Today we boarded our coach and headed out first to the village of Bohoniki, where the younger (built in the late 1800s) of the two remaining wooden mosques in Poland (of the Polish – or Lipka – Tatars) is located. Dr. Wright and I were not inside this mosque before in our two previous trips to the region, but pani Eugenia gave us the straight dope, forcibly made us pose for our own group picture, directing us each step of the way, and was generally a boss (in a good way). Translation was provided by Sylvia, our guide for the day, and she was absolutely a wonderful guide and a warm, friendly person.
Next stop was Krynki, and we saw from the outside one of three former synagogues in the village (pre-war population of 10,000 people, 90% of whom were Jewish). The building is not an operating place of worship. We visited the ruins of the former Great Synagogue, which had fallen into disuse and deep disrepair prior to its demolition in 1968. The ruins are not taken care of.
We stopped for a while in the heavily overgrown cemetery, a place I really love. Seeing how overgrown it always is can be frustrating but also strangely motivating. People like us keep coming. Jews in Poland will continue their 1000 year presence, and Jews from all over the world will visit Polish memorial places such as these until the matzevahs finally erode into sand.
We then went to Kruszyniany, where the older of the two mosques (built 1795) is located. First we went into the cemetery and learned a good bit about Muslim burial customs and cemeteries, then into the mosque where the jovial Jamil provided the Polish Tatar story in his inimitiable fashion. This was our third time here (second with students) and it was great. We decamped to Tatarska Jurta for lunch, after having learned that the older part of the restaurant burned down recently – in fact only a few weeks ago. Eating under tents was nice but it was very hot, so it increased our tiredness.
Lastly, we went to the Museum of the Icon in Suprasl, a beautiful little town on a picturesque river. This small museum of only eight rooms provides a place to learn about Polish Orthodox and other traditional iconography in a serene setting. Another one of my all-time favorite Polish places.
– Dr. Anes