Muslim Tartars in Poland
Bohoniki is a peaceful little village not far from Sokolka in the east of Poland,it is the last Tartar village before Belarus; maybe also the last of its kind.
There is no doubt that few people would have heard about it be it not for one fact: it was in this area that, in 1679, thirty Tatar soldiers were granted land for their faithful service to the Polish King Jan III Sobieski. A Tatar lady, who takes care of the Mosque, does not fail to stress that it was a reward for their valour in battle. Other sources simply say that the King was in financial straits and presented the land to his Tatar soldiers in lieu of due pay.
There are now only three Tatar families living in Bohoniki, but, considering that the village does not comprise more than thirty houses altogether, they make up about a fifth of the local population. And it is their Mosque that makes the village famous and attracts visitors from all over Poland and abroad.
Eugenia Radkieicz is the Mosque caretaker and you catch her dashing across the empty street to the small wooden Mosque when a tour bus arrives to conduct her lecture on the history of Bohoniki for groups of Polish schoolchildren.
The few families that remain are mostly elderly or sick, Evelina's father is bedridden and suffers from a Liver complaint. She takes care of the animials now and her mother worries about her future, as she must take care of them both when she gets older.
Many of the other family members are alone with their children working in cities as far afield as London to Riad.
Mrs Koztowska's son is in Spain and her elder son just returned from London, she cares for her blind husband who was injured as a boy by a German shell during World War II.
The community is still strong, the Iman comes in from Bialystock once a week for friday prayers and they are trying to set up a Religouse School in nearby Sokolka.
The village is changing though,as the young leave for foreign cities the old are left behind, but they have survived for 400 years in Poland , so they will survive still, by struggling and adapting.
The large Muslim cementary on the wooded hill just outside the village is proof of their endurance and intergration; with its Slavanised surnames and Muslim Crescents.