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Poland Goes To The Dzialka

JANOWKA, Poland // So, just what is a “dzialka,” anyway? Well, it translates into English as an allotment, plot or parcel of land. But to the Poles it is much, much more than that. The dzialka (pronounced ‘jowl-ka’) occupies a very special place in the psyche and soul of the Polish people.  During the languid summertime it becomes a quiet and relaxing idyllic refuge, providing needed relief from the dark, cold winter, as well as an escape from the crowded city apartment blocks … and all the stress and strains of everyday life. The dzialka also functions somewhat clinically as a very welcome and easily accessible retreat conducive to recharging and renewing one’s self.

A dzialka is typically a small holding located in a rural setting near, or ideally next to, a protected forest or nature preserve, lake, stream, river, farmland, or in a mountainous or seashore area. Normally, the basic dwelling is not large, being cabin-like in size. But, lately with more prosperous times afoot, some dzialki are now much larger and more elaborate in style and comfort, with the added advantage of becoming a year-round residence. Flowers, vegetables, fruits and fruit trees are grown in abundance, no matter the circumstances of the dwelling.

In photos: Immersed in the Summer Environment.  Pictured above is a typical dzialka located in the small village of Janowka, in the bucolic countryside, about 12 miles east of metropolitan Lodz, Poland

The dzialki people amuse and enjoy themselves by preparing light meals, lounging around, napping in a hammock, reading various publications, listening to the radio (and now watching some TV!),  chatting and conversing, socializing with the neighbors, taking strolls, et cetra. Various adult libations are savored and consumed in moderation (the women folk make sure of this). The more energetic dzialki denizens may engage in a full spectrum of available outdoor recreational activities. It’s also a blessing that that the dzialki children enjoy their own loosely managed freedom with a full agenda of playful things to do, resulting in their almost never being bored or whiney.

284andDuring the era of imposed communism (1945-1989) it is notable that every worker had the right to a personal dzialka. The worker could use this state land but never own it. Vast “dzialka towns” were established on the immediate fringes Warsaw and other cities. These so-called-towns were subdivided into numerous  checkerboard-style plots, usually with a simple shed type of shelter on them. The Poles visited there for summer R&R and mainly grew vegetables for canning, pickling, and immediate eating. With the ouster of communism ownership of these dzialki flowed to the people. Many of the now-retired workers are trending to sell these very desirable prime location lots to proactive real estate developers. However, many dzialka towns of various sizes are still to be seen in and around all Polish cities.

The dzialka concept, suffice it to say, has always existed in some form or fashion, and still remains an exceedingly important and integral part of Poland’s culture and social fabric – much akin to the Russian dacha.

Lucky you, if on your next visit to Poland your hosts say to you “czy chcialbys odwiedzic nasza dzialke”? Advisedly, please answer with an enthusiastic ‘tak’  to the gracious invitation and quickly proceed to their dzialka. Then just kick back, relax, and watch the grass grow.

Richard P. Poremski
Polish American Journal
Washington, DC Bureau

July 6, 2011