Poland glossary








retired forester




June 1999



It was a very pleasant conversation - Niziolek was easy and friendly, and you don’t have to push him to talk. He seemed satisfied with his life, although every now and then there was a note of resentment about being redundant, and having to leave the forest where he had spent most of his life. After the recorder was switched off, over a farewell drink, he said he was going to write a book about the eastern areas, where he spent his childhood.

His approach towards the nature comes through clearly in what he says. He is not someone with an extensive book knowledge. He doesn’t try to hide that, either. Nature for him is a mystery, with so many phenomena that he cannot explain. He doesn’t get philosophical about it. His nature is the green leaves, giant trees, cold water in the well, not science books. Perhaps he doesn’t want to interfere with it too much himself, he takes what the nature is willing to give.

Section 1
Could you start with telling me a few words about yourself, your age, your occupation, and things like that?
My name’s Bronislaw Niziolek. I was born in the Eastern Borderland – that’s what you can now call that. Until quite recently, it was officially called a part of the Soviet Union. I was born on 18 January 1933 – a notable date, that’s when Hitler came to power. When I was a child, we were living on a farm. The village consisted of settlers. My father settled there after World War I. There were only Poles living in that village, we were called the Pilsudski’s people. That was in the east. My father spent eight years in the army, in the Pilsudski cavalry. Well, when I was 7 years old, I was just about to go to school for the first time, when the war broke out. On 1 September. I was on my way to school, with a rucksack, pencils and things, when the war broke out. We didn’t go to school for about a month more, I don’t remember exactly. And later, the Russians invaded us, as they said, to save Poland, and so the partitioning of Poland took place – the Germans on one side, the Russians on the other. So, I finally started school, but I had to learn Ukrainian instead of Polish. A year or so after Hitler attacked the Soviet Union, we were prepared to be deported to Siberia, but the Russians didn’t manage to deport us, and we stayed. Only about half of the village had been deported. We stayed. And the Germans came. The occupation lasted until ’44, till the spring of ’44. But there were Ukrainian gangs getting organised so we knew it would be hot.

But you stayed where you were, didn’t you?
Yes, we stayed there. But, one day a messenger – we were under the Ukrainian rules, under the German occupation, and there were military messengers arriving at the villages from time to time to announce news from the authorities – came to my father, he wanted to have a private talk with him. My father sent us, children, out of the house. After a while, my father told me to go and fetch our neighbour, Mr. Stanisz. When Mr. Stanisz arrived, they locked themselves inside and talked for a long time. I was just a child, so I didn’t understand what was going on. On the next day, my father took us to our aunt’s in Kalush, a larger town nearby. We felt there was something sinister going on. They took us and the Stanisz children as well. At about 6 p.m, it was still daylight, it was the longest day, a Ukrainian guy came running to my aunt’s shouting, “Pniaki is on fire!” That was the name of our village, I forgot to tell you. It was a shock for us, children. When it got dark, you could see the light up in the sky, the glow of the distant fire. In the morning, we had all the news. My mother was worried because my older siblings stayed there. But they finally joined us as well. We were told that the village had been burnt down completely.
Well, we packed up all the belongings that remained, and we stayed with a Jew living nearby, he had a first floor room for us. We stayed there until mid-April. The spring was beginning, trees had begun to cover themselves in green. Somehow, due to some miracle or something, our cattle didn’t burn. It must have been somebody who drove them out of the cowshed, the cattle don’t like fire.
Later, my oldest brother, Józef, got in touch with the German mayor. He was a military man, he had the district under his jurisdiction during the occupation. My brother gave him some meat – we’d slaughtered a calf – some moonshine that my brother had made, some money. To make a long story short, in return for the bribe, we were given a railway carriage to take us and another 13 families with their belongings to my mother’s homeland, near Krosno upon Wislok. And so he arranged for that carriage to be assigned to us, it was a large carriage, previously used to carry coal. Fourteen families in that carriage. So we went to the Province of Rzeszów. There, we found a Mrs Stefa, she was a widow, living all alone, and she decided to move away, to her mother. She left her house for us. It was a small, wooden house, on the bank of a river – it served my family since then. Until the Russian front approached. The Russians arrived at night, shooting their katioosha rackets, lighting up the sky...
Section 2
What did the place you were born look like, what was the nature like?
Mostly oak forests. I remember the oaks, as a young boy I often went to the forest with my father. We raked the leaves, collected branches. Meadows – numberless flowers. I remember the March marigolds, there were a lot of damp areas, meadows, where everyone could graze their cattle. Most of the grounds belonged to the Jews, but, they sold everything they could shortly before the war. There was a main road intersecting the village. On one side of the road, everyone could graze their animals, usually horses were let loose there. White clover grew there. We had a large orchard, you know. That was what the nature was like. In the neighbouring village, there was a river. We brought construction stone from there. The river was not regulated, it flowed as it would. That area was a bit hilly, but it was a Ukrainian village. In my village, there were only Poles, no Ukrainians at all, and so they called that village a settlers’ village, the settlers after World War I.

How high were the hills?
Oh, well. Not that high. They were similar to those on the way to Wambierzyce, just outside Bystrzyca, not too steep. Just hills. Well, what else? That’s what I remember.
Section 3
What do you remember from home? After all it was in the east, so there must have been something special, for example about the dishes you ate.
Yes. I can tell you this: the house was made from wood. There were two rooms in it, I mean a large kitchen and a room. The room was slightly smaller than the kitchen. So, there were those two rooms, a corridor, a pantry. There was a shed in which a quern (stone hand-mill) was installed, where we ground flour. There were two large wooden bowls, in which my mother made bread dough. Bread was baked once a week, seven loaves. But they were giant loaves, you would need four modern loaves to make one of those. Large, round loaves. There were special baking baskets and a bread stove. That board, that spatula, I still remember that. What else do I remember? There was a stable, a wooden cowshed, next to it, there was cow dung heap, the yard was quite large. We were living some 20 metres from the road, in the direction of the school, from the church to the school. Well, I liked it a lot. There was a well in the orchard, a red apple tree next to the well. A large tree it was, it had large, red apples. There were also pears. I remember when they had ripened and fell, they would get squashed on the ground, they were so big, heavy and soft. And there was a spruce forest on the north-west side, the whole corner.

What happened later, during the war?
Well, what else? We had a farm, my mother baked bread, we had lots of rabbits, there in the east. A lot of rabbits, until one year, there was some sort of epidemic among them, and they all died out. My father had to dismantle a part of the cow-shed, the odour was so awful. The rabbits had been living half wild, they dug their own holes in the ground, they were everywhere. And when they started dying, the odour was unbearable.
My brother was a young man back then. I was the youngest of the boys. There was only one sister who was younger than myself. Later, the fate threw us here, to the west. From Krosno, the village of Rogi, in the direction of Dukla. And so we arrived at the liberation time. When they signed that agreement in Potsdam, the Germans signed their capitulation in Berlin, we went to the Opole Silesia region, and we arrived there on 22 May 1945.

Why did you go west?
Well, because the western land was free for settlement. And we had been chased away from our homeland with no possibility of returning there. We had nothing. There was no chance of taking any belongings when we were leaving home. Everything that was left at home, the knives, forks, rakes, clothes, shoes, everything burnt down. Only the chimney remained, cause the house was wooden. So we went to the Opole Silesia region, we found ourselves in PUR in Opole – Polish Repatriation Office. And the army took us to Nowa Wies. It was a nice village. Two swimming pools, not far from Opole, just via a float bridge, everything was swinging like hell.
We arrived there in the spring. So, I thought, we should try and find something to eat, look for bread. Everybody did go around looking for things. Girls were after clothes, boys – after bikes, bread, food. I’ll tell you something interesting. One day, myself and a friend of mine, Edek Wor, we went to try our luck. In one cellar, we found some potatoes, in another, we found a lot of fruit preserves. Jams, fruit preserves, lots of goodies from currants, gooseberries. Delicious stuff, Germans liked those kinds of things. So we put as much of it as possible into sacks. We went to yet another cellar, and I found a German there. I was in a shock. I thought my heart would stop at the sight. And the Kraut was sitting comfortably in an armchair, it was a high cellar, curtains in the windows, all clean and tidy, it was in the tenement houses in Opole, it’s a very nice town, generally speaking. I thought he was alive, but he was dead.
Later, we came to the conclusion that he must have had some relatives there. He came, he saw what was going on, he went to the cellar, sat down in a deep armchair, and he shot himself in the head. Myself and Edek found him like that. We took off his shoes [laughs], his uniform, put them in the sack and ran away. Later, we went to the military unit nearby and reported that German corpse. All we left was his cap. Everybody was laughing at me. But I gave the uniform to a tailor, and had a suit made out of it. And I sold the shoes at the market and had money for bread. Good quality, high boots. He was some sort of an officer.
So, we lived in that Nowa Wies, there was quite a big military airfield. We lived there until New Year. On New Year’s day, we went here, to Swidnica. My brother went to see what possibilities of settling there were. And it turned out that all those Germans, the Silesian Germans had applied for and been granted Polish citizenship. They were no longer Germans, they were Poles. And it took about a year for us to be able to settle there.
Section 4
But why?
Because, the thing is, a settler needs to have a vacant place. If they were Germans, they were displaced in ’45, ’46. In ’46, I carried some Germans to the station myself. They packed up their things, whatever they had, and they were transported to the station. So the real Germans had to leave the place, but those who had turned themselves into Poles couldn’t be moved away. They said they were Poles, they couldn’t speak the language but they were Poles. And so they stayed.
Here, I finished my primary education, I did two grades in one year, in Olszany near Swidnica. It was a large, beautiful village. There, I graduated from the primary school in ’48.

What people lived there then?
All sorts. People from around Krakow, from Nowy Sacz, Zywiec, Bielsko Biala. Some from Ukraine, from Vilnius, from Byelorussia, from Grodno – you name it. All sorts of people.

And what was your life like?
Well, as far as my family goes, my sister married a boy from the east, I don’t remember exactly, he was from somewhere beyond Lvov. Another sister of mine married someone from Poznan, they live in Swiebodzice now. Stefcia – another sister – went to Canada, she married someone from Lvov, they visited us in May. Marysia – a boy from around Lublin. And they all got scattered around the world. I stayed with my father until I was drafted to the army. Then the times of kolkhozes came, you know what I mean, the farming co-operatives. And life was a bit... difficult. I had possibilities, though. The Security Bureau wanted to take me to school in Wroclaw, they arrived here in a limo. Especially to me. But my father wouldn’t agree. Nor did I. I was an obedient son, wasn’t I? So they took me to Nowa Huta, the huge construction site of the steel works. So I was building Nowa Huta in ’50, yes.
Within 3 and a half months, three villages simply disappeared – Binczyce, Czyzyny and Mogila. The bulldozers came and removed everything from the surface of the ground. So I worked there for 3.5 months, earning just for soup. They paid us peanuts, enough to buy a cigarette, a few zlotys, they paid us on Saturdays. I worked at the main sewage system construction for Nowa Huta. Running in the direction of the Wisla river. I don’t know if they’ve constructed a sewage treatment plant there by now. They will have, I think.
After the 3.5 months there, I returned home in November. I went to a vocational school, but I couldn’t make it. My father developed health problems, I had to help him in the farm. We had 10.5 hectares of land. It was good quality soil, second class. But it didn’t satisfy me. Something was completely wrong.
Section 5
What and why?
You know, hard work never scared me, but there were quotas you had to give in, pay taxes, wheat. They would come to the household, go to the attic and see if we hadn’t hidden anything. So we had to hide the grain. We made special hiding place in barn, under the straw, everybody did if they wanted something to remain for them. Otherwise, they made us give in everything. There was one guy came up to my attic, I hit him and knocked him down the stair. I was called to the poli... militia. There was this guy sitting there, in plain clothes, he warned me that if it ever happened again, I would go to prison. That’s how things were.
And in ’53, I was drafted to the army, to the border guards – on the eastern border.

So you returned?
Yes. But, you see, to make our lives more difficult, they sent me up to Chelm Lubelski, to the east of the country. I was supposed to serve 2 years in the army, but they released me only in March ’56. So I served 5 months longer. It was because there were troubles in East Germany, some political stuff. So they kept us in the army longer. I remember everybody bought up everything from the shops then – sugar, flour, salt – just in case the troubles spread. You know, a normal thing, people were used to shortages during the war. So they kept me in the army until March next year. I returned, but just then, I met that guy from Warszawa who offered me a job as a forester. He was such an agent, like those insurance agents travelling round places now. He came to the army unit I was at, they organised a meeting in the common room. It wasn’t compulsory to attend. “Mountains of gold, beautiful forester lodges, rifles, all of that free for lifetime, you will not have to pay a penny.” I’m paying, I’m paying for everything now, the regulations have changed and that’s all there is to it. I had eight days to make up my mind. And on 1 April, I found myself here, in the State Forest District of Swidnica. And I came here. I got sworn in here, just up the stairs. Yes, it’s history now.

Being sworn as a forester?
Yes. The head of the district made me stand to attention. I entered the room where the head was sitting. I got sworn in for the country etc. To protect the forests etc. And I got a job in Wojbórz. I worked there for a year. Then they moved me to Ladek, cause the forester there got killed in an accident. I worked there as a younger forester.
There, I finished my education, a secondary school of forestry in Milicz, as an external student. I went for consultations once a month. It was on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Lectures, and we left for home on Sunday evening. One had to be at work on Monday morning.
Section 6
Why did you decide to take up such a job?
You know, I’ve always been attracted by the forest, by the nature in general. And there were those promises, those rifles, you know, a horse, a saddle, all those extras. And so it happened. I still have some photos from that period here. I had a saddle, I had a beautiful horse, not one, I’ve been a horse lover all my life. Like my father in the legions, you know.
I graduated from school. I mean, before I graduated, I had a job offer from Bielice, near Stronie Slaskie. I had a job in Miedzygórze and here, in Wojbórz. And because I knew the neighbourhood a bit, I took my wife one Sunday, and we went to have a look around, it was so close to the school, only 8 minute walk for the children. And there was a park in the centre of the village. There was a school, a chemist’s, shops, health care centre, bakery, everything, everything. And so I stayed there till the end. Almost till the end.

So you knew the neighbourhood quite well, didn’t you?
You could say so. I know all the villages here – from Orlowiec, Gieraltów, Bielice, Nowa Morawa, Kletno, Boleslawów, up to Mount Snieznik, Pokrzywno, Sokolówka – I worked there in ’56, when there were those hurricane winds. The forest lay down like straw, as if someone turned it all down to the ground. I volunteered to work there, they delegated me to Pokrzywno. I worked there until 20 May, cause I removed the damages first, and then they told us to plant new trees. I had a group of Gypsies assisting me, some 30 people. All of them Gypsies. And, you know, they thought I would sign their day’s work and they wouldn’t have to lift a finger. How wrong they were. I chose a group leader, so that all the work load was not on myself. Besides, they would be able to beat me up. So I chose that assistant of mine, the group leader, he was a nice guy. I was sitting and doing the paperwork, and he kept an eye on them. He selected them himself. Those who wouldn’t work were dismissed on the spot. Later, I had a group of highland girls – to plant the trees. So we planted them from scratch. It looked awful. Up to the Royal Forest, by the Czech border.

What did this area look like when you started working here?
It was all right, the forests were neglected like hell, a lot of dry trees, those that died standing. Later, I went to Szklarska Poreba and Swieradów. All the peaks were barren, only dried out trunks stuck into the sky, like you can see on TV after some great fire. That was what Swieradów looked like. Only some trees remaining on the southern slopes, but the northern ones were barren. The forests were awfully damaged. It was all because that mazout (fuel?), the Czechs poisoned the air like hell, you know, that socialism of theirs, you couldn’t harm another socialist country, but the truth was a bit different. And how much stuff they put into the Odra river. It’s a bit better now, I went once to Trzebiszowice, to Strachocin, the forests look good now, especially lots of the young ones.

But trees are cut down, aren’t they?
Well, yes, they are cut down, but, you know, as the saying goes, mother cuts as much bread as the children need, and so that some is still left. And the same thing has to happen in the forest. There is a rotation – you are allowed to cut down only as much as has grown. If you cut down trees from an area, it will take 10 years for it to grow with trees again. You cut down here – they grow somewhere else. And your task is to plant enough, so that there is a balance. For example – what I planted 39 years ago is now being cut down.
Section 7
What did all those villages deserted by the Germans look like?
The villages are now decaying. They used to look much better. They used to be quite nice, plaster covered walls, fences, gates, everything. Nowadays, some of them are just awful. Firstly, we’ve got a lot of people who found themselves here by accident, they are not farmers. They wanted to become farmers but they couldn’t make it. Now they are poor, they go to the forest, earn some money, but they’re not good farmers. You can tell a good farmer from afar.

What makes a good farmer?
Well, just look at the household. There was an inspector from Wroclaw who came to my forester’s lodge. He said, “I like it here.” He had a look around, no nettles, neat fences, everything clean and tidy, gates, a garden, flowers, my wife liked them. He said that’s how you tell a forester. His forestry district will be like his household.

What crops were planted then?

Well, I mean, the soil is not of the highest quality around here, is it?
Oh! I thought you were talking about the forest. It’s mainly spruce forest around here. Back under the Germans, the Sudety Mountains were covered by arable land, farms everywhere. There were few forests. But they soon found out that it’s not profitable, they planted the ground with trees, and they created monoliths. Only spruce and spruce everywhere and that was a mistake. The spruce has got flat (shallow) roots, I mean, they don’t go deep into the ground but spread just under the surface of the ground. If there are strong wind, the trees get uprooted. The forest should be mixed – beech, hornbeam, birch at higher altitudes. It is quite a nice tree, the wood can be made into panel boards. Aspen, birch. Alder, on the other hand, has a colour similar to mahogany.
Well, the crops... I had a piece of land, we had flax, buckwheat, wheat, rye, oats.

Did they grow well?
On the better quality soil, yes. But at the higher altitudes, it would be very weak without fertilisers. You know, if the soil had rested for a few years, I sowed some flax – it was beautiful, the machine could hardly harvest it.

And water?
We had water in the well. In the forester’s lodge, when I came there, there was a well, a bucket, a spin-handle, yes. Very deep well it was. It is still there, I just covered it with a concrete slab. I left it just in case. But I had a possibility of constructing water supply system, or rather reconstruct the one that had been there before. I completed the construction in ’67. Before that, it wasn’t fun. The toilet was behind the barn, you know such conditions that I found there when I arrived. So lived my predecessor, and his predecessor... I was the fifth forester there.
Section 8
And the rivers?
The rivers were much cleaner. You know, in Wojbórz, I could drink the water straight from the river. It was crystal clear. In Ladek, in Orlowiec, I worked there for 8 years, the water was so wonderful, it was mineral water. Clear, and how cold! Incredibly cold. Clear mountain streams. I don’t know, but I think a lot of them has been contaminated now... it’s the environment, or... And the atmosphere, all of that had adverse effect. I can see that looking at the trees. You often come across a pine tree, so young, so beautiful, but its needles are a bit burnt, the tree is ill. People don’t even realise. All plants are affected, you can see that. I remember the times when I planted tomatoes – whoever heard about pesticides back then! I would take them out of the ground, with roots, shortly before the first frost, some time in September, November, hang them in the cellar, and I often had fresh tomatoes for Easter. Now they don’t grow like that at all. Neither tomatoes nor cucumbers. There is something in the atmosphere.

What was the development of industry like around here?
Well, you know, there was a paper plant, a similar in Klodzko. The Forestry Co-operative just couldn’t cope with the supply. They purchased everything, from snails to blueberries, gooseberries, everything. Pensioners could earn some extra collecting the fruit of the forest. That’s how it was. Now people don’t pick their own cherries, cause they say it’s unprofitable, the cherries get dried on the trees. The same with other fruit, like apples. In the autumn, there were a lot of fruit in those gardens at Wojciecha Street. I used to collect them. I often carried a horse-drawn cart full of apples to the winery in Sujków. I always got some money for that. Nothing got wasted.

You mentioned horses...
I liked horses, since early childhood I rode horses. I used to have mares that I kept for breeding purposes, I bought a brown horse once, then I bought a chaise, an elegant thing. Yes, I kept horses. I started in Ladek, I bought the first mare then, so I had a horse already at the very beginning of my carrier. Well, you know, I kept all sorts of animals, I had cows, especially when the children were small and they needed milk. I also had some pigs...

How do you find living in a town?
Honestly? I’m not in love with it. You know what I can see here? Walls and walls, debris, plaster falling off... Just awful! That square, that concrete everywhere. Yes, I miss the contact with nature that I once had. I like the nature, I liked going out in the morning, there were roe-deer grazing, I could see them from my window, they grazed together with the cattle. No one was allowed to hunt them there. No hunter dared to approach that place. It all had its charm.

Didn’t you want to stay there?
You see, the forester’s lodge is linked with the job. And because I reached the retirement age, I had to leave. I knew it was coming, so I tried to find a flat for myself. So, what I have now is not mine, either. Who knows, if I’d worked elsewhere, maybe I would have earned enough to buy a house. But... salaries were low, we didn’t get much.
Section 9
Was it difficult for you to get used to the town? How long have you been living here?
I’ve been living here for two years now. Nobody forced me to leave that place, no. But, you know, I wanted to earn some money, I worked in the hospital as a supply manager for eight and a half years. I had to be at work in the morning, go some distance on foot, get on a bus, get off at Ustronie, cross the Nysa river, work until 3pm. And return the same way. My legs, my health couldn’t stand it.

Are there any advantages of living in a town?
Sure there are advantages. I can go out, it’s all clean in the flat. We have a bathroom, a toilet, a corridor, a kitchen, as you can see, there is a small bedroom and this room. But, you know, no... I’ve been in the nature for so long. I just miss it.

What’s happened to the children?
What children?

Your children.
Oh yes. My son lives in Klodzko. My middle son lives here. The youngest son lives in Wojbórz, he got married there. He built himself a small shop, all by himself. He’s talented. And I’ve got a daughter, she married a miner in Slupiec. We arranged for her to get a flat there. Quite a nice flat, four rooms, on the second floor. So my children are all right. Now it’s time for grandchildren.

What differences can you see between the people who live higher in the mountains and those living here, in the town?
Well, [laughs] I don’t envy them, to be quite honest.

You don’t envy whom?
Those people. You have to remember that if there is something you want to do, you have to take a bus, down to Wojbórz, pay 2 zlotys, from Wojbórz to Klodzko – 2.50. So it’s 5.50 for any minute thing, like a medicine or whatever. And then return the same way. So it’s over 10 zlotys altogether, isn’t it? And I must say, those people are so extremely poor, you just wouldn’t believe it. They have to try hard to manage somehow to make ends meet. Like mushroom picking, working for someone, collecting dry branches in the forest etc. Other than that, there are no sources of income for them. In one place, there used to be a village, now everything is damaged, only one old woman lives there.
Out of curiosity, I went to Orlowiec, to see what it looks like after the flood. It’s there that I started my career, where I was transferred as a young man. Well, there are just four people living there: Józiu Skrobotun, Franek Wyzga, Paruch and some engineer from Krakow trying his luck at farming. When I saw him, God forbid! Construction engineer, educated person, his wife is a teacher. He wanted to start a farm. Sheep breeding. What plans he had, my God! If it wasn’t for his wife, he would have died of hunger a long time ago. She worked in school in Ladek Zdrój, and their whole income consisted of her salary.
Section 10
But why didn’t they...
Well, you see, in the mountains you can sow 20 acres of land, and that will be enough for your hens for a whole year. But if a wild boar comes, digs the whole plantation, there is nothing to harvest. And there are a lot of wild animals. What hunting it was!

Did you often go hunting?
No, I didn’t even belong to the Association. They often invited me, though. As a guest of honour. I didn’t have time for such trips. They go hunting on a Saturday, then they gather together, drink vodka – I didn’t have time for things like that. There was work to be done. I had to prepare payment slips on time. And back then we didn’t have computers or such things as they do now. I had to calculate everything using just a pencil and some paper. Everything had to be done on time, I had to spend the nights working. Multiplying, dividing, calculating percentages, subtracting all the taxes, premiums etc. One year, we had 120 workers, so it took us – my wife and myself – three days. My wife knew something about accountancy, so she helped me. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have managed on my own.

Where did your wife work?
She never worked anywhere. She was a housewife, looked after the children, and I worked my fingers to the bone in the forest. We also had some livestock.

Did you have any close encounters with wild animals?
Oh yes. One day, I was coming back, I was still a young man, I hadn’t had breakfast. I arranged with a driver to meet in the forest, he was to collect timber: match factory raw material. I filled in all the necessary forms, and told him to go to the forest by car, and I would drop in home, to have some breakfast. Make a short cut, via the forest. He went in one direction, I – in another. I was running through the forest, a young one, and there was that clearance. So I was running, and I looked and I saw a wild boar with piglets. Jesus Maria! She was surprised, and so was I. Believe me, I was lucky there was a birch tree I could climb on. I jumped on it, and the boar went charging at me, I drew my legs higher then my head. God, how scared I was. I crouched on that tree and looked what she would do. But nothing happened. The young ones formed a line and went to the forest, and their mother followed them. So I was safe. Another time I had a similar encounter. But nothing ever happened to me.

And the flood from two years ago, why do you think things like that happen?
That’s an interesting subject. I’ve got a friend who’s interested in that sort of things. And he said – as early as in the 1970s – that something wrong would happen sooner or later for the forests are getting more and more damaged. To much timber is cut down, too little is planted. The same thing I previously said about Szklarska Poreba and Swieradów. He said that the water level had dropped by 1.2. And that’s catastrophic. Plants hate it if there is shortage of water. And if there are no plants, there is nothing to accumulate the water, to stop it. And the result is that the water flows down. That is such an... anomaly it is. All of the ground should be covered with forests, the government should take care of that. We wouldn’t have any calamities then… cause plants suck water. I don’t remember exactly, but one single oak tree assimilates a few thousand litres of water a day. And it transpires oxygen. Enormous amounts.
There is a park in Wojbórz, they wanted to cut it down. I wrote a letter to Walbrzych (former seat of Province), I wrote to a guy in the environmental protection department. In three days, the guy appeared on my doorstep. I told him, look, my boss wants to cut down a park with 350 to 400 year old trees. That’s unique, that park in Wojbórz. There are oak trees double the size of this wardrobe. Four men are not enough to embrace them. They have a history, they are so old. He had a look, it wasn’t far. We walked through it, we measured the trees, some 120 of them. And he blocked the idea of cutting them down absolutely. No cutting with the forestry district. And he saved those trees. Otherwise, it would now be a desert. And when they do cut down trees, they should cut down every third or every fourth, and plant new ones in the place of the old trees. Wait for the young trees to grow a bit. That’s how you should manage forests.
Section 11
What future do you see before these mountains, what should be done?
The direction is good, that’s what should be done here – develop tourism. Relieve these people from taxes, all the burdens, let them tend their own pieces of land, let them create those agro-tourist facilities, let them invite tourists, let them keep some sheep, an odd ram, a horse, or whatever, say, dogs for the races, whatever you call that. And that would be good for the people. The way things are now, young people run away. Everybody goes to the town, look for jobs there. In the past, they could get jobs wherever they liked, and the farms remained unattended here. Only old people remained. And the young – once they’ve tasted town life, they will never return. They know they’ve got regular salaries. And back at home, the father sometimes gave them some money, sometimes didn’t. [laughs] That’s the core of the problem. But really, no taxes, let them look after themselves in the villages. That’s what I would do, anyway.
Apparently, in the past, under the Germans, people didn’t live here, in the Valley of Klodzko for more than four years. It was all because the uranium deposits. Coming here was often treated as a sort of punishment. Only those who were born here lived longer. There were places in Ladek where the water would never freeze, even if the temperature dropped to 25 degrees Celsius below zero. Shallow uranium deposits... The Russians made research into it, together with our specialists. That was back in the 1960s. They bore holes, analysed, all the mountains – from Jawornik to Ladek.

What do you miss most from the times when you worked in the forest?
Well, that would be most certainly the peace and quiet. Yes, I got so used to the closeness of the nature. You can see that for yourself, if you go to some place far from the noise of the cities. Let’s say the lakeside somewhere in the Mazury Lake District.

How has the nature changed in all those years?
It’s changed for the worse. Definitely. Man interferes too much with the nature. It’s like with the coal mines. You cannot mine and then leave the shafts like that. They have to be filled. One after another, neatly. And the way we did it, under the communism, all we wanted was to increase the production. It was like robbing the nature. They said if we mined some 160 million tonnes a year, Poland would be affluent. It never happened. Coal is not all there is to life. Sure they exported a lot. But where’s the money?
Section 12
Do you think too many trees are cut down?
You know, in the nature it’s like in an organism. If you eat too much cooked cabbage, your liver will tell you something’s wrong. If you starve too much, you will feel bad. If you drink too much milk, you will have waterfalls in your belly [laughs].

Everything will take its toll, won’t it?
Exactly. In the past, I went mushroom picking, there were a lot of them. Nowadays, there is something in the air, there are hardly any mushrooms. One day, when I was still in Wojbórz, I went out in the morning, it was in June, and I saw that the birch had all the leaves red. In June, the leaves should be bright green, but they were red. And that birch soon died. What could that be? I don’t know! It’s human interference with the nature – be it a stream or a river.
The same thing happens in the forests. If the spring is nice, you plant a young tree properly, I guarantee it will grow. Not the way it is done [now], I go to the plantation and I see the young trees as if stuck into the ground, the roots hardly covered by the grass. That’s not the way to plant trees. You have to make a proper hole in the ground, let the root go straight down, cover it with the ground.
It’s either you save it or you won’t. It’s the same thing with everything.

Which area do you prefer, the east, where you were born, or here?
I hardly remember the east, I was a child when we left. But, yes, I can visualise the scenery. It was beautiful, it was hilly, you know. I was in the Orthodox Church, my grandmother went...
[A child enters and breaks up the conversation that was just about to end anyway]