Winter journey, eastern melancholy and fado

40 kilometres and 30 minutes drive from the busy downtown, road across the boreal forest of majestic, soaring pines and firs, all covered with thick layer of snow. I can’t imagine a week without a trip to this primeval forest. It is one of these places, where you are not able to believe that God does not exist. Silence, mystery, beauty and emotion, intuition that He is.

But the outskirts of the forest are not less mysterious and beautiful. When you add to all of these melancholic fado flowing slowly from the car speakers and interviewd fado singer Mariza talking about her love of journeys and Portuguese melancholy, it gets just real wonder!


to be continued…

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Lost North Caucasus?

Today I came across an interesting article by Amy Knight on Russia and North Caucasus. And since I have been working with refugees from that part of the world I resolved to write a short comment on this topic:

I have been working with refugees from Chechnya, Dagestan and Ingushetia since July 2006 and met among them many people, who have never supported terrorist attacks. They just look for peace and possibility of normal life.

The problem of North Caucasus poses not only high rate of unemployment, so called “zachistki”(sweep operations), murders, but also illegal apprehensions, rapes, tortures, extremely interrogations. This is everydal life in North Caucasus. Ramzan Kadyrov obtained from Vladimir Putin cart balnche and can do all what he wishes. If he or his people will like a girl, the just take her, if they want to shoot to women who do not wear headscarves, they just do it.

Pushing Chechens, Dagestani or Ingush people towards terrorism – in my opinion – has two reasons: strategic interests of Russian government in North Caucasus and lack of interest of the Western World in this part of the world.

Let’s recall the first and the beginning of the second of the so called Chechen – Russian wars. Chechens fought for independent country, they even had a democratic, secular constitution. In the second war Aslan Maschadov was a moderate, relatively liberal president, who also fought for independence, not for muslim state. But the second world is much more pereceived as a war for Emirate of North Caucasus. Fundamentalist muslims started appearing in Chechnya, common people got to radicalize. It is no wonder. Each long, cruel war must demoralize and change people to the worse. Chechens got disappointed with Western World, they counted that this mytical Western World would support them, not in military way (even though some might have thought that even in a military way), but mainly with political measures. But id did not happen so. They felt abandoned by democratic world, international community and turned to the muslim fundamentalists. And fundamentalists understood that situation very well, they just waited for such course of the events.

I have no idea what may be the way to untie that real Gordian Knot. Addressing of unemployment, poverty may be not enough. As long as there are fighters in mountains and woods, “zachistki”, murders, tortures, illegal apprehensions will continue. It is not enough to give these people employment and money, there are young men who support muslim fighrers because of religious reasons and , whom you just cannot buy. And we should remember thar so many evil happned in North Caucasus and continues to happen that “blood revenge” so strongly rooted in Chechen society may never have an end. I hope I am mistaken.

Trip to Polish Tatars

On a beautiful, warm and sunny Sunday we resolved to set off to Polish Tatars. There are left only few villages where Polish Tatars still live – Bohoniki and Kruszyniany. Most Tatars after the II World War moved to towns and cities – Bialystok, Gdansk, Gorzow Wielkopolski, Warsaw, and many of them stayed at their homeland – near Nowogordek (presently Belarussia, before the WW II town belonged to Poland).

First Tatars were settled in Lithuania in the 14th century by the Great Prince of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania – Witold (Vitaut, Vitautas). Here in Podlasie – in villages – Bohoniki, Drahle, Malawicze, Nietupa, Sanniki, Kruszyniany, Luzany, Studzianka, Lebiedziew, Ortel, Malaszewicze, they appeared in the 17th century. Polish king – Jan III Sobieski settled them in royal villages in exchange for money he should have payed them for their service in royal army, but because of lack of money in state treasury soldier’s pays could not have been paid. Tatars obtained many privileges – they could marry Chrisitan women, obtained nobility and were allowed to preserve their Muslim faith and tradition.

Today about 5.000 Tatars live in Poland, most of them in Bialystok (in the north eastern Poland) – about 2.000 – 3.000, they still confess islam. But it seems that many of them lost their Tatar features – not all have slanted eyes, black hair, olive complexion and high cheekbones. They perfectly integrated into Polish society, their islam is very gentle, moderate and peacful, we can say liberal. Tatar women have equal rights as men, they are not discriminated by their husbands, they can learn, study, work and have equal position to men. Their realtions with other national groups in Podlasie (Poles, Belarussians) apppear to be exemplary.

Below I am presenting pictures taken during last Sunday trip to Kruszyniany.

Mosque in Kruszyniany, bulit in the second half of the 18th century or in the first half of the 19th century.

Mizar in Kruszyniany. Mizar it is the name for Tatar cemetery. Many of tombstones come from the 19th century.

Beautiful pine in the mizar a few hundred years old, it may be as old as whole cemetery, which was established in the second half of the 17th century.

One of the most reliable Israel’s allies

It is still difficult to understand anti – Israeli and anti – American stance of many European politicians. Comparing the present situation of Israeli Arabs to situation of Jews during Holocaust is the most nonsense thing, which one could imagine. It means that persons who aplly such a comparision do not understand meaning of the term “holocaust” and appear to be ignoramus.

Arab – Israeli conflic is not black and white one, there is not one party which is absolutely good and the second one – absolutely bad, as many European leftists see that, they perceive Israelis as a bad guys and Arabs as an exclusively persecuted victims.

Israelis have a right to possess their own state, and so do Palestinians. But it is absolutely unimaginable to tolerate such a situation when some groups of raidcal Palestinians demand destruction of Israel or in their fight for statehood resort to terrorism and attack innocent civilians.

It pleases me much that Polish government, especially president Lech Kaczynski so unambiguously supports politics of Israeli government. In an interview which he gaved last Saturday to the one of the mot important Polish dailies (“Rzeczpospolita”) he stated that Poles because of its historic and cultural ties whit Jews are lively interested in good relations between these two nations.

I belong to these people who – maybe naivly and sentimentally – believe in brotherhood between nations. I myself live in a town (Bialystok, north eastern Poland), where still live many nations – Poles, Belarussians, Tatars, Russians, descendants of Germans, where coexist different cultures and religions – Catholics, Orthodox faithful, Muslims, Protestants, and traces of the past are visible – former Jewish synagogues, houses, cemetaries.

When I have more free time I will translate that interview with president Lech Kaczynski, in which he spoke so much about Polish – Jewish common history, common national heros, poets, writers. Jewish presence in Poland counts about 800 years, so it is no wonder that these two nations are so close to each other. There is no other possibility than true, deep and sincere reconciliation of Poles and Jews. And it is a good news that Poland appears to be one of the most reliable Israel’s allies.

Multicultural town – part 1

Situated on the borderland of a few cultures and religions Bialystok still bears the traces of its past multicultural identity.

Town rights (statutes) Bialystok gained in 1749; its rapid growth as an improtant trade and cultural centre it owed to Jan Klemens Branicki – representative of Polish nobility, who became the owner of the town in the first half of the 18th century. In that period Bialystok and surrounding region was inhabited by Poles, Rutheninans, Jews and Tatars; Catholic, Greek Catholic, Orthodox, Judaism and Muslim belivers. All these ethnic and religious groups lived in relative peace and tolerance. Later on, in the first half of the 19th century newcomers from German states also appeared here.

Below there are presented a few pictures depicting old sacred bulidings related to a few religious and national groups inhabiting this town.

It is the oldest Orthodox chuch in Bialystok, founded by Jan Klemens Branicki in 1758, originally as a Greek Catholic church.

Saint Roch’s church – one of the most modern Catholic churches in the interwar period in Europe, designed by outstanding Polish architect – Oskar Sosnowski.

To be continued…

Candle Manifestation in Bratislava

Recently Slovakians were celebrating 20th anniversary of the Candle Manifestation.

On the 25th March 1988 more than 2.000 people gathered in “Hviezdoslavovo námestie” – main square in Bratislava to show their internal freedom, freedom from fear, from communist terror. They held in their hands fired candles.

taken from Slovakian magaizne

In Slovakia opposition was grounded in and supported by Catholic Church, unlike in Czech Republic, most members of Slovakian opposition were catholics, whom supported part of Catholic Church hierarchy. After the Second World War Slovakian catholics were severely persecuted by communist regime.

After the long period of apathy connected to suppressing the “Prague spring” in 1968 – prodemocratic movement on behalf of the real freedom, Slovakian society dared to show their stance toward communist government. They started to demand real religious freedom, preventing the government from interference in the internal matters of the Catholic church and last but not least – obeying the human rights by the state.

picture taken from the website of Slovakian magazine

As in many other similar manifestations in communist countries militia extremely brutally dispersed peaceful demonstration with using truncheons, water cannons, many demonstrators were cruelly beaten. Afterwards Slovakian secret service started apprehensions on a large scale. Many manifestation’s participants were persecuted for their brave behaviour.

picture taken from the website of Slovakian magazine

Let’s pay tribute to all members of that manifestation, all persons engaged in democratic movement and persecuted in Slovakia during communist period.

******* All the pictures above were taken from the website of Slovakian magazine “Tyzden” – http://www.tyzden.sk

Fascination with evil – heights of hypocrisy

Today morning I take a short break and read an interveiw with famous and respected Polish actor. He speaks about his fascination with villains in theatre. Later on journalists recalls actor’s words: “Once You told that for good actor intelligence is only an obstacle and good actor has to be a m…ucker.”

At once I recollected an interview with an American young actress read a few years ago – I do not remember her name and surname – who was talking about one – sidedness and unambiguity of goodness and attractiveness of evil.

Tha fact is, many people consider goodness a boring thing. Undoubtedly in our contemporary culture fascination with evil exists and appears to be strong.

Several times I was even suprised by my friends who stated that evil gives the life taste and colour. But with regard to them I had an occassion to see how they behaved and how they got indignant when some kind of harm or injustice touched them. They were not able to understand how it could happen that evil met just them, raised hue and cry about such an evident insult and injustice, spoke about unethical and immoral behaviour of their evildoer, forgetting thier words about intriguing and healthy dose of evil.

So, for sure, evil is OK, is nice, gives the life taste and colour, makes life bearable and more interesting, but only on condition that does not concern us.