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Conjuring traces of the Polish Tatars

Conjuring traces of the Polish Tatars




Events marking the 85th anniversary of the Muslim Religious Association continued, Wednesday, with the opening of an exhibition conjuring up the all but vanished world of the Polish Tatars.

“Mosques on the Polish, Lithuanian and Belarusian lands,” hosted at the Historical Museum of the eastern Polish city of Bialystok, presents Tatar houses of worship past and present.

Many of the buildings, typically crafted from wood, and invariably echoing vernacular styles of Catholic and Orthodox churches, have now disappeared forever, but artist Elwira Sobolewska-Waliszewski has depicted 22 examples, referring to archival prints and photographs.

Tatars have lived on the territories of present day Poland, Lithuania and Belarus since the 14th Century. During the 16th century, when the lands were part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, they were granted various privileges.

It is estimated that about 3000 Tatars remain on Polish soil today.

The late Nobel Prize laureate Henryk Sienkiewicz had Tatar ancestry, likewise Poland's most acclaimed living sculptor, Magdalena Abakanowicz.

Two Tatar villages - Bohoniki and Kruszyniany - endure in eastern Poland with their distinctive wooden mosques. Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne, visited the community during his trip to Poland in March 2010. (nh)

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