Pinsk
Fot. Jakub Gałęziowski

Pinsk is located in the Polesia region at the mouth of the Pina River which flows into the Pripyat River. The surrounding areas are the largest marshy areas in Europe. The city has the population of 130,000, including several hundred Poles gathered around the Polish Educational Society.

Pinskwas first mentioned in a Ruthenian chronicle from 1097. The town belonged to the Kiev Principality then and after 1316 was incorporated by Gediminas into the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. In 1396, Sigismund Kęstutaitis, Duke of Pinsk and Turov, founded a Franciscan monastery and the first Roman Catholic church in Pinsk. The buildings were originally wooden, but, in the first half of the 18th century, they were replaced by brick baroque buildings which are still standing. Owing to persistent efforts taken by Cardinal Kazimierz Świątek the buildings have been carefully refurbished of late and are the most spectacular monuments in the city. The former Franciscan Church has been functioning as a cathedral since 1992. After the heirless death of the Princes of Pinsk — Fedor Ivanovich Jaroslavich and his wife Mary – the Kingdom of Pinsk passed on to King Sigismund I the Old, who gave it to Queen Bona in 1523. The queen brought craftsmen from Italy and the Netherlands to the city and gave privileges to the gentry who settled in the vicinity, coming chiefly from Mazovia, Podlachia and Wielkopolska. In the 17th century, Jews started to settle in Pinsk. Before the outbreak of World War II they accounted for more than 70 percent of the city’s inhabitants. Chaim Weizmann, the first president of the state of Israel, studied in Pinsk, and GoldaMeir, the prime minister of Israel, spent a part of her childhood in the city. A key event in the development of the city was the construction of many canals in the second half of the 18th century: the Ogiński and Royal Canals which connected the Pripyat river basin with the river basins of Neman and Vistula, making Pinsk a major inland port connected with both the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea. As a result of the partitions of the Republic of Poland Pinsk became part of the Minsk Governorate as a district town. After the November and January uprisings the tsarist authorities closed all Roman Catholic orders and convents(in 1832 — the Observants and Carmelites, in 1836 – Bartholomites, 1839 — Basilian Monks, 1840 — Dominican Friars, 1841 — Mariavite Nuns, 1849 — Basilian Nuns, 1864 — Franciscans).In 1921, after the Polish-Bolshevik War,Pinsk was again within the boundaries of the Polish Republic where it remained until 1939. From 1991 the city has been part of the Republic of Belarus. In spite of destruction of many monuments, many traces of the past survived in Pinsk. In the largest square in the city, called 3rd May Square before World War II and now Lenin Square, there is not only a huge monument to the revolutionary leader but also a monumental building of the former Jesuit College built between 1642 and 1675. The College was open to both Roman Catholic and Orthodox students, and its building housed a library, printing shop and theatre. Adam Naruszewicz was one of the College’s alumni. Famous preacher Andrzej Bobola, who was killed by the Cossacks in 1657 and canonized by Pope Pius IX more than 200 years later, also used to teach in that building. The baroque Jesuit Church with its two towers which was originally standing next to the College building was destroyed in 1939, and then blown up in the 1950s. A description of shots fired from Soviet guns to the church’ tower begins the Imperium by Ryszard Kapuściński who witnessed those events. The writer was born in Pinsk in 1932 and lived there until 1940 when he left the city together with his mother in fear of transportation. The house where he was born is still standing with a memorial plaque set in the wall of the building. Lenin Squaredivides Pinsk into two different parts. The western part, built almost entirely after the last war, is dominated by apartment blocks. In the eastern one, with the Lenin Street (former Kościuszko Street) as its main axis, there is the former Franciscan Church and Monastery, the 18th century Butrymowicz Palace, the building of the former State Gymnasium for Men and many small charming one hundred years’ old houses. The synagogue which survived in that part of the city has been open again for a few years now.

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