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
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
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.
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