Beavers from Forgotten Sudovia. Wigry National Park (in Polish)

Author (text and photographs): Jan Walencik

Album concept: Jan Walencik
Consultation on the merits: Maciej Kamiński, Ph.D.
Graphic design: Maciej Sadowski, Jan Walencik
Cartography: Teresa Wieczerzyńska-Nering
Editors: Urszula Lewandowska, Anna Witak
Additional text: Zdzisław Szkiruć
Proofreading: Anna Płachta

Volume: 308 pages (including 5 double-fold wing spreads)
Format: 31, 5 x 23, 5 cm
Photographs: 521
Maps on the liners: 2
Binding: hard full-paper with printed together with printed wrapper

Prepared for print: JML s. c., Warsaw
Print: ZRINSKI, Čakovec (Croatia)

Publisher: Sport i Turystyka – MUZA S.A., Warsaw
Year of release: 2001
ISBN: 83-7200-588-5

QUOTE. Album front cover – Jan Walencik: Beavers from Forgotten Sudovia. Wigry National Park. Sport i Turystyka – MUZA S.A., 2001.

In former times, beavers were common animals. People were happy to hunt them. The Sudovians (pagan Baltic tribe lived in the area southwest from the upper Nemunas River) and their ancestors probably did too. The magnificent fur, the tasty meat, especially the delicate tail, and also the beaver fat and the beaver castoreum, a secretion of the scent glands, always aroused desire. Beavers unfortunately paid for this with their lives. Already more than 700 years ago there was a ban on hunting them. As royal property, they were protected by special beaver guards. Despite this, they were dying out. While in the early Middle Ages, beavers lived throughout Europe, by the middle of the 20th century they were already threatened with complete extinction. In the 1940s, only a few families survived in Poland, just in the Suwałki region (north-eastern Poland). In 1959 and 1962, two reserves were created on the shores of Wigry Lake: A beaver refuge Stary Folwark (at the mouth of Czarna Hańcza River into Wigry Lake ) and A beaver refuge Zakąty (near Klonek Lake). For almost half a century, the native Wigry beavers grew in strength, quickly conquering new territories. At the same time, a group of Biebrza River beavers spread, originating from a few individuals brought to the canals of the Osowiec fortress from the vicinity of Voronezh (Soviet Union), back in the 1940s. Fortunately, thanks to the work of enlightened people, thanks to species protection, reserve protection, breeding and resettlement, today (2001) there are more than 10,000 beavers in Poland, including about 3,000 in the Suwałki region, where they are considered a common species. For the second time, they have found their roots in the forgotten Sudovia…

QUOTE. Excerpt of album – Jan Walencik: Beavers from Forgotten Sudovia. Wigry National Park. Page 60 (verso) with the wing folded out, and page 61 (recto). 2001. Source: Sport i Turystyka – MUZA S.A.

QUOTE. Excerpt of album – Jan Walencik: Beavers from Forgotten Sudovia. Wigry National Park Page 128 (verso) with the wing folded out, and page 129 (recto). 2001. Source: Sport i Turystyka – MUZA S.A.

QUOTE. Excerpt of album – Jan Walencik: Beavers from Forgotten Sudovia. Wigry National Park. Page 134 (verso) and 135 (recto). 2001. Source: Sport i Turystyka – MUZA S.A.

QUOTE. Excerpt of album – Jan Walencik: Beavers from Forgotten Sudovia. Wigry National Park. Page 214 (verso) and 215 (recto). 2001. Source: Sport i Turystyka – MUZA S.A.

The album Beavers from Forgotten Sudovia. Wigry National Park is an original idea and work of Jan Walencik, including the concept of layout and graphic solutions. As with his first album Heartbeat of the Primeval Forest. Białowieża National Park, and the next in the MUZA S.A. series – Wild River Valley. Biebrza National Park it can be said to be a kind of specific photo exhibition with hints from a knowledgeable narrator – a show to which the Reader is invited. Characteristic and at the same time innovative in this book is the weaving of a photographic and verbal story and the use for this purpose not of captions, but of extensive comments on the photographs, as well as a complex, but also very clear pagination, in the form of three-level titles (chapter – subsection – description), clearly and consistently leading the Reader from the first to the last page. Thus, he not only has a feast for the eyes in the form of the author’s original photographs from from the vicinity of the Wigry Lake – sophisticated color images, but also receives a huge portion of natural knowledge in the form of engaging storytelling by the same author. An additional attraction is the 5 spreads with fold-out wings on the outside of the book – forming a kind of panoramic galleries, an eye-catching long horizontal collage of photographs on a specific topic. This complexity of the 5-part album and the readability of the successive issues presented is well reflected in the table of contents of Beavers… below:

IN THE HEART OF SUDOVIA

Heritage

Land of the ancestors

Beaver backwoods

Ubiquitous

BLACK HAŃCZA RIVER

Between Hańcza and Wigry

Happy river – in a land of hills and deep lakes
Wounded river – may it not be too black the Black Hańcza

Through meadows and forest

Still alive – one or two rivers?
A tamed river – a canal

WIGRY LAKE

Lakes on the edge of the forest

Between forests
Wingris, that is, winding

In the emerald deep

The legend of pure water
Near the shore
Depth

Beaver sites

Easy foraging

Cont.
SUCHARY – MID-FOREST LAKES

Sausas means dry

Sudovian taiga
Floating mat
A paradise of sundews
Brown depths

Beaver sites

Tribal strongholds
Tribal paths

STREAMS

Green tunnels

Kamionka River, Wiatrołuża River, Maniówka River
Rushing or lazy water
Damselflies time

Beaver sites

Built by teeth and paws
Workaround

BEAVER, WHAT’S NEXT?

A prolific clan

Who’s at whose place?

Towards new spaces

Beaver, a migratory animal

 

And a word from the author at the beginning of the album – about the Wigry Lake backwoods and beavers:

Amidst the fascinating wilderness of nature – wild forests full of exuberant greenery, quaggy marshes and river valleys, majestic mountains or vibrant coastal shores – the enchanting lakes are particularly captivating. The Wigry Lake undoubtedly belongs to such places. Its still emerald waters, minor lakes and small lakes, rivers, streams and peat bogs, together with the old-growth forest of the Augustów Forest, stretching in a dense blanket to the horizon, create a unique area.

Like many others, I too was seduced by its allure. The first meeting was truly unusual, because… from a bird’s eye view. Somewhere years ago – a few hundred metres above the water surface – on the occasion of aerial shots for the film Green Lungs of Poland. The abyssal, deep blue-green depths, the great water twisted with banks, islands and peninsulas, and the great forest above, tempted me with adventure – they shocked me with the unknown. Besides, at that time, the very names wingris or Sudovia added to the mystery. My discovery of the Wigry region, of its nature, began in 1992, when I was making two films for Polish Television: Father Beaver, How Are Things on the Wigry Lake? and Ballad of Black Hańcza River.

Beavers, they were, from the very beginning, synonymous with the Wigry backwoods for me. I encountered their footprints – tangible and not so tangible – everywhere. Some, like deep, moss-covered burrows, I discovered only when I fell up to my waist in slushy slime of mossy bogs. No other animals like these very bi-environmental – aquatic and terrestrial – reflect so well the dual face of this enchanting land. Exploring their truly secretive lives became an obsession of mine for a time…

My wandering with a camera and film camera behind a beaver’s tail continues to this day, and not only at Lake Wigry itself, but across the whole of the Suwałki Land, in a word, a part of the former Sudovia. It is accompanied by a persistently irrational reflection. There was a time when the Sudovian tribes fell into the shadows. There was also a time, and not so long ago, when beavers were almost completely extinct here. Sudovians and their fortified settlements were not given a chance to revive, while beavers, after years, conquered former Sudovian lands and still settle new settlements here and there. Like heirs to a former splendour…

Jan Walencik

Album Beavers from Forgotten Sudovia. Wigry National Park has only been published in Polish. Although no further edition has been published to date, but from time to time occasional copies of it still appear online: in bookshops, at book auctions, as well as in other forums. This seems to be the only way to get it if you would like to own this already rare album with lots of photographs and Polish text. You can try to keep track of current second-hand offers by typing into your browser the phrase Bobry z zapomnianej Jaćwieży. Wigierski Park Narodowy album (in Polish).