The “salt city” of Soligorsk in the north of Polesie, built in the 1960s by the potassium salt mines
The “salt city” of Soligorsk in the north of Polesie, built in the 1960s by the potassium salt mines

Belarus

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A village in the marshes of Polesie.
A village in the marshes of Polesie.
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Polesie marshes.
Polesie marshes.
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In the villages of Polesie in Volhynia, life goes on as it did centuries ago.
In the villages of Polesie in Volhynia, life goes on as it did centuries ago.
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Cemetery in the village of Kupiele in Volhynian Polesie.
Cemetery in the village of Kupiele in Volhynian Polesie.

A former Polish resident lights a candle on the grave of her relatives.

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Polish graves at the cemetery in Kupele. Today the Poles are no longer living here.
Polish graves at the cemetery in Kupele. Today the Poles are no longer living here.
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The road ends here. The village of Budki Wojtkiewickie is surrounded by huge swamps.
The road ends here. The village of Budki Wojtkiewickie is surrounded by huge swamps.
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“My ancestor was the first Pole in this marsh sanctuary, and I shall be the last”.
“My ancestor was the first Pole in this marsh sanctuary, and I shall be the last”.

Budki Wojtkiewickie was founded by Włodzimierz Suchowiecki’s great-great-great-grandfather.

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The garrison church of the Border Protection Corps in Sarny in Volhynian Polesie, Ukraine.
The garrison church of the Border Protection Corps in Sarny in Volhynian Polesie, Ukraine.
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A village in the marshes of Polesie.
A village in the marshes of Polesie.
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Polesie marshes.
Polesie marshes.
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Wasilij and Elena were one of the last Poleshuks, native inhabitants of Polesie.
Wasilij and Elena were one of the last Poleshuks, native inhabitants of Polesie.

A village near Dawidgródek in Belarus.

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Elena, a Poleshuk.
Elena, a Poleshuk.
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Polesie marshes.
Polesie marshes.
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A village in the marshes of Polesie.
A village in the marshes of Polesie.
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Polish skis from the mountain resort of Zakopane, which found their way to Polesie before the war.
Polish skis from the mountain resort of Zakopane, which found their way to Polesie before the war.
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Jewa Koszman lived on the Soviet side of the border: “There were dead bodies in a harrowed field."
Jewa Koszman lived on the Soviet side of the border: “There were dead bodies in a harrowed field."

“Bodies of whom? Those who tried to escape from hunger, collectivization, and arrests from the Soviet Union to Poland. Simply put, to escape from the Bolsheviks."

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Swamps turned into farmland.
Swamps turned into farmland.
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By the road.
By the road.
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In Belarus, most of the swamps have not left any traces.
In Belarus, most of the swamps have not left any traces.
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Jewish cemetery in the village of Lenin in Belarus.
Jewish cemetery in the village of Lenin in Belarus.

In 1942, the Germans murdered over 1,100 Jewish inhabitants of the town, and in 1943 they also massacred around 1,200 Poles and Belarusians.

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Unique wooden Jewish tombstones.
Unique wooden Jewish tombstones.
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A torso of Lenin in the center of Soligorsk.
A torso of Lenin in the center of Soligorsk.
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Soligorsk's mines.
Soligorsk's mines.
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Nikolai Novik, one of the founders of the Belarusian Independent Trade Union of Miners.
Nikolai Novik, one of the founders of the Belarusian Independent Trade Union of Miners.

Currently in opposition to the regime of President Lukashenka.

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Nikołaj Novik: “We have always had good relations with Solidarity. For our freedom and yours."
Nikołaj Novik: “We have always had good relations with Solidarity. For our freedom and yours."

“We have a common history with the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. If Russia hadn’t attacked us, we would have been one country today. It is a pity that this is how history unveiled."

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Soligorsk's mines.
Soligorsk's mines.
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Soligorsk
Soligorsk
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Soligorsk's mines.
Soligorsk's mines.
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Soligorsk's mines.
Soligorsk's mines.
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Faces of Polesie.
Faces of Polesie.
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Faces of Polesie.
Faces of Polesie.
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Faces of Polesie.
Faces of Polesie.
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Polesie

 
 

Border: Poland – the USSR
At present: Ukraine and Belarus

 

At the beginning of the last century, Polesie was the largest complex of primeval marshes in Central Europe, if not all of Europe. In the two interwar decades, there were practically no access roads here, and the inhabitants scattered around the villages lost in the wilderness traveled huge bogs by boat. According to the results of the census of 1921, almost forty thousand Polesie inhabitants had declared their nationality as “local”. In another census conducted ten years later, as many as seven hundred thousand people mentioned “local” as their mother tongue, written in the evidence as “simple speech”, which represented a local dialect combining Polish, Ukrainian and Belarusian.

 

However, in the sixties of the 20th century, as a result of the gigantic Soviet project for the melioration of bogs, the “Polish jungle”, as Ferdynand Antoni Ossendowski described the region, underwent rapid transformation. About ten thousand canals were dug, more than half of the peat bogs were drained and it went even further to regulating the flow of the Pripyat river, the water artery that pumped life into Polesie. The swamps vanished, and with them the people who had lived there for generations. Their place was taken by huge arable fields and a remarkable “salt city” of Soligorsk developed on the northern outskirts of Polesie.

 

“I speak our own language from near Dawidgródek. They may not understand me in Minsk, Kiev or Moscow, but it’s important that you, Elena, hear me.” The hundred-year-old Vasily shakes his head and, on trembling legs, gets up from the table, turning to his ninety-year-old neighbor. “Because we are the Polishchuks. When I look at my grandchildren, who have parted ways to cities, I fear that I am the last one. Elena, if you dare to die before me, I will have no one to chat with over tea, cookies or a small glass of moon-shine vodka. If it will come to that, nobody will understand me.”