GLOSSARY
Poland glossary

Wladyslaw

(POLAND 24)

Sex

male

Age

72

Occupation

pensioner/beekeeper

Location

MiÍdzylesie

Date

July 1999

 

transcript

Section 1
My nameís Wladyslaw Koriat, I was born in 1927, in Wolyn (before the war, Polish eastern borderland, later a part of the USSR, now a Ukrainain province). Now itís in Ukraine. What can I say about my family? My grandfather was a bee-keeper, my father was a bee-keeper, and Iíve been a bee-keeper since my childhood, since I had the first opportunity to keep bees. Switch it off now, if you can [apparently not knowing how to continue].

Why did you choose the occupation of a bee-keeper?
Only because of that. Because it runs in the family. I took it after my grandfather. I mean, I donít remember my grandfather, and I remember my father just a little, he died when I was nine years old. And we took up that bee-keeping with my mother. As much as we could. In í39, the Soviets came to our neighbourhood, they confiscated our apiary for the co-operative, they confiscated the land we had for the co-operative as well. I mean for the kolkhoz (farm cooperative). And we became like beggars.

What was it for you, a hobby or an occupation?
You mean, at present?

No, back then.
Back then I wasnít old enough to have a hobby, I was just a child. I was only twelve when the war broke out. It wasnít my hobby, after all, we had twenty-two hectares of land, there was a lot of work. But I didnít work much as a child. all I did was grazing cows.

As a child, did you like bee-keeping?
I donít know. I must have liked it. My father told me to look after them, my mother did. In short, I liked it. I like bees very much.

What is it now for you - a hobby or a job?
Now itís just a hobby, it canít be a job. I am seventy-three years old now, so it canít be a job.

What else do you do now besides bee-keeping?
At present?

Yes.
Nothing.
Section 2
And in the past?
In the past, I worked at the butchery. I was a manager of the export post in MiÍdzylesie. We exported livestock. Later, I appraised livestock, meat. I was also a warehouse manager in Walbrzych, until I retired. Until 1979... í80. Then I had a heart attack, so I retired from work.

And now, do you like that job, I mean, your hobby?
Yes. Thatís all I have now, thereís no income from the bees. Especially now that the climate has changed for the worse, there are more diseases. Whoever heard about curing the bees before the war? My father wouldnít know what it was about. And nowadays, if you donít provide the bees with treatment, there will be little honey, they will die out. And when the bees die out, so will the people. You canít live without them.

Was your family glad that you were a bee-keeper?
Sure they were. All of them were glad, children had honey. Although my children never liked the bees themselves. Only my grandson - Iíve got one grandson - he likes them. I mean, not that they didnít like them, but they werenít keen on bee-keeping, looking after them and so on. None of them liked it and none did it. They didnít have to. At present, my grandson from France is here on school practice in the National Park of Gůry Stolowe (Table Mountains) in Kudowa. He is interested, he studies biology or something like that. Before that, he was in the National Park of Kampinos, in the spring, for seven weeks. At present, heís in the Stolowe Mountains, for ten weeks. Yes, and he likes bees, he comes to me, helps, works.

What does your everyday life look like?
At home?

Yes.
Well, I donít have much work. I canít sleep too much, so I get up before seven. And I do all sorts of things, like repairing bee-hives, painting them, making new ones. Prepare wood fuel for the winter, various small things. Every day, around nine oíclock, I go to the bees, and I stay there, whether they need me or not. If itís the period of them swarming, you have to keep an eye on them. What else can I say? I look after them, see if theyíre are not ill, give them medicines. I have done course in bee illnesses. It was a three-week course in Dzierzoniůw, in 1970 or 1980. So, I look after their health, after the well-being of the apiary. My duty simply is to walk round the apiary and see if they are healthy. It was the same in the past, under the communism. Now everybody is after money, nobody will look after the bees for free, and thereís no-one to pay. After all, nobody will ask for money from those affected with some problems. Unfortunately, most bee-keepers are now old people, simple farmers. They donít have money for bee medicines, they usually have just a small pension. They donít look after their health, the bees usually come in the summer, stay for the winter, they will take the honey in the autumn, whatever is made. The bees will then die, and all that remains in the hives, all that dirt, everything. Thence all the diseases.
Section 3
Have you ever had moments in your life that you didnít want to be a bee-keeper, but do something completely different?
No.

Never?
No, I canít change that.

Do you keep in touch with other bee-keepers?
Naturally, weíve got an Apiary Association and...

What do they say about bee-keeping? Are they satisfied or...?
Bee-keepers?

Yes.
We are, I mean, most of them are not satisfied because there is no demand for honey, they canít sell it. You know, itís a calamity. Itís not that nobody will buy it. The problem is that honey is too cheap. And I donít mean in relation to sugar, for example. Itís cheap when you take into account the workload necessary. Medicines are very expensive. Whereís the payment for the labour? You can get ten zlotys for a kilo of wax, but you have to pay twenty-eight for a kilo of comb foundation. Itís unthinkable. After all, itís a product from that wax, they donít add anything, they only make the foundation from it. Itís much too expensive. The Association sells us sugar at lower prices, but how lower is that if nowadays you can get sugar at the same price in the supermarkets. The sugar to feed the bees in the winter. But the worst thing is the medicines, theyíre the most expensive.
Now, in the past, there were certain bee diseases that were cured at the expense of the State. If your bees went down with one of them, and they died, you were paid damages. Nowadays, the bee-keeper has to report the case to a doctor, pay the doctor to come and make a diagnosis. So, there are no prospects for bee-keeping to develop nowadays. Can you imagine someone, if their bees fall ill and die, to send for a doctor and then pay the doctor? Itís a bad idea, and most detached from the realities. In the past, in this border region, we had doctors for free. Because we are close to the border, it was most important to cure the diseases. And the doctor would arrange for everything necessary. That doesnít happen any more. In the past, we had to send them samples of the bees that died during the winter period. And we knew whether there was some sort of disease in the hive or not. That was obligatory. It isnít any more, but you have to pay for that. And itís very expensive. I think at least here, in the border region, that should be done for free.

How did the nature change in the past?
The nature? In the past? It changed a lot, but for the worse.

And now?
Well, the recent years, I mean, the 1990s. Yes, we have hot summers, and that is good, the bees produce a lot of honey, but thatís an anomaly, that is not normal. In my opinion it is not normal. In the past, in the 1970s, 1960s, we had a spring, the nature bloomed and blossomed, and so on. Nowadays, the spring comes, there is a week of spring, everything develops, and then it gets frosty in the night. So everything gets frost-bitten. Whateverís covered with blossoms - apple-trees, plums, whatever. Especially around here, we have maples and sycamores. Thereís most profit from them in the spring. But itís been four years now that they donít blossom because there are frosty nights just when they should.
Section 4
And in the past - were there any greater changes in the natural world?
No. I mean, perhaps once in ten years, something like that might have happened, but not every year, like it is now. Especially recently. Take the previous year, the whole year it was wet. Late spring, frost... All the summer was rainy. And in í97, there was the flood. The spring that year was cold, I made notes about all that in my book. When the lime blossomed, when other plant covered themselves with flowers. When the cuckoo sang for the first time - I write all that down. I do it every year. For example, this year, a cuckoo started singing very early and for quite a long time. This is also some sort of anomaly.

Do the calamities influence the nature a lot?
Well, I donít know. What calamities, for example? You mean, those heavy rains?

For example, the flood, or some hurricane winds?
Yes, there are winds, and the rains are not natural in my opinion, there were also such strong winds and storms in the past. Now, the difference is that when it starts blowing now, it is so sudden, the temperature is 32 degrees Celsius, and out of a sudden it starts blowing in the evening, and the wind is so strong. Itís good it was followed by rain, the rain was needed, it freshened the air a bit.

What did tourism look like here in the past?
Tourism around here? You might say it didnít look at all, it was the border zone. Nobody ever dared come to MiÍdzylesie, you needed a special permit, a special pass. My mother lived in Dolnik, and she once went to visit her sister in Bystrzyca, and when she wanted to come to me, she needed a special pass from the District National Council, in order to come back home, to me here. So how can you talk about any sort of tourism, there was none. It was simply a closed town. It changed with the onset of Gierek (Polish Communist Party First Secretary), but there was still a lot of troops around, guarding, controlling everyone. I never saw any tourism here. Now they use the marked routes, they hike night and day, but I didnít see that in the past. I never saw anything like that.

And now that tourism has developed here, does it have any influence on the nature, do you think?
I wouldnít say itís got any influence. Those tourists, when they walk across the forest, what can they do, break a twig or something? Besides, they use the routes. Theyíve got that route from the station in MiÍdzylesie to Dolnik, via Pisary, and there, in Pisary, they walk along the border, via Potoczek, Mount Trůjmorski Wierch, all the way to Mount ĆnieŅnik (?). And they return the same way, I think. No, I donít think they do any harm to nature.

And would you say there were more game animals or that the water was cleaner in the past?
Oh, yes. Definitely. The water was much cleaner. And the animals, they were more in the forest as well, the hares, for example. I donít want to talk about the roe-deer, [laughs] they have done so much harm to me this year...
Section 5
Why?
Oh, they bit all my fruit trees. Apple-trees, pears, plums, everything. Five apple trees, five pear trees and two plum trees. You can see them standing there, dead. And they were green until this very day. On some of them there were some leaves only yesterday, but it is all withering in the heat.

Can you say what is the reason why the water is dirtier now, or there are fewer animals?
Well, the water is dirtier because of the calamities, I think, cause itís... Thereís one more thing, people now make toilets for themselves. Now the dry kind, the way it used to be, but everyone wants to be comfortable. They construct those waste collectors, and then they empty them straight to the river. Yes, that will be the first, most important reason why. Visit any household in Pisary, I know only two that have waste collectors, all the others throw their waste directly into the river. In the past, when they had those dry toilets, they would take that to the fields and scatter the waste there. They didnít throw it to the river, but to the fields, as a fertiliser. I think it is the most important reason. And the fish die out because of that as well. Because of the waste collectors. And there are more poachers. People are unemployed, they have no food, so they poach, they catch the trout to get some money for a cheap wine as well. So it goes.

How do you find living in the mountains?
Bad. Iíve lived in the mountains for all my life. I mean, Iíve been here for almost fifty-four years now. In WohyŮ, where I come from, there were no mountains, all the town was flat. In í43, I was taken to Germany, to the mountains of Bavaria. So when I returned here, Iíd got used to the mountains in those two years. Well, I think there are reasons to like the mountains. The scenery is just beautiful, really something to admire. But itís extremely difficult to work here. Itís nothing like working in flatlands. Especially farming here is very poor. There is no fertile ground, like, for example, near Wroclaw. The farmers will not harvest a part of what they could elsewhere, but they have higher costs. If you want to have proper crops, you have to use twice as much fertiliser as anywhere else. So it goes.

Do you like living here or would you like to live elsewhere?
Letís change the subject [laughs]. I always quarrel with my wife. I always say, how stupid Iíve been to live here for over 50 years. Really, when I go to Wroclaw, all the plants are covered with flowers, all is so nice. Iíve got a brother-in-law, he lives in Przerzeczyn, it is not far, near Zabkowice. On 15th May, he says heís already taken out honey, and what date is it today? Itís 20th of July, and I havenít taken out the honey yet. And who knows if I will. How can you enjoy such a life here? But itís all thatís left to me, I have to live here. My wife likes it here, she says sheís a highlander, all she ever wants is the mountains, and nothing but mountains. She canít live in flatlands, she says she suffocates there, sheís not used to that.
Section 6
And the bee-keeping hobby, has it ever been a bone of contention between you and your wife? Is your wife glad you keep the bees?
Sheís never had anything against it. In the past, when I was still active professionally, I had to steal the time for the bees. But itís never been the cause of any quarrels or rows, no. She wasnít too happy about it, but she has always been glad we have the bees, especially the honey, when I brought it home.

Talking about the mountains, do you think they have changed?
Yes, our mountains have changed, they have become bald, those beautiful trees are no longer there. I remember Mount ĆnieŅnik in í45, í46. How many trees there were. Although you couldnít get to ĆnieŅnik, cause there were the military posts, you needed some protection from your general or colonel friends - if you had any. But the trees were beautiful, the forests were so dense. They are no longer there. I donít know, some forty, fifty percent of the forest have been destroyed. There is a forest near Dolnik which I planted myself when I was a bachelor. That was planted in í46, í47, í48. That forest is alright, but the old forest is all damaged.

What do you think was the cause of the forests dying out?
What? Acid rains. The best evidence is the elms having died out, all the trees. It must have been the acid rains. Iím not sure if thatís true, but Iíve heard that there was a mercury lamp factory in Hanuszowice. Apparently, the winds blew from there and poisoned everything here. Iím not sure whether it is true, but thatís what Iíve heard. Iíve been to Hanuszowice, I found a brewery there, but I didnít find a trace of that factory.

Even though you donít like living in the mountains, is there anything you would miss if you moved away from here?
Sure, there is. [laughs] The scenery, mainly the scenery. I canít say I donít like them, only it makes me furious when Iím in the lowlands. After all, I live here, donít I? What makes me furious is that peopleís lives are so much easier there. Especially for the bee-keepers. Take the lime trees, when I was in Wroclaw at the end of June, they had already finished blossoming. They had already finished there, now, they havenít even started here. And the climate is such that if something starts blossoming, the weather becomes rainy, especially when itís the lime season. The only good thing is that people sow a lot of buckwheat, thatís the main source of honey. In the spring, it will be the rape - if the weather is not frosty, in the autumn - the buckwheat. Even if it wasnít for that, I always have some ten or fifteen bee families, so I can afford keeping them even if it doesnít bring any profits. I donít want anything from them other then them being healthy. Another sad thing is that there are no young bee-keepers around. Our bee-keepersí club consists of twenty-three people, but thereís none of the young generation. All of us are granddads. When we have died out, what will happen then?
Especially that people nowadays would like to have profits from whatever they do, straight from the start. Everyone would like to make a business out of it. But you canít do it here. A young bee-keeper will invest, make a loss one year, another year, and then he will give it up. Only the old ones are persistent enough. There was one bee-keeper around, Mr. PiÍtowski, he developed his apiary, he had some two hundred hives. But heís also a pensioner, heís a bit younger than me, heís got enough strength and health to build them. Iíve never asked him how profitable it is for him. He must be alright. When I was in France, I saw bee-keepers living in the Alps, it was a family business for them. There was the wife, the husband and their daughter. They had six hundred hives. And in addition to that, the father built some three hundred hives every year for sale. And that family, six hundred hives, and when you talked to them, they said they werenít well-off, theyíd rather have some steady jobs. At least the daughter said sheíd rather have some job, she said she would be better off. And the climate there is much better then ours. You can start collecting honey as early as in February, everythingís covered in flowers then. And in November as well. Iíve seen bee-keeping in Mexico as well. It would be something to be a bee-keeper there. But Iím too old for that.
Section 7
Could you compare living here and there? Bee-keeping here and there? Or the nature?
Well, To be quite honest, itís only the Poles who respect bees. The nature is definitely better both in Mexico and in France, thatís for sure. In the Alps, there is that lavender honey. Itís got a lavender flavour. A special French product. All those Alps are covered in lavender, they manufacture lavender oils, perfumes, eau de cologne and so on. Apart from that, they are robbers not bee-keepers. Here, a bee-keeper waits for the honey to be good, and only then the honey is collected, twisted, and so on. Now, in France, they put the hives one on top of another, several storeys high. They just make note of the date a particular modules were put out, and everything is done by the date. They donít care whether the honey is ready or not. They take everything out, use the sodium benzoate to chase away the bees, they take all that into a car, and swirl it only in February. Even if it was taken out in May. They donít need it any earlier, so they wait until February. After swirling, the honey is passed straight on to pasteurisation, so it looses all the most valuable qualities. There are no vitamins left in it.
And in Mexico, the climate is favourable all year round. The bees collect honey all year long, they donít sleep, donít rest [laughs] ever. But I didnít see large scale bee-keepers there. I mean, with two hundred, five hundred hives or something. I only saw apiaries of ten-twenty hives. They are just poor Indians. But that honey cannot ripen there, either. As soon as the hives are full, they take it out, swirl, and sell the honey in the markets, the same as at ours. They even put honey into bottles, no real honey will get out of a bottle. But they put it in bottles. Maybe there are larger apiaries somewhere, Mexico should be an important exporter of honey, itís warm there all year round, there are flowers everywhere, all the time... But I didnít see that. I saw just those poor Indians, God forbid. They know nothing about bee medicines, nothing. If they die, they die, they will be others. And those bees there are very fierce, they sting as hell. Unlike ours. That would be what Iíve got to say.

Do you think the fact that a lot of people leave the mountains influences the nature as well?
It would be good if people left the villages altogether. The villages - yes. What do they live in Pisary or Jodlůw for? They cannot support themselves there, those farmers. They canít. True, they may have some milk for themselves, but they have to buy bread in MiÍdzylesie, at the bakery, the same with sugar, meat and everything. What can the mountain farmer produce? Nothing, they are just poor people, all they have is a roof over their heads, nothing more. In the past, they kept a lot of cattle, nowadays hardly anyone does, where would they sell it? Or the prices are so low, nobody will work for such money. Everyone wants to runaway, and I canít blame them for that. They should leave, cover the areas with trees. Then we would have really beautiful areas here. Then it would be a nice place to live in.
Section 8
Is there anything you would like to add?
To what?

I donít know.
My opinion is that all the village people should be given jobs. Or displace them from here, so that the forests would be there, clean water, no waste collectors, no waste going into the rivers, they wouldnít be burning coal or timber, they wouldnít make any smoke. The air already is different now.

Thank you very much.
Thank you.