Polish Business Turns East

Polish businessmen are getting more interested in their eastern partner
They call him the first tractor operator in Podlaskie wojewodztwa of Poland. When Sergiusz Martyniuk’s company started selling “Belarus” tractors in Poland no one thought he was taking up a promising business, as everyone was looking westwards. As a result, Martyniuk’s firm evolved into the largest tractor maker in Poland.

He came into business from the party in power, after his bosses from the administration of the wojewodztwa punished him for excessive independence and failure to perform the orders that he found inappropriate. The then 30-year-old director of a small farm had to give way to his own private initiative and take up business.

He started with a small shop that made tombstones and his initial capital was formed in the place where most people think of the end. In a couple of years unstoppable inflation threatened to devour all his savings, and he had only one way out — to invest everything he had.

He formed a partnership with his Polish friends and set up a private company in the town of Narew, just 40 kilometers away from Bialystok.

They had several small shops and sold soap and jam
They were protected from inflation now and eyed the fuel business. Poles were trading their bicycles for cars, and Narew did not even have a gas-filling station of its own, so people had to travel over 20 kilometers to get full tanks. Martyniuk’s company built a few filling stations in Narew, Bialystok and smaller towns nearby.

However, it was a contact with eastern neighbors that became the turning point. When Martyniuk started supplying farm produce to Belarus and Russia they were paying him with tractors, as barter relations prevailed then. “Belarus” tractors were cheaper than local “Ursus” and western machinery. MTZ, the Belarusian maker, survived the post-Soviet competition, and a joint venture was set up in Poland.

After that Martyniuk’s company started making its own tractors that use “Belarus” chassis. The Polish tractors use many Belarusian components.

The village company employs over 1,000 people. Unemployment rate is at 7% in Narew, compared with the average Polish rate of 20%. Martyniuk is eager to invest in charity work — he helps the local Orthodox Church and sponsors many cultural arrangements organized by the Belarusian minority in Poland.

Owing to Belarusian tractors Sergiusz Martyniuk became an influential businessman and achieved huge success. More and more Polish companies look east with a hope to rediscover the markets across the river Bug.

by Viktor Radivinovsky
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