Fot. Katarzyna Madoń-Mitzner

Braslav is located in the national park in the heart of the Braslav Region, the largest lake district in Belarus. In the period between the two world wars in Poland the Braslav Region was part of the Vilnius Province and was the most north-eastward end of the state. A large Polish community still lives there.

Braslav is a quiet and calm county town with predominantly colourful wooden houses with carved windows surrounded by trim gardens. It has 15,000 inhabitants, one third of whom are Poles. There is no Polish school in the town. Children can learn Polish at the primary school in elective classes. The Polish community is grouped around the Roman Catholic church and a parish centre active at the church.In the 11th century the princes of Polotsk built a castle in Braslav. The castle was later converted several times and was the centre of the town’s life at the time of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. It was the venue of regional diets, housed offices and a magistrates’ court. In the 17th century, during the Polish-Moscow war, the castle fell into ruin. Today, only earth embankments have remained from the castle. The small town is dominated by the Zamkovaya Mountain with a 10-metre tall obelisk. Local residents founded that obelisk to honour Stanisław Narbutt (1853–1926), a doctor and community worker buried there who worked in Braslav for more than 40 years, built a hospital in the town and treated the poorest people free of charge. From the top of the mountain one can see the huge Drivyaty Lake (with an area of more than 36,000 ha) and the Nespish Lake on the other side. The town is located on a narrow isthmus separating both lakes. At the foot of the Zamkovaya Mountain there are two neighbouring 19th century churches: the Church of the Birth of the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Nicolas the Miracle Worker Orthodox Church. The Orthodox church is large, white, built on a square plan and topped with sky-blue domes. The large neo-Gothic Roman Catholic church is built of red brick and grey erratic stone. The clerical settlement built in the 1920s is an interesting district in Braslav. Its houses, built in the manor style which was fashionable at that time, were designed by an outstanding architect from Vilnius, professor of the Stefan Batory University, Juliusz Kłos. The houses of the settlements are characterized by high hip roofs, mansards and porticos resembling Warsaw’s Officer’s Żoliborz District which dates back to the same period. From 1936 a bronze bust of Józef Piłsudski sculptured by Alfons Karny was standing there; it was removed during World War II and found after many years to be placed at the Museum in Sulejówek in2004. Polish mementoes can be also found at the Historical Museum: these are pre-war photographs of palaces of which no other traces have been left, articles from the press of the 1930s, Polish guidebooks and photographs taken by Jan Bułhak.

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