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ex-journalist/local MP/chairman of local NGO




July 1999


This is a fascinating interview by a self-confessed member of the intelligentsia déclassé, one of a significant number of educated professionals who left public life to find a new existence in the Sudety mountains. He laughs about the term, saying “the events that took place in Poland in 1976 made me ‘downgrade’ myself as an intellectual, I decided to start life anew here, in this God-forsaken place”. He looks back without regret or bitterness but clearly the background to his decision, and some of its consequences, have been hard. Once a well travelled and respected journalist, he was one of those who retained “some remnants of a conscience” and was increasingly troubled by the demands of the regime: “those who really tried to address the public opinion, wanted to convey something through their writing, they were having more and more serious problems of remorse. The gap between what they described as reality and the reality itself was growing wider and wider”.

Unable to live that life any longer, he came to the Sudety Mountains – “when I got there, I found a small 9 hectare farm, situated at a slope of a hill…and I fell in love with the place on the spot. That’s how I got where I am now”. He admits he knew next to nothing about farming - “I couldn’t tell a bull from a cow” - but his neighbours taught him the basics. Despite some initial problems – “you see, I wear glasses, the Polish farmer seldom wears glasses. Besides I spoke a language of an intellectual from a large town” - he slowly won their acceptance. The early years of isolation, hard work and tough living conditions cost him his first marriage; but he now has a “wonderful” family and feels that “it was as if winning a lottery ticket that we’ve got this place on a mountain brook in which trout live, that there is a forest nearby, which is not destroyed by acid rains - because indeed this part of the Sudety mountains is as if an ecological oasis”.

Despite its beauty, he had no illusions about the difficulties of the mountain environment. Farming was very hard, and is now hardly economic. But he has “discovered this very special kind of village solidarity, whereby people don’t have to like one another, they may gossip about one another, they may, I don’t know, fight at wedding parties when drunk. But if there’s one who has got dry hay on the meadow and a storm is coming, then all the enemies and friends alike, they will all grab their forks and rakes, and they will go and fight against nature, arm in arm”. He points out that many of the local intelligentsia déclassé have begun to re-involve themselves in public life; in his case, first as an MP and then as president of a local non-governmental organisation Zdanie (Point of View Association).

detailed breakdown

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Section 1  Brief overview of his life. Childhood: “I don’t have particularly good memories of Silesia, the times were rough, half of the class spoke German and our teachers… they treated those Germans – 10-12- year old children after all – with unbelievable brutality”.
Section 2-3  Life up to1976, the changing political environment and his reasons for leaving it behind. The difficulties of having to praise “what should be condemned”. Finally, after witnessing a troubling show-trial in 1976, he left public life disillusioned and “decided I would disappear, change my life somehow”. He found a farm in the Sudety Mountains. He “had no idea about farming”, but learnt from the neighbours and gradually “they started treating me as one of them”.
Section 4  Recalls how he would help other villagers write applications and deal with bureaucracy; they would help him with his farming - “they needed me, as it suddenly turned out, just as much as I needed them”. Today, “without state-imposed prices for food products…. growing crops or breeding livestock …have become rather expensive hobbies….One had to look for more original methods of earning a living.”
Section 5  Recalls how many professionals “ran away” from the system during the “various turning points in the history of Poland”: 1976, 1981 and 1989. But notices how most of this intelligentsia déclassé who withdrew from public life, have begun to return to it. The narrator became an MP before discovering “the wonderful world” of NGOs in 1989.
Section 6  Coming to the Sudety Mountains was “the wisest choice I could have ever made”. Although there have been many hardships, he thinks “there is no better school of life than difficult times”. The story of how he met his second wife.
Section 7  The environment is perfect for bringing up their children; the only problem is the limitations of the local schools. To give them a better education, they have had to send them away from the mountains to boarding schools.
Section 8  Remembers various “difficult moments”: having “to learn everything from scratch” and when he was “left alone here” after his first wife left. Expresses wonder at how, although city-born and bred, he has developed “a special kind of sensitivity, I’d call it an ecological sensitivity” since living so close to nature.
Section 9  Some of the changes that he has observed in the mountain area since moving there. Rural depopulation is slowly being reversed, and there’s greater awareness of the need for balance between economic and environmental needs. Thinks the Sudety neighbourhood “is a large piece of human heritage that we have to take great care of”. If they neglect this, the loss will be “irrevocable”.