Lost Paradise

A group of charcoal burners lives in the Eastern Polish Carpathians, deep in the forest under barren conditions. Without running water nor electricity seven men share three barracks. They live there during the entire year to produce charcoal, from early morning til late at night using the simplest methods. They are the last charcoal burners that work in this archaic way. Most of them hardly reach the age of 60 because the production is not only harmful to the environment, but also to health.

There are no working laws in this remote area and there is no one to control that. Until now. The European Union wants to ban this form of charcoal. In the Czech Republic and Slovakia the ovens have already been replaced by environmentally friendly systems that require little personnel.

For all charcoal burners this means the end of their lifestyle. Despite all hardships, they have found their fortune in the seclusion of the Carpathians. They are like a family: the last bread is divided, comforted in sad moments, when the memories of deceased wives come up. One lends a hand where the other cannot. Most of them are alcoholic, but in the isolation this is accepted and leads to more caution, so that no accidents will happen.

The charcoal burners camp is one of the last places where wood is burned to charcoal in this way and where these burned people, with all their weaknesses and diseases, follow their work and find their happiness.

© Agata Szymanska-Medina