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 she turned 18 years, Anna Mazuś left her home in the Polish countryside in order to migrate to Canada. But fate decided differently. Instead, she became a farmer – and a manor owner, as well. In the Kashubian village Jackowo, she and her daughter Nicole have not just found a home for themselves, but also a superb place 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

This concept is perhaps not meant for those, who wish not only absence from their routine but maybe also from other people. When I was 14 years old, I was an exchange student of an English family for no more than two weeks, but it shaped my perception of a perfect stay at a foreign country. All of a sudden, I temporarily had two older brothers and a younger sister and I still cherish the moments gathering at the dinnertable 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 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 thats 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 dive into a different culture and make long-lasting memories.

Due to the ongoing global pandemic of coronavirus and travel restrictions, it has been quite a while since I was at Jackowo myself, but I still have vivid moments on my mind. I had a stressful week of research at that time, so I felt rather tired 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: the nature, the horses and the impressive manor and a magical greenhouse. Then you hear the silence. What you do not notice in the first place: The Baltic Sea is just five kilometers away. I had my running shoes with me but apparently, my bed was so cosy, the rest so revitalising, that I could not be bothered for a workout the next morning. Instead, I was fully thrown into 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 and that feeling resembles exactly Annas and Nicoles intention: That you 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 burry 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 turned into a communistic agricultural business, which explains the masses of concrete which still dominates a large part of it. It was actually through Anna Mazuś, that I found out about Jens Orback and the refugee-story of his mother Katja, as she belonged to the family, once. She handed me his book and told me, that the remaining members of the family, these days 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 go: ‚Oh, this is such a shabby place!‘“ Anna Mazuś 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 parted – Anna is the farmer, Nicole is the host. When I got back from a 12-hour-research, visiting manors and interviewing their owners, Nicole spoiled me with an soup for starters, followed by veggie-pasta, a salad and baked apple with vanilla icecream. Her food felt like an instant hug or like coming home to mommy 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

On my tour, I was joined by our South-Baltic-Manor-project-photografer Jan Rusek from Poland as well. While we ate, Nicoles daughter and her parter as well as a kitchen help were with us. The big community room with few tables and a stunning kitchen island, serves mainly for meals. Each morning the guests of Folwark Jackowo can look forward to a super various breakfast, prepared by Nicole and her help. „When she was younger, Nicole always made breakfast for us, even when she was still quite young. I liked to sleep in so that ritual is stuck with her until today“, Anna recalls.

“I immediately felt at home, it was crazy”

Before Anna and I sit down together to talk, she serves me a black tea with milk. We speak German, which is due to the fact, that Anna had lived in Germany for many years. She worked as a translator for a grand farmer, which ironically paved her way to become a farmer herself. Since the early 1990s, she and her business partner Marek run an ecological farm. Anne laughs as she remembers: „As a translator I listened to all this talk about seeds, and harvest and schedules and machines. And so, by chance, I was trained as a farmer.“ Although she never dreamt of living in the countryside again, as she admits. „My parents owned a farm and I hated living there. All I could see was hard work and it totally disgusted me.“ It was when she got pregnant with Nicole, that she decided to go back to Poland eventually. At the age of 25 she and her business partner Marek were given the opportunity to buy 1500 acres of farmland, including an abandoned manor.

It still looks a bit like a ruin, although a newly made roof is adding to its still lingering glory. In the long run, Anna plans to turn it into a boutique hotel. Thinking back to the beginnings of their adventure in Jackowo, she smiles in astonishment, 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 to shabby, truly horrible. It kind of scared me. But then I saw the manor house and it emitted a warmth like I have never felt before in my life. I immediately felt at home, it was crazy“, she recalls and I know exactly what she means. A crush on an old house can be inexplicable, also taking the burden of the high costs for renovating it with an ease that is hard to comprehend for an ordinary person: „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 do it and it has not much to do with a business.“

The same goes for her daughter Nicole, who grew up in Folwark Jackowo. Although she is a trained veterinarian, she had no intensions to work as such.  Instead, she made her home her business. „I just wanted to come back and maintain my life with my family here.“ So she developed her idea of the perfect stay for guests, which derives from her own wellbeing at Jackowo: To simply enjoy yourself. „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.“ Sometimes, though, Nicole admits, it happens that guests cannot connect to the place. „My offer is special, it is not for everyone. It is for outdoor people, who like to interact with others. Those, who will like it mostly here, have no need to be entertained and 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.“