NOW WE NEED A DIALOGUE
August 28, 2017
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Referring to the text "Failure of the Janów Podlaski auction. What now?”, which has just appeared on our website and which seems to contain a very apt description of the auction in Janów Podlaski, I would like to elaborate on the issue suggested by the second part of the title. What now?
What has happened has happened and cannot be reversed. We need to analyze the reasons and the consequences of what happened at this year’s auction in Janów. But first of all we need to take a step back in this fruitless conflict which is so damaging for Polish interests and the Polish Arabian horse studs.
When we listen to media comments about the situation we hear on the one hand that everyone is to blame for the failure of the auction but the organizers of Pride of Poland 2017. This is a position that cannot be accepted.
On the other side of the dispute we hear severe criticism and arguments claiming that the dismissed directors must return. It is difficult to speculate whether such a return is possible or when it would be possible in the present circumstances. It can certainly be treated as a hypothetical component of an overall solution to the pressing problem which is the uncertain future of state Arabian horse breeding in Poland and the undefined objectives of preserving it.
Leaving aside the undisputed merits of the former stud directors, Mr Jerzy Białobok and Mr Marek Trela, their experience and breeding knowledge, they worked in very difficult conditions, in which the alternative to the financial records of the Pride of Poland auctions was liquidation or selling out the Arabian studs which operated under an absurd regime of commercial law companies, deprived of any state subsidies and forced (as the only state run Arabian breeding institutions worldwide) to finance their activity like businesses. We frequently heard opinions that Arabian horses was an “aristocratic hobby” which Poland will not subsidize. This forced the studs to sell selected horses which, as the former directors frequently emphasized, they would be too happy to keep and breed if they were given a choice. Fortunately on the other side there were buyers who were prepared to pay astronomical prices, otherwise today there may well have been nothing to talk about.
Absence of a stable, long term financial perspective also affected the directions of the development of breeding work, which had to take into consideration current fashions and suit client tastes. At this point I would like to quote the words of the late, much regretted Mrs Izabella Pawelec-Zawadzka, who, as an undisputed expert on Arabian breeding in Poland and abroad, emphasized that „Too many breeders have become slaves of fashion, ambition and profit. This is a wrong and uncertain path”.
Could it be different if the Polish studs had the status of national cultural heritage? Is it not high time to give this a serious thought?
The media, sniffing for sensation, are always looking for content to fill their broadcasting time but are not ready to engage in serious, substantive debate. It seems that journalists do not analyze the matter with proper attention and not everyone is quite certain whether one of the studs is actually in Michałów or Michałowice. There is nothing at all behind the repeated slogans, neither a realistic picture of the situation nor proposed solutions or diagnosis of the reasons.
The noise was obviously helpful because it drew public attention to what happened in the studs last year, and about Arabian horse breeding in Poland in general. The media had never spoken or written so much about Polish Arabians before. But we need much more for the Arabians in Poland to survive and to finally start promoting our country and its image worldwide.
The current dispute seems to lack positive, substantive proposals. It lacks dialogue. Some of us argue that everything is fine, others that nothing is. Ladies and Gentlemen, leaving aside whose argument is the better in the discussion, I hope I can convince you all that this level of debate has exhausted its potential. Apart from attracting viewers to television channels it will not lead us anywhere. It is high time to start a serious discussion about why Poland needs Arabian studs and what their breeding work is to be like looking forward.
Any personal consequences, which many expect, against the organizers of this year’s „wonderful catastrophe” in Janów, and which will not solve any problems, are far less important than the question whether a serious and open debate will finally start about the purpose which the Polish state-owned Arabian studs should serve and how they should operate in the future. It is a debate which I have advocated in numerous official letters since 24 February 2016 (my first open letter to the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Minister of Culture and National Heritage), and in which every voice ought to be heard and respected.
I believe that the directors of the Janów and Michałów studs dismissed in 2016, Mr Jerzy Białobok and Mr Marek Trela, must be invited to participate in such a debate.
It should also involve private breeders of Arabian horses in Poland, whose future depends on maintaining the reputation of Polish Arabians and who can play an important role in resolving the current crisis.
The Arabian horse breeding team headed by Professor Krystyna Chmiel is another key participant in this discussion; their voice is not sufficiently heard.
Obviously the list is not closed...
The purpose of the debate ought to be an in depth analysis of the problems facing the state-owned Arabian studs and finding, among the proposed ideas and concepts, the best formula for the continued existence and development of this priceless breeding tradition in the coming decades.
By hiding behind the closed doors of its offices and dismissing, from one day to the next, two outstanding, world-famous breeders without making sure that they have educated a group from which their successors could be chosen, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development limited its access to substantive proposals, experience and knowledge of this unique and delicate discipline. In this way the Ministry actually asked for trouble. And trouble infallibly arrived.
Nonetheless the Ministry still seems not to acknowledge that the problem of Polish Arabian studs does not disappear with waning media interest. On the contrary, it is becoming increasingly serious even when the TV cameras are turned away, because the financial, structural problems remain. And also because it is far from certain in which direction Polish state breeding is heading, how it is run and what are its objectives.
The problem will return and will be twice as grave if we do not immediately start working on a comprehensive solution.
The debate which we consistently advocate has not taken place so far. Today it seems to be the only method of finding a solution to the critical situation in which the Polish state studs have found themselves. Perhaps the best way forward in the direction of a discussion with social partners and the breeding community would be the inter-ministerial dialogue which I persistently call for, and which I advocated in my letters to the Ministries of Agriculture and Culture.
In brief, Arabian horses are the legacy of our aristocracy, not agriculture. The preserved heritage of the Polish aristocracy today is in the custody of the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, which has the means and the tools for financing assets and resources which are unprofitable but very important for Polish national culture.
At this point I would like to refer interested readers to the „First Open Letter” of 24 February 2016:
Of course I can well imagine voices rising up to say that the Ministry of Culture never managed horse studs. However, this Ministry does not arbitrarily decide what constitutes Polish national heritage in substance. The Ministry’s role is to correctly identify, secure, finance and preserve such heritage. As such the Ministry of Culture will be able to learn something new, and should not shun this opportunity. I believe that for a start the best lesson would be to listen to the serious community debate postulated above, where various positions and views could meet in appropriate conditions and an atmosphere of mutual respect.
It is high time to answer the question whether pure bred Arabian horses are meant to be a business for Poland, or they are to be treated as a part of natural heritage linking us with the tradition and achievements of the aristocracy of the I Republic. Can it be true that Poland, a country of 40 million strong, boasting of the best macroeconomic results in Europe, cannot afford a 4 million Euro annual subsidy for all three state studs, to enable the historical Arabian breeding work to continue and develop without interruptions, and without a stone tied to its neck, which for many years was the need to earn money for its own operations? In fact individual public theaters sometimes receive more annual funds than the amount postulated above, which interestingly is equal to the highest historical proceeds of the Pride of Poland auction.
Moreover, I firmly believe that financial subsidies should also be offered to private breeders who continue the traditions of old Polish blood-lines of Arabian horses, and who, by taking up the breeding effort and participating in expensive horse shows all over the world, also contribute to the preserving the Polish tradition and promoting the prestigious image of Poland worldwide. They engage in what is a unique cultural and sport activity that merits support as a great, prestigious Polish tradition. After all the national budget subsidizes the participation of Polish artists and sportsmen in international events.
I strongly believe that the debate proposed above ought to start with an attempt to answer essential questions concerning the purpose and future formula of state Arabian studs, and look forward to starting such a debate. A debate which will certainly widen the horizons and understanding of the problem for the officials of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, who had the misfortune of taking up the issue of the Polish Arabian studs without an in-depth understanding what they are actually dealing with. And who, by their own actions, limited their access to the necessary knowledge, as a result making all the mistakes that could be made as well as those which seemed totally impossible to make.
I draw this conclusion without satisfaction. I have no pleasure in offering criticism of this type. However, these are the facts, and articulating them seems the only method which, I hope, will finally stimulate reflection and self-criticism in the Ministry of Agriculture and persuade it to take up the dialogue which will give us all an opportunity to resolve the crisis.
Before the debate starts I call upon the public authorities to provide an urgent injection of public funds for the Arabian studs in Janów, Michałów and Białka. Otherwise there is a risk that they may not last until the happy conclusion of the debate postulated above. It is to be noted that already last year the Janów Podlaski Stud did not participate, for the first time in many years, in the world’s most important show for Arabian horses, which takes place as part of the „Salon du Cheval de Paris„. This was generally commented on as a symptom of serious financial problems, which, after this year’s failure of the auction, are very likely to become an existential, financial crisis.
Ladies and Gentlemen, there is no more time for a tug-of-war. Mutual accusations in the media will not lead anywhere. It is time to sit down at the table and talk sense, breaking through divisions and prejudices, with the objective of preserving the Polish Arabian breeding tradition. And more broadly, in the interests of Poland, if you believe like I do, that Arabian horses bred in Poland may serve the best interests of our country.
Unless that breakthrough happens soon, this great tradition will fall.
"Escalation of all tension starts when dialogue is abandoned."
"If we were wise enough to listen to silence! But we are human and we cannot even listen to our own conversation."
Paulo Coelho, The Pilgrim
"There is nothing more desirable, and nothing more difficult on this earth than real conversation."
"It is good to take part in dialogue and not only to speak with one’s voice, deliberately emphasizing how separate it is."
"It is said about the best company that conversation with it is educating and silence is forming."
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Łukasz Łuniewski - Lucas Lunevsky
chairman of the board
Arabian Horse Culture International Institute
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