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Friday, 19 January 2018

Family Matters in Poland: Dzialki

Dearest sweethearts,

Did you ever hear about "dzialki" in Poland? Have you ever seen one or been inside one? Maybe your family even owns one! I know there are plenty of "dzialki" around the neighbourhood I am living in, but before I head off deeper in the post let me tell you what they are. "Dzialki" are allotment gardens given from the land of the state to its citizen. When asking away friends that live in and around Krakow the constant answer I had from them was the fact that they did not know a single member of the family, especially the elderly ones, that don't have a "dzialki". These pieces of land give the right to the "owners" to grow their own food, have their own vegetable garden, be out in the Nature and grow their own organic food - especially for the little ones. Now for the larger pieces of land split in multiple "dzialki" there are allotment associations who own the freehold and make sure that certain things don't happen while they are around. The power over the allotment gardens used to belong to the unions, PZD (Polish Association of Gardens), but it was taken away and given to the "gminy" (local government). 
These type of "social gardens" can be found throughout the cities in Poland and can be viewed as a quirk. The "dzialki ogrodowe" are not actually owned by the people that take care of them, that farm the land, but by the local government. Yet people do pay taxes for using the land, as if it were their own! The persons that work the land, that make use of It, own a sort of lease that allows them to use the plot with certain restrictions. You even can raise a small abode, a small summer "house", a room with a kitchen where you can go out and do a grill - but there are strict laws on how the building should look like and how big it should be. There are almost a million of such allotments - forming a total of 300+ square meters - and they are spread throughout Poland.  Some of them are established more than a hundred years ago, given to "excellent citizens" (people with exemplary behaviour in the society)! And some of them are currently in some fine locations, ripe for development. Altogether, the land that sits now in the possesson of the allotment holders amounts to 43.000 hectares! Just imagine!
I have never heard of "dzialki" until 3 years back, when I first realised what it means... the area I live in (Krowodza Gorka area in Krakow) has many such places - some are along the tram lines, some are in between blocks and some take the shape of a circle and the inner part of the circle, enclosed, is a wonderful public park. A park that you would not know was there, as there is no sign, you would think it all private property... The "dzialki" are hermetically closed with fences and locked gates and even small summer houses - probably just one small room and  a kitchen/toilet. #DidYouKnow that the PZD (Polish Association of Gardens) is one of the very few organisations that managed to get out of the Communist Regime in one piece?! Also, in 2012, some of the laws related to "dzialki" were found unconstitutional by the Polish court - right now we are in 2018 and there are still not any clear laws about the future of PZD nor of the "dzialki". I did find an article that was saying that there are multiple types of "dzialki" - Family Garden (Rodzinny Ogrod Dzialkowy), Workers Garden (Pracownyczych Ogrod Dzialkowy) or the one for retired veterans. Inside the big cities, like here in Krakow, they do seem like small villages inside the big cities, little gated communities that do have access to water and electricity. Some even have mailboxes!
Having a walk with the Little One in the park surrounded by "Dzialki" - they do keep all the noise away and you feel as if you were no longer in the city :)
Before '89 people do share stories about raising chicken and pigs there, but nowdays mostly propel just use it for gardening and relaxing. In the summertime they enjoy doing a picnic surrounded by greenery, without having anyone shout at you for the noise or the pagan smell ;) it's an oasis in the big city.  Nowdays, as far as I can see the ocasional adds placed in the areas with "dzialki", the transactions are done on a person to person basis. If you want a piece of land like that you need to scout out and try to find someone willing to sell it to you. There is of course no standard price and I could say this might generate some "black market"... but if you do manage to somehow buy a "dzialka" you need to be prepared! You will have to join PZD and take a 3 day course: one on flowers, one on fruit trees and one day with legal matters - like cutting your grass regularly, making trees and other plants don' go on the other side of the fence, to your neighbours, and so on. "Dzialki" are a privilege and one should be very much honoured to be part of the group that has such an amazing place to spend some time in the Nature's bosom ;) how about you, your family, friends... do they own one? Would love to hear your stories!

P.S. The people who now I'm seeing around in the "dzialki" are usually 50+ years. Up to this moment I have never seen youngsters or grown ups my age in any of the parcels. Not even in the summertime... I guess they rather would travel and spend time elsewhere... I guess that also makes "dzialki" an old-school place to be, totally not hip and fashionable :/

Yours very much truly,
The Twisted Red Ladybug That Loves "Family Matters in Poland" ;)))

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