Saudi Aramco World: May/June 2014 - page 34

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Saudi Aramco World
A tourism professional herself, Bogdanowicz first visited
Kruszyniany (kru-shen-ee-
ahn
-ee), a couple kilometers (a mile)
from Poland’s border with Belarus, more than 30 years ago
on a tour that included small, sparsely populated villages, old
farmyards, sandy roads and a powerful silence that, unexpect-
edly, tapped in her a compelling curiosity about her ancestors.
Kruszyniany was no different from hundreds of other quiet vil-
lages in northeastern Poland, except for one thing: the celadon
mosque that stands in the middle of it. To anyone unfamiliar
with Kruszyniany, the mosque might simply be an unassuming
place of worship. But to Bogdanowicz, Poland’s oldest Muslim
house of prayer was
a beacon illuminat-
ing a nearly forgot-
ten heritage.
Polish Tatars
are Muslim peoples
of largely Central
Asian descents and
Polish customs, and
in Kruszyniany,
population 160, they
live among both
Catholic and East-
ern Orthodox Chris-
tians. Heirs of the
Mongol empire, Ta-
tars are descendants
of Batu Khan and
the Golden Horde.
While most live in Russia, others are descended from those
who began gradual migrations west into what are now Belarus,
Poland and Lithuania as early as the fifth century.
Today, they are the survivors of centuries of wars and,
most recently, communist political repression of religion,
traditions and language. Yet, they fought to hang on to their
historic identities—a fact underscored by the weathered,
18th-century wooden mosque wearing multiple shades of
green, the centerpiece of Kruszyniany and the village’s only
landmark of more than local note.
On her first tour through the village, Bogdanowicz also
came across the Ta-
tar
mizar
(cemetery),
almost overgrown
by forest. The moss-
covered headstones,
she realized, were
those of her ances-
tors. “I had a mo-
ment of enlighten-
ment. Suddenly I felt
the call of the blood,
of the land,” she
Bogdanowicz family photographs and an antique Qur’an are among the personal artifacts that help rekindle interest in heritage and
cultural expressions.
Previous spread:
Kruszyniany’s wooden mosque, built in the early 18th century and recently restored, is the oldest in
Poland.
Inset:
D
Ī
enneta Bogdanowicz.
In the dining room
of her Tatarska Jurta,
Bogdanowicz helps
visiting teenagers
learn to knead dough
for one of her many
Tatar recipes.
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