Near East

Landscape changes in Eastern Poland


Podlasie region in Eastern Poland has for long been considered very traditional part of the country, with small towns and villages dotting mostly rural landscape, where local communities exist in peace and farming and small-scale industry provide jobs and stability.


However, following profound social and economical changes, that traditional rural landscape is gradually becoming the thing of the past while romantic idea of village life we still hold in our minds simply no longer exists.


In 2004 Poland joined the European Union and started to receive funding directed largely at infrastructure, environment, and agriculture. In 2004-2015 agricultural subsidies reached 39 billion euro. However today, only 10% of rural households rely on agriculture economically, with 38% finding employment elsewhere and 25% living off pensions and various benefits. Polish countryside is loosing its agrarian character.


Migration inevitably changes social structure of small towns and villages. Young people emigrate to large cities and abroad, seeking better educational or employment opportunities. At the same time city folk are rediscovering rural life with its peaceful qualities and slower pace without giving up much as countryside's living conditions and infrastructure improve.


Man's relationship to Nature changes with growing environmental consciousness and strict EU policies introduced.


Information is reaching people faster than ever, allowing quick dispersion of ideas and trends in various fields, such as arts, culture, fashion to name only a few.

These changes, started in 1989 with Poland entering transformation period and accelerated in the last 10-15 years, acted as a catalyst for what I believe is serious, and still ongoing, transformation of Polish landscape.

Group of biodiversity workshop participants explore forestry techniques. Unique qualities of Białowieża Forest, an UNESCO site, attract scientists and researchers from all-over the world.

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Visitors inside "Reserve" forest in Bialowieza National Park. "Reserve" forest is the oldest and most primeval part of the Park and is off limits except small part where limited number of visitors is allowed.

Visitors inside "Reserve" forest in Bialowieza National Park. "Reserve" forest is the oldest and most primeval part of the Park and is off limits except small part where limited number of visitors is allowed.

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Wallpaper with a bison in Parkowa restaurant in Białowieża National Park headquarters in Białowieża, Poland. The European bison (Bison bonasus) faced extinction in early 20th century but was reintroduced into the wild in 1920s from animals kept in captivity and has become a symbol of the Białowieża National Park.

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Signs of grazing on the outskirts of Białowieża National Park in Białowieża, Poland, mark the otherwise unspecified border between animal kingdom and human domain.

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Punk rock fans caught in frenzy at a concert in Hajnówka, Poland. Various kinds of rock music have been becoming more popular locally, allowing the youth to let off some steam.

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Record-low water levels in the Bug river exposed the wreckage of World War I steamboat outside Brok, Poland, instantly drawing people from all over the region and becoming a brief tourist attraction. Bug, 770km long Vistula tributary, remains one of the last unregulated rivers in Central Europe, with water levels often changing significantly.

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Rusty swing at an overgrown playground. Following young people's emigration most of the villagers are middle-aged or elderly.

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Newlyweds during a photoshoot in Bialowieza Forest. Finding unusual locations for wedding photos is a new trend in the area.

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Residents of Puchły village awaiting the arrival of Belarussian guests in front of an Orthodox church. Most of locals have family or friends accross the border.

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Newly opened village community center received blessing from both Catholic and Orthodox priests. The center had been finished with the help of EU funds shortly before the opening and paint on the walls was not entirely dry, so the rest of the celebrations were performed outside. Most locals are Orthodox Christians and consider themselves Belarussian minority.

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Local residents and visitors attend a concert held in a barn. Since 2004 Katarzyna and Paweł Winiarscy have been hosting concerts and theater performances offering a high-end community center in a rural setting.

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