Heartbeat of the Primeval Forest. Białowieża National Park

Author (text and photographs): Jan Walencik

Album concept: Jan Walencik
Consultation on the merits and proofreading: dr Czesław Okołów, Ph.D., Bengt Scotland
Graphic design: Maciej Sadowski, Jan Walencik
Cartography: Anna Szymańska, Teresa Wieczerzyńska
Editorial: Urszula Lewandowska, Anna Witak
Additional text: Czesław Okołów, Ph.D.
Translation: Magdalena Zalewska

Volume: 288 pages (including 5 double-fold wing spreads)
Format: 23, 5 x 31, 5 cm
Photographs: 467
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
First English edition: 2000
ISBN: 83-7200-439-0

Cover of the album Heartbeat of the primeval forest, by Jan Walencik.

QUOTE. Album front cover – Jan Walencik: Heartbeat of the Primeval Forest. Białowieża National Park. Sport i Turystyka – MUZA S.A., 2000.

In the middle of The Old Continent, on the eastern borders of Poland and the western borderlands of Belarus, the heartbeat of the primeval forest beats. Uninterrupted for several thousand years. In the abundant, dim greenness the same backwoods are still crossed by the emperors of the Forest – European bison. As in the times of King Jagiełło, as in the times of Mendog. The only remnant of truly primeval forests that once covered the European lowlands – the Biosphere Reserve and Human Heritage – the eternal Białowieża Primeval Forest.

Ever since man appeared in the vast ancient primeval forest of the Old Continent, the story of its disappearance began. Gradually over the centuries, the area of natural primeval forests shrank. They were being lost irretrievably at an alarming rate, with only small fragments remaining untouched like oasis-islands. One of these – now known to be the last – was the Białowieża Forest. For long centuries it formed an indivisible whole. Wild, inaccessible, full of uproots, impassable thickets and wetlands, located far from human clusters, on the edge of swampy Polesie. It was privileged because Lithuanian princes, Polish kings and later Russian tsars hunted in it. They wanted to see it magnificent and full of game. They were proud of it.

But on July 25, 1944, Stalin’s decision, the Forest was cut by the border between Poland and the Soviet Union. In 1981, yet another barrier was built on the eastern side to protect it from Western influence: a border strip surrounded by barbed wire fences. Luckily for the entire Primeval Forest, huge areas of old, natural forest stands survived on the side of today’s Belarus. Now it is no longer a secret that it was treated as a game preserve for hunting by the Soviet elite. Important strategic military installations were also once deployed here.

Despite the border, alarm systems and fences stretching for miles, the ancient Slavic Białowieża Forest – truncated and deformed – still continues on both sides in a rhythm almost unchanged for millennia. And just such, indivisible, independent of man, wild and full of life, the Reader can see in this album. He can try to understand how the organism of the natural forest works. He can even try to look into its soul

QUOTE. Excerpt of album – Jan Walencik: Heartbeat of the Primeval Forest. Białowieża National Park. Page 52 (verso) and 53 (recto). 2000. Source: Sport i Turystyka – MUZA S.A.

QUOTE. Excerpt of album – Jan Walencik: Heartbeat of the Primeval Forest. Białowieża National Park. Page 130 (verso) and 131 (recto). 2000. Source: Sport i Turystyka – MUZA S.A.

QUOTE. Excerpt of album – Jan Walencik: Heartbeat of the Primeval Forest. Białowieża National Park. Page 222 (verso) and 223 (recto). 2000. Source: Sport i Turystyka – MUZA S.A.

The album Heartbeat of the Primeval Forest. Białowieża National Park is an original idea and work – Jan Walencik’s first book, including the concept of layout and graphic solutions. 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 the Forest – 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 Heartbeat… below:


Great Home – a mosaic of primordial communities

Last primeval Forest of lowland Europe
Soul of the Forest

Storeys of the great home – innumerable habitats for life

Seven storeys
Floors 5 and 4 – on tree canopies
Floors 3 and 2 – among tree trunks
Floor 1 – in the brushwood
Ground floor – in the undergrowth
Basement – underground
Water zone


Fight for life

Landscape after battle
Racing upwards
When you are 200, 300, 400 years old…

Primeval green hell or paradise?

Leaf is most important

Moisture searchers

Wintering of plants
Spring explosion
Annual passing


Imperators of the Forest

Personification of the Forest
Between spring and autumn
Feeding giants

Under the cover of darkness

Biggest incisors in the Forest
Power of small rodents

Avalanche of dwarf stomachs

Leaf-eaters and others
Feasting on flowers

Non-green oppressors of the green

Parasitic fungi


On a prey trial

Stereotype of predator
Satisfying everlasting hunger
Between water and land
Lynx territory

Small oppressors

Not all parasites are equal
Predatory dwarves

Winged hunters

Owls: the smallest, the largest


Paupers of the primeval Forest

Excrements eaters
Wood mould eaters

Last stage

From wood mould to humus
Decay on the Forest floor

In a closed circuit

Unique organism
Symphony of power, health and immortality
Hope of the Forest?

The album Heartbeat of the Primeval Forest. Białowieża National Park was published with care by Sport i Turystyka – MUZA S.A. The publisher wanted to realize a whole great series of 23 albums under the editorial direction of Jan Walencik, modeled on the first Heartbeat…a series about all national parks in Poland. In the end, it was possible to publish 5 albums, including 3 by Jan Walencik.

Although so far no further reissue of the album Heartbeat… has been published, but from time to time occasional copies still appear online: in bookshops, book auctions and other forums. This seems to be the only way to get it if you would like to own this already rare album. You can try to keep track of current second-hand offers by typing into your browser the phrase Heartbeat of the Primeval Forest. Białowieża National Park album.

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