OTHER LOCAL THEMES
culture and customs
introducing the area
quotes about agriculture
key testimonies featuring agriculture
Farming has never been easy in this mountain valley. Although the altitude is not particularly high, the soil is thin and the winters are quite severe. Some of the post-war settlers who came from the more fertile flatlands of the east gave up the unequal struggle: "It was very difficult for them, so many of them gave up and left the mountains" (Poland 1). This same woman describes how everything, including tilling the soil, used to be done by hand. Now farmers have access to mechanisation, but much of the land is left deserted: "Where there used to be farms, now there are no houses. There is no owner, all of this belongs to the State, so who is to plough or harvest?" she asks. Almost everyone agrees that farming is currently in serious decline. "Until late 1980s - at least part of this mountainous land was tilled. Nowadays, wherever you go, you see untilled land" (Poland 12). During the communist era, farmers were in a relatively good position, producing a vital commodity, but now prices for their crops and livestock hardly match expenditure. "In the 50, the 50s and the 40s, up to '55... farming flourished.... Farming was good business back then, really - life was easy back then. Everybody was happy, cause there were also food production co-ops, and those co-ops later collapsed, they were closed down" (Poland 4).
Several narrators make the point that settlers' attempts to farm were hampered not only by their unfamiliarity with the terrain, but also by a feeling that their time in the mountains might be temporary. This fostered a reluctance to invest or think long-term: ". nobody renovated the buildings at that time, there was no money for that. Besides, in the 1940s, 1950s, there were still rumours that we would be coming back to the east" (Poland 21). Some of the urban professionals (intelligentsia déclassé), who left behind their old lives to take up farming, were particularly struck by this "short-term" attitude. But they also acknowledge what a struggle it is to farm locally, especially in the last 10 years.
Many post-war settlers commented on the efficiency of the German farmers who were still there when the Poles first arrived: "They used horses and oxen to till the soil, they didn't use any machines. They were so trained in being punctual and doing everything on the hour, that if an ox heard the hour being struck on the church tower, it knew it was supposed to leave the field... And even if there was thunder coming from the sky, they wouldn't change their routine... They were different from Poles in that respect. A Pole will work until 10 o'clock at night, and will stay in bed until later in the morning, or get drunk" (Poland 12) .
quotes about agriculture
""All the villages around were full of people. Unlike today, when they are almost deserted, hardly anyone has any crops. In the past, it was all farming land, covered with crops, harvested on time... Now the Germans and wealthy Poles buy that land, and they build summer houses there.""
Adam, M/62, vice-president of Siberian Deportee Assoc., Poland 21
""Over 10 [years ago], yes.. you could live on just the wool from sheep. If you had over a hundred sheep, you didn't have to worry about anything... So life was easy. And now that we are .coming back [in]to Europe, the prices have dropped... At present, the situation of farmers is difficult. Especially [given] the effort you have to make here, in the mountains, when compared to that in the lowlands.. tilling the soil is extremely difficult...""
Sylwester, M/50, surveyor, Poland 10
""[Bystrzyca] was smaller because much more people lived in the surrounding villages, where most people lived on farming. Then, when collective farms came into being, many people left villages and moved to town.""
Adolfina, F/63, pensioner, Poland 40
""Everything went into decline when they started setting up kolkhozse (workcamps) in '51, '52 and '53. After 1956, there was some revival, even economic one. The farmers were taking over their farms again. But that revival didn't last long. When Gomólka started making life more and more difficult, farming went into decline again. So here, in the mountains, agriculture has always had those ups and downs. At the moment - with the onset of the Solidarity governments - farming has collapsed altogether.""
Adam, M/62, vice- president of Siberian Deportee Assoc., Poland 21