Expedition diary: July 13, 2021

Our third day of the expedition was partly spent on the road: from Barysaw via Smilavichy we arrived to Navahrudak.

Online meeting with the employee of the Chaïm Soutine Space Museum in Smilavichy

We met with Smilavichy online in the morning to listen to the story of the creation of the very successful tourist object Chaïm Soutine Space and to discuss ways of potential tourist development in former townships. We were interested in how it became possible to make a brand out of the person of the world-famous artist born in Smilavichy.

Удзельнікі экспедыцыйнай групы ў музеі Прастора Хаiма Суцiна
Members of the expedition group in the Chaïm Soutine Space Museum

Удзельнікі экспедыцыйнай групы ў музеі Прастора Хаiма Суцiна
Members of the expedition group in the Chaïm Soutine Space Museum

This museum has been working for about 10 years and is well known outside Belarus. Chaïm Soutine’s “Eva” was recognized as the most expensive painting of Belarus. The question that does not leave us is: would it be possible to make the person of Izi Kharik the same brand for Zembin and attract the attention of tourists, increase the number of visitors, develop the infrastructure? Is the name of the world-renowned artist whose works sell for a lot of money not equal to poems written in Yiddish and translated into several languages?

Прастора Хаiма Суцiна. Зала «Парыжскае кафэ», г.п. Смілавічы, вул. Рэвалюцыйная, 20
Chaïm Soutine’s “Eva” in the “Paris Café” hall, Smilavichy town, 20 Revalyutsiynaya Street.

Shtetlfest team’s impressions:
“One of the halls with reproductions of Chaïm Soutine’s paintings is decorated in the style of a Parisian café with tables where museum visitors are treated to coffee.”
“Zarfin’s paintings are very impressive! We were told that they have medicinal properties – they calm the nervous system. They are encrypted, so you have to watch carefully.”
“I have never seen so many of Zarfin at the same time. There are 11 originals of his paintings! And he was also engaged in drawing on fabrics.”
“Descendants of Jews from all over the world come, people just care and help the museum a lot: someone gave a beautiful piano there, they gathered a large collection of literature about Jews…”

We still had time to visit Minsk to leave gifts for our friends. Someone helped us choose an image for the project logo. Someone contributed to our interest in towns with their activities. We are talking about the famous Belarusian collector, researcher and popularizer of Belarusian folk dance culture Mikola Kozenka. On the last day of the expedition, together with our Polish friends, we will learn and dance the Belarusian dance “Zhydovachka” (hyperlink to the edited episode from the last day) recorded by Mikola Kozenka in the Barysaw district back in the distant 1980s.

Вядомы беларускі збіральнік, даследчык і папулярызатар беларускай народнай танцавальнай культуры Мікола Аляксеевіч Козенка з кубачкам Штэтлфэст
Ethnochoreographer Mikola Kozenka with the Shtetlfest cup.

We had a delicious lunch at the “Likhtaryk 1876” café in Mir. This place is located near the market square, which has preserved the typical appearance of a town center.

Наша працоўная група каля кафе «Ліхтарiк 1876», г.п. Мір, пл. 17 Верасня, 13
Our working group near the “Likhtaryk 1876” café in Mir town, 13, 17 Verasnya Square

Finally, shalom, Navahrudak. For rest between field trips, we chose the cozy “Grazhina” hotel, which is located in the very center of the town in an old building and is a historical and cultural value. Navahrudak, as a location, was also included in our research plans, because we knew that the town has an interesting Jewish history and until now almost every house near the main square is marked with the “Former Jewish Property” sign. We wondered whether the townspeople still remember this. Because it was at this time that our Polish friends explored the similarly “Jewish” Bialystok.

Дзень трэці. Фота 7. Той самы гатэль «Гражына», г. Наваградак, вул. Паштовая, 5
The very same “Grazhina” hotel, Navahrudak, 5 Pashtovaya Street

The Jewish heritage path and a visit to the Jewish cemetery were included in the plans of the Polish part of the expedition group.

Дзень 3. Фота 16,17. Экспедыцыя у Польшчы. Рабінскія могілкі, Цэнтральны парк, г. Беласток
Expedition in Poland. Rabbinic Cemetery, Central Park, Bialystok

Экспедыцыя у Польшчы. Рабінскія могілкі, Цэнтральны парк, г. Беласток
Expedition in Poland. Rabbinic Cemetery, Central Park, Bialystok

Next, the group headed to the Market Square, where about a hundred of Jewish shops used to be located, and to several iconic places.

Дзень трэці. Фота 18,19. Базарная плошча, г. Беласток
Market Square, Bialystok

Базарная плошча, г. Беласток
Market Square, Bialystok

Дзень трэці. Фота 20. Каманда Штэтлфэст каля Помніка памяці Вялікай Сінагогі, г. Беласток, вул. Сураска
Monument to the memory of the Great Synagogue, in which, during the occupation of 1941, the Nazis burned about 800 people of the male gender.

Дзень трэці. Фота 21,22. Беластоцкае таварыства эсперантыстаў, г. Беласток, вул. Пянкна, 3
The Bialystok Society of Esperantists in the building of the former Piaskower Synagogue, one of the three that survived the German occupation.

Каманда Штэтлфэст у Беластоцкім гета, г. Беласток, вул. Жабя
Bialystok ghetto, Bialystok, Žabya street

The next goal of the expedition was the house of the famous Polish journalist, writer, teacher and Esperanto propagandist Jakub Szapiro.

Дзень трэці. Фота 23,24. Дом Якуба Шапіра, г. Беласток, вул. Ліпава, 33
House of Yakub Szapiro, Bialystok, 33 Lipowa Street

Дом Якуба Шапіра, г. Беласток, вул. Ліпава, 33
House of Yakub Szapiro, Bialystok, 33 Lipowa Street

Stories about a Jewish photo studio known throughout Bialystok and a family that produced textiles and hats were inspiring.

Штэтлфэст каля Палаца Новіка, г. Беласток, вул. Ліпава 35
Shtetlfest team near Nowik Palace, Bialystok, 35 Lipowa Street

Дзень трэці. Фота 27. Школа Тарбут, г. Беласток, вул. Ліпава, 41Д
Tarbut School, which is engaged in the revival of Yiddish culture, Bialystok, 41D Lipowa Street

Apparently, Bialystok now looks like an interactive museum exposition on Jewish history. Here you can work with the memory of global events, and with local content about citizens, their doings and activities, and research and join cultural and scientific events. Unfortunately, Navahrudak has almost lost its “Jewish flavor”. When we watched the newsreel of 1931 in the local history museum, it seemed to us that we would now go outside and get to the same interwar town and hear Yiddish and Polish, dive into the historical context.

Дзень трэці. Фота 8,9. Мы глядзім на іх, яны глядзяць на нас. Кадры кінахронікі Наваградка 1931 года
We look at them, they look at us. Newsreel shots of Navahrudak of 1931

But a walk in Navahrudak with our guide and creator of the Museum of Jewish Resistance, Tamara Vyarshitskaya, was both inspiring and disappointing for us.

Дзень трэці. Фота 10,11,12. Навагрудак. Мы і будынкі першай паловы ХХ стагоддзя
Looking at the decoration of former Jewish buildings in Navahrudak.

Навагрудак. Мы і будынкі першай паловы ХХ стагоддзя
Perhaps the only thing that visually tells about the Jewish history of Navahrudak.

Дзень трэці. Фота 13. Працоўная група Штэтлфэст з гідам каля помніка Адаму Міцкевічу
After the castle and the knights, the main “souvenir” of Navahrudak is the poet Adam Mickiewicz.

You can find more about our impressions in the Expedition ArchiveThe main insight of this eventful day was as in “Do you see a gopher? Me neither, but it is there!” quote from a stupid Russian film about meaningless service in the post-Soviet army that best reflects the current state of memory about the important thing that once formed and developed the town, and then disappeared from its landscape through the Holocaust, anti-Semitism and… our insensitivity. Or maybe through the desire to forget the terrible moments of history. With this in mind, after dinner at the “Lyahenda” café, we returned to the hotel and took out the accordion and the violin.

An unplanned Belarusian-Jewish evening with dancing and singing on the terrace of the “Grazhina” Hotel in Navahrudak.