A Peek Inside A Restricted Resort For Communist Dignitaries
small, A Peek Inside A Restricted Resort For Communist Dignitaries, Congress and sport center in Arlamow, photo: Kamil Krukiewicz / Reporter , arlamow_east_news_.jpg
A private airstrip, a luxurious hotel, mountain-style villas, a few ghost villages, and nearly 30 thousand hectares of wooded and hilly terrain guarded by armed soldiers were during Poland’s communist times part of the restricted Holiday Resort of the Office of the Council of Ministers in Arłamów in the south east of the country. Culture.pl offers a peek back-in-time inside this huge hunting resort, which was commonly referred to as the Arłamów Duchy.
Arłamów is a remote place, surrounded by forest in the Przemyśl Foothills, a hilly region in south east Poland that neighbours Ukraine. It was once a village, named after the so-called Arlaman - the Tatar captives of Rus dukes who were forced to settle there ages ago. Not long after World War II, all of the people inhabiting this village were compelled to move by Poland’s communist authorities and Arłamów became uninhabited. Arłamów remained desolate until the end of the 60s, when the communists began to build a government resort for the highest officials. The resort was to be secret and was given the code name W-2. Why the “2” in the code name? W-1 already existed – it was a restricted resort for the most important political figures of communist Poland in Łańsk. Even though it had, at its largest, a surface area of 60 thousand hectares it wasn’t enough for the communists. They needed a second resort – and so W-2 was built.
Suddenly hundreds of workers appeared amidst the woods in the Przymyśl Foothills and began to build the Holiday Resort of the Office of the Council of Ministers in Arłamów. This construction project is said to have been so secret that most of them didn’t know what they were actually building. The truth was that it was nothing more than a hunting resort for fat cats. The location wasn’t chosen incidentally - the picturesque area around Arłamów was full of wild animals. In order to create the 30-thousand-hectare resort, the area of which was almost equal to that of today’s Republic of Malta, a few villages were displaced in a rather abrupt manner. The inhabitants of these settlements tried to protest, but to no avail. The resort gobbled up a beautiful tract of land including woods, hills, valleys and meadows. A 120-kilometer-long, 2-meter-high fence was set up, which partially separated the resort from its surroundings. The fence was equipped with one way passages for animals which enabled entrance but not exit. A luxurious hotel with spacious apartments and a magnificent view of the hills and forests of the Przemyśl Foothills was raised in Arłamów. To meet the needs of the resort, a private airstrip suitable for small planes was built in the nearby ghost village of Krajna, which had been displaced soon after World War II. W-2’s area encompassed Krajna and a few other such ghost villages that had been uninhabited since the second half of the 40s. In the early 70s the resort gained four mountain-style villas, which were built in Trójca, one of those former settlements. At that time, a nearby historic orthodox church was torn down because the sight of it bothered one of the Communist Party dignitaries. The entire resort was protected by armed soldiers. Because of its grandiose scale the people living in its vicinity commonly referred to W-2 as the Arłamów Duchy.
After the resort was created, the communists went there chiefly to hunt. The forests around Arłamów were home to such wild animals as bears, deer, European bison, and wild boars. The soldiers guarding W-2 put out food for these animals (for instance beetroots) a few times a day so that they would grow into impressive hunting trophies. That wasn’t the only special consideration the beasts living near Arłamów could count on – they were also well-protected. For instance the wild boars from the resort’s forests that would often plunder the fields of the farmers living near the Duchy had the status of sacred cows. If you set dogs on them or hit them in an attempt to protect your farm, you could easily be penalized. For killing a wild animal from the Duchy an ordinary citizen could even go to jail on charges of poaching. So the farmers living in the vicinity of W-2 had it tough, as there was very little they could do about the wild animals ravishing their crops.
Meanwhile the dignitaries and their guests indulged in hunting. Piotr Jaroszewicz, who was communist Poland’s Prime Minister from 1970 to 1980, especially liked to hunt for bears at the resort. He is known to have participated in 4 such hunts. Among the prominent politicians of communist Poland who visited the Duchy to hunt were Franciszek Szlachcic, who was once the Minister of Internal Affairs, and Walenty Bartoszewicz, who used to act as Vice Minister of Forestry. When an important foreign guest was invited to Arłamów, it meant that the Polish communists were treating that person especially courteously. The list of foreign VIPs who hunted at the resort includes, amongst others, president of France Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, the last Shah of Iran Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, and leader of Yugoslavia Josip Broz Tito. During his stay at the resort Tito shot a European bison – a representative of a species that had been reintroduced to nature after being hunted to extinction in the wild. People who weren’t important politicians could also come to Arłamów to hunt, but for a very high price that had to be paid in foreign currency. Not all of those who hunted at the resort did so fairly. There are stories from W-2 of hunters blinding animals with spotlights to make them easier targets.
After General Wojciech Jaruzelski came to power in communist Poland in the early 80s the Holiday Resort of the Office of the Council of Ministers in Arłamów lost much of its status. The General didn’t want to be associated with hunting in the Arłamów Duchy, which had become a symbol of abuse of power by the communists. Therefore W-2 ceased to function as a hunter’s paradise and was turned into a more ordinary governmental resort. In 1982, during martial law in Poland, Lech Wałęsa, the legendary Polish anti-communist opposition leader and future Nobel Prize winner and President of Poland, was interned at the hotel in Arłamów for seven months. After the political turn of 1989, in the mid-90s the hotel ceased to be state-owned when it was purchased by a private company. Today a four-star commercial hotel operates in the renovated building of the former communist lodge. The room in which Wałęsa lived during his internment and the favourite room of Edward Gierek, the First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Polish Communist Party from 1970 to 1980, can be rented at this non-governmental hotel.
Written by Marek Kępa