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Miroslaw

(POLAND 27)

Sex

male

Age

70

Occupation

retired forestry engineer

Location

Bystrzyca Klodzka

Date

July 1999

 

transcript

It was a difficult interview to hold because my narrator was all the time tense, all the time on his toes about what he was saying. He limited himself practically to one subject Ė the changing environment.

At first, when I went to see him, I was coolly received, and required to produce my studentís card. He wanted to make sure I was a journalist student. I talked with him about the aims of the project, why and for whom the interview was done. I also told him briefly what I would be asking about. The whole conversation took about an hour.
When he found out the Oral Testimony Programme was run by a foreign organisation, he informed me he was against giving too honest and too detailed interviews for foreigners, because ďthe information is later used against us.Ē

In the declaration about using the recorded material, he made a note that all the texts or interviews should be authorised.
Section 1
Could you introduce yourself briefly, tell me how old you are and so on?
My name is Miroslaw Kmiecik, Iím going on for 70. I was educated as a forestry engineer. I retired from professional life in 1981. The retirement was slightly earlier because of the considerable health loss, but I have never lost contact with my profession, I am interested in the current situation and problems related to forestry. Besides, I work voluntarily in Polskie Stronnictwo Ludowe (a political party). Itís a kind of voluntary and political work on the scale of the commune.
Iíve been living here, in Bystrzyca Klodzka since... well, in the Valley of Klodzko since 1960. Before that, I lived in Pomerania for 6 years. I started professional work in í53, and I first worked in Stronie Slaskie for 13 years, and then, since 1973, in Bystrzyca Klodzka.
What else would you like to know?

Since youíve been here for so many years, observing the nature, have you noticed any changes in the mountains around here?
Well, a lot has changed and is still changing because of the fact that Czech and German heavy industries are located just across our borders, and the winds blow mostly from the west, from Germany, or from the Czech Republic, from the south-west. Now, if you add to it the activities of our Basin of Turoszůw, youíve got a lot of poisoning coming here. And it has got to have an influence over the nature, I mean, it influences particular tree species. In the Karkonosze Mountains, for example, the trees became so weak that a lot of them had to be cut down. Eventually, 13,000 hectares of forest had to be cut down entirely.
Here, in this region, there are a number of trees that are sensitive to that kind of poisoning in the air, especially the fir. In addition to that, the kind of economy that we used to have here until recently, that you had to supply everyone who might ever happen to need timber Ė to meet the plans. Now a lot is changing, the dry trees are cut down, the forest economy is being tidied up, new species are being imported, cause in the past, we had just monolithic forests Ė just one species, and that was it, it was the spruce. That was the result of the economy whose only aim was to bring profit at all costs. At the moment mixed species forests are introduced Ė the fir, the beech, the sycamore, the oak and all the minor species - so that better conditions for the development of the forests were created. At the moment everything is going in the right direction. Things are changing for the better.
Section 2
Are there any species that totally died out in the forests?
The fir was decimated enormously. There is a programme of fir re-introduction under way currently. It is supervised by Professor Barzdajn from the Forestry Department of the Agricultural Academy in Poznan. Thatís what heís into. Besides, new methods of planting trees are introduced, seedlings are grown with the protection of the root system, in a special kind of pots, or foil cylinders, so that the physiological shock was not that big after the planting. Such things are done. A lot of attention is drawn to the protection of the forest, fighting pests as being one of the main reasons for the trees to dry out, formone traps are employed Ė traps filled with pesticides attracting the insects and reducing their number. And a number of other, lesser means are employed that are all geared at the improvement of the forest condition.

Would you say that in the region of the Massif of Snieznik it was the pests that made the trees die out at one point in the past?
Well, in the Massif of Snieznik Ė I worked there for 13 years, in Stronie Slaskie, you know Ė there were such strong hurricane winds, they uprooted a lot of the trees. And where there are a lot of trees lying on the ground, you cannot stop the development of pests. But they were of secondary nature, they were not the first reason. The point is that the uprooted trees have to be removed immediately. For example, in 1967, a lot of trees were uprooted by winds, there were 50,000 of cubic metres to be removed. I managed to remove 45,000 within a year, but you know, it was mainly the thicker parts that we removed. The minor, smaller, thinner branches remained. Besides, the industry is not prepared to process so much timber. What remains is the nestling place for the pests. And they do the rest of the story, the way they did in the Karkonosze. First, you had weaker trees, then the pests proliferated there, and the next thing you had to do was to cut down thousands of hectares of forests in order to keep it under control.

What do you think, does the home industry Ė the factories we have in the Valley of Klodzko Ė also influence the changes in the environment?
Well, because of the fact that the industry is not developing at the moment, it may not be harmful for Bystrzyca itself. On the other hand, there is a crystal glass factory in Stronie Slaskie, they use acids to etch the glass, now the acid vapours go somewhere into the forest, so the proximity of this particular factory definitely is harmful. I donít know if they have some sort of air tight chambers there, if that is protected, I donít know, I havenít been there for quite a long time, but... I think the process could be made airtight, the vapours neutralised afterwards...
Other than that, I canít see any other industry, any other threat, apart from whatís coming from across the border and from Turoszůw. It will be several kilometres away, but anyway, it comes here. The fact that they have tall chimneys doesnít mean much. Sooner or later, the pollution has to fall down somewhere.
Section 3
Do you remember if there were more wild animals in the forests in the past?
Yes, definitely there were more animals. That was because they were not hunted rationally. I mean, all the hunting district authorities wanted to have as much game as possible, to make the areas more attractive for hunters. Now, too many animals are harmful to the forest, the number of them has to be reduced to a rational level, that is to the number the forest is able to feed. It is just a matter of dispute whether there should be five deer per thousand hectares or two deer. Or perhaps one deer, five roe deer. Besides, you have to take into account that game animals do a lot of harm to the farms. There is a considerable influence of the number of game animals on the productivity of farms. But, as I said, too many animals are harmful to the forest itself. Now I can see fewer animals, the hunters are interested in having an income from the hunting grounds, it is quite an expensive hobby Ė hunting is. Yes, I think there are fewer animals now, at least here, around Bystrzyca. I donít know what the situation is like in Stronie. I donít know much about the Massif of Snieznik, either.

In the mountains, the soil is of specific kind. Could you tell me what trees are best planted there, which species grow best in the mountains?
The soil is predominantly full of rocks, and up to a certain altitude, there are conditions for the spruce only. But in the lower areas, you can introduce other species Ė the beech, the fir, the larch, the birch, the sycamore Ė those additional species that should change the forest environment. The richer soil areas should be covered with a multitude of species, and the existing forestsí structure should be changed. In the past, it was all covered with the spruce, as the most profitable tree, all the deciduous trees had been cut down, now you have to re-introduce the deciduous trees again, but in order to do so, you have to limit the number of animals living there Ė either protect, or fence them. Only then you can expect positive results, you have to take into account all the factors, otherwise, the forest plantation makes no sense. Everything has to be taken into account Ė the number of animals, the species, technologies, quality etc.

What harm can be done to those plants by the animals?
Animals bite young plants, especially young seedlings freshly planted into the ground. And if a seedling has been bitten, it will never grow any higher. Older trees get de-barked leaving a free way to the pests and parasites, and the value of the wood decays. You can only use it for fuel. You can have a tree thatís grown for a hundred years, but its first two-three metres are decaying, rotten, and the wood has no technical value, apart from its being used as a fuel. Sometimes even lower than that. It is the main reason for the quality loss of the wood. And those tree species I mentioned are especially attractive for animals, they eat them most often, so they have to be secured, fenced off, or chemically protected.
Section 4
What do you think, does the development of tourism have a negative effect on the nature, especially in the mountains?
Well, I think that the, so to say, ďuntamedĒ tourism does. Though if youíre talking about proper, qualified tourism, everyone respecting the nature theyíre surrounded with, that would be good. But if youíre talking about the litter Ė tins, papers thrown away thoughtlessly, portable radios scaring the animals, you can hardly call that tourism, itís sheer vandalism. The qualified tourism, moving along the marked routes, is not harmful at all, quite the contrary, people hike, see, relax Ė itís good. But you have to fight vandals.

How would you describe the tourism as it is now?
Well, at my age, itís not easy to hike the tourist routes, but I think that the tourism now is of the consumptionist type. Everyone would like to be in a good spot, they would like to get everywhere in a car, no effort, no climbing, no hiking. That would be good for those willing to lose weight, wouldnít it? [laughs] Thatís what it is like. In the past, Polish Tourist Association (PTTK) organised qualified tourism, hiking the mountains. You scored points, obtained badges. Nowadays, I canít see such a trend. No trace of ambition in the tourists to obtain high-grade tourist or mountain badges. No, there is no trace of that nowadays. In the past, I took active part in the works of the Polish Tourist Association, I was an active tourist, but... nowadays, itís died out. Everyone wants to be comfortable, they would like the coach to take them to the peak of the mountain, admire the views for a moment, have something to eat, and return. But there are no roads for that.

I asked you about animals, so now I would like to ask you about the fish that used to live in the mountain streams and rivers Ė do you remember them?
There used to be the trout. They are still there. The trout was and still is the fish of our streams and rivers. The streams are quite clean, there is no more contamination of those streams. The situation of the rivers is a bit worse, especially in the lower parts of our country, in the lowlands, where the rivers are considerably contaminated, although a lot is being done at the moment to construct sewage treatment plants. Water intake points, retention reservoirs, are another problem, especially after the flood from two years ago. But thereís never been enough money for that. They must be constructed, especially those minor retention reservoirs. The same thing in the mountains, those ponds, itís all needed from the top to the bottom, so that the water flow could be slowed down a bit. We donít know how to use the water economically.

Iíd like to ask you about the flood. When I talked to some people living in the areas most affected by the flood, they said that excessive cutting down trees results in the fact that water does not get assimilated into the ground, but flows into the valleys. What do you think about it?
It is true that forests stop the flow of the water, not only from rain but also from snow. And the snow gradually melts and flows down. For example, what we can observe in the Karkonosze Mountains, it seems to me that if the snow is not stopped, it melts rapidly, it may cause the floods in the lower parts. The forest capability of holding water is enormous, it stays in the branches, and the trees need a lot of water, so the forest undergrowth has also to be protected and developed if possible. It cannot happen that the mountain slopes get de-forested and then nothing happens, no trees are planted instead. We are making an effort to increase the number of forests, but you need money for that. Only money, cause the foresters are ready to plant new forests, only they need money for the production of all that, so that the down-flow of the water is hindered. It cannot be stopped altogether, but it should be considerably slowed down.
Where there are forests with proper undergrowth, the water flow is very slow, the melting of the snow takes time, rainfalls get assimilated. But all that has its limits. If the atmospheric disturbances are as grave as they are now, no forest will be able to stop the water. With the rainfalls that we experience, the forest cannot stop everything. That flood from two years ago was an example. The rainfall was just impossible to stop. And those disturbances are caused primarily by the industry, the thoughtlessness in polluting the atmosphere by the industry all over the world Ė cutting down rainforests in South America, just looking for profit Ė all of that influences the changes in the climate.
Section 5
Have you observed any climate changes here as well?
In the 1960s, the winters were long and heavy. I was living in Stronie then, and it happened that the snow covered everything up to the tops of telegraph poles. Nowadays, the winters are not that heavy, we are not used to them any more. People get scared of the winter although itís nothing like what it used to be in the 1960s. One should be prepared that winter is winter and itís supposed to be cold. Winter should start in November, and the way it is, it starts in February, perhaps in January, and it finishes quickly. Perhaps that is caused by the global climate warming and [he thinks for a while], the sharp differences between the various seasons of the year have been blurred.

Does that influence the natural development?
Sure it does. I did such a research in Stronie, I wrote an article about it in ďSylwanaĒ (a monthly published by the Polish Forestry Association). The cold winds make some of the trees freeze, even those that are frost resistant by nature. Those spruces were all red for the frost, that was the subject of my publication. So we have to protect some of the tree species against the cold winds, to situate them so that the winds cannot get into the forest.

From the time perspective, what are the differences between a foresterís job nowadays and in the past, what has changed?
The better [the] technology, the less time they have, I donít know. In the 1950s, I worked in the forestry, the only means of transport was a horse-drawn two-wheel cart, I had time for everything. At present, they have some 20 cars, and they donít have time. The life goes on, the requirements grow, the number of paperwork increases - the introduction of computers didnít change a thing. You have to fill more and more papers, and itís all so time-consuming. The technology has developed, thatís all obvious, but a horse will never be replaced in the forest. All those technological inventions are harmful to the forest environment, they damage the soil with those wheels, they are so wide, the soil will take years to recover. The horse is irreplaceable in the mountains, and will be for some time still to come.

The terrain shape has to be taken into account, hasnít it?
Sure it has. You cannot introduce mechanical devices everywhere. You can do that in Sweden, theyíve got different scenery there, trees grow differently, other species. Our trees knotty, theirs are thin, itís easy to introduce mechanical devices. Here, thereís no possibility.
Section 6
What do you feel when you see those changes in the environment?
[Sighs] Well, the changes depend on how much effort you put into the economy. If we start fighting those adverse phenomena, it is not so bad. On the other hand, if you let things go wherever they will because of the lack of money, the results will be worse, you cannot do anything without money. So, there is an enormous influence of the revenue policy, the price shaping, the equipment, the raw material, everything is interconnected, it has to be taken care of from all possible directions. Only then can we think positively about the future.

Is there anything that requires immediate action, something that should be done right now in order to protect the nature, the forests?
Well, I donít know in what direction the forestry economy is going to develop, but the direction that has been assumed Ė to reconstruct the structure of the forest, to introduce new species, deciduous trees Ė it is a good direction, all you can do now is to wait for the results. It will be a long yearsí wait. In the forest, nothing will change radically, sometimes 20, 30 years is not enough, sometimes you have to wait a hundred years in order to see the results. Therefore, everyone should do what belongs to them, and do it well.

A more personal question, if I may. How do you find living here, you said you hadnít always lived here?
I lived... You mean in the mountains, in this area?

In the mountains, in this neighbourhood.
Well, I still cannot get used to Bystrzyca, although Iíve been here since 1973. I miss Stronie. Besides, those were the best years of mine, both privately and professionally, there in Stronie. Although the climate conditions were more severe than they are here, in Bystrzyca. [sighs and smiles after a while] But itís too late to get re-planted now, at my age.

You donít re-plant old trees, do you?
Yes. [Gets pensive a bit]

What exactly do you miss here? What did you have there that you donít have here?
The possibility to act. I would still like to be active. I had friendly superiors there, then I had power, and I could act Ė in tourism, in my profession, in the forest, voluntarily, in the trade unions. The Polish Tourist Association Club used to run some cultural activities in the trade unions. True, I was the Chairman of that Club. I had excellent contacts with the chief district forester Ė that was myself. And with the Chairman of the Club Ė that was myself, too. [Laughs] I felt I could do a lot, in tourism, in my job, in the unions. The team we had was just excellent. We were one of the best in the whole region.

What is it that you find difficult to get used to here?
[Silence]
Section 7
Someone told me that they donít feel well here, that they feel as if surrounded by the mountains.
No, no. It must have been someone from the lowlands, whoís scared of the mountains. No, life is wonderful here, you can go out, you see the mountains, itís not like being surrounded. You have to like the mountains, then you feel good. You need to like living in them, but if you keep thinking about the lowlands, with their monotony. You donít have that monotony around here, here you always have something to rest your eye on. Well, I donít know. I think living in the mountains is just wonderful, I would never move to the lowlands.

And suppose you were to move to the lowlands, or to a big town, what would you miss most?
No, no, no, no. That is absolutely out of the question. No, no. Living in a big town, for example in Wroclaw, where it takes you about an hour to get to work, or to the town centre, no, itís not something for me. The car exhausts, noise, thanks a lot. You need to have a willingness to work. I prefer small towns, countryside communities... I mean, the so-called provincial life, yes, thatís my cup of tea, Iíll leave big cities for someone else.

Coming back to the nature we were talking about, what, in your opinion, is the future of it? Can you say anything about that?
If the programme that the state is currently implemented is carried out in full Ė all those new sewage treatment plants, sewage systems in general, especially in the villages - the next problem is river water purification, and industrial facilities to reduce pollution, so that the factories would not contaminate the rivers. And the problem of salt water entering the Wisla river from the mines. But what you need is money, enormous finance, in order to solve the problems. Itís easy enough to mine the coal, but to salt the river water as if by the way is another matter. So, you know...
Is there anything else you would like to know?

I would like you to tell me about the days when you were still active professionally. For example, do you remember any funny situations that happened while you were at work?
I donít think I remember any funny situations, funny things. I got a lot of satisfaction from my work, I was very active and I introduced innovations. As an engineer, I introduced a lot of new things, made them work in practice, that was fun. I had employees, especially in Stronie. Here, in Bystrzyca, they didnít want to co-operate in the direction of innovations and improvements. At the moment, there are very few people willing to introduce new solutions, new improvements, which is a shame because itís always a source of motivation and better results at work.
There is a book, itís called The Cobweb of Power, it was written by a Spanish clergyman, I think. You cannot buy that book in Poland. It has been produced, printed, but itís not available. It is all about the expansion of the Jews, from early Middle Ages up to the present day. The creation of the bourgeois, trade, usury, you know, later those revolutions inspired by the Jews, creating the masonry movement by that group of people, so to say, creating the capitalism, later the creation of communism Ė Marx and Engels founded communism for reasons other than criminal, but Israel will never admit itís theirs Ė the French revolution, the Russian revolution, it was all the Jewish financial circles that stirred thing up like that.
Itís often said that whoever says something against the Jews is an anti-Semite, itís not like that. I will always say bad things about you if you do things wrong, and you cannot call me an anti-Pole, or whatever, you know. Whatever you try to do about it, youíre always labelled an anti-Semite. Nobody will admit to having worked for them or being one of them. After all, half of the government, the majority, the whole of the Union (a political party Ė Unia Wolnosci), they are Jews. Our president, he used to be called Isaac Stolzman. You know what they say, they say the Russian revolution was caused, it was financed by them Ė thatís all in that book, among others. It is not an anti-Jew phobia, let them live in Israel, itís their business, but donít let them build my country, you know...
[At this point Mr. Kmiecikís wife entered, and while they were having a few words on their own, I switched off the recorder. After a short while, Mr. Kmiecik continued his thought]
...and that liberalism, masonry, liberalism, Mazowiecki (Tadeusz Mazowiecki, a politician, the first Polish Prime Minister after the collapse of communism) introduced the Christian preamble to our constitution, but heís a mason, he got a Rotary Cross as a reward, cause, you know, in the masonry, there are 33 levels of initiation, and the bottom line members, they are into charity, all the beautiful things, they look after children, you know. But the highest level, there are just 9 of them, that Council, and 5 places in that Council are set aside for the Jews. And they build things, but not in their own country. They were building the communism, socialism, but not in their own country. So, you know, if you put things together, with that capitalism, and that globalisation is their idea as well. No-one else but Mr Brzezinski Ė a Polish Jew - wrote about them getting killed in Serbia. I wrote an article in Zielony Sztandar (a weekly) about the things they do in Kosovo, what they do, you know - it is easy to do democracy at somebody elseís country.
Well, the Americans slaughtered the Indians, and then they built democracy. Nice democracy that is, for whom? Well, for themselves, and they are not going to give back the land they took away from those closed in the reserves, they only encourage them to drink. They want to build, they want to sell their weapon stocks, the missiles, everything. You know, only to make a war. After all Yugoslavia is not a Nato member, is it? And look whatís going on there, they slaughter one another Ė the Albanians kill the Serbs, the Gypsies. They say they are helpless now, it is building everything in the American style. As if we couldnít do anything on our own, that they will teach us how to be democratic. We know that without their help. We ruined our co-operatives that were 130 years old, and now foreigners will teach us how to set up co-operatives.
All the assets of the economy have been looted, stolen, the co-operativesí have been sold by Balcerowicz (Leszek Balcerowicz, the present Minister of Finance), all because it was communist. And the globalisation is all about limiting the number of decisionmakers in the world. When one corporation merges with another corporation, and they start governing the world, or just Europe, for example, they will set conditions: how countries should develop, what culture they should have, what currency, what is good, what is bad. We want a Europe of homelands, not the United States of Europe, so that they could decide in Brussels what I should eat. Iíve got my culture, my habits, my psyche, and that cannot be shaped according to what they think proper.
The same with farming. We are talking about ecological farming, but they would like to introduce their industrial methods of food production. This is not the United States, they can do what they will at theirs, but not here. You know, all those protests by the farmers, they are in the interest of the industry, cause if the European Union does not give money to support farming, they will not buy machines and the industry will go bankrupt. So itís protecting the industry, not the farmers only. In the Union, a farmer works very hard and lives well, but they have to work their fingers to the bone, you know. If just a couple of farmers keep 500 or 600 pigs, what do you expect? Sure, they can fix everything via the phone, but that phone costs, doesnít it? The fertilisers cost, and only a fraction of the takings becomes the farmerís income. And we would like people to benefit from the progress, so that people are well off. But the way thing turn now, there are more and more poor people, arenít there?
Section 9
Would you say that the globalisation also influences the environment?
Of course it does. For example, they want Ė weíve got excellent forestry scientists, institute, scientists, professor, everything Ė but they would like to arrange the forests in their way. They say they give money, so they want this or that. They give money, provided you do what they tell you to, not what is good for us. I just canít stand it, you know, but itís all because of the elections, they decided. I mean, the priest told people to vote AWS (a political party) so they did, and AWS does the same as Unia Wolnosci. I donít know what your political beliefs are, but I donít hide mine, I always say what I like and what I dislike. Openly.
There was that Ukrainian, Pawliszczuk his name was, he wrote about the Ukrainian nationalism, about that criminal nationalism. That nationalism is reviving in Ukraine nowadays, you know. They had those ten commandments of theirs. One of them said that any crime is justified if it is done for Ukraine. So what are we talking about? [Laughs]
I have to go, my shift is about to begin.

Thank you for the conversation then.