Poland glossary








agricultural engineer/farmer







Section 1
Can you introduce yourself, please?
My name is Ryszard Kalinski, I am a farmer in Nowy Gieraltów. I am also the village administrator. I’ve been living here since 1975.

Where did you live before?
I lived in Wroclaw. I worked as a research worker at the Academy of Agriculture, which I had graduated from.

What did you do before that?
I come from the farmer’s family, so I spent my childhood in the village. I went to a secondary school, then I studied at the Academy of Agriculture. After my studies, I worked at PGR (state-owned farms) for two years.

Where did you live when you were a child?
I lived in Scinawka Dolna, one of the villages in Klodzko Valley. I found it hard to live and work there. It is quite a different village from Nowy Gieraltów.

The memories of my childhood are rather negative. It was just an ordinary village of Regained Territories: rather neglected, with a thick land development. I didn’t feel good there. Here, on the contrary, we have a particularly different urban architecture. The households are more distant from each other.

Why did you leave Wroclaw?
There were a few reasons. It was the hard times for Polish academic life, in the middle 70s. The ‘stuffy’ atmosphere was an effect of the so called ‘reform’ of higher education, which was based mainly on dismissing really great scientists and scholars. The famous professors stopped working as heads of departments. Those functions were committed by the appointed assistants. They had to be either members of the PZPR (Polish United Workers’ Party) or absolutely uninvolved politically to be allowed to fulfil those functions.
I studied at that Academy and I had my ideals. Two years after I had graduated, I came back to work there. I got totally disappointed. Personally, I didn’t believe in the methodology of research that they took up there. I couldn’t stay there in such an atmosphere; I even gave up doing my PhD even though it was already at an advanced stage. It was my own way of protesting against that system. I had also another reason: a material one. I was very badly paid, I didn’t have a fixed abode in the city. In the meantime, I got married, so my needs, as far as accommodation was concerned, grew. I didn’t have good financial perspective for the future. I had also my subjective reasons; very personal ones. In a way I was opposite the city life style, I mean, a city as a way of life. I must admit that I like Wroclaw itself very much but somehow inside I felt that I belong to the country life. I have a rather metaphysical mentality. I wouldn’t like to sound too transcendental or ecologically influenced, but anyway, my reaction to city life was rather negative.
Section 2
Was it a difficult decision?
The decision to leave the city and an Academy was not a problem in itself. A much more difficult thing was to find a place which would meet my needs as to space, landscape and practical conditions, e.g. where I could keep sheep, where I could own a fairly large plot of land. I kept looking for such a place for over a year. First, we found something which then proved to be a wrong choice. We weren’t able to buy the plot. We had to back out, despite some investment we had already made. Finally, we found the right place in Nowy Gieraltów; it was an old, weed-grown farm.

Were you interested in finding a place in the mountains only?
Yes, indeed. These are those, previously mentioned, ‘metaphysical features’. Mountains by their nature incline us to meditations, so, the mountain environment was a very important thing with making the decision.

Did the fact of spending your childhood in the mountains influence your decision?
Maybe yes, although I didn’t quite realised that. The place where I was born was not situated in the mountains as such. The landscape was just not entirely flat. Anyway, my choice might have been determined by that.

Did you feel worse in Wroclaw because of its flat landscape?
I lived on the plain only temporarily. I cannot imagine myself staying on a flat land for good. I may stay for some time, but I don’t enjoy living in a place without woods, a river, a lake. It’s not for me. To be honest, inside I feel myself a farmer, so, I get bored with a plain all around me.

What did you take to first, after settling in Nowy Gieraltów?
First of all, I needed to get started with the farm. It took me a few years. The buildings needed repairing, I had to carry out the land improvement, melioration, to fence the sheep-run, to clear the land of stubs and roots. It was all very labour-consuming. Fortunately, there was a possibility of taking loans on very favourable terms. It was the year ’75. We started with nothing, and such opportunities were very encouraging for us. Our life perspectives changed completely, but most of all, we could feel free from political pressures at last. My problem of being dependant on political connections finally disappeared. Here, I had new problems: how to cope with nature, climate, land form, mountain soil which is exceptionally unfruitful. I didn’t treat the nature as my enemy but as a partner in a special kind of joint-venture. In the atmosphere of economical fiction, especially, fictional prices of purchase of agricultural products, the farmer who based on sheep-breeding took the least risk.

Did you deal with agriculture apart from sheep-farming?
I tried but it was unprofitable. I cropped potatoes and oat, but wild animals, which are rather numerous here, devastate the crops. There is also a risk of a harvest failure because of meteorological reasons. Even hay harvest causes a lot of trouble. We had to buy food for our sheep.
Section 3
How were you treated by the inhabitants of Gieraltów?
At the beginning , they were rather suspicious, keeping a safe distance, as usual in such situations. Step by step, the distance was shrinking. I may say, it was even convenient for me, because it was a sort of a ‘kind distance’. I didn’t have time to meet people too often, and I think, it might have complicated our co-existence a bit. I felt it was better for us if I got into that society gradually. However, I didn’t mean becoming an equal member of it. Our intention is to stay strangers, in a way. We realise that our values and intellectual status are and will always be different from original country people.

Do you remember any unpleasant events emerging from the mentioned distance?
There were a few little incidents, maybe twice or three times. I think their behaviour was led by wrongly understood distance between us. Generally, our mutual relationship got much better now. In 1988 I was elected a village administrator. That time it was of one of the most democratic elections in our country. Now, that I am still in charge of that post, I cannot pay too much attention to my own business. As far as the village is concerned, I try to face the problems which seem possible to be solved. This is what I’ve learned through the period of 20 years, assuming that I have to work in a difficult environmental conditions.

If I want to do something really well, I must take into account many different aspects of the problem. Polish society is generally fed up with confusion and unfulfilled promises. I have to be very careful about it, especially now that I act in a very special conditions, which is the transformation period, impoverishment of Polish village and declining tendency in our agriculture. At the beginning of our activity both me and my wife first of all tried very hard to become trustful, to make people believe us. We tried to speak less and act more; we wanted to avoid being hypocritical.

Do you consider yourself an influential person among the inhabitants of your village?
It is hard for me to estimate such a kind of relationship. In sum, maybe yes. First of all, I must say, I’ve noticed a great deal of stubbornness of the society. However, I find it something natural. It’s also a kind of traditionalism. Village people tend to be more envious than the inhabitants of a town. In their city environment people stay more anonymous, and the ties between them are not so tight. In fact, I have never given a good deal of thought to that matter. I’ve never aimed at playing any mission. Moving into the village was, as I said, My private, internal kind of emigration. Instead of going e.g. to New York in 1975, I went to Nowy Gieraltów, not for some high-flown ideas or missions.

Did you still keep in touch with your town friends after moving to the village?
Only with a few, most of the contacts have broken. I was considered to be a rebel. My Academy colleagues treated me as someone who was too critical about the life of the Academy. Nowadays I am not too emotional towards Academic circles.
Section 4
How do you estimate that period of your life? Do you have only unpleasant memories?
No, I cannot say they are unpleasant. If I call myself a member of intelligentsia déclassé I realise that the period of my life when I belonged to Academic circle enriched me to a big extent, not only because of the Academy, but also because of the big city atmosphere. I used to lead a very cultural life style, regularly attending theatres, cinemas, opera or Philharmonic. Those cultural events shaped my intellectual views. And, I couldn’t say it was unpleasant.

Is your cultural life still so rich?
No, it isn’t. We stopped with it. It ceased to be necessary for us in this new reality. These days my wife sometimes finds something worth seeing on television.

As for me, I prefer books – my intellectual base. I read a lot of books and magazines. I prefer scientific literature or something on the philosophy of history to poetry or fiction, which I used to love formerly.

Do you remember any anecdotes connected with your beginnings in this area.
Yes, it was the very beginning when we a funny coincidence happened to us. We came here and we brought a lorry full of furniture with us. We asked the first people we met to help us unload it. They helped us carry an especially heavy, antique cupboard. Those times there was a possibility to buy something really beautiful in commission shops, as, lots of people got rid of old fashioned furniture. Coming back to my cupboard, in return for the help I treated those neighbours to some home-made wine. I used to make wines, and, I must say, I was pretty good at it, I even owned a laboratory. A few days after our removal, another neighbour appeared at my doorstep and asked if she could buy some wine. As it turned out, the former owner of our house kept a den illegally selling alcohol. We also had a lot of amusing situations with our companion – the horse called Maciek. We used to call him Maciek Kalinski, as well as our cows – they all belonged to the family. We began our farm with the purchase of the draught horse, two cows and 20 sheep. So the Maciek turned out to be an old horse with his own habits. He taught me e.g. how to remove rods from the forest. He didn’t want to be obedient to my wife. When I was away and he had to be taken to the shed, he refused. He wasn’t aggressive at all, but he had personality.

How long did it take you to feel at home here?
It took quite a long time: till the end of 1980s, which makes the period of over 10 years. In’88 I was elected the village administrator. If I had stood for the election earlier, I certainly wouldn’t have been elected.

It’s obvious. Even in the atmosphere of a ‘kind’ distance, which I mentioned before, the acceptance among the local villagers came very slowly. Especially when the newcomers showed an alternative life style. We, willy-nilly, showed off a little with our ‘difference’.

Was the village very neglected when you arrived?
Yes, it was very neglected, of course besides the places of recreation, culture centres which were owned by State enterprises In general, not only the farms were very neglected but also the buildings and environment. Now, first of all, breeding cattle is becoming more and more popular. Within a few years since I’ve been here, the number of farmers who have started to mow their meadows is growing. Nowadays, we can observe a slump in agriculture again, and as a consequence, some farmers leave the hay on the meadows, forests overgrow in their upper parts. Buildings, on the other hand, despite the slump tendencies in agriculture, are in a much better condition these days. Fifty years after resettling, the younger generation is more demanding than their elders. It’s a kind of investment to build a house or repair an old one.
Section 5
In what way do you bring up your own children?
I don’t use any special methodology. However, both me and my wife are very consequent to keep the children close to the system of values, which, we believe, are right. Our only rule is ‘not to disturb them’, I mean we don’t want to impose too much pressure on them. We interfere in the matters where we find it necessary. I’m. convinced that for a father it is enough to own an authority. We try to keep a proper balance between the pressures of that authority and the warm, friendly relationship. I think, it’s a better form of education than keeping too severe discipline. I don’t try to be an expert, I just limit my ideas to bringing up my own children.

Can you tell me a few more words about your children?
As far as education is concerned, I am criss-cross a little bit. I myself lost my chance for a scientific career, in a way, I gave up. Now I care much more about developing the personality of my children. I think, having a strong personality is a much more valuable possession than a very well-paid occupation. I would be very disappointed, if my children had university diplomas but were far from surrounding reality. If, in their future, they won’t be able to react to the other people’s needs, I will be disappointed with them, even if they succeed in their jobs. Higher education, to me, is a very important criterion for formal and practical reasons, anyway, I claim that too much engagement in scientific research may separate a young person from reality and limit his attitudes to the world, other people and life. It may sound paradoxical but is very frequent in practice.

How old are your children?
My daughter is 22, one son is 20, and the youngest son is 13. Both my daughter and my elder son are students now.

What did you gain and what did you lose by moving to the village?
It’s difficult to say now what I lost. What would I do now if I hadn’t left the Academy. Maybe today I would be a rector? Once, when I worked at the Academy I didn’t feel good there. If I had stayed there, maybe I’d have succeeded. Theoretically, everything could have happened, it is too hard to estimate it now. If I took my personal, subjective criterion, I would say that didn’t lose anything but there is something I gained. Inside, I accuse myself of the lack of imagination. I could have done much more apart from keeping a farm here. I could have started teaching at school, but in this way I wouldn’t have had enough time for my farm, I would have lost some part of my identity, which I tried so hard to regain here. Now, I can say that I become self-confident and managed to keep my own identity as regards keeping a farm and living in Nowy Gieraltów.
Section 6
Do you regret that decision?
I would be very careful with such declarations: ‘I regret’ or ‘I don’t regret’. These are criteria which we should avoid. If we commit a crime or a sin, we may have qualms of conscience, and then we can say: ‘I regret’. Our decisions are frequently led by our emotions, and these cannot be measured in this way.

What do the mountains mean for you? What are your feelings towards them?
I don’t mystify the mountains, although it is very frequent in literature. I love the mountains for simply aesthetical reasons. It is an example of a universal beauty. The other landscapes seem to me rather ephemeral, being beautiful only temporarily. The mountains are universal: they are equally attractive for tourists through all year round, while the seaside or the lakes have their high season only in summer. Besides, mountains play double role in my life: they are both my partner and my enemy. The work of a farmer in the mountains is far more difficult but less effective, than the same work performed by a farmer working on a plain. That is why I call them my partner and my opponent.

Thank you for the conversation.