Iza’s Report

I was excited when I was asked if I would travel to Poland with one of the men, who wanted to return and try a new life in Barka. I was aware it could be both something new and unusual for me with potential difficulties. I guess however that it was also quite a stressful experience for our companion. But the journey went well, we had lots of honest chats and jokes along the way.

On arrival to Poznań we were welcomed by Janusz and Leszek and off we went to Władysławowo, where our friend was staying. After short goodbye we went to Chudobczyce, where Zdzisław was waiting for us. We were brought to the apartament we stayed in and offered some food.
The next morning, after breakfast in lovely Manor House we had a chance to visit the farm. There are sheep, pigs, goats and a few rabbits. And huge land to work on.
Zdzisław also showed us nice little houses at the nearby lake. Jurek is looking after this little estate during the Summer and in the Winter usualy he works in London.
Later we met Tomek, who’s looking after the whole community and we had very insightfull conversation with Kasia. She is very involved in a lot of various Barka projects. Listening about what she does and what kind of mental barriers she has to overcome while liasing with other people and organisations was very interesting. There is still lots of stereotypes and prejudice about people with addictions and homeless people and about how to help them.

In the afternoon we had some time for ourselves so we went for a walk around this beatiful area. We met goats caretaker who was walking his herd of kids and they were following him in the way dogs would follow their owner. It was a lovely sight – lots of curious and lively animals walking and playing around. We also met up Jurek again who then joined us for our meals. We had very enjoyable converations about his work in Barka and life in general.
We had some nice chats with the ladies who were cooking for us and serving food. They were very friendly and the meals were nice.

There is around 70 people living in this community in Chudobczyce. For most of them this is their second chance in life. After a while in Barka some people decide to stay, some even start their family and live within community, some go their way and try to make a living outside, some go back to their hometowns.
During our stay heard some very uplifting stories of personal success, of overcoming addiction, overcoming being homeless or unemployed. All the people we met were hard working, acctually at times we felt a bit guilty that we were taking their precious time. Anyway, if I had met any of the people form the community somewhere outside, I would have never guessed the hardship and difficulties they had had to fight in life.

There is a lot going on in Chudobczyce. Apart from looking after all the animals and the land, there is an impressive canteen and conference room being built by people from the community. Another man makes trailers using his welding skills. There is also a nice barbecue site and playground built by the residents. Former sheds have been transformed into a library, gym, tv room and small internet cafe. The community house and hotel we stayed in was also rebuilt by the people from Barka.

The Barka community in Chudobczyce seems to be well integrated with the local residents. Children often come there to play and use facilities instead of just hanging around bus stops or outside of shops. Local mechanic fixes tractors in exchange of some other favours i.e.help with working on fields. Sometimes Barka even organises local festivals.

When leaving Barka on Friday morning I felt uplifted. I now realise in life, some people face difficulties which are hard to overcome. I now understand that Barks is very unusual place where lots of people despite sometimes having been deserted by friends and family, have succsseded in starting a new life against the odds.