Life is pretty busy for my Polish family, so when I was bundled into the car for a swift outing, between shifts of work, I didn’t know quite what to expect. Staying in rural Zawady, I seldom did. Language so often seemed to get the better of me.
With interest I gazed out of the window as we passed through our local town, Bełchatów, and soon after that turned down a path signed Zbiornik Wawrzkowizna. I know! Not the easiest place name you ever saw. Dad insists that Polish is simple. You just spell out each letter, slowly. Mystified, I followed, as we left the car in woodland parking. A complex of buildings sat off to one side, and a gate led to a small animal farm and stables.
My cousin, Jadwiga, smilingly explained that she sometimes comes here to ride, and pointed out her favourite horse. It was dimly lit in the stables, so I can’t show him to you. Soon though we were out in bright sunlight, beside a swiftly flowing canal and heading towards a vast expanse of water.
Nestled in amongst the trees were a series of tall, green Toblerone-shaped chalets, several of them occupied. A few youngsters lounged on the steps, idling the day away. It felt a little like ‘Center Parcs’ and I realised that it was, in fact, a sports and recreation centre. In Summer there would be an admission charge, but in low season it was free to wander, and we did.
It was wonderfully peaceful, with just the odd angler, casting a line. Fishing competitions are held here sometimes, and in high season there are kayaks and pedaloes for hire. A small child, well-wrapped up despite the warm temperatures, was digging in the sand on the man made beach. Her Dad hovered indulgently nearby. Looking out across the lake at a certain point it becomes impossible not to see what everyone takes for granted around here. Smoke rising from the chimneys of the power station that brought employment to this area. A blot on the landscape.
It’s rather sad, isn’t it? But no-one seems to mind. Jadzia had happy memories of distant summers, spent splashing around in those waters. And we had no time to linger. Her husband was off to work- at the power station, of course.