Fot. Jakub Gałęziowski

Krāslava (in Polish Krasław)is now located in Latvia in the Latgale region (former Polish Livonia) some 40 kilometres away from Daugavpils right next to the border with Belarus. Owing to its picturesque location on the embankment over the Daugava River bend it is sometimes compared to Kazimierz Dolny. The town has a population of 10,000, including about 1,000 Poles. Before World War II Poles accounted for one fourth of Krāslava’s population.

There are many charming wooden houses which have survived in the town. The contemporary architecture is rather scarce, but many remains of the past have survived, including, first of all, the large 18th century Plater palace. Designed on a grand scale by an Italian, Antonio Paracco, it looks miserable today, being a supported ruin with bricked-up windows and cracking walls. On the other hand, the St. Louis Church, founded by the Platers and designed by the same architect, is in an excellent condition. Until not long ago in its main altar there was a large painting of Saint Louis leaving for a crusade, painted in Jan Matejko’s studio, most probably to his sketch. A few years ago, after the painting was removed by Polish conservators, an 18th century mural by an Italian painter, Filipp Castaldi, appeared under it. At present, the mural is under conservation (financed by the Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage), and the valuable painting hangs on a side wall of the chancel. The church stores the relics of St. Donat, and the remains of several dozen members of the Plater family are buried in its crypt. A Polish primary school was opened in Krāslava in 1991. Initially very modest, since 2002 it has been operating in a large state-of-the art building and has been named after the Plater counts. It is regarded to be one of the best schools in Latvia. The school naming ceremony was accompanied by the Plater family reunion attended by 29 family members from Poland, Belgium, France, and Switzerland. The school is financially supported by the Polish Senate, “Polish Community” Association, Polish Embassy in Riga, and the Plater family. In Krāslava there is also a branch of the Union of Poles in Latvia which has a Polish choir called “Strumień” (the Stream).

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