Volume 3 Number 11
Small Business Mushrooming
01 December 1990

As a crowning insult the local party committee routed a railway branch line straight across the Potoclcis' front lawn.
Antoni Potocki lives with his family in a large house on the outskirts of Krakow. It has a comfortable, settled feel, like the home of a prosperous farmer, an impression reinforced by the outhouses and cultivated plots.

It was a family `seat', at the centre of agricultural estates owned by the Potockis, whose name features prominently in the annals of Polish nobility. But such places were unpopular with the communist authorities. The land was confiscated and their way of life systematically destroyed. As a crowning insult the local party committee routed a railway branch line straight across the Potoclcis' front lawn, within 40 feet of the imposing front portico. Since then they have used the back door only.

These days it is almost a matter of pride to have suffered at the hands of communism. `But it was very hard for my father and grandfather,' admits Potocki, apparently without bitterness. `They were left with no knowledge of how to earn enough money to live in the new circumstances.' The family started a mushroom farm, adapting the old stables to grow tier after tier of mushrooms in horse manure.

In the 1980s Antoni Potocki played a leading role in the Krakow Industrial Society, promoting free enterprise and Christian values as a basis for Poland's future. For him it was not just theory. Through a tangle of red tape he began importing parts for computers and office equipment, assembling them, and selling them on the starved home market. One of the precious mushroom sheds had to be cleaned and converted for the purpose. Another became a workshop for building modern farm trailers, whenever the steel was available.

Since the ousting of the communist government, Potocki has gone into overdrive and seems to relish every minute. Nurturing his business through economic recession, foreign trips to promote joint ventures, political and family responsibilities - his wife is busy founding an independent school in Krakow - all claim his time.

`Only charlatans have miracle cures,' says Poland's Finance Minister, Leszek Balcerowicz. Yet, he says, he hopes to change people's attitudes towards work. `That is a major reason why we cannot proceed gradually. If we did there would be no impulse to change beliefs and work habits.'

In Krakow the Potockis are proceeding apace.

Unless stated otherwise, all content on this site falls under the terms of the Creative Commons Licence 3.0