Environmental Knowledge  

Click on arrows
to find more
these themes








former baker/hunter


Bystrzyca Klodzka


July 1999


An interesting interview, full of strong opinions about the changing environment. He argues against privatisation of forests, yet feels recent state management of forests has been poor. His conversation takes in poaching, acid rain and environmental pollution, the domination of spruce, the failings of the communist education system - and fake furs. Pollution was at its worst in the 70s and early 80s, when “after a heavy rain, it would turn black in my garden”. He “noticed that in several places up in the mountains, where the snow would stay longer, that grass does not grow there any more. It means there must have been some sulphuric compounds in the snow that burnt out all the vegetation”. More recently, the situation has improved.

The narrator also gives a good account of how the forest has changed since he arrived from Ukraine in the 1940s. Back then, “the forest border was less regular, with lots of bays, semicircles, with tongues of forest going into the fields. That was because the local inhabitants owned farms and the forests were often part of those farms … After the agricultural reform, the state divided forests from the fields”. He believes this was “a mistake” and resulted in the domination of spruce, a species easily uprooted in strong winds. Has a low opinion of the state forester, who “knew nothing about his job”, and feels generally that forestry “has been organised quite badly by the state”, yet “the forest is a simple thing after all”. He believes passionately that “the forest must not be privatised, it has to be given to people”.

detailed breakdown

You will need a password from Panos to view the full transcript of the interview. To apply for a password, click here.

Once you have a password, click here to go to the beginning of the transcript. You can also click on any section of the breakdown of content below and go straight to the corresponding part of the transcript.


Section 1  Early life: deported by Russians from the Eastern Borderlands, settled in Stara Bystrzyca until 1960. Wanted to be a forester, but parents persuaded him to become a baker. Times were hard and they thought at least he would be assured of bread to eat. In his spare time, he “tried to compensate my love for nature by becoming a hunter”.
Section 2-3  When his family first arrived, they were the only Poles in the area; his mother “was scared of living among the Germans”. Their early relationship with their German neighbours and how different they were from Poles: “They were so trained in being punctual and doing everything on the hour.” Describes substantial deterioration in local economy: “people had jobs all the timenow nothing pays. I can’t get to grips with that. Until late 1980s – at least part of this mountainous land was tilled. Nowadays, wherever you go, you see untilled land.” Believes his love of nature was “in the genes”. Details changes in the forest, much of it because “there’s too much human interference”.
Section 4  Lots of detail on forestry: problems and changes. “in the past the forest was taken care of … the timber processing was extremely well organised…”. Now there is growing neglect - he believes the state is to blame because “private owners have been deprived over the forest” and state foresters are incompetent.
Section 5  Elm disease hit in the 1970s; now oak and beech seemed threatened with disease. Electricity pylons killed local birdlife, including the rare black grouse.
Section 6  Talks about hunting – he follows proper rules: “shooting just for the sake of shooting is not what I’m into. It’s like murder”. Poaching was and remains quite commonplace
Section 7  Doesn’t think much has changed in the forests, although cars and roads have opened up access to “the blessings of the nature”. Discusses the impact of acid rain/snow, and outlines the area’s micro-climate Believes that protesting against real fur and promoting fake versions is hypocritical, because “after all, the production of an artificial fur damages the environment more than breeding a fox or hunting one in a natural way … the artificial fur cannot be destroyed”.
Section 8  Out-migration is common because “farming is declining in the mountains”. He laments the bureaucracy of the state forestry department: “It is as a state within a state, nobody knows who’s responsible for what.” Has been living in the area for 54 years and feels he is “almost a local”. Echoes another narrator in saying he believes the original German inhabitants were made to leave the area after a while, because of potential harm from the radioactivity of uranium deposits in the region.
Section 9  Hated the “ideological” part of the education system, and was rebuked for being a “social enemy”. Believes “[Bystrzyca] … could live off tourism” but people don’t help each other enough. He doesn’t have “the necessary strength” any more to change things, but hopes the young generation will – and will “think for yourselves”.