night concerts, and I just enjoyed the clash of the wilderness, peace and quiet of the mountains with the noise of the town. I liked it, it was somehow complementary.
You cannot say one thing is better than the other, itís just the matter of harmony. Itís the same with me today. I think that people who know how to be alone in the middle of the town, also know how not to be lonely in a God-forsaken village. Thatís how I see it.

What would you like your sonís life to look like?
He has left for town, that was his decision. I donít know. I think, when I analyse his nature, he would enjoy living in the country. Heís got very specific interests, although in todayís world that may not have much significance. Heís into computers, he co-operates with me very closely, is a sort of assistant of mine. He operates a very complicated computer programme assisting my construction designing. Itís too complicated for me. But I think that with the modern information media, it doesnít make any difference where you live, you can be in a village and get connected with the rest of the world. Thatís how it functioned at ours. Using the Internet, youíve got the whole world within reach from the village of Ponikwa. I think it would be better for him to return to the country in the future, but it has to be his own decision. Iím not going to interfere with his plans, heís got to develop the desire. I help him as much as I can, but I cannot live his life for him. Yes, I donít impose anything on him.
Section 5
Is there something in the town life that you miss?
There are a few elements like that. Krakow is my beloved town. Itís there that I studied, my mother originally came from Krakow, Iíve got friends there. Itís a magical town, Iím all the time there - Iím sort of split inside - I live here and enjoy this environment, and at the same time, Iím there a bit. I miss it. Itís a bit too far. Today Krakow has changed as well, but there are places I used to frequent a lot. Itís ďPiwnica pod BaranamiĒ club, ďTeatr StaryĒ theatre or some jazz clubs which are just unique, the whole town is. Itís so full of life, so full of magical life, thereís something from the past still lingering in the air. Thereís something magical in the town, something I miss. Yes, itís not out of the question that one day, when Iím old, Iíll move there, itís hard to say. I was going to live in Krakow some time in the future, but it all turned out differently, I stayed here. I donít regret it, though.

What did you lose and what did you gain by making such a decision?
Itís difficult to say now what I gained what I lost. There are things I definitely gained or lost. I donít know if thereís a balance between them. Professionally, I lost that period, and it was difficult for me to return to my profession, especially as far as practical design skills go. Especially that those were the times of changing standards, very intensive time. In connection with global, not only European standardisation, I lost a lot through the lack of everyday contact with the profession. So, my animal-breeding, farming adventure was a professional loss. They are totally different activities, and my knowledge gained at the university got outdated. Anyway, even today itís constant learning, thatís the requirement. But because of that it was even harder for me. What did I gain, on the other hand? I donít know. I think it would be richer inner life. However intensive my life is, however busy, but Iíve got that psychological distance to a lot of things. The contact with the nature, whatever it is, gives you a psychological asylum from the madness of the rat race. I like that asylum, thatís a gain. Iím glad Iíve got it. I think thereís no loss that would annihilate the value of life.

How do you now appraise your decision now: was it good or bad?
Yes, I think it was good. Under the circumstances and taking into account my predispositions, my possibilities, it was a good decision. I managed to create a home, build a house, a far from perfect house, always unfinished, always under construction. It gives me the feeling of being at home, at mine, when I walk through my garden, look after my own trees, the ones I planted. Itís very valuable. Yes, I think it was a very good decision, I donít regret it a bit.

Do you remember any funny stories from your initial period in Ponikwa?
A lot of funny situations. The funniest of all was when my beloved cow dragged me directly through its dung. It must have looked most funny. It was a summer morning, weíd brought that cow the previous evening, it was used to being in a herd. It was meant for slaughter, but it had this kind look in the eyes. It gave milk from only three teats, so it was useless for our friends - professional milk cattle breeders, but we needed it as a milk cow for ourselves. The cow spent the night in the cow-shed, we brought it when it was already dark. In the morning, I, a respectful farmer, wearing just light pyjamas, put on only wellingtons, took the tether in the hand, and walked with it to the meadow. Now, somewhere in the distance, there was a herd of cattle that my cow saw. Itís a rare sight nowadays - a cattle herd. At that time, there were many of them around. So, the cow noticed the other ones, and thinking little, raised its tail and started running towards them. I wouldnít let off the tether, it was stronger than me, so I started running after it in those wellingtons. I donít know how far I managed to get - 50 metres, maybe 100? Finally, I slipped on fresh dung, and it dragged me for about 15 metres. I was all over in such make-up. My neighbour, who had just come to see me, almost split his sides laughing. Yes, close encounters with the cattle can be unpleasant.
You can have really wonderful relations between a man and an animal, provided your attitude is not purely commercial or destructive. True, you breed those animals in order to eventually kill them. So the cow stayed with us for good, we nicknamed it Aunt Matilda for the funny shape of the ears and the horns, it looked like it was wearing curl-papers. There was a song under such title by a popular Polish group so...
Section 6
During your stay here, have you ever had a moment of weakness, when you felt like throwing it all away and leaving the village?
No, definitely not. Iíve never had such a feeling but, as I said, there is that inner split in me - between the country and Krakow... but I go there quite often, more or less every month, so regenerate that feeling. But no, Iíve never felt like running away from here. Quite the opposite, Iíd like to stay here as much as possible, although itís becoming more and more difficult for professional reasons, I have to travel all the time. I have less and less time for the home and for whatís remained from my farm. I often say Iím just a land owner. Iíve got land which is getting covered with a natural scenic park on its own accord, but it looks beautiful.

Have you noticed any changes in the environment in the last several years?
Oh, yes. A lot has changed, thatís for sure. Perhaps the changes werenít radical, but positive - the area has got covered with trees. I have seen old photographs brought here by the former inhabitants of Ponikwa, the Germans who got displaced, and who return here in their sentimental journeys to the land of their childhood, usually once in two years - weíve managed to make friends with them. I was stunned when I looked at the photographs from years ago. They dated back to before 1945, obviously, and there were very few forests, mainly bare rocks, each piece of arable land was tilled, there were boundaries between fields covered with stones that they had collected in the fields for generations. At the moment, it all looks like a huge natural park, lots of trees and bushes, the boundaries got overgrown with vegetation, and it all looks very nice. Even they appreciated the better scenic qualities, and I think, it is healthier now. However, I think it maybe a sad view for a farmer who enjoys the sight of grain covered fields. But mountains are not areas to be covered with fields and crops. These are not American prairies, so I think itís good whatís happened as if incidentally. It is a process that will be fully appreciated by your generation, I think. The people living here identify themselves with these areas more and more.
Thereís a strange thing about it, though. There is something strange in that stylistics, cause this is ours and it isnít. I mean, you need whole generations before we get integrated with the environment, before we say we belong here. This link is manifested by the households getting prettier and prettier, flowers appearing in the gardens, even if people cannot afford general renovation of their houses, at least the facades get redecorated, the drives are getting nicer, lawns get mowed regularly - perhaps itís because lawn-mowers are available at last. Yes, I think, these are good symptoms. I must say, Iíve always compared our region with the areas that have traditionally been Polish, say, Malopolska or Wielkopolska regions. And I noticed that the dynamics of the changes has been incomparably higher there. Here, thereís been a constant state that has been considered good, and it brought about some sort of atrophy of will in people, lack of the need to change, as if a lack of traditions, lack of continuity. It seems to me that the generation of our parents had the feeling of temporariness - whether they realised that or not. It was only after the agreements had been signed between Cyrankiewicz and the German Chancellor Brandt, that real estate registers were introduced. It is all going in the right direction.
Now, itís important, I think, to appreciate the value of cross border contacts - after all, we live so close to the national border. We should learn to be humble, to fight the often noticed superiority complex in relation to the Czechs. I often go there, in recent years, as a local council member, Iíve made quite frequent trips to the Czechs, and I must say, I got fascinated with their feeling of stability, continuity, local culture, provincial culture which we donít have. Those little towns of Usti on Orlica, or Litomysl, they have a cultural standard comparable with my beloved Krakow. But that results from the fact that people have been living there for generations. I think, we are gradually going in the same direction. That makes me happy.
Section 7
Have you observed anything else?
It seems to me that I notice peopleís greater identification with the region they live in, especially those who were born here, brought up here. It is not an easy process, itís difficult to get a job here, you have to try and look for a new model, go more in the direction of developing services. This region has a lot of potential for the development of tourism, regeneration, health, there are health resorts, spas, etc. But you have to do it in a modern way, I think finding new forms is the key. Thatís what the whole world is looking for, these are global changes and global challenges. And I think that those young people who have easier access to education now, they learn languages, for whom it is easier to enter new contacts, they donít have a burden of some sort of martyrdom, no historical burden. They will be able to create new qualities. That is extremely valuable, and itís just a good thing. All we can do is help them realise that it is worth an effort to look a bit further than your own garden fence. But to appreciate that fence.

Are you trying to have some influence over this process?
My possibilities are meagre. True, for the last eight years, Iíve been a member of the local council, and Iíve been quite active for my possibilities and my lifestyle, but now Iím too busy, I donít have time. I donít know how that was judged by the onlookers, but I think I did what I could. So there were some attempts to influence the reality. I have been trying to use every opportunity to encourage, attract people from outside who can bring something in - be it capital or ideas or some valuable contacts. Encourage them to mark their existence somehow. No matter how very or little important that is, but I wanted them to leave their footprint here or to pass on the relay bar. I think there have been some situations that proved my point. Especially in critical situations, like after the flood, we met a spontaneous reaction from a lot of companies, numerous businessmen, and managed to get some materials for the renovation of Bystrzyca free of charge. It was as if money given in the form of materials or other things. I wanted to get those people interested in the beauty of Bystrzycaís environs. They have good recollections of that time, when I meet them now somewhere in Warszawa, in Poznan or wherever, they surprise me with their spontaneity, merry recollections of those meetings, often musical meetings.
The industry is threatened by the natural, I would say, reasons, or processes, that happen in the economy. However, we are quite distant from the industrial centres, where there are problems. There is a drive towards giving people the joy of life here. Simply to create an atmosphere - if not of permanent festivities - some joy, whatever you will call it. So that they wanted to come here, relax. So, I think we did whatever we could under the circumstances, we didnít lose our time, I didnít lose the opportunities I had. Sometimes it wasnít easy for my public activities not to interfere with my professional life, after all, itís the source of my income, thatís what supports my family and my own existence. Besides, some foundations that have been laid, they will be continued in time, I donít know to what extent, I donít have any influence over it now, but I hope the relay will go on in the direction of creating true friendship with our neighbours. Not the one ideologically programmed, that was a total falsity. It real fact, it was very bad in the past. Itís only the spontaneous activities of the people living in the border areas on both of its sides that can attract tourists from outside, those who can leave here some capital. But not only the Poles or the Czech, also the Germans, especially young German people, so that everyone got rid of their xenophobic feelings, so that everyone understood the long term goals of coexistence, but above all, so that everyone understood that there is future in cooperation.
The same applies to the young people in the east, those who are looking for and want some contacts with us. I donít mean only Polish people living in the east, but the young people of Ukraine, Byelorussia. There are possibilities, I think there are enormous possibilities of the Euro-region programmes, but this is something for you to do. And if we, the older generation, can be of any help with our withering experience and possibilities, we can still try.
Section 8
Are you emotionally attached to this area, the mountainous landscape?
Yes, I sure am. When I was at school in Wroclaw, and every week, I went home, to my parents, when I was on the train, and I was approaching Bardo, and the mountains appeared on the horizon, I would leave the compartment, stand in the passage, in the window, looking at the mountains, getting emotional. The same thing happens to me now as well. This is my landscape, this is where I was born, grew up and things. Although Iíve got similar feelings when I see Mount Babia Gůra, Mount Giewont or Mount Kasprowy in the Tatra Mountains, so I donít know. But I am attached very strongly emotionally to these areas here, obviously.