Click on arrows
to find more
these themes








owner of sawmill


Nowa Bystrzyca


May 1999


This is a good interview with an amusing and articulate narrator, whose family came to Upper Silesia from Lithuania when he was three in the “second stage of displacements from the east”. Most friends from his youth were from mining families and carried on the tradition – they are now retired, looking old, with beer bellies, “practically finished [with] life”. He studied and then got a job in the meat industry – not by choice, but because time was passing and graduates had to get work by a certain time or be sent off to work anywhere by the “authorities”. Explains how a certain amount of bribery and illegal sale of meat went on and was tacitly accepted, even expected, but every now and then a scapegoat would be found and punished. He disliked the system and the obligations it entailed, as well as the idea of being tied to a desk, and took the plunge to buy a small plot of land and start a new life farming in the mountains.

He started with sheep as being the easiest option. He did well but the market changed and he responded by moving into agriculture. Then the flax industry fell apart and he set up the sawmill he has today, which is going fine. Has tried (and apparently succeeded) in being adaptable to external conditions.

Took his time to integrate with locals, and became respected head of Sheep Breeders Association but was later leaned upon by the “authorities” and rather than comply, he resigned. His freedom is the most important thing to him: “You never do things right when you are forced to do anything.” Feels people can absorb energy from the mountains. Disillusioned with political activity, at whatever level, and frustrated by petty bureaucracy, he would rather do his best on his own. “Family, work, nature”: these are his priorities.

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 history: born in Lithuania and came to Poland when he was two. Grew up in Upper Silesia and studied catering in Wroclaw.
Section 2  Does not remember much from Lithuania apart from having an anti-smallpox vaccination. Visited it several times since, though, and thought it was “a very nice area, I wish I was there”. Came to Nowa Bystrzyca because he liked the name and “names … have always been important to me”.
Section 3  Emphasises the importance of being a “free man” and left his job when he encountered a man that had been at the same desk for 35 years. He looked for another job in an “area that would suit me: mountains, lakes or sea”.
Section 4  Remembers his first impressions of Nowa Bystrzyca. He was initially shocked by the ruins of the farm he’d come to look at, but the view and its potential impressed him. He bought the land and started breeding sheep.
Section 5  Learned by experience and read books too; employed more people. Talks about family.
Section 6  Everything was fine until 1990, when “suddenly breeding stopped bringing money … rates of interest were raised to 39% per month … I said ‘It is over’”. He quit sheep breeding and “started agriculture”.
Section 7  For a brief period he planted flax but that failed too. He started up a sawmill.. When he first arrived, he did not have much contact with local people, as he was so busy, but after gaining their trust, he met with the “sincere kindness of the people”. Some learnt from his example (eg ploughing in circles.)
Section 8  Eventually, he became a leader in the village as he “had the best equipment … most of all the largest grounds and the biggest production”. He “kept myself a bit aside”, involved in his work but did make friends nevertheless.
Section 9  Talks about family life and special occasions. When he arrived, he did not expect to have much contact with educated people but he found that lots of architects, doctors, lawyers and engineers living close by (many also intelligentsia déclassé): “the higher was the level of the mountains the higher was the level of intelligence”.
Section 10  He quit the Sheep Breeders Association for“political reasons”. He was put under pressure by the intelligence services and preferred to leave rather than comply with their requests
Section 11  Holidays were rare, because of his commitment to farming and sheep breeding. Now he usually goes “to the seaside. The Baltic Sea” or the Polish coast.
Section 12  The move to the village gained him his freedom. What he lost was contact with his old school friends, but does not miss Silesia itself.
Section 13  Did not take part in local politics because “experience tells me, that it is not worth engaging in politics” and there are always those who don’t welcome what you do. Was disillusioned with the Solidarity movement.
Section 14-15  Does not want to be part of an organisation, because he values his freedom and “there is this infirmity in all those organisations that they cannot work properly”. Ends the interview by wishing that “the local authorities would not disturb anyone, especially people like me”.