LAND AS A REFUGE OF POLISHNESS
ARCHBISHOP JÓZEF MICHALIK
I do not have any merits of the Polish village, because we all have love and emotional bond to homeland and this is a condition of identity, building inner sense of safety and dignity. In the youth times I saw a bitter difficulty of a farmer’s work, but I also saw that land never disappointed people, that there is gratitude for the emotional bond, multiplying fruits of a seed thrown into it, by ten and even hundred times, as it was reminded by Jesus.
Throughout my whole life I also reflect on the words of my father clerk, who opposed to the sale of land, saying that who does not love land, does not deserve walking on it. I have always wanted to be a priest in the countryside, which partly turned true, as I became a bishop in a diocese at the frontier. But there, by the Polish frontier, hearts are beating more anxiously about the fate of the Polish land, about the future of depopulating farm households, about disappearing motives among young girls and boys to stay in the countryside, to reveal talents, creative inventions on the province, which will not be supported by either beautiful landscapes or fresh air without young people.
A farmer’s fears and chances
Work on farm is a systematic difficulty, but also cooperation with the rhythm of nature, charm of the whims of nature, and also authentic sense of freedom, satisfaction with work on one’s territory, regardless of moods of political chiefs of politicized department.
Today it is out of fashion to speak about patriotism, dignity of the nation, emotional bond with the Polish, Christian and European traditions, but this state of things led us to the demographic catastrophe, to moral indifference in the society, through which we accept the fact that pursuing the policy in our country means for 20 years, a quarrel among particular parties, without programs of the common work in the basic sectors of the safety of the country, safety of citizens’ health, support for the weaker.
There is also lack of protection towards the forthcoming year 2016, when restrictions of land purchase in Poland by foreign rich purchasers will be abolished. Today we can see some preparations of companies for selling the land in the northern and western areas, which is not surprising if in Holland a hectare of the land costs 38 thousand euros, in Belgium and Denmark 23 thousand euros, whereas in Poland, according to the pricing of the Main Statistics Office – 6 thousand euros, but a farmer in the province of Lublin and Podkarpacie will say that he paid 8-9 thousand zlotys for a hectare.
However, we must say that Poland’s joining the European Union also opened opportunities for farming and many resourceful people have taken advantage of them. Unfortunately, not all areas farmers were supported in their elaborating new perspectives, while the old ones were shrinking ( here I mean our Podkarpacie with sold-out sugar factories, closed down dairy plants, lack of places of sheep sale, which might be grazed in Bieszczady, etc.).
To get wisdom in the countryside
However, Mrs. Barbara Fedyszak-Radziejowska in one of her interviews advises and encourages: ‘To get knowledge in the city, and to get wisdom in the countryside’ (Piotr Legutko ‘Why have we disappointed?’, edited by Arcana, Cracow 2011, p. 35-44). For, the countryside has its great historic merits, the Polish noble and gentry traditions were strictly connected with the countryside. Here the sense of freedom survived because household used to give the sense of independence. And in the last years the countryside engulfed about 200 thousand people who returned to the countryside from workers’ hotels after 1989, also thanks to which the post-communist transformation became less drastic in Poland. Also unemployed workers suffered but the rural poverty does not degrade the man as much as urban poverty.
Moreover, agriculture, thanks to the fact that it was in the hands of private companies, quickly solved the problem of supplying the market with food. We remember the humiliating queues for meat in the communist times in Poland, which painlessly, as if via a magic wand, disappeared and it turned out that in Poland we had excess of food.
Hope in the Polish countryside
However, today Polish agriculture and Polish countryside need a new strategy, so that it would become a cooperation, not confrontation with the European Union. I am particularly anxious about the situation of the youth in the countryside who is very talented. But today it is not easy to get away from a village and set off all over the world. The youth from the countryside get educated at small provincial universities. Young people cannot afford stationary studies in a big city and, as a result, they lose with the metropolitan competitiveness about places at prestigious universities, where there is a chance and necessity to study foreign languages and enter a wider dimension of university culture.
The countryside still remains a resort of faith: peaceful, verifiable in life, independent from the chase after news. Rural traditions also maintain the sense of solidarity and community in people, especially in difficult moments they bring fruits in the form of friendly help (sometimes selfless and longtime). Changes concerning the countryside are various and deep today, and they often lead to equalizing chances ‘upwards’, but also to disappearance of good traditions. They also cause new habits, according to new demands, which is proved by the skill of adjusting village inhabitants (see Halina Pelcowa ‘Old and new in the language of the Polish village of XXI century’, in: ‘Tradition and modernity’, edited by Ewa Woźniak, Łódź 2008, p. 507-516).
In 1987, characterizing the mission of farmers, John Paul II, quoted Wincenty Witos: ‘Who is to be the unreliable resort and strength of the Country?! For me the answer came itself: conscious, independent, pleased Polish peasants, because they are ready to give their health and life for every piece of homeland, not to say about our whole country. But we should rely not only on peasants, but we should gain their faithfulness and emotional bond with our country at any cost, and when we manage to do it, we should keep and cultivate them forever’ (’My memories’, vol.1). Later the Pope added that thanks to farmers in Poland there was a particular bond between culture and religion, which had already been noticed by Cyprian Kamil Norwid, who wrote that a farmer ‘is looking for bread for us with his one hand, and is getting lots of fresh thoughts from Heaven with his another hand!’.
Ten years later in Krosno, the Pope clearly declared: ‘Today I want (…) to pay tribute to a farmer’s work. (…) I want to pay tribute to a farmer’s love to land, because this love has always been a strong pillar in which the national identity is based on. (…) Today, at the times of changes, we cannot forget about it’.
So, I also want to thank You for remembering about farmers and the Polish village. I particularly thank the chair of the Foundation ‘Solidary Village’ – of Mr. Sławomir Siwek. I thank everybody for making us sensitive to the truth that the process of social reforms, which is good and raises hopes, cannot omit any category of people, nor any group or the Polish village, if it is to be creative, according to the ancient rule: ‘Bonum ex integra causa’ (Good results from the whole).
I would also like to thank all Guests of our meeting for such a friendly presence connected with their devoting time and effort of the journey. I hope that we are united with love to the Polish village.