Near Minsk

 
 

Border: Poland – the USSR
At present: Belarus

 


The tale of the troublemaker, spy and smuggler Sergiusz Piasecki, “Lover of the Great Bear”, long forgotten in Poland, about the life of contrabandists on the Polish-Soviet border in Raków near Minsk, is experiencing a renaissance in Belarus, and becoming an inspiration for the pro-Belarusian and anti-Lukashenka counterculture. The guitarist of the cult punk rock band NRM Pit Pawlaw is currently recording a rock album “Weapons, gold, women” inspired by “Lover....” and is writing the script of a fictional film about life in the real “Wild East”. On the other hand, his fellow artist Feliks Januszkiewicz is running a private alternative art gallery-museum in Raków devoted to Piasecki, and taking the newcomers on a truly magical ride through the times and life of a contrabandist. 
That said, the Belarusian border has brought into the world not only adventurers, but also heroes and felons. At the end of the 19th century, in a manor house in the Naliboki Forest, several brothers were born in the Polish Dzerzhinsky family of petty nobles. During World War II, Kazimierz and his wife Luccie collaborated with the Home Army and, in retaliation, the Germans burned down the entire estate in Dzerzhin, and shot the couple. Władysław was the chief physician of the Norbert Barlicki Memorial Teaching Hospital in Łódź, an outstanding neurologist and colonel of the Polish Army. In 1942, he was lost during the largest public execution in the Warta district of the Reich. Feliks, who died in 1926, did not live to see all these events. Then again, it was he who, as the creator of the All-Russian Extraordinary Commission for Combating Counter-Revolution, Speculation, and Sabotage (Cheka) - and one of the greatest criminals in history - was to write down the Dzerzhinsky name on the pages of history. In 2004, on the orders of President Alexander Lukashenka, the Dzerzhinsky court was rebuilt, creating a museum-sanctuary of Bloody Felix, where new KGB officers take the oath every year.
The soldiers of the Border Protection Corps, who guarded the border against contrabandists and the Soviets, left behind a multi-story concrete tower of the Ludwikowo KOP battalion command hidden in the forest.
“Polish officers would come to the village in their cars and tell the girls to jump in, that they would take us for a ride,” Olga Sawena from the nearby village of Budcza laughs at her memories.

Pit Paulau, famous rebellious musician, fascinated by the smuggler’s life of Sergiusz Piasecki.
Pit Paulau, famous rebellious musician, fascinated by the smuggler’s life of Sergiusz Piasecki.
Street of Raków, a former Polish-Belarusian town of smugglers in the Wild East.
Street of Raków, a former Polish-Belarusian town of smugglers in the Wild East.

It was where the action of Sergiusz Piasecki’s book “The Lover of the Great Bear” took place.

Raków
Raków
Raków
Raków
Feliks Januszkiewicz runs a private art gallery-museum in Raków dedicated to i.a. Piasecki.
Feliks Januszkiewicz runs a private art gallery-museum in Raków dedicated to i.a. Piasecki.
He takes the visitors on a truly magical ride through the times and life of a contrabandist.
He takes the visitors on a truly magical ride through the times and life of a contrabandist.
Raków
Raków
Pit Paulau in the culvert under the highway at the former border.
Pit Paulau in the culvert under the highway at the former border.
Historian and border expert, dr. Ihar Melnikau demonstrates the former border near Minsk.
Historian and border expert, dr. Ihar Melnikau demonstrates the former border near Minsk.
Railway station in Stołpce, eastern gate of the Second Polish Republic.
Railway station in Stołpce, eastern gate of the Second Polish Republic.
“Belarus” railway station in Zasław, the first station on the former Soviet side of the border.
“Belarus” railway station in Zasław, the first station on the former Soviet side of the border.
Zasław: the former building of the headquarters of the Soviet border guard.
Zasław: the former building of the headquarters of the Soviet border guard.

This is where the commander of the Polish Border Protection Corps “Szapało” watchtower was probably murdered in September 1939.

The manor house of the Dzerzhinsky family rebuilt by Lukashenko.
The manor house of the Dzerzhinsky family rebuilt by Lukashenko.

Currently, a museum in honor of Felix Dzerzhinsky

Felix Dzerzhinsky, “Bloody Felix”, one of the greatest mass murderers in history.
Felix Dzerzhinsky, “Bloody Felix”, one of the greatest mass murderers in history.
A village in Belarus.
A village in Belarus.
Belarusian landscape.
Belarusian landscape.
Minsk
Minsk
Minsk, the National Library.
Minsk, the National Library.
Minsk
Minsk
Minsk, an artistic district on Kastrycznicka Street.
Minsk, an artistic district on Kastrycznicka Street.

An oasis of freedom in the Lukashenka regime.

The site of the garrison of the Border Protection Corps “Ludwiko”.
The site of the garrison of the Border Protection Corps “Ludwiko”.

There were barracks, officers’ houses, stables, farm buildings, and even a power plant for several hundred soldier.

Military headquarters.
Military headquarters.
Military headquarters.
Military headquarters.

This is all that has survived from a self-sufficient military town on the outskirts of the Second Polish Republic.

Olga Sawena:
Olga Sawena:

“Polish officers would come to the village in their cars and tell the girls to jump in, that they would take us for a ride."

Grandpa Vasily: Poles were decent, good hosts. But they also liked to get a big head like big shots.
Grandpa Vasily: Poles were decent, good hosts. But they also liked to get a big head like big shots.

It upset people. We felt inferior to the Poles, so when the Soviets entered, we welcomed them like liberators. We were very surprised to see what this Soviet equality looked like.

The Polish school in Baranavichy.
The Polish school in Baranavichy.

President of the local chapter of Union of Poles in Belarus, Elżbieta Gołosunowa.

The founder and longtime director of the Polish school, Elżbieta Dołęga-Wrzosek.
The founder and longtime director of the Polish school, Elżbieta Dołęga-Wrzosek.

Her mother, Teresa Dołęga-Wrzosek, was posthumously awarded a medal and the title of Righteous Among the Nations for saving a Jewish boy.

The grave of Hipolit Domeyko, father of Ignacy Domeyko, an outstanding researcher of Chile.
The grave of Hipolit Domeyko, father of Ignacy Domeyko, an outstanding researcher of Chile.

In the church garden in the town of Mir.

Castle in Mir.
Castle in Mir.
The Radziwiłł Palace in Niasvizh.
The Radziwiłł Palace in Niasvizh.
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