A Return x


For me the forest is a place where you can escape. It reminds me of the mountains. It smells of moss and moisture.When I was just a boy my father used to take me to Połoniny, as we lived nearby.I remember the impression of nature and landscape, mostly autumn landscape, from those trips. At that time I wasn’t familiar with the history of this area. In fact, this place felt obvious, because it had always been so close to me. I underestimated it. After moving to the city I realized how important to me it really was.   I went back to the Bieszczady Mountains to meet the people who decided to live away from the city bustle. Some people cut off from the civilization and live in harmony with nature in their hermitages, while others seek the Polish equivalent of the “Wild West” – this is what I had in mind after reading about thugs, coal burners, hippies and all those people who chose to live outside of the mainstream, outside of the society and politics. I wanted to confront my vision of this place with the reality. That vision was built on memories and information that came to me from books, movies, and conversations. Apparently we do not appreciate what we have until we lose it.   Bieszczady Mountains became a magnet for me. They attract me. They intrigue me. I thought I knew them well.

***  After the “Vistula” action the area of southeastern Poland became utterly deserted. The wave of expulsions led to a complete depopulation of the area. Residential buildings were completely destroyed. The authorities were implementing a plan of forced settlement of these areas, but a large part of the settlers left the Bieszczady because of harsh climate, infertile soil and lack of infrastructure. In the communist era, mountains turned into an uncompromising alternative to a life under the communist system, an escape from the society or economic and political problems. Some people just wanted to live away from the city, for others it was an opposition to the state policy.