Kruszynyany. Monuments of many cultures. Sights of Podlasie. What is worth seeing

Kruszynyany, Poland

Kruszynyany is a small Tatar village with a rich history and Tatar spirit in the Podlaskie Voivodeship of the Republic of Poland.

The descendants of the Golden Horde, who were skilled warriors and traders, first appeared on the territory of modern Poland in the 14th century. King Wladyslaw Jagiello of Poland and Duke Vytautas of Lithuania began settling Tatars in the territories bordering the Teutonic Order at the end of the century. Today, about five thousand Tatars live in Poland, and most of them live in the Knyshina Forest. Kruszyna Tatars settled on the lands of Podlasie during the reign of Jan III Sobieski who gave them lands for military merits. For example, they fought bravely for the Polish state in the battle of Vienna in 1683. The founder of the village is considered to be Colonel Samuel Mirza Krichovski, with whom 45 families came to the banks of the river Netupa in 1676.

The mosque, one of the oldest in Poland, is connected with the name of the same king of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth Jan III Sobieski, who built it. The second mosque, which appeared a little later, not far from Kruszyńany is located in Bochoniki. Since then, religious books have been written here and scriptures have been rewritten. Since 2012, the mosque has been listed as one of the oldest monuments in Poland.

The rectangular, dark green wooden building is topped by three towers with crescents. The interior walls are decorated with quotations from the Koran. The floors are covered with ancient carpets. To enter the mosque one has to take off the shoes. Women as well as men can pray here, but only behind a high partition. The mihrab, a small hill on the southern wall, decorated with a brightly lit crescent with a star, points to Mecca and is intended for the Imam. Here he preaches during the weekly Friday prayers. Although Polish Muslims do not know Arabic, the Koran is read in this language.

Only eight Tatar families currently live in Kruszynany. And it’s hard to call them Tatar. Our guide, Jemil Gembitsky, who is the custodian of the mosque and the Muslim cemetery, is married to a Polish woman. By arrangement with his wife, they divided their children, so to speak. The boys adopted the faith of their forefathers and are considered to be Muslims, the girls are Catholic. Nobody has spoken Tatar, and not only in this village, for more than four hundred years. And that’s understandable. They add Polish endings to their Tatar surnames, and give their children biblical, Turkic names. In 2012, they opened Tatar language courses in Bialystok. Dzhemil highlights three distinctive features of his people: they are ethnically Tatar, part of the Polish people, and practice Islam. The state supports Tatar settlements. It gives money for projects, repairing mosques and cemeteries. In Kruszynany, the Tatar Cultural Center was created with EU money, which serves both an educational function and as a museum. Here, you can see national Tatar costumes, archive materials and rare photographs, telling the history of the Tatar community in Poland.

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We could not stay at the mosque for long as pilgrims from Malaysia and accompanying Chechens came to pray. We were politely asked to leave the room. By the way, since the 90s so many Chechens have settled in Poland (especially in the Bialystok area) that they outnumber the Tatars three to one.

The Moslem cemetery, a mizar on the edge of the forest, is another attraction of the village. The ancient tombstones, covered in Arabic script, face Mecca. On the mossy tombstones of the 18th century one can still read, in addition to Arabic, Russian and Polish inscriptions, which speaks of the mixing of the Tatars with their Eastern European neighbors. There are only three functioning Muslim cemeteries in Poland, one of them is Krušinjanskoe. All Muslims are buried here, regardless of nationality.

In 2017, the tenth anniversary Sabantuy of Polish Tatars was held in Kuszyniany, entitled “Tatars in Poland and for Poland”. It was organized and held by the Regional Foundation of the Center of Culture of the Polish Tatars Asman, the Foundation of the Tatar Cultural Society and the hostess of the “Tatar Yurt” Jenetta Bogdanovich. (They also revived this holiday in 2007). By holding Sabantui, the Tatars pay tribute to the precepts of their ancestors, who believed that prayer and joy could bring an abundant harvest. As part of the holiday, the fifth National Festival of Tatar cuisine and a cooking contest were held, in which Kaliningrad Tatars took part. Our delegation was honored with special prizes and memorable gifts.

The festival is held in Krushinjanes not by chance – it is here, in the famous country estate “Tatarska Jurta”, one can taste the dishes of authentic Tatar cuisine. Unfortunately, in the spring of this year, the restaurant burned down, but its hostess very cordially received our group and heartily fed with dinner in a field tent, the size of which is more like a hangar. The Poles, learning of the fire, immediately responded to someone else’s misfortune. Volunteers from different parts of the country came to help clear away the rubble, clean the soaked dishes, and donated some items. The recovery is not as fast as we would like it to be, but Djenetta Bogdanovich has not lost heart and believes that her life’s work will not fade into oblivion.

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This woman first came to Krushynyany when she was 20 years old, together with a group of tourists from Bialystok, whom she introduced to quiet villages, farms, and old farms. That’s when she came across a mizar, a Tatar cemetery lost in the woods. Moss-covered tombstones awakened an interest in the past, in the roots. After all, her ancestors might have lain here somewhere. It was then that she first thought of herself as a Tatar of Polish descent. A lot of time passed from the birth to the implementation of the idea of creating a Tatar farmstead with a restaurant of national cuisine. After she married Marek, a native of Krushinyan, Jenetta continued to take groups of tourists and made sure to include a quiet village with a mizar and a mosque the color of emerald on her itinerary. So that people could eat and relax, she and her husband put tables and benches next to the house that had once belonged to their husband’s relatives. They named their restaurant “Tatar Yurt” and treated people with dishes of national cuisine, the recipes of which Jenetta had collected from all over Poland. The place was open from spring to fall. A little later, with the help of her three daughters, the Bogdanovichi family renovated the house and began inviting guests in so that they could feel the spirit of the Tatar family. Having made an addition, the first floor was taken as a tavern, as the rumor about the “Tatar yurt” quickly spread, and it became popular with tourists. In 2003 Bogdanovici finally moved to Krushinjany and invested a lot of effort in the revival of the Tatar village, holding here Muslim holidays and festivals of culture, during which there are musical and dance groups, songs not only in the Tatar language, handicrafts exhibitions and all sorts of contests. Guests can shoot arrows, ride horses, cook Tatar dishes, participating in master classes.

Holding Sabantui is also Janetta’s idea. The name of the holiday translates as “the triumph of the plow,” it marks the end of spring field work. A good work is a good rest. Winners of competitions in horseback riding, archery, in various national games and competitions are celebrated with prizes. It could be a handmade towel or a lamb. And there is really a yurt here, and it is really white. True, the interior decoration does not correspond to our idea of a nomadic dwelling, but it is not the main thing. The main thing is to return to your origins, never forget about them and pass your knowledge and skills to your children.

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Such villages help people get to know each other, build a respectful relationship with their neighbors, and find common values. The 160 Muslim Tatars living in Krushyniany have learned Polish customs and live peacefully among Catholics and Orthodox Christians. By the way, there is a stone Orthodox church in Krushynany, which was built in 1985 and replaced the old wooden church, which appeared there in 1829. The snow-white church with a small porch has two bells, which call the locals to prayer every day. Next to it there is an 18th century Orthodox cemetery, which is a local landmark. Also in Krushinany begins and ends the ecumenical trail around the Bay of Ozerny, built in 2006. Near the village there is the Netupa Nature Reserve – “Black Horn” and numerous beautiful natural vantage points, such as Kosmata Góra.

Kruszynyany. Monuments of many cultures. Sights of Podlasie. What is worth seeing

Kruszynyany is a small village in Podlaskie Voivodeship, near the border with Belarus. It is famous for its historic wooden Tatar mosque. Visiting Podlasie, it is impossible to miss this place. Here is what to see in and around Kruszynany.

How to get to Kruszyńany?

Ore Mountains. Monuments of many cultures. Sights of Podlasie. What is worth seeing - photo 2

How to get to Kruszynany?

Kruszynyany is a small village, located east of Bialystok, near the border with Belarus. It is not located on the main roads of the country or province. Krushyniany can be reached from the south on the national road No. 65 and turn north to the border crossing in Bobrowniki. However, from the north you can get to Krushinany by taking provincial road no. 676 to the town of Krynki, and from there go south.

Mosque in Kruszynany

Kruszynyany. Monuments of many cultures. The sights of Podlasie. What is worth seeing - photo 3

Mosque in Krushynany

One of the tourist attractions of Kruszynyany is the wooden mosque – the oldest in Poland. Its history goes back to the 17th century, when the village of Kruszynyany was given by King Jan III Sobieski to the Tatars who assisted the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in the war against Turkey. However, the current mosque is newer and stands on the site of an older temple. It dates from the second half of the 18th century, and was restored in 1846, as evidenced by the date written on the foundation at the entrance for women. The mosque building itself has a very distinctive appearance – it is built of wood and painted green. It has a rectangular shape and is topped by two towers at the side of the women’s entrance, ending with helmets with crescents. It is also worth visiting the inside of the mosque where you can see the temple equipment that points to Mecca, the mihrab or minbar that is the platform for the Imam. Visiting the mosque in Krushinyan is possible throughout the year, but from May until the end of September from 9:00 to 19:00, and in other months you should make an appointment by phone before coming. Fee for a visit to the temple – 50 rubles for adults and 30 rubles for children and schoolchildren. It is also possible to visit the entire organized group – then the cost of 100 rubles. Visiting the historical mosque in Krushinyan, you should also see the mitzar – Tatar cemetery located next to it. There are modern tombstones which do not differ much from the Christian graves used in Poland but there are also many old tombstones that remind us of the hundreds of years Muslims lived in Kruszyńany.

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Kruszynyany sights

Kruszynyany. Monuments of many cultures. The sights of Podlasie. What is worth seeing - photo 4

Attractions in Krushinany

Although the historic mosque is a magnet that attracts visitors to Krushynany , today this small village has become a tourist center . While in Krushinany , it is worth sampling Tatar cuisine and visiting the yurts . The village also offers plenty of options for accommodation, which makes it an interesting stop to explore the region and even a place to stay for a while to admire not only the local culture, but also nature. Although Krusinians are associated with the mosque and the descendants of the Tatars, this place is also one of the examples of religious diversity in the region. It is worth seeing the unusual architecture of the Orthodox Church of St. Anne.

Krushinyan history

Kruszynyany. Monuments of many cultures. The sights of Podlasie. What is worth seeing - photo 5

History of Krushinyan

The Krusinians, along with other nearby villages such as Nietupa or Lugani, were given to the Tatars on March 12, 1679 by King Jan III Sobieski in gratitude for their help during the war with Turkey. This community (called the Lipki or Muslims) has been faithful to its traditions and religion for centuries, and a small Muslim minority lives in the region to this day. However, it is worth knowing that in the course of time Krushyniany became a village of many religions – not only Muslims, but also Catholics, Orthodox and Jews lived there.

Mosque in Bohoniki

Ore Mountains. Monuments of many cultures. The sights of Podlasie. What is worth seeing - photo 6

Mosque in Bokhoniki

The mosque in Kruszynany is the most famous, but not the only Muslim temple in Podlaskie province. Further north is the village Bohoniki, where the Tatars also came thanks to King Jan III Sobieski. The mosque located there today is smaller than the mosque in Kruszynany, but it was also built of wood and replaced an earlier temple destroyed by a fire. It is likely that today’s mosque was built in 1873, but there are no historical documents associated with it, which means it may be younger. The mosque in Bohoniki has one central tower and is built on a rectangular plan. The hipped roof was covered with tiles after repairs in 2003. The interior is similar to the mosque in Krushinany and the minbar and the mihrab can be seen next to it. The mosque in Bohoniki has a common vestibule for men and women. Both in Krushinany and in Bohonikki there is a mitzar. This cemetery is located on the eastern outskirts of the village and probably the former mosque stood there. It is the largest Muslim cemetery in Poland.

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Sokulka

Kruszynyany. Monuments of many cultures. The sights of Podlasie. What is worth seeing - photo 7

Sokulka

Visiting Kruszynyany and Bohoniny, it is worth knowing that Muslims were probably the most exotic, but one of the many religious groups. People interested in this topic should go to Sokulka . In this town you can see both the historic Roman Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church, as well as an old Jewish cemetery. The collegiate church of St. Anthony is located in Sokulka. The present church was built in 1840-1848. From the same period (built in 1850-1853) originates the church of St. Alexander Nevsky . In this church there is a relic of its patron saint and a historic iconostasis from 1905 . Before World War II, several thousand Jews lived in Sokulka, for whom the Germans set up a ghetto. The Jewish cemetery founded in the 17th century is a monument to these inhabitants of the town and more than 900 matzevahs have been preserved to this day.

Nature in the vicinity of Krušinjanov

The Knyszynski Forest is situated west of the town of Kruszynyany and Bohoniny. Numerous nature reserves and a large area make it an ideal place for outdoor recreation. It is dominated by pine and spruce, and in many ways the forest resembles the southwestern taiga. It is interesting that thanks to the afforestation of new lands, the area of Knyshiny Forest is constantly growing.

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