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Purge at Poland’s renowned stud farms pits politicians against rich and famous

Spate of sackings at state-run enterprises have endangered the reputation of Poland’s globally revered horsebreeding industry.

Poland faces being pitched into an unexpected clash with some of the richest and most influential people in the world after the nationalist government sacked horse breeding specialists at prestigious state-owned stud farms.

As part of a political purge of top staff at state-owned enterprises, the agriculture minister, Krzysztof Jurgiel, sacked three specialists in February alleging financial irregularities around horse sales.

Two mares owned by British breeder Shirley Watts, wife of Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts, died at Janów Podlaski stud recently and on Thursday she ordered her two remaining horses on loan to the farm to be loaded into a lorry and driven back to Devon.

At a meeting with the Guardian outside the 1,800-hectare stud, sacked Janów Podlaski director Marek Trela said the reputation of the farm – which employs 53 people – was in the balance and its demise would have a knock-on effect for poor, eastern Poland: “The stud’s existence provides thousands of jobs. A five-star hotel is due to open nearby. Our Pride of Poland sale raised more than €4m (£3.2m) last year, including a record €1.4m for a single broodmare, Pepita.’’
Sacked former director of Poland’s Janów Podlaski stud Marek Trela.

Trela, who worked for 38 years at Janow Podlaski, first as its resident vet, then as director, denied the charge of financial mismanagement and Jurgiel’s claim he was responsible for the death of a valuable 12-year-old mare, Pianissima, who died from intestinal complications in October 2015.

Trela said Pianissima had suffered the same complication as her mother who died at the age of 10.

Petitions have now been launched for the reinstatement of the three sacked specialists – Trela, Michałów stud director Jerzy Białobok and national horsebreeding inspector Anna Stojanowska.

British breeder Joanne Law said Poland’s three Arabian studs were “one of the rock beds of Arabian breeding in the world”. Law, who is an international judge and runs Claverdon stud in Warwickshire, said: “You can salvage bloodlines but it is how you use them that matters. No one can breed those horses as well as the Poles do. I am very sad for the three people who have lost their jobs but the effect on the breed is very serious indeed.’’

The sprawling 199-year-old breeding centre, close to the Belarus border, is among three prestigious state-owned Arabian stud farms in Poland. With 500 horses and grooms turned out in neat, green uniforms, it is one of the country’s proudest and most enduring national treasures.

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