Wild River Valley. Biebrza National Park

Author (text and photographs): Jan Walencik

Album concept: Jan Walencik
Proofreading: Czesław Okołów, Ph.D.
Consultation on the merits: Jan Raczyński, Ph.D.
Graphic design: Maciej Sadowski, Jan Walencik
Cartography: Elżbieta Dobrzyńska, Elżbieta Rosiak
Editor: Krystyna Wysocka
Additional text: Jan Raczyński, Ph.D.
Translation: Jan K. Milencki

Volume: 288 pages (including 7 double-fold wing spreads)
Format: 23, 5 x 31, 5 cm
Photographs: 664
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
Publication partly finances by National Fund for Environmental Protection and Water Management
Year of release: 1998
ISBN: 83-7200-150-2

QUOTE. Album front cover – Jan Walencik: Wild River Valley. Biebrza National Park. Sport i Turystyka – MUZA S.A., 1998.

Moose, wolf, beaver, otter, northern birch mouse, crane, curlew, ruff, dunlin, great snipe, jack snipe, aquatic warbler, white-winged black tern, black stork, white-backed woodpecker, hen and Montagu’s harriers, spotted and lesser spotted eagles, white-tailed eagle, eagle owl, short-eared owl, Jacob’s ladder, moor-king, shrubby birch downy willow marsh saxifrage – this list of the Biebrza Mashes rare species can be continued further on. Large expanses of inaccessible marshlands have been their habitat for centuries. Nowadays their survival is is threatened. There are few original marshlands and marsh forests in Europe where they can still be encountered eye-to-eye.

THE BIEBRZA VALLEY is central Europe’s largest natural bog area: it embraces nearly ninety thousand hectares of marshlands in north-eastern Poland. Fortunately for rare species of plants and animals here the time seems to have stopped. The nature would not give the way to man…

QUOTE. Excerpt of album – Jan Walencik: Wild River Valley. Biebrza National Park. Page 68 (verso) and 69 (recto). 1998. Source: Sport i Turystyka – MUZA S.A.

QUOTE. Excerpt of album – Jan Walencik: Wild River Valley. Biebrza National Park. Page 132 (verso) and 133 (recto). 1998. Source: Sport i Turystyka – MUZA S.A.

QUOTE. Excerpt of album – Jan Walencik: Wild River Valley. Biebrza National Park. Page 214 (verso) and 215 (recto). 1998. Source: Sport i Turystyka – MUZA S.A.

The album Wild River Valley. Biebrza 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, 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 Biebrza Valley – 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 7 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 Wild River Valley below:

LARGE AND WILD MARSHES

REMAINS OF THE ORIGINAL EUROPEAN MARSHES

Invaluable peat-bogs

BIEBRA RIVER – A VITAL FORCE OF THE VALLEY

Along the river course – Upper Basin
Along the river course – Middle Basin
Along the river course – Lower Basin
Three different worlds of the Biebrza Marshes

WORLD OF WATERS AND WATER EDGES

MEANDERING BIEBRZA RIVER COURSE

Main curent
Rushes and hosiery scrubs

OLD RIVER-BEDS

Refuge
Admist floating leaves

WORLD OF OPEN MARSHLANDS

OMNIPOTENT WATER AND PEAT-BOG

Gigantic sponge – mystery of peat-bog
Omnipresent water
Boundless feeding grounds
Time for mating

Cont.
BOUNDLESS OCEAN OF SEDGE FENS

Great hatchery
Green procession
Marked by marshy climate
Just like islands…

WORLD OF MARSHY FORESTS

OVERGROVN MARSHES – INEVITABLE TRANSFORMATION?

From open sedge fens to dense alder carrs

ELK’S MARSHY BIRCH FORESTS

Birch forest
Residents of the Red Swamp

DENSE AND DEEP ALDER CARRS

Dark and swampy
Home not only to mosquitoes

MAN IN THE MARSHLAND

IN THE BONDAGE OF THE MARSHES

Labouring on poor soil
Traces of history

TAMED MARSHES

”Correctors” and ”destroyers”
Can they really be tamed?

 

And then there’s the excerpt from the word from the author at the beginning of the album – about the… addictive effect of the marshes:

As it usually happens with fascination, there must be a beginning somewhere. What caught my attention among the few publications about Biebrza and its marshes years ago were the articles and photographs of the Kłosowski brothers: Tomasz, Stanisław and Grzegorz. They have sat on the marshes for more than twenty years with undying persistence and consistency to show others their little homeland. I admit, I was very impressed by their vision of a winged paradise, which they expressed in the admirable and enviable album Birds of the Biebrza Marshes. Over the course of successive Biebrza expeditions I began to get to know other faces of the swamp as well, a world other than the bird world – a world of hundreds of small marsh and aquatic animals, but also a world of moose – the good spirits of the swamps, also a world of infernally lush vegetation, but above all a world of peat and water, on which the whole complex nature of the Biebrza Marshes, or as we prefer, their complex ecosystems, depends. This relationship is most apparent in spring, when the Biebrza floods, although today – due to weather anomalies (but not only) – floods are less regular than before.

The aim of this album is precisely to try to understand how these water-dependent plant and animal communities function. Naturally, without passion or even a desire to know, an attempt impossible. For me, in any case, the swamp drew me in, and maybe even quickly sucked me in completely! Great expanses, among which the soul rushes towards unlimited freedom – this is what bewitches near to the Biebrza River most strongly. Nothing can replace a lonely, precisely solitary wandering through the boundlessness. In the silence of the autumn marshes, you can hear your heart pounding with excitement as a dewy bull – a moose – glides towards you from behind a clump of birches, unaware of your proximity, and even if it catches a whiff of an unfamiliar scent, it passes unhurriedly, trotting away like a phantom…

It is my great desire that the still wild and untamed nature of the Biebrza Marshes gains new friends among the Readers, wise friends who not only feel its rhythms visible to the naked eye, but also its subtler mechanisms. Friends able to stand up for it, the kind truly drawn in by the swamp…

Jan Walencik

Although so far no further reissue of the album Wild River Valley… has been published, 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. You can try to keep track of current second-hand offers by typing into your browser the phrase Wild River Valley. Biebrza National Park album.