Saudi Aramco World: May/June 2014 - page 35

May/June 2014
recalls. For the first
time, “I thought of
myself as a Tatar of
Polish origin. I had to
come back.”
Tatars who settled in
this region in the 14th
century were speak-
ing Polish, Lithuanian
or Ruthenian by the
16th century, and their
surnames had usually
taken on Polish forms. Most of the dress and rituals customary
of steppe nomads faded as well. But as the Kruszyniany mosque
silently proclaims, their religion endured.
emil Gembicki, guide and conservator of the Kruszyniany
mosque, says Polish Tatars have three defining characteris-
tics: Tatar ethnicity, Polish nationality and Islamic religion.
Zofia Bohdanowicz, from Bohoniki, a nearby village similar
to Kruszyniany, in which stands the other of Poland’s oldest
mosques, echoes his sentiments. “My family has been living
here for generations, and I am Polish, but what distinguishes
me and my children is the different religion. That is why we
are Polish Muslims. If there is no Islam, there is no us,” she
says. “I am a Polish
Tatar Muslim. All
these three terms are
important for us.”
Bogdanowicz was
only 20 when she
made her first visit to
Kruszyniany. After
her visit, she returned
to Bialystok for her
studies. There, she met
Mirek, her future hus-
band and a native of
the historic village. Af-
ter marrying, they vis-
ited Kruszyniany often
to see his family, which,
similar to many other
Tatar families, had
been given its land in the late 17th century by Polish King John
Sobieski in recognition of their ancestors’ military service.
In her own tour-guide work, Bogdanowicz began to include
Kruszyniany, where she took tourists to a cottage once inhabited
by her husband’s family, as well as to the mosque and mizar.
It didn’t take long for her to realize that those drawn to this
village had no place to eat and relax. Not minding tourists at
their home, the couple set up a few tables and benches outdoors.
The Tatarska Jurta (Tatar Yurt), as the simple restaurant was
called, offered specialties of Tatar cuisine from late spring into
the fall. Over time, and with the help of their three daughters,
the couple renovated the house, and they began inviting guests
Bogdanowicz decorated her restaurant with family photos and Tatar traditional dresses.
It was when she found
Kruszyniany’s Tatar
mizar (cemetery),
Bogdanowicz says, that
for the first time,
“I thought of myself as
a Tatar of Polish origin.
I had to come back.”
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