GB No. 2(17)/95


In the series called "The Black Legends of the Wild West" shown on Polish tv we could watch a film about the notorious Jassie James struggling against an industrious railway company. Building railways at that time stirred up similar controversies to those about today's motorways. For the majority railway meant profit and progress. Some people, however, did not want to abandon their land but, like today, they were forced to sell it. Their reluctance was used by property speculators, who were better informed and had the right connections. The farmers tried to defend their rights and they hit upon an idea of HIRING A LAWYER. Sceptics claimed that the farmers had no chance of winning as the railway company had all the local courts in their pockets and hired gunmen to hush the voices of protest.. Against all odds, Jesse and his brother managed to fight for a long time, backed up by the local community. One meaningful sentence from the film is worth quoting: "The railway company invested too much to let two youngsters hinder their plans".

That is all about the railway, let us focus on the motorway. In the supplement to the Gazeta Wyborcza devoted to praising the idea of motorways we can read as follows:

"The 8-ha farm owned by Zbigniew Jawor, 30, is located in the middle of the motorway Września-Konin. ). As the land is divided by the road, 0,5 ha is now on the other side of it. 'It used to be two fields connected with a meadow. Now I have to go to the nearest flyover, 6 km away. Nonsense. And the potatoes absorb lead." Another example: near Kotun, in the voivodship of Siedlce there is a farm that is going to be completely destroyed by the road. Its owner says: "I won't give up my land, not for the world! I will chase away the surveyors! They'll take my land over my dead body!". Naturally, the old farmer is presented as an ignorant peasant who does not understand the benefits of the motorway. His protest is an exception as the "villages in general approve of the motorway if a parking lot or a motel is planned on their grounds; otherwise they complain."

Perhaps my suggestions are naive or somebody has already found the solution, but if I were a member of an environmental fund or organisation I would simply HIRE A LAWYER and try to hinder the motorway company's plans. The courts could be flooded with thousands individual complaints. Maybe there are people like the old farmer who could block roads and building sites. This solution would allow the local people to protect their environment themselves instead of strangers coming from cities to represent the farmers' interests. The locals should be provided with legal advice, financial means for fines as well as favourable publicity. Moreover, a brochure informing people of dangers posed by the motorway should be distributed in the interested communities. They should know where they can find support and help and how to organise their protest.

Olaf Swolkień
reprinted from Zielone Brygady 1/95

GB No. 2(17)/95 | Contents