They hear the hen clucking. Poles have fallen in love with the countryside

What has happened that the hollowness, which until recently, in large conurbations, was associated with communism and backwardness, has suddenly become attractive?

Janusz Rewiński, or the popular 'Siara' from 'Kiler', Leszek Lichota from 'Wataha' (The Pack), Piotr Pręgowski from 'Ranch', Rudi Schuberth from 'The Singing Pianos' or Michał Żebrowski, the legendary 'The Witcher', are just a few examples of domestic celebrities who have changed their lives, left the crowded capital city and moved to the end of the world to enjoy the charms of the Polish countryside.

Others are following suit. Last year alone, as many as 50 000 Poles decided to leave the cities and settle in the countryside. This is a historic result, as the last such large migration from the city to the countryside took place in 2008, i.e. before the financial crisis.

Furthermore, according to calculations made by Krystyna Szafraniec of the Institute of Rural and Agricultural Development, one in three people from rural areas who have graduated return to the countryside. It is mainly people with low levels of cultural and economic capital who leave. The blissful tranquillity is also not appreciated by the youngest residents. A study that was carried out on high school graduates showed that only 12 per cent of women currently living in the countryside want to stay there.

SIGN UP TO OUR PAGE According to experts, it is mainly the metropolitan 'bourgeois' who dream of their own hermitage in the Bieszczady Mountains or Suwalki region. This is confirmed by an analysis of the CBOS social research centre: wealthier and better educated people, such as Ewelina Zych-Myłek, owner of a foundation, who moved from Warsaw to a charming house near the eastern border because she wanted better living conditions for her child, are more likely to move to the countryside. br>
So what has happened that the hollow, which until recently, in large conurbations, was associated with communism and backwardness, has suddenly become attractive, even trendy?

Celebrities in an eco version

"A lot of the credit for this goes to show business people who, although they have been moving out of the agglomeration to the countryside for many years, have never particularly boasted about it before," argues Marcin Leoszko, chairman of one of the regional tourist organisations and a member of the Union of Entrepreneurs and Employers, who himself moved from 300,000-strong Bialystok to Lipowiec near Augustów. "The red carpet was very much in conflict with wheat and rye cultivation or animal husbandry. However, for a few years now the trend has changed and celebrities are even competing to see who is more eco-rural".

Exodus was started by Janusz Rewiński, a legend of Polish cabaret. Today he owns 12 ha in Dzielniki near Mińsk Mazowiecki. He already functions more as a farmer, not the king of life from "Tigers of Europe". He breeds horses, sheep, goats or chickens. He is not worried about the price of coal, as he secures his own fuel for the winter in the form of wood. He has his own pond, pastures and meadows.

Although it wasn't exactly a 'drop everything and go to the Bieszczady' choice. The actor admitted that at a certain point in his career he stopped receiving offers for roles. There was also a bit of his fault in this. He himself turned down a TV show. He turned down an offer to play the role of Ferdinand Kiepski, which, as it later turned out, provided financial stability for 20 years.
Wojciech Fortuna found peace in the Suwałki region. In the photo, the former Olympic ski jumping champion (third from left) and Zofia Fortecka unveil an obelisk in Szelmont in the Szypliszki municipality in honour of coach Janusz Fortecka. Photo: PAP/Artur Reszko
Wojciech Fortuna, Olympic ski jumping champion from Sapporo in 1972, settled in Gorczyca, a village in the Suwałki region with 195 inhabitants.

Previously, he worked for many years in Chicago as a labourer and driver. Now, at the end of the world, he fulfils himself as a promoter of healthy lifestyles and an animator of cross-country skiing. He even organised an exhibition "From Marusarz to Małysz and Kowalczyk" at the Szelment Regional Sports and Recreation Centre. He is a frequent volunteer and, as he himself admits, after many years of wandering around the world and a hectic lifestyle, it was in tiny Gorczyca, in a three-storey house, with his second wife by his side, that he found peace of mind.

But Fortune, even in the world of show business, was nevertheless an outlier. In the 1980s, he was jailed twice for brawling. After his release, he travelled to Austria or the former Yugoslavia to trade. He illegally traded in foreign currency. After one alcoholic bender he was even suspected of murdering a fellow drinker. In 1997, his concubine filed a charge of battery, and he lost his house in Zakopane as a result. He was legally convicted of abusing the woman and threatening her partner.

Gorczyca therefore seems to be his catharsis.
There are also celebrities for whom moving to the countryside is becoming a great business model. Warsaw actors Leszek Lichota and Ilona Wronska opened Forrest Glamp, an exclusive campsite overlooking a river, hornbeams, lime trees and cherry trees on the border of the Beskid Niski and the Bieszczady Mountains.

They have combined the pleasant with the useful. They have taken themselves away from the hustle and bustle of the city, while earning quite a bit of money at the same time. One night under their tent costs as much as 580 PLN. Almost as much as in the five-star Marriott in Warsaw.

The writer and satirist Rudi Schuberth is not as "rich" with prices: at his Otnoga Farmstead (a Kashubian village in the Bytow district of Pomerania), a night's stay including breakfast costs 125 zł per person. Schuberth has 20 hectares of land there and, in addition to agrotourism, produces honey and meat products.
The holiday resort of actor couple Leszek Lichota and Ilona Wronska looks inconspicuous from afar. Photo: Adam Golec / Forum
"This type of business is not for everyone", warns Leoszko. "Rural hospitality in the broadest sense is a business that has to be run with passion. It is not possible to put up a facility, employ a manager and wait for profits. If you don't stay there yourself, don't put your heart into it and don't feel it yourself, there is no chance of success," he believes.

Away from the rat race

One of the most important reasons to change a life is to conceive a new one. Ewelina Zych-Myłek runs a foundation. As she herself admits, she has a flat in Warsaw and, as long as she was only with her partner, she was perfectly at ease in the whirlwind of 'Warsaw bohemy' and the constant rush. However, when her daughter appeared in the world, everything that had been a huge plus in the capital became a problem. Together they decided to move to the Podkarpacie region, precisely for the sake of the child.

"I want to bring up Ewa in a fully conscious way and not lose even a moment from her life,' says Zych-Myłek in an interview with TVP Weekly. 'So what if you have a great flat on a gated estate when your child stumbles over dog excrement on it, and the only animals she can get to know are pigeons eating up fast-food leftovers from the garbage bins.

She argues that the child needs nature, nature, wants to learn about the real world, not concretes. She explains that every leaf, every new flower, every squirrel she meets is worth its weight in gold to her daughter. "Here we are woken up by a rooster or crickets, Ewa hears a hen clucking, sees a cow being milked, sees a raspberry growing. In the city, a child can only be taught this through books. Here she feels real stimuli," she adds.

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Another reason for the change of environment was the people. - "Over the years I've become used to competition, the rat race and sheepishness", Ewelina explains. "But when you already have a daughter of your own, you don't want her to learn this from a young age. In the city, there are already comparisons on the playground, who has what bike, there is jealousy for better clothes, nicer toys. People practically don't talk to each other, they avoid contact, they look at you wolf-like. Here, where we live now, they themselves invite us for cake, ask how we are doing, offer to help. Seemingly 300 kilometres away, but a completely different world.

Space is also important. With a few dozen square metres in Warsaw, there used to be very little left for a child. Now there is much more, and if you add the meadows and forests, you run out of days to play in all the places.

Ewelina's partner Dariusz ran his own businesses for years. In the countryside, he found himself as a garden and interior designer and artist, and he argues that only now does he feel he is truly alive.

Alone with the old house

Alicja Maciejewska has always dreamt of having her own cottage in the Bieszczady Mountains. She worked in Warsaw as a graphic designer, her partner was an analyst in a bank. And he also wanted to move from the centre of Warsaw to a quiet location. When the opportunity arose, they moved together near the eastern border. At the time, the change of residence did not yet involve a change of profession. They were both able to work remotely.

Over time, the love faded. "The idyllic life in the countryside changed when we separated," explains Maciejewska. "I was left alone with an old, massive house. All the jobs he used to do - shoveling snow, chopping wood, repairs and home renovations - fell on my, female, head. For someone who is totally 'non-technical', this is an unimaginable problem. An activity that took him a while could take me half a day".

But here too, neighbours have come to her aid. They take an interest in what's going on with her, whether she's coping with the housework and even whether she feels safe living on the outskirts of the village, just below the forest on a hill. "When I stop at a shop, they accost me, asking, for example, about the visitors I had last week. Here, everyone knows everything about everyone. Only I don't know anything about anyone," laughs the graphic designer.
Evening view of Wetlina in the Bieszczady Mountains. Photo: Dawid Lasociński / Forum
Many people who have lived their entire lives in a block of flats may not even realise how much trouble a dream farm in the countryside can be. The increased interest in the countryside has even been noticed by the Ministry of Development and Technology, which has published a special knowledge base for amateurs of country life on its website. They warn not only of the difficulties of renovation, but above all of the change in the cost of living. "The price of a square metre of housing in a large city is higher, but housing in the suburbs or in a medium-sized city or in the countryside can generate additional costs, such as utility connection fees," officials warn.

And they enumerate, among other things, higher heating costs, municipal waste management, commuting to work and school, sewage disposal, water acquisition, property tax, renovation costs or the lack of proper installations.

High school graduates want to go to the city

The old adage goes that grass is always greener on the other side. And what is a dream come true for some is a curse for others.

Only 12 per cent of last year's female high school graduates living in the countryside would like to stay there. Among boys, this figure is slightly higher, but still hovers around 30 per cent.

"No wonder, young people want to get away to the big city, have fun, be anonymous, explore life. The second motivation is money. If they see that there are no prospects in their neighbourhood and their only hope is a job with connections in the municipality for the minimum wage, it is obvious that they want to make a name for themselves in the capital," explains Leoszko.

And she adds: - After all, people who move to a hermitage are usually ones who are already established in life and can afford to be a pensioner. Or they can afford to work remotely.

– Karol Wasilewski
-translated by Tomasz Krzyżanowski

TVP WEEKLY. Editorial team and jornalists

Main photo: Poliksy in the district of Sztum, on route no. 515. Photo: Adam Chełstowski / Forum
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