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With No Boys Born in Nearly 10 Years, a Polish Village Finds Fame in Its Missing Males

MIEJSCE ODRZANSKIE, Poland — The mayor is offering a reward for the missing. Scientists want to investigate their absence. And television crews have come searching for answers about a small Polish village’s strange population anomaly.

No boy has been born there in almost a decade.

The detail first attracted the attention of the Polish news media when the village sent an all-girl team to a regional competition for young volunteer firefighters.

ImageCreditKasia Strek for The New York Times

Since then, Mayor Krystyna Zydziak said the situation in the village, Miejsce Odrzanskie, had gotten “a little crazy and out of hand.”

On a recent visit, four separate television crews had been dispatched to the one-road town, with 96 houses, to cover the case of the missing males.

ImageCreditKasia Strek for The New York Times

“Some scientists have expressed interest in examining why only girls have been born here,” said Rajmund Frischko, the mayor of the commune of Cisek, which includes the village. “I also have doctors calling me from all over the country with tips on how to conceive a boy.”

He said he had just spoken to a retired doctor from central Poland who said that a baby’s sex depended on the woman’s diet, which should be rich in calcium if she wants to have a boy.

ImageCreditKasia Strek for The New York Times

“And if that doesn’t work,” the mayor laughed, “there is always the tried way of the Polish highlanders: If you want a boy, keep an ax under your marital bed.”

In the years since the last baby boy was born, there have been 12 births in the village, an agricultural community on the edge of the smallest and least populated province in Poland. Residents do not know what accounts for the anomaly, but many think it might all just be a coincidence, like a run of coin flips turning up heads.

ImageCreditKasia Strek for The New York Times

Mr. Frischko has decided to offer a reward for the next couple who have a boy.

“There has been so much talk about us in the media that for a minute there I was considering naming a street after the next boy born here,” he said. “He will definitely get a very nice gift. And we will plant an oak and name it after him.”

Like so many other Polish villages, this one has seen a steep decline in population. After World War II, it had about 1,200 people; now there are 272.

ImageCreditKasia Strek for The New York Times

Since the collapse of Communism in 1989, emigration has hollowed out the country’s sparsely populated areas, a trend that accelerated after the country joined the European Union in 2004. More than two million Poles now live elsewhere in Europe.

Every family here has someone living abroad, said Ms. Zydziak, who has two daughters, one of whom lives in Germany.

ImageCreditKasia Strek for The New York Times

“Some villagers are concerned who will fill the farming jobs in the future,” she said.

Summer is a busy time here. The landscape in August is dominated by freshly shorn fields of wheat, with hay neatly formed into round, golden bales standing beside fields of corn waiting to be harvested.

Many girls and young women labor in the fields. Adrianna Pieruszka, 20, has spent a chunk of her summer holiday driving a tractor across her parents’ wheat fields, although it is the fire department that is her passion.

ImageCreditKasia Strek for The New York Times

In a village with no schools, coffee houses, restaurants or even a grocery store — and where it can take hours for the next car to appear on the horizon — the volunteer fire department has become the center of social life.

At a recent practice of the local youth volunteer fire department, an all-girl team moved in unison to extinguish a fake fire and tend to victims. The youngest recruit, 2-year-old Maja, had to be helped down from the fire truck by an older girl.

ImageCreditKasia Strek for The New York Times

Ms. Pieruszka, who studies early childhood education at university, was the supervisor of the junior brigade for four years.

“We have hardly any boys on the team, but we have been winning major competitions in Poland ever since we were founded six years ago,” she said, sitting in the common room of the volunteer fire station with dozens of medals and golden cups on display.

Tomasz Golasz, a professional firefighter who founded the village’s youth fire brigade, said it wasn’t his idea to do so.

“A group of girls approached me in 2013 and asked that I train them for a competition,” he said. “These girls live and breathe it. There is so much passion and determination. For two months before every competition, they come to train every day or every other day after school.”

Malwina Kicler, 10, who has been training to be a volunteer firefighter for almost three years, said that most girls did not mind the absence of boys on the team.

“Boys are noisy and naughty,” she said. “At least now we have peace and quiet. You can always meet them somewhere else.”

Just maybe not in the village.


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