It was during a competition for junior firefighters that somebody first noticed something unusual about the small Polish village of Miejsce Odrzanskie. Every single one of the uniformed children showing off their skills was a girl.
The reason is as simple as it is surprising. No boys have been born in Miejsce Odrzanskie for almost a decade, while the village’s women in the rural backwater of 300 souls have given birth to 12 girls.
The boy shortage is so acute that the mayor has offered a cash reward for the first family to produce a son. The world’s media have descended on the village in the fields of south-west Poland not far from the Czech border to investigate the phenomenom.
“Of course the media attention was a surprise for us, for the residents and the area,” Rajmund Frischko, the local mayor who offered the reward—and the father of two daughters—told The Telegraph.
“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.”
“The situation was that the girls were growing up, and the kids were around us, so we didn’t pay much attention to it. Until, that is, someone noticed during a competition for volunteer firefighters that the team consisted of just girls,” he said.
The mayor said doctors from across Poland has been calling him with tips on how to encourage the birth of a boy. One retired doctor had told him that the sex of a baby depended on the mother’s diet, which must be rich in calcium to guarantee a son.
“There is always the tried way of the Polish highlanders: If you want a boy, keep an axe under your marital bed,” he joked.
“We treat the whole affair as something as a curiosity,” said Krystyna Zydziak, the head of the village and the mother of two daughters.
“I always say that nature can find ways to balance things. There may be more girls born here but somewhere else in the world more boys are probably being born.”
The lack of male births over the past few years compared to the dozen or so female births has fuelled worries about the future of the village.
Miejsce Odrzanskie, like many Polish villages, has been fighting a losing battle to retain its population as people leave the fields for Poland’s flourishing cities. Without men going into farming, people fear, that struggle could get harder.
Ms Zydziak, said that everyone in the village had family living and working elsewhere in the EU.
“Some villagers are concerned who will fill the farming jobs in the future,” she said.
The Facebook page of the local volunteer fire brigade, a centre of community life in the village, has taken to listing all the stories now featuring the village, along with numerous pictures of happy, if somewhat bemused, villagers being interviewed for television cameras.
Malwina Kicler, 10, has been a volunteer firefighter for three years. The lack of boys has not stopped her crew from scooping up trophies in major competitions across Poland in the six years since the tram was founded.
“Boys are noisy and naughty,” she told the New York Times. “At least now we have peace and quiet. You can always meet them somewhere else.”
The comments below the links to the stories range from the baffled to proud “Go girls!” posts. One joked that perhaps the lack of boys was due to a particularly libidinous postman delivering more than letters to the village’s womenfolk.
Scientists have stressed that people should not jump to conclusions as to why so many girls are being born in the village.
“You have to go deep into the history and check the birth statistics,” said Professor Rafal Ploski, head of the genetics department at Warsaw’s Medical University.
“They you have to check to see if the girls’ parents are not related to each other, even to a very distant extent. Then you have to conduct detailed interviews with the parents and the children, and check the environmental conditions. Only then can a trail appear.”
Not everyone sees the dearth of boys as a problem. One villager, perhaps making a veiled reference to Poland’s war-scarred history said that the string of daughters was a good omen.
“They once said that ‘when boys are born there will be war, when girls are born there will be peace’ so thank God it is as it is,” she said.