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ADAM HREBNICKI 1857-1941


Adam Hrebnicki (1857-1941) professor, pomologist, gardening plants grower, the founder of, among other things, known in the whole Europe “Berzenicki Pineapple”, the variety of apple-tree.
The creator of an experimental orchard and the owner of „Paradise” (Raj) estate in Vilnius region – currently Lithuania.
Professor Adam Hrebnicki was already famous before the 2nd World War among fruit farmers for his participation in scientific conventions combined with exhibition of fruits, organized annually by Polish Pomological Society in Warsaw, and for his specialist press.
He occasionally wrote for gardening newspapers; in “Modern Gardening”, “Orchard and Fruits”, “Gardening Agricultural Watchword” newspapers there was written about him and about his achievements in the field of pomology.
In post-war Poland, the Hrebnicki name was on “A List of Losses of Polish Culture 1939-1946” published in Warsaw in 1947.

Adam Hrebnicki, the son of Stanislaw and Konstancja, maiden name Samiszcze, was born in Ciotcza estate, in the Lepel district of the time, in the Witebsk land,(currently Belarus) on December 24, 1857.
He spent his early years in his uncle's, Antoni Samiszcze, Turosa property.
There, the only in czar's Russia profit-making orchard was located. All other orchards, by manor houses, were conducted only for one's own use.
The orchard was small, having around 500 trees, conducted with great commitment and competence, where fruits were classified and packed, according to rules that then became a standard in the whole region, and sent to St.Petersburg and Riga.
Adam Hrebnicki was impressed by the orchard and he learnt to distinguish trees grown there: Antonovka, Titowka, Aporta, Lithuanian Cukrowka that is by this name in the Hrebnicki Fruit Atlas (and which was then named White Sweet Apple).
In Obol estate, in Polock district, of an area of 7000 ha, that belonged to his father, the young Adam proved his abilities to distinguish between above mentioned fruits variations (except Antonovka, not present there).
In the big manor orchard, located in Obol, Adam Hrebnicki learnt to value the Sour Spasowka for its extraordinary fertility and trading value.
Still before he attended school he learnt not only how to vaccinate and propagate fruit trees but also many other things he had studied together with his father in a rich manor library in Obol.
All this tuned into his passion for fruit-farming in his adult age.
After a short stay in classical Junior High School in Witebsk, between 1870-1877 he attended school in Dyneburg (presently Daugavpils – Latvia). Then, he studied at St. Petersburg Institute of Forestry which he graduated in 1883.
His master thesis titled "The starch as a spare substance of our trees" (for which he received a golden medal in 1884) was noticed by professors who offered him assistant lectureship. He graduated his studies with a degree: "first class learned forester". He specialized in botanists of the time: Borodin and Montewerde.
Adam Hrebnicki then was appointed an assistant by the Institute of Forest Raise and Forestry Engineering, and just after 1881 he became a fruit farming teacher, and since 1902 he took up a newly created for him in the Institute a fruit farming department.
Despite a coup in Russia he maintained on his position and received a title of a distinguished professor.
In 1886 he started a very important stage in his professional activity – he drew for the first time an apple of Zalatoje Siemiaczko variation - Edelbohmer, that then was described in detail in a book called: Atlas of Fruits.
After he described this variation he sent the description to a newspaper called "News from fruit farming”, published in Petersburg.
From that time Hrebnicki's career as a columnists has started, which then developed, owing to the cooperation with prof. Aleksander Rudzki.
This cooperation of the two Polish scientists, lovers of pomology, resulted in a translation, made by Hrebnicki into Russian language, of a great fundamental work by Mikołaj Gaucher, "Handbuch der Obstkultur", published originally in Berlin in 1889, and then in Russian between 1989-1900.
Adam Hrebnicki was also an author of newspaper articles (1900-1906) and drawings used as pictures in a full encyclopaedia of a farm - published by Dewrijen, and edited by prof. Rudzki.

In 1886, Adam Hrebnicki got married to Stanisława Stankiewiczowna, the daughter of Jan and Konstancja Bejnar, the owners of Berżeniki estate, in Swieciany district, in Wilno (Vilnius) region, and was dowered with a part of Berzeniki's estate, namely, a manor called Staniszki.
Staniszki were in 1891  named “Paradise”.
The “Paradise” manor was divided into plots, 100 apple trees in each. Mostly, there were
low climbing apple trees, lead out of stumps, of 1/2 to 3/4 arsen height, (around 36-54 cm) improved by scions, imported by Hrebnicki from Warsaw, Zaleszczyki, Riga, Kiev, and from central and North America.
Also, there was a big collection of wild apple trees from eastern Siberia.
In such a way the only in Poland pomological orchard of this kind, covering 512 variations of apple trees and 256 variations of pear trees was created.
The area and orchard from then on was treated as an experimental ground for many practical experiments and observations, and contributed to many publications, monographs and textbooks.
Works conducted in this field in that time can be seen in a book called "Uchod za plodowym sadom" published for the first time in 1892, and eight in 1931, without any essential changes.

Adam Hrebnicki except his scientific work in the Institute of Forestry, nursery and gardening work in Berzeniki and “Paradise” estate, writing and exchanging an extensive correspondence with pomologists from the whole world and his work as a columnist, was also a pomological expert, since 1884 until he left Russia, in all pomological exhibitions of this vast country.
The stay of A. Hrebnicki in North America in 1894 allowed him to compare fruit-farming in Russia and North America, where nursery trees were exported from Russia.

Czar's All Russian Pomological Society, just after An International Convention for pomologists, decided to crown pomological activity by publishing a book.
Prince Anatol Gagarin suggested to publish a fruit atlas.
His idea was approved willingly. For the editor Prof. Adam Hrebnicki was appointed. Prince Gagarin believed him to be the only man who could manage this task.
Prof Hrebnicki aroused all possible scientific and specialist groups' interest and encouraged them to cooperate with him.
Between 1903-1906, based on best Russian, European and American sources of information, he managed to complete a monumental four-volume work called “Atlas of Fruits”, of dimension: 14 cm/ 20 cm.
The Atlas included pictures and colourful tables and descriptions of 46 variations of apple trees, pear trees, plum trees, cherry trees, made by Hrebnicki himself and descriptions of other authors supplemented by Hrebnicki, based on his own experiments and researches.
In the manuscript, there were descriptions and pictures of around 1000 variations of apple trees made in an interwar period, and notes concerning phenological observations of fruit trees conducted by Hrebnicki.

The described variations had their origin in Lithuania. Hrebnicki provided for all variations their biological features, examined by him, such as: resistance to frost, illnesses and vermin, as well as their soil and climatic requirements, at the same time evaluating their trading value for orchards in Lithuania.
Results of researches made by him could also be found in the specialist press from that time. Hrebnicki wrote over one hundred newspaper articles that were then published.
His book called "Uchod za plodowym sadom" was edited six times, its last edition appeared in the interwar period.

Hrebnicki's “Atlas of Fruits” is currently a historical book which shows variations of fruit trees. The book is very important for Polish scientists too because of Polish names used in majority of descriptions.

This work was published extremely expensively as the Czar himself supported it with huge amount of money- colourful tables were made in The State Graphical Institute "Expedition to Prepare State Documents".

Vital is the fact that Czar's Russia appreciated Hrebnicki's knowledge, and he was honoured and awarded during his lifetime. Hrebnicki was a Pole who did not hesitate to order colourful tables in Warsaw. He commissioned Polish artists and Gorczewski Company in Warsaw to perform them.
“Atlas of Fruits” included a number of Polish names of trees, Polish surnames and titles of works written by Polish scientists.
In the Atlas all facts that concern Poland and Poles were published in Polish.

Hrebnicki had a great impact on the whole science and knowledge of fruit-farming on that land. Before the War from Dukszty station in Poland the greatest loads of fruits were annually exported. It was an indirect result of Hrebnicki's experience, knowledge and activity.
The influences shaped the fruit-farming discipline especially on the area of former Polish Eastern Borderlands.

After the First World War Adam Hrebnicki moved to his property “Paradise” and there he dedicated his time to scientific researches.
In 1922 he was nominated the professor of fruit-farming and pomology.
In 1939, when the Vilnius region was united with Lithuania, Hrebnicki was appointed a consultant in An Lithuanian Agronomical Institute.
He died on the October 13, 1941 after a month confined to bed.

Fruit-farming it was Adam Hrebnicki's passion. In 1890 he started to create in his property called “Paradise”,(Wilno voivodeship, Swieciany land, Dukszty district) a pomological orchard, of an area 14 ha.
In 1910, 437 variations of apple trees, 154 variations of pear trees, 116 variations of plum trees, 82 variations of cherry trees, as well as numerous variations of gooseberry, currant and strawberries could be found there, together with three nurseries of wild apple trees - Malus silvestris and M. prunifolia, that came from seeds imported from Siberia.

A collection of noble fruit trees and bushes farmed in A. Hrebnicki's pomological orchard was imported from Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Belorus, Russia, Ukraine (among other things from famous Simirenki orchards), Poland (from P. Hoser's orchards, E.Jankowski and J.Slaski's, from Warsaw Pomological Orchard and from Institute in Pulawy) as well as from Germany.
For over 50 years, the pomological orchard in “Paradise” estate was a centre of intensive scientific researches and experiments conducted by A. Hrebnicki.
Owing to long-lasting observations concerning biological properties of fruit trees Hrebnicki was able to select among less and more known variations - the most suitable to be farmed locally, those resistant to frost and such that give numerous or tasty fruits.
He searched for least known variations but valued in fruit farming respect, that were examined by him, propagated, released and popularised.
The variations included:
Berżenicki Pineapple (also locally known as Hrebnickie's Rennet Apple), today popular in Lithuania, Latvia, Belorus and Estonia, known in Poland, Germany and Sweden, variations discovered and named by Hrebnicki himself in Berżeniki and Gierkany orchards located near the “Paradise” estate - Pepina Jana, A la Napoleon, Długotrwałe (Long-lasting).
From new variations that grew in “Paradise” in the interwar period from noble trees saplings, a few deserve attention: Zwyciezca Zwirko ( Zwirko the Winner) and Szlachcic (Noble Man).

The Lithuanian authorities, Lithuanian and Belorussian fruit farmers as well as local community decided to continue Hrebnicki's work. In 1957 there was created in “Paradise” a research point of Vilinus Experimental Agricultural Research Station.
300 nursery trees that have survived were secured. The trees represented 26 variations of apple and pear trees.
There were among others, rare variations such as Popowka, Terespolskie Sweet, Granatowe (Navy-Blue), Wargul and many more.
The House where Adam Hrebnicki had been living was redecorated. The garden which had surrounded the house was arranged.
82 most splendid wild apple trees were chosen for further experimentation, including malus silvestris and M. prunifolia.
In 1958, 11 saplings were positively evaluated because of the fact that they were characterised by noble variations' features.
Also Hrebnicki's Gruszowka is worth mentioning.
This variation of apple tree grew up on the terrain of “Paradise” estate from the shoots of the variety of early apple and tasted similarly to pear.
In 1958, a new orchard was created in the “Paradise” area with 58 varieties of apple trees and many variations of gooseberry, currant and strawberries planted in the field.
In 1961, during the twentieth anniversary of A. Hrebnicki's death there was in Dukszty a conference held, organized by Lithuanian Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. The conference was held in the name of : "To make the A. Hrebnicki's dream come true and change the whole Lithuania into a flowering orchard”.
During the conference a museum was opened to commemorate A, Hrebnicki's achievements.
Local communities still develop A. Hrebnicki's work- orchards in the Ignalino region prove it.
The Museum is visited by many fruit farmers, youth and students.
One of the oldest apprentices who has cooperated with A. Hrebnicki recollects the man in the following way:
“The love of nature that A. Hrebnicki instilled in my heart, has had extremely intensely expanded. Nature was calling and attracting me.
All that I was familiarized with, during the 7-years long time of apprenticeship, retained by my memory as pictures from a book. I started to be the nature admirer...”(J.Szarka).

Professor Adam Hrebnicki belongs to an group of Poles who were working in Lithuania and Russia and who thanks to their discoveries will go down in the history of Polish and European culture and science as the co-creators of knowledge of plants, their farming and usage.
Among Poles working in former Czar's Russia: botanists, fitopatologists, pomologists, fruit planters chemists, geologists, technologists and intensive agriculture technicians, professor Adam Hrebnicki's name will be highly valued as deserved pomologist for science.

Prof Dr. Aleksander Rejman, Autumn 2004
Editor Andrzej Rejman 2004-2006

Also based on:
1/Julia Rejman – "Museum of the Professor Adam Hrebnicki -The centre of fruit farming culture in Lithuania”
2/Jozef Pawlowicz "Professor Adam Hrebnicki – recollections from joint work"
3/Dr Wladyslaw Rogowski - "Professor Adam Hrebnicki and the work of his life"
Professor Adam Hrebnicki
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