Saudi Aramco World: May/June 2014 - page 37

May/June 2014
35
culture. One of the most noteworthy places
on it is Kruszyniany, as it is one of few
villages that, due almost entirely to Bogda-
nowicz’s efforts, comes back to life during
Muslim holidays and cultural festivals.
Bogdanowicz noticed the need for cyclic
events that would allow for the rebirth
of Tatar traditions and customs. It was
on her initiative that the first Festival of
Polish Tatars’ Culture and Tradition was
organized a few years ago. There were band
performances, dances, songs, handicraft
demonstrations and competitions. Everyone
was invited to participate in Tatar cook-
ing workshops, bow shooting and horse
riding. Interest exceeded even her boldest
expectations. “Again, Kruszyniany became
teeming and lively. I am happy that many
Polish Tatars, just like me 30 years ago, felt
the call of the blood and now want to come
back,” she says.
Seven years ago, she reintroduced the
Sa-
bantuy
, which literally means “Plough Fes-
tival,” a Tatar Muslim folk tradition dating
back more than 1000 years that celebrates
the end of the spring agricultural season.
Villagers and their guests gathered for games,
competitions, Mongolian-style archery and
horseback riding, and the most valuable
prizes were rams and handmade towels.
Today, visitors who choose to tour the mosque in
Kruszyniany may be greeted by a beaming Gembicki,
whose Central Asian features reveal his unmistakably
Tatar ancestry. He explains how the mosque is divided
into spaces for men and women, and he shows the
wood-covered walls decorated with calligraphy
and
pictures of Makkah and Madinah. The floor is covered
with carpets. The
mihrab
in the southern wall indi-
cates the direction of Makkah. Above it, a brightly lit
crescent with a star shines. “It is the symbol of Islam,”
Gembicki says, as he sits on the stairs of the
minbar
(pulpit), where the
imam
, or prayer leader,
preaches
during the weekly Friday service. He explains that
although many Polish Muslims no longer understand
Arabic, the Qur’an is nevertheless recited in Arabic.
Then, Gembicki leads visitors to a small hill covered
with trees. Their thick canopies guard the Muslim cem-
etery where Bogdanowicz found her ancestors’ graves.
Here, it is clear how Tatars blended with their eastern
European surroundings. Through years of wear and tear,
Arabic, Russian and Polish inscriptions can be seen on
the headstones dating from the 18th century.
The history of Tatar settlement in northeastern Po-
land is connected with the King John
III
Sobieski, whose
life was saved by Colonel Samuel Murza Krzeczkowski,
commander of the Tatar regiment
,
during the battle of
Like Bogdanowicz and other Tatar
families, Bronislaw Talkowski lives on the
land given to his family in the late 17th
century by King John
III
Sobieski as
compensation to Tatar soldiers for their
military service. Talkowski is chairman of
Kruszyniany’s Muslim parish, one of only
two in Poland that predate World War
II
.
Above, right:
A signpost in Krusziniany
points the way to the rest of the world.
m
i
k
m
POLAND
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