These interviews show how the complex political history of Europe’s last 80 years has had a profound impact on a relatively remote highland area.
Our partner Zdanie, a local NGO with a strong grassroots base, coordinated an all-female team of interviewers who collected over 40 testimonies in the Sudety mountains, southwest Poland. Currently the only collection gathered in the North, these testimonies show how the complex political history of central Europe over last 80 years has had a profound impact on a relatively remote highland area.
The Klodzko valley once lay within Germany’s borders; after the Second World War it was part of the territory “recovered” by Poland. Narrators include some of the original German inhabitants, Poles who were resettled there by the Soviet authorities (exiled from their old homelands in Poland’s former eastern territories), survivors of Siberian war camps, as well as environmentalists and foresters, and those affected by a massive flood in 1986.
Zdanie held an exhibition, with accompanying catalogue, based on extracts from the testimonies together with photographs of the narrators and the surrounding environment – past and present. Zdanie carried out some additional testimony collection with German inhabitants in the local area. A series of radio programmes based on these testimonies has been broadcast by a major regional radio station.
[Damage from the flood?] It was just awful what I saw, just awful. Lots of stones, pieces of rock on the road, people were crying, houses were flooded… they were trying to salvage their animals…. when the water dropped, it left such a battlefield behind…you could say there had been a war. Everything, trees uprooted, electricity broken, mud-filled yards, cellars…full of mud …. bridges had been broken, and [people] were totally cut off, they didn’t have water, electricity, gas.”
Maria, female, 53 years
“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. After the war, I must say, the farmers looked after their fields, the land that belonged to them. At the moment, in the villages in the direct vicinity of Bystrzyca, all the land is left untilled – all of which were tilled in the 1970s and 1980s. It all started with villages near the border, such as Lasówka, Mostowice and Piaskowice – the dying out of the villages. Now the Germans and wealthy Poles buy that land, and they build summer houses there.”
Adam, male, 62 years, pensioner, vice president of Siberian Deportee Association
“[Once you are married] you’re no longer free, you’ve got duties. You are like a servant, you have to cook, bake, iron. When you’re getting married, you’re taking such a load on your back, you’ve got duties.”
Aniela, female, 77 years, pensioner