In the evening hours of last Friday (February 19th) the Arabian horse breeding community in Poland was electrified by the dismissal of directors Jerzy Białobok and Marek Trela, as well as Anna Stojanowska from the Agricultural Property Agency. Limited information, presented first by the “Puls miasta” website from Biała Podlaska and later by the web of the Lublin daily newspaper “Dziennik Wschodni” were quickly picked up by nationwide media, including the known “Gazeta Wyborcza”. Everyone wrote about the almost 40 year tenure of both stud directors, as well as their successes and awards, which they were often honored with. A true thunderstorm soon unleashed on social media. A surprising, completely unexpected and incomprehensible by the public decision deeply upset all communities associated with Arabian horse breeding in Poland and abroad. It is difficult to question the competence, experience and merits of the dismissed threesome. The reasons behind the decision were not made public. Very quickly two petitions began circulating around – one in Polish (initiated by Joanna Suliga, with more than 2,900 signatures on Monday afternoon) and a second in English (signed by Scott Benjamin from Canada, with more than 1,600 signatures at the same moment), addressed to the Ministry of Agriculture, demanding the reinstating of the dismissed. First open letters have been shared by Barbara Mazur from Polturf (Polish letter) and Bernard Altenberg (English letter). Fanpages on Facebook were also created, gathering those upset with the situation. The largest of these (“Reinstate Anna Stojanowska, Jerzy Białobok & Marek Trela”) has gathered more than 1,750 likes (5:00 pm status).
Information about Marek Trela’s successor at the position of Janów Podlaski Stud director was given by “Dziennik Wschodni” in its first publication on the subject. This function was taken by Marek Skomorowski, a deputy director of the Lublin branch of the Agency for Restructuring and Modernisation of Agriculture, an economist by profession. The person that was to take the place of Jerzy Białobok was revealed only after the weekend. From today Michałów is managed by Anna Durmała (32 years old), a graduate of animal husbandry (the Agricultural Academy in Cracow), a horse riding instructor and a former manager of Ewex Arabians (2008–2013) in Trzyciąż. She recently worked as an animal nutrition specialist. The information published today on the Agricultural Property Agency’s website states that “the task of the studs’ new managers is to continue and develop Arabian horse breeding. The Arabian horse state studs in Poland are and will still be treated by the Agricultural Property Agency as a priority”.
Anna Stojanowska may be replaced on the position of horse breeding inspector by one of the people that participated in the contest organized by the Agricultural Property Agency at the turn of January and February of this year. According to our information, there is a probability that it will be Monika Szpura, who previously worked in the city administration of Konstancin-Jeziorna. An economist by profession, she is also a graduate of the Horse Breeding and Riding at the Wrocław University of Environmental and Life Science. She is actively associated with horses, especially Arabians, for ten years.
Anna Stojanowska still remains on the board of the Polish Arabian Horse Breeders Association (she is the president) and in the ECAHO authorities (as vice-president) until the end of her term, which is until next year. “The reasons for my dismissal were stated in the notice of termination which I received on Friday from Andrzej Sutkowski, who is the head of the ownership supervision unit of the Agricultural Property Agency since December of last year”, she told polskiearaby.pl. “I received the notice of termination fifteen minutes before 4:00 pm on Friday; in that same time delegations were on their way from the Ministry of Agriculture to Michałów and Janów Podlaski. Our entire threesome was very surprised, or rather shocked. It is not just a matter of losing a job, but the most important part of our lives. For us it was a mission, a public service, which we took over from our predecessors. My entire professional life was shaped by such people as Izabella Pawelec-Zawadzka and Władysław Byszewski, people that never treated what they were doing merely as a job.”
We were not able to talk to Marek Trela, who is at a breeding conference in Abu Dhabi where he travelled to on Saturday. Since February of this year he is the vice-president of WAHO. “Of course the owner has his rights and can do what he wants. But he must bear in mind the responsibility that is on his shoulders. Because this is no small issue. This is a stud with a large tradition, with valuable horses. We have proved this last year with a record auction”, Marek Trela told “Dziennik Wschodni”. And he added: “My life plan was Janów Podlaski. That’s why I first must settle all my matters here. I will not be making any hasty decisions. It is too early to make plans”. We contacted Jerzy Białobok when he was passing over his duties to the new director. So far he has not found the time for a longer conversation. He is also a member of the PAHBA board. “I treated Michałów Stud as my child. I wanted to create something that would last a lifetime. I hope that over the 39 years of my work this has been achieved”, he told the “Echo dnia” website earlier.
“Since Friday we are asking ourselves: what will happen with the breeding? The studs’ staffs have remained of course, but every train, even if it is made up of wagons that are doing their job, needs an engine”, notices Anna Stojanowska. “Someone must show the staffs what to do, in which direction to go. We are at the beginning of the breeding season, someone must plan future matings, participation in shows, which horses to sell. And that’s only part of it all. I also supervised half-bred studs. I have no idea what will become of them.”
Does Anna Stojanowska think that the protests on social media will bring a result? “I don’t think that these decisions could be taken back under pressure from public opinion”, she says. “I think that they were in preparation for a long time and made consciously. They were rather spectacular. The reaction of the public opinion was best commented by Jerzy Białobok, who said that so much sympathy and recognition is experienced only at a funeral, but you can’t hear them. The international community reacted very strongly, so did Polish breeders. Of course there is a group saying that it’s about time that this arrangement has been broken. This is normal – if everyone loved us, it would be a fairy-tale, not real life.”
“As a member of the PAHBA board I am surprised with the situation and decision of the APA, because still at around 4:00 pm of Friday we had a meeting of the board with everyone present and we discussed all matters on the agenda”, says Krzysztof Poszepczyński (Chrcynno-Palace Stud). “It was only late in the evening, at around 10:00 pm, that I saw the information about the dismissals on the internet. In my opinion breeding requires continuation. As a breeder I am aware that it is a time of anxiety. I am very worried about what may happen next. The studs are not regular companies, where such decisions are made overnight. These companies are associated with horse breeding, unique on a world scale. It is not just about the financial income. It is a national heritage. Changes at positions are a normal thing, however here those dismissed are authorities and it is a pity that this took place so rapidly. They should first prepare their successors who would realize the act on breeding and would further develop the Polish breeding program.” Apart from Anna Stojanowska, Jerzy Białobok and Krzysztof Poszepczyński the PAHBA board also includes Andrzej Wójtowicz (vice-president) and Tomasz Tarczyński.
The freshly appointed director of Michałów Stud, Anna Durmała, told polskiearaby.pl that – if there would be such a possibility – she would like to take advantage of the experience and help of her predecessor. She does not want to change or cancel Michałów’s plans for this year, such as the organizing of the Polish National Sports Championships for Arabian Horses. “When it comes to breeding, I would like to maintain it on the same high level”, she ensures. “If it’s possible, I will do all I can to improve it. I do not intend to do revolutions, I won’t do anything that would harm Polish Arabian horse breeding. I want to calm everyone. I did not come to ruin anything. I would like this breeding to last in excellent condition”.
However the breaking up of the continuity in managing the state studs is highly disturbing. So far, counting from the post-war years and the restoring of Polish breeding, the changes in Janów Podlaski and Michałów have taken place in an evolutional way. The new stud directors will be under a lot of pressure to live up to the task which is taking over the inheritance of their many year managers, who enjoyed great respect in the Arabian community.