TATAR TRAIL IN PODLASIE. AMERICAN TATARS IN SEARCH OF ROOTS. TATAR'S HERITAGE TRIP


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The Tatar Trail is a cult route that every tourist arriving in Podlasie wants to see . Podlaski Orient fascinates and gives a sense of communication difficult to describe with the glorious past of the multicultural Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. As a guide I constantly circulate between Sokółka, Bohoniki, Kruszyniany and Supraśl. However, this year was special. I had the honor to accompany and organize the stay of an extraordinary group! In September, the descendants of Tatars came to Europe, who left their homeland in the early twentieth century. It was an amazing experience - to be a witness of emotions, to observe the authentic community, to see how strong ties connect people with the distant past ... Courtesy of Ryan L. Schuessler- an American journalist who accompanied the group, I can present a unique gallery documenting "Tatar's Heritage Trip" (in a loose translation: a journey to Tatar roots). At this point, I would like to thank all participants of the trip, Ryan and people involved in the Polish part of the trip. We will remember a very long time about this unique experience ...

American Tatars, return to sources - in Bohoniki. photo by Ryan Lee Schuessler

American Dream of the history of Tatar emigration in the USA

The Tatars went to America to improve their living conditions. Not only did they help each other, but they tried to make a significant contribution to the development of a new place of residence, city and country, becoming a part of the local landscape and an example of self-organization. They also created a common space for co-religionists, providing them with religious and social service. They were "emigrants mostly from the land of Vilnius, Grodno, Minsk and Kaunas, who found themselves in America before the World War, driven out of their home nests by economic misery and the need to seek earnings." They constituted a significant number, about 500 people, in comparison to the total number of Tartars remaining in the Old World, which was estimated at nine thousand. Some of these Tatar emigrants settled in New York "(Antoni Przemysław Kosowski, "New York's Mosque of the Republic. History of Tatar commune in the United States ". Wroclaw-Bydgoszcz 2011)

Lithuanian Tatars - Lipków in 1907 in the northern part of Brooklyn, founded the Association of Lithuanian Tartars. In the following years, the statute was established, the mosque was opened, a plot was purchased for the needs of the cemetery, religious lessons were organized. The organization provided not only religious services but also real support for fellow believers. The mosque aroused interest in the press and ... attracted other Muslims, not only Tatars. Over the years, community members changed their places of residence, traveled away and despite living relationships (eg 70% of marriages were made within the group) the number of people belonging to the New York mosque was decreasing. Today, there are about 200 people on the list of members. Keeping in touch with families from Europe was almost impossible in the post-war realities. However, not only the Iron Curtain separated the Tartars - the second generation in exile did not speak the language of the ancestors - Polish, Belarusian, Russian. The contact has been broken for decades. The merger took place in September 2018 ...

photos by Ryan Lee Schuessler

Journey to sources - preparations and plans

Preparations for the journey lasted over a year. We meticulously met the course of the visit - tens of e-mails had flown between New York and Białystok. Finally, on the beautiful September afternoon, our Tatars landed in Warsaw. The team from the Warsaw Tourism Center made sure that the guests of New York were acquainted with the history of Warsaw. Of course, an obligatory point was a visit to the historic Tatar cemetery in Wola.

Warsaw. photos by Ryan Lee Schuessler

Bialystok. photo by Ryan Lee Schuessler

Tatar trail in Podlasie

After two days, the team set out for Białystok. Anxiously, I was circling around the station platform, a little angry at myself that I had not prepared the appropriate plate. I did not know how to recognize my guests among the crowd. The fears turned out to be unfounded. Already from a distance I caught characteristic, well-known features. There was no doubt - that's my Americans though they look so familiarLater that same day we went for a walk around Bialystok. In the afternoon, a visit to the Muslim Culture Center in Białystok was planned. The date of the meeting was exceptional, because that day was the new Muslim year (1440). All gathered participated in the intentional prayer led by the Mufti of the Polish Republic Tomasz Miśkiewicz and imam Mirzogolib Radzhabaliev. After the prayer, during the afternoon tea, Mufti told the audience about the Muslim Religious Union in Poland and the post-war history of the Tatars. First conversations took place, first attempts to find families ...

Cottage on ul. Grzybowa or the House of Muslim Culture in Bialystok. photo by Ryan Lee Schuessler

photo by Ryan Lee Schuessler

Białystok, Supraśl, Bohoniki. Tatar trail in Podlasie

The second day of stay in Podlasie turned out to be very intense. For the needs of our group, the head of the Historical Museum, Mrs. Lucyna Lesisz, prepared a special Tatar show. The guests were extremely impressed by the care with which ancient Tatar souvenirs are kept and protected: korans, chamaiły, carpets and many more ... The museum souvenir shop survived the siege.

(Left) Historical Museum in Bialystok. p. Lucyna Lesisz presents Tatariana.

photos by Ryan Lee Schuessler

The next highlight of the trip was a visit to the Podlasie Museum of Folk Culture where Mr. Hubert Czochański showed us around. Forests, moonshine, windmills, forgotten equipment - we will not find similar on American soil. The weather was good, the open-air museum is very extensive ... time was already high for dinner. We moved smoothly to the long-awaited Tatar cuisine tasting. I have not heard enough about the kosher, heartless and other beloved dishes of my guests. We got to Tatarynka in Supraśl run by Mrs. Alina Jodłowska. The owner of the restaurant in mig has made contact with the guests, it was not the same blood! We drank a delicious food and we quickly got in the way! Before visiting Bohoniki, we visited the Sokolska Land Museum with its rich Tatar department. A visit to the mosque and the mighty in Bohoniki ended the day full of impressions and resulted in new acquaintances. We were accompanied by Tartar inhabitants of the village: Mrs. Eugenia and her sister. Finally dinner - a bohemian quilt in broth and pierekaczewnik from under the hand, not otherwise - Tatar hostesses. Like my grandmother, just like my mother ... I heard English voices. Finally, I realized that my guests can talk about Tatar cuisine without end. In fact, no wonder - it is undoubtedly the second, most important (after religion) thread connecting all generations of the Tatars.

Bohoniki. photos by Ryan Lee Schuessler

Kruszyniany

We planned the entire third day of stay in Podlasie in Kruszyniany. Meeting with Mr. Bronisław Talkowski, chairman of the Muslim community in Kruszyniany, visiting the mosque and mizar (cemetery) with Dżemil Gembicki, finally staying at the Muslim Culture Center - all this took several hours. It turned out that some of the American Tartars knew the New York family of Mr. Bronisław. The names on many crusaders' tombs sounded familiar ...

Kruszyniany. photos by Ryan Lee Schuessler

Workshops with masters from Tatarska Jurta. Tatar trail in Podlasie

In the afternoon, the long-awaited Tatar cuisine workshops were held. We were guests of the Bogdanowicz family who, after the tragic fire of their restaurant - Tatarska Jurta - temporarily operate in the Center of Education and Culture of the Muslim Polish Tatars in Kruszyniany. Dżennet Bogdanowicz and his mother-in-law showed real mastery. Ladies and gentlemen, Bogdanowicz was never ending! I must admit that the translation from English to Polish and back during a two-hour cooking was the biggest challenge in my guide career! Fortunately, everything went out prima sort - quilt (and how!), Syrniczki, pierekaczewnik finally ritual cakes - jajma - completely forgotten among American Tartars.

Kruszyniany. photos by Ryan Lee Schuessler

After the tasting of the dishes, we were awaited by a lot of emotions - a meeting with the inhabitants of Kruszyniany and a performance by the band Buńczuk . A multi-generational dance and vocal group came from Białystok to present a 45-minute program. Delightful costumes, energy and intricate dance patterns - that's impressive! Guests from America not only watched the dance but also tried their strength in the dance. The day was slowly coming to an end ... how many emotions, laughter and positive energy. A touching encounter with the local community ended with an unexpected family reunion - the Bohuszewicz siblings met their cousin, who is, as it turned out, Aleksandar Bazarewicz, Imam of Bohonik.

Kruszyniany. photos by Ryan Lee Schuessler

A farewell photo. Inhabitants of Kruszyniany and beyond, and the Buńczuk team. photo by Ryan Lee Schuessler

Tatar trail in Lithuania and Belarus

After three days of stay, my American guests left the Tatar Trail in Podlasie ... it was time for the next stage of the journey. Before going to Lithuania and Belarus, they visited the Muslim Center in Suchowola. They hopefully set out for the former Polish borderlands - as it turned out, many moving moments awaited them. It was there that they found the graves of their relatives, where they met families with whom they had not had contact for decades. This will be soon written by Ryan Lee Schuessler - look at his website: https://ryanschuessler.com/. For now, look at the moving pictures that speak more than words ...

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