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geodesist (surveyor)




July 1999


The narrator is clearly an optimist, who speaks with passionate enthusiasm about his new life in Orlowiec. Although he has had problems settling in and economically, life remains hard, he is “in love with this area”. One of the intelligentsia déclassé who left behind an urban professional life, he says that the move to the mountains made him “a free man”. On arrival he knew only “how to hold a pen and how to use your brain a bit”, but little about construction and farming. However, he had a “dream” of life in the mountains and so he moved to the area, renovated a house and started farming. They kept cows, chickens, sheep etc but the hard winter of 1986 was a “catastrophe” and they lost much livestock.

He felt local people, especially those in authority, were slightly resentful towards outsiders and insists he must “say one thing, and I’ll say it in capital letters: THEY DIDN’T LIKE, maybe it’s still true, I don’t know, I hope it is changing, THEY DIDN’T LIKE NEWCOMERS AROUND HERE, PEOPLE TRYING TO DO ANYTHING HERE”. Some of it may be due, he admits, to those who were relocated to the area from the eastern borderlands sticking together. He has now made lots of friends, but notes that, “In the village, they call us tourists; we’ve been here for the last 16 years, still we are tourists.” He compares life in Orlowiec to where his relatives live, where “they manage quite differently, they’ve got this sense of community there … they co-operate, they help each other. These people around here seem to be somehow helpless…They don’t look after their buildings”. In other testimonies, people say this lack of care or investment is due to the eastern settler mentality – many clung to the idea that one day they would return east.

Sylwester would never return to town life because of “the noise, the chaos, the rat race”. In contrast, “I love this silence here” in the mountains. But farming remains tough economically and he now has to supplement the family income by getting work in “the West” (Germany). Much of the interview, however, is spent elaborating his dreams for the future, which he believes lies in agro-tourism. He has great plans to develop “hotel services” and many mountain activities that visitors would enjoy.

detailed breakdown

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Section 1  Early history: grew up in Wroclaw; studied at the Academy of Agriculture. Has “good memories” of his previous jobs. Was a member of Polish Hunting Association and has “always been strongly attached to nature”.
Section 2  In 1984 he moved to Orlowiec with his family: living in the mountains and countryside had always been his “fantasy”. He started “a whole new life here” although he “knew practically nothing. Especially about construction”. Explains the extensive renovation of the house; admits it might have been better to start from scratch than rebuild the old structure.
Section 3  Now he has “peace and quiet you couldn’t find anywhere else”. There was some resentment from locals (bank managers, mayors etc) when he first moved to the area; “simply, there was no tolerance for people like me, people who came here and tried to change their lives, those who didn’t like living in the town and who decided to come here and try their luck on this hard soil around here”. With time, he has made friends but his family is still seen as “tourists”.
Section 4-5  Remembers the catastrophic winter of 1986. The insurance wasn’t adequate to replace the damaged buildings and lost livestock. Had to work hard to rebuild, taking jobs away from home. Now have added stables for horses, rooms for visitors: he was convinced “that there was a potential in agro-tourism”.
Section 6  Struggles to put into words why he has “always liked the mountains … in the flatlands … you know … too far and too straight [laughs]. Here you go .. up a bit and so .. and it is more interesting, somehow”. But he recognises that there has been a cost in terms of comfort. His son wants to be more of a businessman; “he sees my struggles here, the hard work.”
Section 7  Discusses the meaning of freedom “for a Pole … it’s such a strong word, meaningful ... I mean … I am a free for myself …sometimes you feel under pressure from economic phenomena… but at mine… capital letters again, AT MINE, I AM A FREE MAN”. Admits “we were wearing rose-tinted spectacles” when they first came to the area and “felt we could face anything”.
Section 8  Nature is “within arms’ reach” here. His plans for agro-tourism include trout fishing, mushroom picking, horseback riding, mountain biking, picnics.
Section 9  “Life was easy” 10 years ago: “if you had over 100 sheep, you didn’t have to worry about anything”. Farming now is much harder. “Especially… the effort you have to make here, in the mountains, when compared to that in the lowlands”: long winters, steep slopes, poor soil, huge temperature fluctations.
Section 10  Talks about the decline of the “wonderful buildings” locally: “It is not the time that has devoured them, but people’s negligence, helplessness”. Perhaps at first this stemmed from the settlers’ (from the eastern borderlands) lack of roots in the area; now they are pensioners and have little money. But he feels the young or anyone with initiative leaves the area and so “there is no-one who’d take up agro-tourism”. .
Section 11-13  Waxes lyrical about the potential for agro-tourism (“people hiking in the mountains, come in, throw the rucksack in the corner, go to sleep in a small room and they are happy”). Believes the environment, available activities and climate are perfect for it.