On the Daugava River

 
 

Border: Poland – the USSR
At present: Belarus

 

Mrs. Janina, who lives in the small village of Leonpol on the Daugava River in today’s Belarus, says that before the war: “After dark it was noisy and cheerful. On the other side of the river, at the Soviets’, there was always such a ghastly silence, even the roosters did not crow and the darkness was as black as ink. As if merely nothingness had remained and consumed all people. And finally, this nothingness crossed the river to Leonpol and consumed us too.”
In the times of the Second Polish Republic, those were the final borderlands. There stretched a semicircular Polish headland, guarded by soldiers of the Border Protection Corps (KOP), where the borders of Poland, the USSR and Latvia met. This region stretching to the north along the contemporary Belarusian and Russian border is Latgale, also known as the Polish Livonia. It is here that we find the second largest Latvian city of Daugavpils. Today, Latgale is inhabited by the overwhelming majority of over thirty-eight thousand Poles living in Latvia
The town of Daugava, which was considered the easternmost city of Poland in the Second Polish Republic, was located on the former Polish, and today Belarusian, bank of the Daugava River. In the city center there is also the White House, which is what the local KOP watchtower was called due to the color of its walls  
The nearby town of Miory lies on the edge of the Braslav Lakeland, dotted with picturesque lakes, in northern Belarus. Here is where, a dozen or so years ago, Witold Jermalonak found almost two hundred archival photographs of a certain KOP lieutenant hidden in the wall of a local hotel. Back then, all he knew about him was that his name was Edward and he was loved by many beautiful women perpetuated by pictures. It was not until 2020 that he discovered that the mysterious lieutenant was Edward Nabożny, arrested by the Soviets in early 1941 and sentenced as an “enemy of the people” for attempting to overthrow the Soviet Union. He was saved from death penalty or many years of exile to labor camps, by the Sikorski-Majski amnesty, thanks to which he joined the Anders Army, and finally he reached Chicago, where he died in the early 1980s. “I shall give it to you, because you wanted me to, and I wanted it too”, the smiling Halina wrote to Lieutenant Edward on August 10, 1939. On September 17, 1939, the eastern border of the Second Polish Republic will disappear, and her world, the world of Edek, and that of all the inhabitants of Central Europe will end irrevocably.

 

Witold Jermalonak found about 200 archival photographs of a certain KOP lieutenant.
Witold Jermalonak found about 200 archival photographs of a certain KOP lieutenant.

Thy were hidden in the wall of a local hotel in the town of Miory in the northern Belarus.

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Leonpol village on the Daugava river in Belarus.
Leonpol village on the Daugava river in Belarus.
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Janina Amilczonek says that before the war: “In our village after dark it was noisy and cheerful."
Janina Amilczonek says that before the war: “In our village after dark it was noisy and cheerful."

"On the other side of the river, at the Soviets’, there was always such a ghastly silence, even the roosters did not crow and the darkness was as black as ink. As if merely nothingness had remained and consumed all people. And finally, this nothingness crossed the river to Leonpol and consumed us too.”

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Former Polish school in Leonpol.
Former Polish school in Leonpol.
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Mosses Jelniańskie, one of the largest peat bogs in Europe.
Mosses Jelniańskie, one of the largest peat bogs in Europe.
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Church in the style of Vilnius Baroque in the northern Belarus.
Church in the style of Vilnius Baroque in the northern Belarus.
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Ferry across the Daugava river.
Ferry across the Daugava river.
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Ruins of the Polish district hospital in the town of Dzisna on the Daugava River.
Ruins of the Polish district hospital in the town of Dzisna on the Daugava River.

It was the easternmost city in the Second Republic of Poland.

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The White House in Dzisna, or the local KOP watchtower which owed its name to the color of the walls
The White House in Dzisna, or the local KOP watchtower which owed its name to the color of the walls
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Church in Dzisna.
Church in Dzisna.
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Overlooking the Daugava River.
Overlooking the Daugava River.
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Braslaŭ Lake District
Braslaŭ Lake District
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It was not until 2020 that Witold discovered that the mysterious lieutenant was Edward Nabożny.
It was not until 2020 that Witold discovered that the mysterious lieutenant was Edward Nabożny.

Arrested by the Soviets in early 1941 and sentenced as an “enemy of the people” for attempting to overthrow the Soviet Union. He was saved from death penalty or many years of exile to labor camps, by the Sikorski-Majski amnesty, thanks to which he joined the Anders Army, and finally he reached Chicago, where he died in the early 1980s.

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“I shall give it to you, because you wanted me to, and I wanted it too.”
“I shall give it to you, because you wanted me to, and I wanted it too.”

The smiling Halina wrote to Lieutenant Edward on August 10, 1939. On September 17, 1939, the eastern border of the Second Polish Republic will disappear, and her world, the world of Edek, and that of all the inhabitants of Central Europe will end irrevocably.

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North Belarus.
North Belarus.
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Harvest festival in Soviet style.
Harvest festival in Soviet style.
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Before the war, Luba Ilinicz lived in Soviet Belarus: “Those were terrible times”.
Before the war, Luba Ilinicz lived in Soviet Belarus: “Those were terrible times”.

“So many people, our neighbors, had disappeared. In 1937, we would see black cars arriving after dark with people from the NKVD task force. They banged on the door, and when they took someone, no one ever saw them again."

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In 1943, the Germans burned down the village of Wolbierawicze.
In 1943, the Germans burned down the village of Wolbierawicze.

They murdered some of the inhabitants, including Luba’s father. Along with her sister and mother, she ended up in a camp near Vilnius.

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Belarusian landscape.
Belarusian landscape.
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Faces of Belarus.
Faces of Belarus.
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Border on the Daugava River. Once Latvian-Polish and now Latvian-Belarusian.
Border on the Daugava River. Once Latvian-Polish and now Latvian-Belarusian.
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Nadezhda Worona from Dvorchany, Latvia, was born in 1915 and never left her family home.
Nadezhda Worona from Dvorchany, Latvia, was born in 1915 and never left her family home.

During this time, she survived tsarist Russia, the first independent Republic of Latvia, the Soviet Union and the birth of modern free Latvia.

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Piedruja, one of two twin cities on both sides of the border on the Daugava River.
Piedruja, one of two twin cities on both sides of the border on the Daugava River.

On the Belarusian side lies Druja, formerly known as Sapieżyn after the Sapieha family.

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The Daugava stone with the name of the river carved in seven languages.
The Daugava stone with the name of the river carved in seven languages.
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The landscape of Latgale.
The landscape of Latgale.
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Daugava River.
Daugava River.
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Palace of the Plater family in Krasław.
Palace of the Plater family in Krasław.
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Church in Krasław.
Church in Krasław.

In 1920, this region was liberated from the hands of the Bolsheviks by the Poles, together with the Latvians. However, Piłsudski gave this Polish foothold to Riga. In this way, Latvia became perhaps the only country with which Poland had no border conflicts.

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Daugava River.
Daugava River.
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Polish-Latvian friendship.
Polish-Latvian friendship.
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