By Agnieszka Pikulicka-Wilczewska
BORYSOWSZCZYZNA, Poland – Amid the vast woodlands of eastern Poland, Artur Trochimiak, a 52-year-old farmer, has prepared large piles of wood behind his house in the village of Borysowszczyzna to keep him warm through the winter.
With Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sending energy prices spiralling, including the coal that many households rely on, more and more Poles are turning to a rich source of heat found in the forests covering 30% of their country’s territory – firewood.
“I am not dependent on Russia, I am not dependent on the coal mines,” Trochimiak, who spends about three months of the year collecting wood, said. “If I prepare my own fuel, I have my own resource.”
Trochimiak’s household is equipped with a special type of stove which keeps the fire running for half a day. With the proper infrastructure in place, he can save a substantial amount of money.
For firewood he collects himself he pays 15 zlotys ($3.37) per cubic metre to the local forest district, as opposed to the 156 zlotys he would pay for ready chopped wood.
Meanwhile, coal prices have roughly tripled compared to 2021 to over 2,000 zlotys per tonne. An average household can use around three tonnes of coal over the course of the winter, and so some are switching to burning wood in their stoves.
“With the consent of a forester, it is still possible to collect branches for fuel,” deputy climate minister Edward Siarka reminded Poles in early June.
“This year, after the war in Ukraine began, inquiries… to obtain firewood in local forests have increased,” he added.
According to State Forests, the public body that manages Polish woodlands, by late June forest districts had sold 377,000 cubic metres of firewood, a 30% increase to last year.
Artur Gacki, head forester in the Nurzec district, says his district has already sold 1,300 cubic metres of firewood, as opposed to the 2,000 they sold over 2021.
“This raw material, which is a fully renewable resource, will meet the heating needs of our residents for the upcoming winter and the next one,” he said.
Gathering branches is not an easy task, however.
According to Trochimiak, in addition to special permission, it requires time, skill and tools, as well as transport.
“It is hard work, but we don’t work from dawn to dusk,” he said.
It is not only Poles who are turning to wood for fuel.
In Spain, sales of wood-burning cookers and fireplaces increased by 30% in 2021 and the Spanish Association of Stove Manufacturers expects an even bigger jump in 2022.
In the Czech Republic, new website idnes.cz reported that in the first five months of this year, wood worth 8.7 million crowns disappeared from 126 locations, matching the thefts reported for eight months in 2021.
($1 = 4.4447 zlotys)