Unlike most of the other pages in this website, this is rather more of a serious study into aspects of communities, social and economic that lie behind the history and present of farming in this region. These aspects are separately divided up and studied with the aim that at the end most Lubelskie villages can be assessed at least partially even if you never have the opportunity of visiting them. This page attempts to show how these factors work together to produce the different types of farming communities that existed both in history and in the present. This page is divided into 3 main themes, Fields, Roads and Place-Names.
Farming in Eastern Poland in many ways has survived intact from the inter-war period, while there has been some improvements it often has been very sporadic. generally, agriculture in Poland, like its development of the lower classes, has somewhat lagged that of other Northern European countries. Up until the 19th century, agriculture seems to have plodded on in much the same way as it had for the previous 800 years with small improvements here and there, notably by the introduction of some new vegetables by Queen Bona , the Italian born queen of Sigismund the Old in the 16th century.
Generally, farming here is concerned with crops, cattle, pigs, and some horses. Farmland varies between heavy clays of the lowland regions and the light sandy soils of the upland loess. Horses still have some importance, although decreasing, as a large proportion of farmers still use them, varying between 20% and 70% of farms, depending on the affluence of the particular region. Goats and various poultry are also kept, most poultry being free range close to the farmstead, while the animals being kept on chains and moved around the pastures as necessary. The most typical crops are wheat, barley, potatoes, sugar beet, apples, strawberries, raspberries, cucumbers, legumes and tomatoes. To a large extent the region is self sufficient in what it can grow and it is not a shortage of land that stops it from being so.
This is a picture of the type of farming carried out today, and it does not seem to have changed much from a few centuries ago. Farming plodded on through the centuries with little change until the starty of the 19th century. The 19th century is interesting as during this time Poland did not exist as a state but had been divided up among the 3 surrounding states of Germany, Austria and Russia. Although typically viewed as a low point in the history of Poland, it was actually a period of great change as the advances in food production, industry and technology of that had been building up in other parts of Europe took Poland in its grasp.
One of the most important of these was in the field of health, Polands population began to swell as less children died and people were able to live to a greater age. Up until then the population of the land had been relatively static, but now there was a problem as the towns and cities as yet had little new industry to absorb the excess from the land. As a result, with each new generation, the land was divided again and again amongst these growing families until there was not enough to support them. This is one of the biggest reasons for the emmigration of Poles to the New World, particularly in years of poor harvests or recesion. Below is a chart of the changes wrought in the village of Husow (ref.1) from about 1780 to 1940. As the amount of land available was to a large extent fixed by the presence of surrounding villages and lack of virgin land in the village lands, then to divide the land among the children at each generation increases the number of farms, but decreases the average amount of land at the same time.
By the middle of the 19th century the map of the village is a little different, the original field boundaries are still in use, but now there are more of them as the strips have become divided into smaller ones. The road system has grown as well, as fields become divided in length as well. It was fortunate that as the health of the population grew, so did the farming itself improve with better equipment and knowledge, and also the ability to transport goods over greater distances to find markets elsewhere, to feed the growing populations of the towns and cities.
Even before the fields themselves became divided as separate economic entities, they were often cropped as three or four naorrower strips, each strip growing a different crop. This enabled each farm to be self sufficient as each grew what it needed, plus it meant that the work of harvesting was spread through the year, not happening all at once. This also had the advantage that if one crop failed, there was always the chance of another succeeding. The final most significant advantage is that it enabled some kind of crop rotation to be undertaken and thus keep the land fertile.
The system of farmin in Husow was not the only type, in other villages you can see that the village had a more defined location, instead of being strung out along a road with some distance between each building.. These centralised were generally involved in some kind of 2, 3 or 4 field crop rotation system. Here, instead of having one strip of land associalted with one farm, each farm had a strip (or more than one) in each or 2, 3 or 4 large fields around the village. This kind of farming has some advantages in that it is more easy to share work wirth other farms and thus do a job, ploughing for example much more efficiently. Here a plough team can be shared by several farms and spend the day going up and down the field, ploughing adjacent strips without wasting time ploughing one narrow strip and then haviing to move the whole team to somewhere else. The downsides of this type of farming is that it requires more cooperation between famers (politics!) and it is more difficult to establish changes in farming as you have first to reach aggreement with large groups of people.
The map below shows the land ownership in the village of Ratnowice (ref. 2), and here you can see that some of the land is held by the church, a folwark (manor) and soltys (village chief) as well as normal farmers.
Multi-strip land ownership also occurred in the Husow type of village, below is Burgrabice (ref. 3), which had a block of strips owned by the soltys and can be distinguished by the lack of farm property at the end of the strip fields.
One of the great movements in agriculture during the 17th to 19th centuries was the enclosure of the original jointly owned fields into large fields owned by one person. Sometimes this was a necessity as agriculture was forced to change by economic circumstances and sometimes by local people seeking to improve their own economic position by a bit of a land grab. One of the problems of uneducated farmers is that they get there land from their fathers, but there is no paper record to back this up. One important thing about this change in the field systems is that it changes many small farmers into employees of the newly created big farms. An example of this is Wies Oporow (ref. 4), which was enclosed in 1837, see map below
After the second world war there was a great change in the countryside, many of the people working there had now gone, either died in the war, moved away or were forcibly moved by the state. Of the people who chose to move, some emmigrated, some moved to the towns and cities and others moved to the newly gained area in the west of Poland, land that had been part of pre-war Germany. It was relatively easy for the State to take over former German farms and create State farms, settling Poles from other parts of Poland, including those from the former lands of Poland in the east which were now part of Ukraine and Belarus. Many of these state farms took on forms that were similar to army barracks; uniform housing blocks were built as well as large, archetecturally neutral barns and other farm buildings. Sometimes an existing villages economic structure was absorbed into part of the design, while in other cases purpose built pre-schools and shops were built. The map below of Machów Stary (ref. 5) is of the latter type. Another type of communal farming was the workers co-operative; here the local farmers grouped together to pool resources. These co-operatives were sometimes physically indistinguishable from a state farm to look at, but often they retained much of the original village structure. For convenience here I will use the name 'state farm' to mean both real state farms and workers co-operatives.
In Eastern Poland the application of the Soviet ideal in commune agriculture was not applied with much success, most farmers held onto there land and continued much as they had before. Where state farms were applied successfully was were the former owners of the land had left Poland, had been made to leave, or where agriculture was poor and the idea of a state farm was an almost immediate economic benefit. In the case of Trawniki (ref.6), land claimed by the State from the former local gentry was put up for sale in lots, some local people buying while others refused to because they believed that the State had no right to the land. So, while on one hand the State was creating owner-farmers, at the same time it built a huge grain storage unit on the highest land in the vicinity. This building dominates the skyline by its position, size and its ominous grey, Stalinist architecture.
Trawniki grain silo
State farms were not particularly successful, particularly if there were a large number of owner-farmers in the locality. Much of the farm equipment was either stolen or sold to these owner-farmers. To visitors to Poland the sight of many 100m square areas of bare concrete beside the road apparently in the middle of nowhere is inexplicable, but these were farm vehicle and mechanised equipment storage parks.
The result today with state farms is that if you look at a detailed map of Poland in the eastern border regions, the countryside of the Polish side of the border is studded with farmsteads, whilst just across the Bug river in Ukraine and Belarus there are few isolated buildings and dense villages have been created. State farms in Poland, as elsewhere in the former Soviet states, have generally collapsed leaving the Polish countryside littered with miniature blocks of flats full of the unemployeed, and often unemployable [note: The situation here has a parallel with many poorer districts of inner cities of countries with good welfare institutions]. Many of the poorer districts where the state farms have collapsed since 1989 the local councils are desperate to find investors and offer land and other property at extremely low rates: "The community authorities may offer free plots for real estates and building" (ref 7)
The housing block of the state farm in Sobibor (ref. 8)
A model State
farm. What it doesn't show is the people that make up the community, their
hopes and how they got on.
If you examine a map of the roads in a village you can ussually tell if the community ever had town rights. The method of agriculture in Poland usually led to the establishment of very loose settlements with a difficult to define centre and farmsteads dotted along several roads. It is probable that this structure has come about since Poland became a state and established a certain amount of stability within its realm. Needs and uses establish the shape of a village, if you are going to hold a fair you are going to need a convenient piece of ground to hold it on, some kind of storage for goods, a building for the administration and accomodation for merchants and all the people necessary for the running of the fair. Once the piece of ground is chosen (close to the trade route, near water for animals to drink etc), all the necessary buildings will be built close to the fair and automatically you have constructed, or reconstructed, your village around a definite centre - the village green! Generally the new street were set out in some form of basic grid pattern and this is what you see on the modern map.
Generally in Poland roads in and around villages don't have names unless the village once held town rights. Generally addresses in Polish villages are just a house number and the village name.
The types of roads to be found in any particular village can be classified into 3 main groups; national roads, local roads, and field access roads. National roads are anything from a road connecting 2 towns remote from the village up to international highways. Local roads are those which connect the village with the other local villages around the periphery of the one in question. Farm access roads give access from the village or farms to the fields.
National Roads - These often had some significance in the original location of the settlement, few random green field sitings of villages occurred in history, most were either on some kind of established route or by some natural resource that was to be exploited. If the amount of traffic declines on a national route, it is generally true that the communities on that route also decline as the amount of 'foriegn capital' is reduced. These days national roads are all surfaced with tarmac. One form of 'road' that has also to be taken into consideration is rivers. In the days before well surfaced roads and economical road transport then rivers provided an efficient and relatively cheap method of transporting bulky goods such as metals, wood and corn. Rivers themselves provide fish and often special fish ponds were created as a local form of agriculture.
Since the late 19th century railways have created an alternative form of transport which has often affected the economic situation of nearby villages by giving them better opportunities for the export of their produce as well as the establishment of new industries. In the present there are new road schemes to try and alleviate the problems caused by the growing number of cars, but few of these have yet to happen in the Lubelskie region.
Local Roads - These are generally fixed, only varying as the
amount of necessary contact with particular nearby villages changes. If
a neighbouring village has a market then there will be a well established
road to that place. If a neighbouring village has little to offer then
the route will be poor. Generally these roads are tarmaced, although some
still have a broken stone surface or maybe some kind of clinker. If the
route is not too important then it may be completely unsurfaced.
It is not uncommon to find roads paved like this in the country. Even in villages, many of the roads may be paved like this or have no paving at all.
Field Access Roads - Most of these roads are unsurfaced, or maybe with a clinker surface if there are some buildings that people regularly access. This type of road is the most likely to change if the structure of the communities fields change. As a general rule, the greater the number of fields, the greater the number of access roads is required, and vice versa. If you look at the map of Husow then you will see that new access roads were created as the fields became divided into smaller and smaller units. conversly, in Wies Oporow then when the original strip fields were enclosed and the total number of fields reduced, then some of the access roads disappeared altogether.
As it is rare to find maps showing field boundaries then it is useful to be able to interpret other information on a map to establish some kind of history of a particular village. This is, of course, far from being an exact science and it does require a good basic understanding of both national and local needs, history etc. However, it can help to point us in certain directions and help us to look for specific information in archive searches etc.
The first thing to decide when looking a particular village is what are the national roads. These are usually easy to spot as they are the ones which connect up local towns.Unless some of the local towns are of relatively recent vintage on green field sights, then it is likely that these roads have been of the same status for the past few centuries. Generally most of the buildings will be on this road as well as things like churches etc., when they are not then it is a sign that some local or regional changes have taken place. Next it is worth establising the current and historical importance of this village and the surrounding villages to establish the likely local roads. What is left is probably going to only be field access roads, if there are few or none of them then it is probable that the average field size is quite large, while if there are many roads then it is likely that the field sizes are small. If you compare the 2 maps for Husow then the roads that were removed to construct the earlier map were only the field access roads, they were quite numerous and the fields they served also numerous and small.
Another source of difficulty is historical changes to language. Even a good knowledge of modern Polish can make it difficult to guess an origin of the name, particularly when you realise that although modern Polish is relatively consistent through the country, old Polish wasn't and there were a lot of regional variations, or dialects. Some of these dialects still exist in a muted form - the word for 'slipper' varies depending in what part of Poland you are in, for example.
When looking at a place name made up of 2 words, it is worth remembering that it is usually an adjective plus a noun, unlike many typical English place names which are compound nouns. Adjectives are words which describe how something is (black, old, high) while a noun is the name of a thing (steel, village, house, Adam). Nowy Jork (New York) is an adjective plus a noun, as it is in English, but for Stalowa Wola (eh... 'Steel Place') where we would use a noun (steel) plus another noun (place), in Polish it is adjective (stalowa) plus a noun (wola). Be careful if you are looking for a name of a place in some text, Polish changes the endings of words to change the sense of a word for grammatical reasons. For these reasons Lublin may be written as Lublin, Lublina, Lubelskie, Lubelska, Lubelski, Lubelsczyzny....etc, etc.
Locality Names -
A good example of this is 'Czarna Woda' - Black Water. You wouldn't be surprised if you went and checked an atlas to find that this sits in a low lying part of the country with many meandering rivers, streams and ponds. 'Chelm' comes from a word meaning hill, and indeed Chelm is built on a rounded hill. 'Swidnik' is based on the name of a meadow flower, and again Swidnik is located in an area of what were once meadows.
Function Names -
These often reflect the nature of the agriculture or industry originally occuring in that place. Many villages were established to provide specific products for nearby castles and other centres of population, and there are many places with names based on 'horse', 'sheep' etc. Many places have variations beginning 'rud' (Rudnik, Ruda etc), this being based on the metal, iron, which was extracted there. The fairly recent name of Stalowa Wola is based on the word 'Stal' - steel. One variation of function name are names like Stara Wies, which means 'Old Village', or other adjectives which describe different parts of quite dispersed villages (dolny, wolka, kolonia etc), or numbers (Gora 1, Gora 2, Gora 3).
Saints Names - This is a very popular way of naming places, but it makes it difficult to say much about the place other than, if it was in existence at the time the saint was created, it probably had a different name in the past. You have to be carful, though, since it has always been popular to give names of saints, apostles etc to children, it can be difficult to know if a particular place has been named after a saint etc, or after the name of the owner.
Politically Chosen Names - There are not too many of these, and generally restricted to new districts of towns and cities of the Communist era. Generally they just changed street names of politically out of favour, pre-soviet heroes and politicians.
Ownership Names - Some places have had their name changed as the ownership of the estate of which it was part changed hands. Sometimes the first name is used, and sometimes the surname, or family name, is used. Interestingly enough, many Polish surnames are derived from the place the family originally came from and so it is possible that a village could take its name from a surname, which in itself was derived from another village name.
Other Names - One of the most common 'other names' are the names of other towns and countries of the world. If you study reasonably detailed maps of Poland you will find dozens of Ameryka's, Rzym's (Rome), etc. Most of these are of a fairly recent date, probably the last 100 years, they are also usually quite small hamlets and probably many were created at the same time they received their names.
One final thing to note is the repetition of names: Stara Wies, for
example, occurs over 50 times in the present borders of Poland, mostly
in the Eastern Borderlands. In fact the number of names which are not repeated
are in the minority.
Website written & maintained by: Trevor Butcher