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x0x Muslims, Christians pray together in Polonezkoy

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      x0x Muslims, Christians pray together in Polonezkoy

      Friday, November 6, 2009


      ISTANBUL - Hurriyet Daily News

      Poles in and Turks greeted each other warmly as the priest at the
      small church in Polonezkoy, a village on Istanbuls Asian
      outskirts settled by Polish emigrants in the 19th century, invited
      worshippers to exchange the peace during the All Saints Day mass
      on Nov. 1.

      Muslim Turks participating in a Christian ritual was normal for
      Polonezkoy, an elderly inhabitant of the town said. The priest
      conducted the mass in both Polish and Turkish so that everyone
      could participate. After the mass, the congregants commemorated
      the deceased at a nearby cemetery with flowers while the priest
      blessed the gravestones with holy water, just as he would in

      The cemetery reflects the story of Polonezkoy. The majority of the
      oldest graves belong to Polish soldiers, combatants in many
      national uprisings during the 19th century. The Ottoman state was
      the only one in Europe that did not recognize Russian, Prussian
      and Austrians late-18th century partitions of Poland.

      In 1841, Duke Adam Czartoryski sent emissary Michal Czajkowski
      from Paris to Istanbul to negotiate the establishment of a Polish
      colony there. One year later, Sultan Abdulmecid I granted
      Istanbuls Polish mission the right to take land from the Lazarite
      Order and establish a semi-autonomous Polish settlement, Adampol,
      named after Czartoryski.

      Thank the Lord, who gave us this land where we can pray for
      Poland and talk about Poland in Polish lets pray and act
      righteously and God will return us to our Motherland, Czajkowski,
      also known as Mehmet Sadik Pasa after he converted to Islam and
      served in the Ottoman army, said in a letter during the initial
      settlement period.

      Speaking Polish in Poland was forbidden under Prussian and Russian
      rule, but Adampol was a safe haven for Polish patriots. Poles not
      only found refuge in the Sultans land, but also fought on the
      side of the Ottomans in the Crimean War (1853-56) against the

      By the end of the 19th century approximately 150 Poles lived in
      the village. Even in 1918 after Poland finally re-gained its
      independence, the Poles in Adampol remained in Turkey. Today,
      there are about 750 inhabitants in Polonezkoy, 90 of whom are of
      Polish origin.

      We are Turks with Polish origin, said Antoni Dohoda, one of the
      elderly inhabitants. I was a Turkish officer, he said proudly.
      The Polish-Turkish friendship seen in Polonezkoy is indeed
      amazing: The villagers said it was natural to see Polish and
      Turkish flags flying side-by-side or flowers from the gendarmerie
      at Czartoryskis monument.

      On one side of Adam Mickiewicz St., named for a famous Polish
      writer who died in Istanbul in 1855, there is both a Catholic
      church and a mosque just a few meters away from each other. We go
      to weddings together, funerals and we carry coffins for each other
      when needed, said Dohoda, somewhat surprised at the question
      about religious issues.

      Dohoda said he was not worried about the loss of Polish culture
      and language. Though there is now much intermarriage in the
      community, he said this was a worldwide trend. Whatever the case,
      religious and cultural life in the community remains strong mass
      is held every Saturday evening, after which Sister Arleta leads a
      number of children in religious study. Also, the children prepare
      a nativity play for the birth of Jesus every Christmas.

      Recently, land from the graves of Adam Czartoryski and Michal
      Czajkowski were brought to Polonezkoy and placed in symbolic
      graves in a ceremony attended by Polish President Lech Kaczynski.
      Indeed, the town often receives visits from Polish heads of state
      during their trips to Turkey, having hosted former presidents Lech
      Walesa and Aleksander Kwasniewski in the past.

      Polonezkoy keeps ties not only with Poland, where children go
      every year for holidays, but also with similar Polish migrant
      communities in Romania. In October, Polonezkoy welcomed 12
      children and two teachers from Nowy Soloniec in Romania.

      We also want to establish connections with Polish towns in
      Georgia. The origins of these villages are the same they were
      built by Polish patriots, said Polonezkoy Mayor Daniel Ohotski.
      These meetings with other Polish children motivate interest in
      Polish culture and help to maintain the language, he said.

      Polonezkoy is not just a heritage park for Polish culture, but
      also a beautiful destination for residents of Istanbul seeking a
      quiet place for a weekend getaway. Hotels and restaurants offering
      traditional Polish and Turkish food attract Istanbul clientele.

      The fact that there is no public transportation connecting
      Polonezkoy to Istanbul helps to maintain the peacefulness of the
      village. Moreover, Ohotski is not very enthusiastic about the idea
      of having a public bus That would bring too many people. It is
      good the way it is now, he said.

      Copyright 2009, Hurriyet Daily News. This article
      is redistributed with permission for personal use
      of TurkC-L readers. No part of this article may be
      reproduced, further distributed or archived
      without the prior permission of the publisher.
      Contact: Hurriyet Daily News Online on the Internet
      World Wide Web. www.hurriyet.com.tr/english .
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