Another Place Press
PUSZCZA is a lyrical exploration of the Białowieża Forest, the largest surviving remnant of an old-growth temperate lowland forest on the border between Poland and Belarus. Designated as a World Heritage site by UNESCO since 1979, the 141,885 hectare forest has remained relatively untouched for hundreds of years, protected by Russian Tsars and Polish kings as a royal hunting ground. As a remaining fragment of the primeval environment that once stretched from the steppes to the Atlantic, the forest offers a glimpse into Europe’s ancient past, and is home to more than 5,500 plant species, and 11,564 animal species, including the largest population of free-ranging European bison.
I visited and photographed the Polish part of the forest in 2018, in the aftermath of the highly controversial large-scale logging operations led by the Polish government in contravention of European law during the period of 2016-2018, the consequences of which will be visible for decades if not centuries according to environmentalists. Currently only a sixth of the Polish part of the forest is protected as a National Park, and the battle for the official protection of the entire forest continues. I met some of the people living, working and traveling there, in an attempt to find out what the forest means to them.