A few hours in the life of Jozef Zajkowski



Jozef Zajkowski after checking that nobody was injured in the white van.

Inspired by pictures of flaming buses on W-wa Jeziorki, I thought I would have a go at some Dembinski-style photo reportage.

Yesterday evening, Jozef Zajkowski, the Wojt (Chief Executive) of Sokoly Council was on his way to Sokoly station on the semi-derelict Lapy – Ostroleka line when he saw a white van coming in the opposite direction trying to overtake a tractor and trailer. Then the van driver saw Zajkowski’s car, chickened out and stood on the break pedal. The van executed a 315° turn and ended up with three wheels in a ditch. Other than injured pride there was no damage to the man or his van.

The van driver (wearing light blue jeans) has just asked the tractor driver for a helping hand.

Passenger services were suspended on the Lapy – Ostroleka line in the 1990s and freight traffic ceased in 2000. For the last five years, Jozef Zajkowski has been trying to take over the line from PKP. Reinstating the line for freight would help boost the economy in a region of high unemployment. 700 people lost their jobs when the local sugar refinery closed, another 1,200 when the railway rolling stock workshops at Lapy went bankrupt. Several potential customers have declared that they would return to rail transport if the line was reopened for freight. If he manages to take over the railway, Zajkowski also hopes to receive financial help from the provincial governor’s office so that he can run a dmu based passenger service.


The last few stragglers arrive at Sokoly Station. Yes that really is a tree growing on the roof of the old station building.

Five year’s ago, Zajkowski first approached PKP and told the state railway company that as they were no longer using the line, he would like to acquire it. (In Poland, local authorities can take over redundant railway lines free of charge provided they use them for transport purposes.) He was first told that as the line was of strategic – as opposed to local – importance PKP could not hand it over. After Zajkowski approached many officials and politicians, PKP eventually conceded that it was no longer a strategic line but said that they would still not hand it over. Finally, Zajkowski approached Miroslaw Chaberek when the latter was Undersecretary of State responsible for rail. Chaberek told him that if he really was so sure about having freight customers PKP itself would run the trains.


The TVN24 TV crew check their equipment.

So, just as the Minister had ordained, about two years ago PKP reopened the Lapy – Sokoly section for freight with some 40 wagons or more making the journey each month. Meanwhile Zajkowski campaigned to take over the rest of the line, finally meeting the current Undersecretary of State responsible for rail, Juliusz Englehardt. Englehardt told him that PKP would divest itself of all of its remaining branch lines and if he wanted the line he was welcome to it. One month ago, Zajkowski formally requested again that PKP transfer the line to Sokoly council. Two weeks later, PKP replied that they would not be handing over the line because of its future freight potential. On 6 October PKP terminated the freight services between Lapy and Sokoly.


20 minutes to go. Some of the 50 local residents who had turned up to support their Wojt.

At this point Zajkowski decided that enough is enough and briefed the press. In the last picture, he and 50 local residents wait for the TV24 TV crew to start their interviews.

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