Sheep-breeding – dying activity
By Illya Krasnoshchok (Illya Reddy)
Hello Steve and readers of Steve Huff’s website. This time I would like to share my impressions after spending time in mountains and observing sheep-breeders lifestyle in modern Europe.
Last month I had an opportunity to go the south of Poland, mountain district with little villages and tiny towns hidden between green hills. People that live there differ from those who live in the other parts of Poland, some of them don’t even consider themselves Polish, they are “górale” (people from mountains). The place is gorgeous: green hills, forests, lots of creeks flowing from the mountains, many small villages, and hard-working people, – no wonder that sheep-breeding used to prosper here.
Sheep-breeding is an ancient activity, which was one of the main professions of people living in the Carpathian Mountains. Unfortunately, like many other activities it is no longer profitable enough to be popular. But there are still people who are really dedicated to this kind of work and I was lucky to meet such people, and get acquainted with a family that lives from this business: Władek, his caring wife, and nine children.
Władek has been a sheep-breeder for his whole live. Everyone takes part in this family business. They do all work by themselves only occasionally hiring people to help. Children, even younger ones, help father to take care of the sheep. Older ones even take initiative to make some improvements to the structure of family business. For example, Władek’s daughter, Basia, being 17 years old high school student initiated and fully implemented the idea of improving their sheep-farm in order to meet the requirements of the EU so now they get a little bit of financial support from the European Union.
I was lucky to observe their life for a couple of days and took some pictures of what they see as every day life. It is quite amazing how hard-working their children are and even more so they manage to do well at school at the same time. Władek himself in spite of some very serious health problems continues to work hard because of necessity to take care of the family, but also because he is very passionate about what he does.
The whole family lives in a house in the village as other people do there, but two or three of them are always shepherd sheep on green hills or just staying bacówka. Bacówka (pronounced like “batsoovka”) is something like a sheep-breeders base placed outside the village, where shepherds can keep their stuff, sleep, make milk products or slaughter sheep. This particular bacówka consists of a small house, two sheds and fumatorium.
Inside the fumatorium.
Two steps from bacówka a small mountain creek flows.
This place is literally by the board between Poland and Slovakia, so sometimes it is difficult to say in which country you are.
Slovakia, just an hour walk from Poland.
Despite being impressed by sheep-breeders passion about what they do I also feel rather desperate about the conditions of their work. It is a pity that Poland and EU don’t try really hard to help such activities as sheep-breeding which are part of nation’s culture to prosper. Though EU funds farms it is often too complicated bureaucratic system for people to understand without having specific knowledge in law. Often funding is so little, that many consider it not worth all the efforts you have to make do get it. So there is a lot to improve in this sector. It is hard to imagine, that couple decades from now we may not be able to see green hills all covered with hundreds of white sheep. Landscape feels naked without them.
For me it was a great couple of days spent shooting in nice company. Such a great feeling when you just take photographs and think, nothing more.
My personal favorite shot from the whole trip. Evening, shepherds fold sheep.
Thank you for reading. For those of you who are interested, all pictures are taken using Olympus E-P1 with 17mm f/2.8 lens.
Feel free to visit:
http://momentumstreet.com/illia-krasnoshchok/ - Momentum street photography collective
http://www.flickr.com/photos/illyareddy/ - my Flickr page