There are Poles with names Jamil, Hassan and Djennet with roots in Podlasie dating back to the 17th century and earlier.
They speak Polish and profess – like their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents – Sunni Islam. Today they already live mainly in cities, but the heart of their community is two isolated villages located at the very end of the Polish part of Podlasie: Bohoniki and Kruszyniany.
The Tatars, as they are referred to, came to the country at the invitation of the kings of Poland and Lithuania (the two countries were one state for centuries) from the late 14th century. They were fleeing persecution and were given land in exchange for the obligation of military service. The village of Kruszyniany was given to them by John III Sobieski – the same one who crushed the army of the Ottoman Turks at Vienna. The Tatars served Poland faithfully in all wars and uprisings, held high positions in the army in the interwar period, and repeatedly emphasized their attachment to the country. They preserved their separateness against all historical turmoil. Today there are about two thousand of them living in Poland.
The green, wooden mosque in Kruszyniany from the 18th century and the younger and smaller, but equally beautiful mosque in Bohoniki are cultural monuments of the highest class.
Guided tours of these unique shrines are provided by Tatar guides, who colorfully talk about the customs of the local community. In accordance with Islamic principles, the interior is devoid of human images, but is densely filled with decorative panels with muhirs – quotations from the Koran in Arabic or images of the mosque in Mecca.
The surviving Polish translation of this holy book is one of the oldest in the world and dates back to the second half of the 16th century. The Polish translation is written in the Arabic alphabet, as are many other religious texts from that period that were important to Tatars.
After visiting the mosque, it is worth visiting the mizar, a Muslim cemetery with ancient, old and modern tombstones with crescents. Both villages also have restaurants with traditional Tatar food in season.
In the spring and summer season you will book tours of the mosques (also in English) on site, in autumn or winter it is best to call the phone number on the door. The Tatars take great pleasure and commitment in introducing their fascinating culture to visitors.
Note: due to the tense situation on the Polish-Belarusian border since the summer of 2021, the village of Kruszyniany is in an area under a state of emergency, and it may not be possible to visit it during your trip. It is best to ask your hosts before setting out.
Die grüne, hölzerne Moschee in Kruszyniany
Tatar villages of Kruszyniany and Bohoniki
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