Fot. Jarosław Pałka

Hlybokaye is a county town in the Vitebsk Oblast in Belarus. At the time of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth it belonged in turns to the aristocratic families of the Radziwiłł, Korsak, and Zenowicz. For ages markets used to be a great attraction of Hlybokaye. Wartime and post-war developments have irreversibly changed the character of the town.

Hlybokaye is located on a lake from which the town has taken its name. The early mentions of the place date back to the 16th century. A 17the century church and the Barefooted Carmelites Monastery is situated on a small hill close to the centre of the town. The church was built slightly later than the Holy Trinity Roman Catholic parish church founded by Józef Korsak. The two churches are facing each other. In the first half of the 19th century, the monastery’s building complex was taken over by Orthodox monks who changed the mass of the church into the form of an Orthodox church. This form of the church has survived until the present time. In the nearby Berazvecha, a Basilian monastery was built in the 17th century. The ‘Berezwecz’ Border Protection Corps (KOP) Battalion was stationed in that monastery complex until the outbreak of World War II. At present, the area is part of Hlybokaye, and the post-monastic buildings still house a prison established by the NKVD in September 1939. When the Soviet troops retreated before the German invasion the prison was closed down, which entailed the deaths of several hundred people. The mass grave of the Jews and Italians executed by German firing squads, and the execution site of the Poles is in the nearby Berazvecha Woods. The Hlybokaye cemetery is also an important historic point with its graves of soldiers from the time of the Polish-Bolshevik War, 18th century chapel, and a column dating back to the early 19th century built to commemorate the Constitution of 3 May 1791. At the time of the Second Polish Republic Jews accounted for a vast majority of the town’s population. They were followed by Poles (e.g., Tadeusz Dołęga-Mostowicz is connected with Hlybokaye) and Byelorussians. Many of them were killed by the Germans or Soviets. After World War II new residents came to Hlybokaye. The difficult years of the Soviet Union, when a majority of local Poles were persecuted for ethnic and religious reasons and worked slavishly at kolkhozes, have left tragic memories. Today, the Polish minority is primarily gathered around the parish church with their cultural activity being supported by Franciscan Sisters from the Order of the Family of Mary. There is no Polish Community Centre in Hlybokaye, but, in spite of this, there are still people speaking Polish in the nearby Dokshitsy,Sharkowshchyna,and villages in that region.


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