Taking Roots at manor Jackowo

A Mother-Daughter Duo finds their Calling at an abandoned manorial Estate in Poland

As told to Annika Kiehn, May 2021

When Anna Mazuś turned 18 years old, she left her home in the Polish countryside in order to migrate to Canada to start a new life. However, fate decided differently. Instead, she became a farmer – and a manor owner, as well. She and her daughter Nicole have not just found a home in the Kashubian village of Jackowo, but also a superb location for their Agro-tourism business.

A peaceful place for guests and horses

My first encounter with Anna Mazuś is filled with slight panic. Not by me, though, but Anna, who owns manor house Jackowo . With hectical waves she tries to scare away a young stallion, who is bound to enjoy his first sexual experience on a equally young mare. „No!“, she shouts in Polish, giving me a look that is a mixture of earnest worry and a kind of joy. „He is too young!“ The horse remains unimpressed until she raises her arms and shakes them wildly to make a statement. Finally, the stallion lets off and Nicole, Anna’s daughter, takes hold of the animal and takes him to the stables. They breed horses, Anna tells me and sighs in relief. If the stallion would have been lucky, and there was a foal on the way, it would be of no value, she explains.  „He is not allowed to reproduce until he has got the official papers and that will be next month“, she says and takes me to the community space.

I notice that such moments – raw, authentic and unpredictable – are part of the concept of Folwark Jackowo. This estate is a rural haven right at the southern Polish coast line, situated in the Pommeranian Voivodeship. It takes a 1,5 hour drive up north from the city of Danzig. In Jackowo you are immediatly part of what’s going on and in this case, it was the over-excited horses that marked a rather unusual beginning of my stay. It made me feel incredibly welcome right from the beginning. Choosing the concept of Agro-tourism, she and her daughter Nicole decided to share their everyday life with their guests. For Nicole, who joined us after a while, it was a natural decision as she tells me. „I also want to get to know our guests a little bit. I want to hear about their opinions, exchange views on life, you know. I am very proud that some of them, who keep visiting us from the very beginning, have turned into friends in the meantime.“

Anna and Nicole are social hosts

Perhaps this concept is not intended for those who desire not only a break from their routine, but also from other people. When I was 14 years old, I spent no more than two weeks as an exchange student with an English family, but it shaped my perception of a perfect stay in a foreign country. Suddenly, I had two older brothers and a younger sister, and I still cherish the moments we spent together at the dinner table every night, full of laughter. I listened to a lot of shouting between the siblings and their parents, just like at home. I saw the parents snuggle and flirt, and I had the feeling of having a proper home to turn to when the language school was over. To this day, we are still connected via social media, and I long to see them again one day. I guess that’s why I am fond of concepts like “work & holiday,” “Au pair,” or “Wwoofing.” They allow you to be part of an everyday procedure in a foreign country. To me, it is the best way to immerse oneself in a different culture and create long-lasting memories.

Due to the ongoing global pandemic of coronavirus and travel restrictions, it has been quite a while since I visited Jackowo myself, but vivid memories remain. I had just completed a stressful week of research at the time, and as a result, I was rather exhausted when I arrived. But then, Nicole showed me my bedroom, and relaxation instantly set in. When you enter the estate, obvious features get your attention: nature, horses, an impressive manor, and a magical greenhouse. Then you hear the silence. However, what you do not notice in the first place is the Baltic Sea, which is just five kilometers away. I had my running shoes with me, but apparently, my bed was so cozy and the rest so revitalizing that I could not be bothered with a workout the next morning. Instead, I was completely immersed in the wonders of this place. You could say I was happily trapped—and I completely embraced it. I felt no urge to go anywhere at all, which is exactly what Anna and Nicole intended—to calm down and enjoy the simple pleasures of life, like going for a walk, having a cup of tea, or reading a book. The unspoken rule demands: switch off your phone and bury it deep down in your travel bag.

Now, let’s not forget to mention the heart of the place: the impressive manor. It had belonged to the Fließbach family before WWII. After the land reform in 1945, the manor estate was converted into a communistic agricultural business, which explains the masses of concrete that still dominate a large part of it. It was actually through Anna Mazuś that I learned about Jens Orback and the refugee story of his mother, Katja, as she once belonged to the family. Anna handed me the book and told me that the remaining family members, who are now spread across Germany and Sweden, come to visit the place every now and then. Those reunions often have a great emotional impact on the new owners as well. ”They totally admire our ambition to restore the manor, while some of our guests take a quick glance and exclaim, ’Oh, this is such a shabby place!‘“ Anna smiles mildly. She knows that Folwark Jackowo has far more comfort to offer than first meets the eye. Most of it was added in 2011, when her daughter Nicole, now 32 years old, dared to start an agro-tourism business with the help of EU-Funds. The two women keep their businesses strictly separate—Anna is the farmer, and Nicole is the host. When I got back from a 12-hour-research visit, visiting manors and interviewing their owners, Nicole spoiled me with soup for starters, followed by veggie pasta, salad, and baked apple with vanilla ice cream. Her food felt like an instant hug or coming home to momma after a really exhausting day.

I don’t exactly know, why I am doing it. But this strong feeling of having the need of doing it, beats all kinds of rational thoughts that would otherwise hold me back and live an easy live in Italy. I know I somehow have to restore the manor house and it has not much to do with a business. 

Anna Mazuś, Folwark Jackowo

Our South-Baltic-Manor-project-photographer, Jan Rusek from Poland, also joined me on my tour. While we ate, Nicole’s daughter and her partner, as well as a kitchen help, were with us. The large community room, which has a few tables and a stunning kitchen island, is mainly used for meals. Each morning, guests of Folwark Jackowo can anticipate a delectable breakfast prepared by Nicole and her help. ”When Nicole was younger, she always made breakfast for us, even when she was still quite young. I liked to sleep in, so that ritual has stuck with her to this day,“ Anna recalls.

“I immediately felt at home, and it was crazy”

Before Anna and I sit down together to talk, she serves me a cup of black tea with milk. We speak German because Anna spent many years living in Germany. Besides, she worked as a translator for a grand farmer, which ironically paved her way to becoming a farmer herself. Since the early 1990s, she and her business partner Marek have been running an ecological farm. Anne laughs as she remembers: ”As a translator, I listened to all this talk about seeds, harvest, schedules, and machines. And so, by chance, I was trained as a farmer.“ However, she admits that she has never dreamt of living in the countryside again. ”My parents owned a farm, and I hated living there. All I could see was hard work, and it totally disgusted me.“ She eventually decided to return to Poland after becoming pregnant with Nicole. At the age of 25, she and her business partner Marek were given the opportunity to purchase 1500 acres of farmland, including an abandoned manor.

Although it still looks a bit like a ruin, a newly made roof adds to its lingering glory. Anna plans to turn it into a boutique hotel in the long run. She smiles in amazement as she recalls the beginnings of their adventure in Jackowo, probably about her own bravery-slash-naivety.

”When I first came to visit the place I had just bought, I looked around, and everything looked too shabby, truly horrible. It kind of scared me. But when I saw the manor house, it emitted a warmth I had never felt before in my life. I immediately felt at home, and it was crazy,“ she recalls, and I know exactly what she means. A crush on an old house can be inexplicable; however, bearing the burden of the high renovation costs with ease is hard to comprehend for an ordinary person: ”I don’t exactly know why I am doing it. But this strong feeling of needing to do it beats all kinds of rational thoughts that would otherwise hold me back and make me live an easy life in Italy. I know I somehow have to do it, and it has nothing much to do with my business.“

Nicole, her daughter who grew up in Folwark Jackowo, feels the same way. Although she is a trained veterinarian, she had no intention of working as one. Instead, she made her home her business. ”I simply desired to return and maintain a relationship with my family here,“ Nicole exclaims. As a result, she developed her idea of the perfect stay for guests, which stems from her own well-being at Jackowo: to simply enjoy yourself. She says, “That is why we have no spa or similar wellness offers. We don’t need to create a good time, and I think our guests appreciate it. You can go for a nice ride, or bike around, go to the beach, or sit on one of the comfy hanging chairs in the park and read a book.“ Nicole admits that, occasionally, it happens that guests cannot connect to the place. ”My offer is special; it is not for everyone. It is for outdoorsy people who like to interact with others. Those who will enjoy themselves the most here do not need to be entertained. They see the advantage rather than what has not yet been achieved. Whenever someone points out something negative about Jackowo, I just think to myself: ‘There is no place as perfect as this one.’“