I wouldn’t be able to live without nature
She calls herself "Anka from the forest"...
She lives in a wooden house in the forest and cannot imagine any other place to live than in the Podlasie. She is self-confident, infectious with positive energy and amuses with her direct sense of humor. This is exactly what Anna Sokólska is like – since 2013 the highest ranked woman in the world’s horseback archery.
In this interview she openly talks about her sport goals and dreams, reveals how nature inspires her and why the Podlasie is the most beautiful place to live.
Anna Sokólska’s list of successes is long. She is the 2015 and 2020 Polish Cup winner, gold medalist at the World Championships and the winner of many international competitions organized in France, Russia, Japan, Korea, Iran, Turkey. In 2015 and 2020, she set the Polish record in the Hungarian competition (currently Raid). In 2018 she was the highest ranked woman of the World Championships.
„Anka from the forest”
I wouldn't be able to
live without nature
In 2020, despite the difficulties of the pandemic, Ania completed all her competitions with victory, and her greatest achievement is winning the title of Polish Champion in Horse Archery, which she plans to defend also this year.
Exceptionally I won’t ask about your sporting successes (but of course I’d like to congratulate you on winning the Polish Championships in Horse Archery last year and on all other awards!), but I’ll ask about the connection between your passion and nature. It seems that horseback archery has a lot in common with nature: a horse, a wooden bow – how does it look like from your perspective?
Just being with a horse makes my discipline very connected to nature. Actually, the contact with the animal is the most important thing for me in this sport. There are also different kinds of field trips, especially those for recreation, after long trainings, to reset and to give the horse a rest (he is a competitor, too!) – this way we use nature all the time. We need such a break, something different outside the track on which we constantly train. The best rest is just “having fun” in the forest, on a field or along the Narew River. Nature gives us a reset. This is one aspect, and the other is of course my bow.
Made of natural material...
Yes, indeed – the modern bow has a wooden core and some elements made of synthetic materials. In the past it was all made of natural materials: wood, bamboo, horn, sinew, glues. I rarely use wooden arrows – only during historical shows or at some competitions, where it is required.
Can you say that the bow is a combination of tradition and modernity?
Absolutely! Bow makers often create bows in historical style – like the traditional Eastern bows, the so called reflex bows. These are still used, for example at competitions in Korea or Japan – many competitors like to use composite bows created on the basis of old, traditional technology and made entirely of natural materials. Others use same looking bows, but made of modern, sometimes very advanced materials(secrets of manufacturers). “Naturals” are less resistant to weather conditions and because of the materials used and the time of their manufacture – still quite expensive. These modern ones are more affordable, there are more of them and it is easier to take care of them. But the main element, the core of the bow – just like in the past – is the wood.
Does it suit you to say that nature inspires you?
Of course! I am Anka from the forest, so I love nature, it has always been around me. I live in my grandparents’ house, which is in the middle of the forest and instead of going for example to a disco with my friends, I would go to the forest. [laughs] I wouldn’t be able to live without nature.
Traveling around the world for competitions, getting to know exotic places – do you like coming back to the the Podlasie?
Oh yes! I even miss it during such trips. When I was training Australian colleagues for a month, I missed our forest terribly. Yea – the bush is there, but our forest is exceptional. Recently a man from the Bieszczady mountains said to me: “It is beautiful here, isn’t it?” I replied – yes, it is beautiful, but the Podlasie is more beautiful! I surprised him! [laughs]
The Podlasie is beautiful, and you show it very well in your photos and films, in which you combine promotion of horse archery and local nature. What do you appreciate our region the most?
I will say a bit perversely – for the fact that there are no crowds of tourists here. I live close to the Knyszyńska Forest, which still has fewer visitors than, for example, the Białowieża Forest. And this is one of the features for which I value the Podlasie, although of course tourism is beneficial for the region, and it is great that tourists come to us. However, it is good that it is balanced.
Another advantage is multiculturalism. I am particularly fond of Tatar culture, which is connected with horse archery.
And the last one: the Podlasie is the green lungs of Poland, where you can find peace and breathe. All busy and overworked people should be sent to the forest to stop there and see how slowly and nicely you can spend your time. I love the Podlasie and I cannot imagine any other place to live. I do not like large gatherings of people, that is why the forest is so important for me – it calms me down, shows diversity of life, it is natural harmony.
So the forest is your natural habitat.
Definitely! I once had friends take me bushcraft*, and I couldn’t fall asleep when we laid down for the night outdoors, in the total wilderness, in the woods. They had a good laugh at me because instead of falling asleep, I was looking up at the sky and sighing to the stars. And I was just simply excited, because I was sleeping in a “thousand stars” hotel!
And this joy did not let you fall asleep?
What are your plans for this ongoing, 2021 year?
I have to admit that because of the pandemic, things are changing all the time. I registered for the competition in Russia, I hope to go there at the end of July. I also hope that there will be organized a competition in Mongolia – it’s my dream to go there, to shoot arrows and obviously to win. Probably it will not be easy, because the Mongols have a flair for archery and horse riding! [laughs] And since it will not be easy, it makes me even more excited. All competitions will certainly depend on the prevailing restrictions in the countries.
In August, the Polish Championships will be organized – I am going to compete to defend the title from 2020. I am to challenge my colleague who is a very good competitor with many medals from competitions at home and abroad. The championships will again be held on the fields of Grunwald. Unfortunately we still don’t know what will happen with the Eastern archery shows – at the moment we can’t organize public historical shows because of the pandemic rules.
I hope this will change and keep my fingers crossed for all your plans!
*From laplander.co.uk: bushcraft is the knowledge and skills to survive and live sustainably in nature; the art of communing with nature.
Piotr Ejsmont, Magdalena Konik, Szczepan Skibicki, AMM Archery