Other lives

Away from their day jobs, some of our real estate colleagues have some seriously cool passions
Leszek Sikora Managing Director at ECE Projektmanagement Polska and beekeeper

Leszek Sikora
Managing Director at ECE Projektmanagement Polska and beekeeper

My interest in beekeeping started with my father. Early in his academic career, he decided that he needed an independent living in order not to have to deal with communist institutions. Over the years, he became one of the biggest individual producers and breeders in the country and is still active today, running it with my brother and his team. What was his passion seemed like a curse to me as a child, since most of the work needed to be done in the summer holidays. Instead of going to the seaside, I had to work! Today, my involvement is more sentimental and to unwind, plus it gives me a chance to introduce my children to a little rural living away from virtual reality and the hassles of urban life. I’m not formally educated as a beekeeper, my entire experience comes from a childhood spent in this breeding and api-production (api – active pharmaceutical ingredient) business.

Where the beehives are located depends on the time of year. During winter, all of the hives are kept in several fixed locations whereas, in warmer periods, the bees wander from one spot to another, depending on what kind of nectar-producing plants are blossoming. We move them all across the country in search of large plantations of linden trees or buck-wheat. All-night transportation of hundreds of hives is part of the fun and adventure. We currently have around 800 families prepared for winter – hopefully they will all survive and there will be more for next year! Beekeeping produces multiple products: all sorts of honey, pollen, queen-jelly and other substances for nutrition and pharmaceutical industry. But, forget the honey – bees are indispensable for agriculture. Should they become extinct, the entire pollination process would collapse in a year, with no other species able to replace them in this task.

People often ask if I’ve ever been stung – being stung is part of the fun! My record of 30 stings in one day brought my immune system close to its limit. My brother almost died when he was aged two or three – only a quick adrenaline injection saved him. There are some aggressive breeds of bees, even in Europe, but there are also mild ones, where you don’t need any special protection when opening up a hive. Bees are fascinating organisms. Watching them communicate, organise and divide tasks and adapt is really interesting. At the same time, they are very vulnerable to negative changes in the natural environment – modern agriculture, overuse of pesticides, genetic modification of traditional nectar producing plant species all pose a big risk to their survival.

Bogusław Wożniak
Owner of real estate consultancy firm Terra Investments and open water swimmer

Bogusław Woźniak Owner of real estate consultancy firm Terra Investments and open water swimmer

It all started a few years ago, when a friend of mine told me that he was training for the 5.2 km Balaton Lake cross swim in Hungary. That seemed a very long distance – the most I had swum was about 1.5 km in my local swimming pool – and I thought, “Why not?” In open water swimming competitions there are basic rules: you’re not allowed to use neoprene or any device that can aid swimming, like fins or a snorkel. You’re allowed one swimming cap and pair of goggles and your swimsuit must be above the knees. You’re not allowed to swim behind the guide boat because of the draft and you have to finish your swim on dry land without any assistance. Plus, you have to get used to the temperature. For example, the warmest the English Channel will be is around 17-18 degrees in August, but to be able to sustain that temperature for 12 to 14 hours, you need to train in 14-15 degrees. Before you are allowed to swim the Channel, you have to prove to the licensing agency that you have done a six-hour swim below 16 degrees.

Over the last few years I’ve done several swims, including the 14.4 km Straits of Gibraltar, the 22.3 km Illes Formigues – Illes Medes in Catalonia, the 26 km Rapperswil in Zurich, and the 33.5 km English Channel. I’ve recently launched the Terra Investments Swim Programme with the aim of promoting the sport and supporting young swimmers in open water swimming. It’s given me the power and perspective to overcome the small ups-and-downs of everyday life. When I was swimming in Zurich, for example, I wasn’t sure if I had trained enough and, after passing 14 km, I tired and wondered if I hadn’t trained enough. But it passed and I enjoyed the rest of the swim. It teaches you to never let go and that the challenge is in your head. Swimming for 12 hours is possible if you practice, but training your willpower is harder.

Katarzyna Pyś-Fabianczyk
Head of Industrial & Logistics CEE, BNP Paribas and hardcore punk concert organiser

Katarzyna Pyś-Fabianczyk
Head of Industrial & Logistics CEE, BNP Paribas and hardcore
punk concert organiser

With some friends, my husband and I organise concerts for Polish and foreign bands. They play hardcore punk rock, but it’s really hard to generalise about their music. All of the bands have their own style and all differ from one another. It’s definitely alternative music but, contrary to what some people might think, the music promotes a very positive mental attitude. It’s fast and heavy and really for the connoisseurs. We act as promoters, so we usually book shows during their European tours. We often become friends with them and sometimes even host the bands at our house. Usually, we arrange shows at our friends’ clubs in Warsaw and try to involve the local community.

They aren’t huge shows, but they give us a lot of satisfaction, especially when they are unknown artists and, later, we meet them at bigger festivals and often they’ve become really popular. My husband got me into it and we started putting on shows in a natural way. We saw that bands playing in the UK, Netherlands and Germany were not coming to Poland, and we really wanted to change that. We’ve made so many great memories and met so many interesting people. One Brazilian guy we met recently turned out to be a lawyer of big international football players back home. Now he’s organising a music tour in Brazil for Polish bands that he met over here.

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Written by: Richard Stephens

Richard Stephens founded Poland Today in 2012 to help bring Poland to the world and the world to Poland. Before this he was editor of Eurobuild CEE magazine in his first stint with the company, and then returned to conceive and establish The Eurobuild Awards, organizing the first two editions. He has a degree in Theology & Religious Studies from Bristol University in the UK.