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The difficult road to the 35th jubilee of the PZD - 28.09.2016

In May 1981 the Parliament passed a new law on workers allotment gardens (the POD) worked out through the experience of the gardening movement in Poland. At the end of June 1981 the  Congress of the Polish Allotment Federation (the PZD), which was established by that law, was held. That's how started the 35th anniversary of the PZD, which this year we celebrate and appreciate.

Difficult beginnings

The starting point for all events related to the 35th anniversary, however, was the law of 1949 on workers allotment gardens, which created conditions for the development of the allotment gardens, while significantly limiting, self-governance of the movement, subordinating it to the trade unions. The first years of this Act showed that despite a good record concerning development, it did not bring the expected results. There was no driving force. The union authorities, garden activists, as well as allotment gardeners noticed it. Therefore, in 1955, the National Council of the Working Allotment Gardens (the KR POD) was appointed, but did not have legal personality, and a year later regional boards of the POD (the WZ) were appointed. It was only a substitute for independence, but the formation of these structures meant that the development of the allotment garden movement began. Independence matured and developed in the coming years. Active involvement of representatives of the allotment gardens caused that since the 1970s the National Council and the WZs were elected and it was not a result of the provisions of the trade unions’ the resolutions, but the allotment gardeners movement.

In 1980, the area of the allotment gardens achieved approx. 30 thousands ha in Poland and the plots were cultivated by approx. 600 thousand families. Demand for the plots was huge in all cities – it was estimated at approx. 700 thousands plots. It has become a benchmark of what needs to be done and in which direction we need to develop the gardening movement.

Personal reflections

In June of 1980 I was elected president of the National Council of the POD. For me it was a very important period because I was already an experienced activist of the gardening movement. Because of my education I worked in education and plot and allotment garden development for many years. More and more stronger desire for self-empowerment of the movement was rising in the allotment gardens. It coincided in time with the appearance of the Solidarity movement, whose activation had great importance for further events, including those related to the allotment gardens. It was creating, and above all the lack of legal personality. However, at the end of October 1980 the KR of the POD adopted a resolution independence itself and from the trade union. The resolution was accepted by all voivodship structures, as well as the boards of the POD and the allotment gardeners, giving it full support. This was a landmark decision, but we were surprised that it was calmly accepted by the trade movement and the state authorities. The gardening movement with the National Council began a new stage in the allotment development.

The most important thing was the adaptation of a new law. We met with the understanding of many people, also members of the Parliament, which resulted in a draft of the act on the POD. The parliament passed the new law on the 6th of May 1981, and related the Polish Allotment Federation. The Act met the expectations of the gardening movement and the society and was based on tradition, experience, but also took into account the problems and needs of the allotment gardens. On the 23rd of June 1981 the First National Congress of POD Delegates was held where the statute and activities program were adopted for the first time The most important task was the development of the allotment gardens. And this was the beginning of the long road of the PZD whose 35th anniversary we celebrate this year.

The PZD safeguards the existence of the allotment gardens

If not for all the previous events and it had not enacted this law and established the PZD, taking into account the events of the 1990s, we can assume that today there would be no allotment gardens and I say this with full awareness. I have spent most of my life creating and developing allotment gardens, putting in it my heart, education, experience and great commitment.

The emergence of the PZD was well received by the state authorities and it had a variety of symptoms, including financial. Unfortunately, in the mid-80s due to excessive self-reliance and independence of the movement  it began to be perceived as uncomfortable. Nevertheless, these first years of work were very fruitful for the development of allotment gardening in Poland. Responding to huge public demand for plots, the PZD took up 16,5 thousands hectares of land, organized and allocated 360 thousands plots. Moreover, these lands were well developed and equipped with the necessary infrastructure. The PZD was well organized and functioned as one big gardening family. These successes did not come easily, and behind them lies  a huge amount of work and unremitting struggle, including for funds, the right to land and construction materials. These difficulties were overcame thanks to the involvement of more than 100 thousands activists in the structures of the PZD and also the allotment gardeners. The work places and the local authorities put contribution in it too.

The struggle for existence

The 1990s were a new period of development of the ROD. We were surprised by a parliamentary initiative, that proposed to complete liquidation of the PZD and allotment gardens in Poland. How can they hit one million Polish families, for whom the plots were often all they had, without any reason? However, this threat triggered a massive response from the allotment gardens under the PZD shield. After 2 weeks of struggle, with the movement of hundreds of thousands of allotment gardeners, as well as the media and well-known politicians such as Lech Walesa, Bronislaw Geremek and Jacek Kuron, all signatories of the project withdrew their signatures.

The next 25 years we have to describe as a time of struggling for allotment gardeners rights and protection of allotment gardens. There was also no lack of new attacks on the PZD by various movements. The PZD rose to the challenge and every event united allotment gardeners. Amendment of the Act in 1995 created possibilities to taking the RODs’ lands in perpetual usufruct. It also gave law stabilization to allotment gardens and 63% of lands are in perpetual usufruct of the PZD. Thanks to activists of the PZD it was possible to adopt favourable for allotment gardeners tax resolution. Donation of the Development Found helped to establish new allotment gardens and modernization of infrastructure.

We overcame a flood together

We also have in memory 1997 when a huge flood destroyed 539 allotment gardens in Poland and over 82 thousands of plots with an area of 4012 ha. Thanks to the activities of the PZD the government gave 1 mln zl for removing destructions and the reconstruction of infrastructure. Without this help many allotment gardeners couldn’t exist after tis cataclysm. Such big help for allotment gardeners from government happened only once. Every coin was spent for the allotment gardens. The allotment gardeners’ and board of the ROD’ action was impressive because they spent their own money to help the gardens that suffered from the flood.

In the 2012 the allotment gardeners received the verdict of the Constitutional Court very badly . After the effort which was made by the PZD, and the allotment gardeners, we had the right to expect some respect or at least being noticed. The verdict of the Constitutional Court’s judges was hurted.

The effect was even greater integration and mobilization  in creating a citizens draft law and gathering signatures under it, and then fight for its enactment, which was extremely difficult and hard. The Act, which passed 2,5 years ago, is good and suits our needs. Probably if we didn’t have to fight for every paragraph, it would be even better and closer to the needs of allotment gardeners and the gardens. However, we are pleased with what we have and we ensure that it doesn’t change.

We reach for dreams

Nowadays we celebrate the anniversary, we look not only at the past but the future too. We notice the need to maintain and develop the RODs, modernization and build infrastructure, and opening the allotment gardens - after adaptation - for the community cities. We do this by the program " The ROD of the twenty-first century". We pay huge attention to the wide development of allotment gardens’, the PZD’s and gardeners’ activities for the community in various fields.

We do this by the Open Program and Social Development RODs, which is received very well by the boards of RODs and allotment gardeners. The problem is funding. So far, all of our activities in the last quarter were financed by the PZD and the allotment gardeners. It is not enough to pursue both of these programs. We hope that the public authorities will respond positively to our efforts to attain national, local and EU funds. I am optimistic so it is a reason why I believe that if we are integrated, as an allotments movement, we will be able to perform these tasks, as well as reach the deepest and most distant dreams of our predecessors and our own.

Everything what has been done so far, was achieved by the people who I want to thank. Many of these distinguished people are gone, and I want to keep the memory of their work and struggle to remain among the successors in the allotment gardens. Not only the allotment gardeners, but also local governments, parliamentarians from many administrations and many good people, who understand the meaning of existence and development of the RODs, have the participation in the development of the RODs and the PZD over the past 35 years. They also deserve our thanks.

I am convinced that, as in this 35-year period, allotment gardens will still grow, and the PZD will stand guard over the rights of allotment gardeners.

 

Eugeniusz Kondracki

The President of the Polish Allotment Federation

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