Villages west of Novogrudok, Belarus (2011)

Morozovichi, Dubatovka, Osova, and Radziuki are small villages west of Novogrudok and north of Baranovichi. The villages are surrounded by vast forests, all bright with autumn colors as September transitioned into October in 2011.

Until 1918, the villages were in the volost (township) of Koshelevskaya, which was in the uyezd (district) of Novogrudok, which was in the guberniya (province) of Minsk. The system of villages > volosts > uyezds > guberniya existed from 1843 until 1918.

By 2011, the area is part of the oblast of Grodno (also called "Hrodna"). Within the oblast, at least Morozovichi and Dubatovka are part of the region of Dyatlovo.

In that part of the world, borders changed, rulers changed, dominate religions changed, dominate languages changed, alphabets changed, monetary systems changed, and systems of government changed. But the land always remained the same, through the ever changing society and controlling powers.

Morozovichi is at 53.5333 North and 25.5667 East (N 53.5333 E 25.5667). It is 19 kilometers west of Novogrudok (11.8 miles); 54 kilometers north of Baranovichi (33.5 miles), and 43 kilometers south of Lida (26.7 miles). Of the four villages, Morozovichi is the farthest and most directly west of Novogrudok. Dubatovka is south of the line between Novogrudok and Morozovichi; Osova is north of the line.

(1) Morozovichi

Photos below: Entry way to the village of Morozovichi.
The far left photo has the word "Morozovichi" in Belarusan in the Cyrillic alphabet. Near the sign is a road-side cross. And near those two is the tall tower in the photo on the right. That's a tower for mobile telephones.

The village of Morozovichi has 30 residents -- except for during winter when many of those residents move in with adult children who live in nearby towns or cities. As with the other villages I was at, the village has electricity. Most people have television sets. Most people have mobile phones. (In Europe, they are "mobile phones," not "cell phones.") Heat comes from wood burning stoves. Water comes from wells on each property. And people do their business in outside privies.

Photo below: Remains of Morozovichskaya Rozhdestvo Bogoroditskaya Church.
All that remains of the Morozovichskaya Rozhdestove Bogoroditskaya Church are the four steps in the photograph. The church was an Orthodox church.

The set of steps, in the midst the woods, is all that remains of the church. Four steps, about seven feet wide. It was an Orthodox church. In 1943, the partisans came to the villagers with the news that the Soviets had given orders that the church was to be destroyed in a "scorched earth" policy, to prevent the advancing Germans from using the building for their benefit. The church members had warning of no more than a few hours. They salvaged icons and records, and they torched the building themselves. What records were salvaged are held by the National Historical Archive of Belarus, in the nation's capital city of Minsk.

Photo below: Cemetery in the woods in Morozovichi.
The cemetery is in the woods that surround the former site of the Morozovichskaya Rozhdestvo Bogoroditskaya Church, an Orthodox church.

Photo below: Scene in Morozovichi. Woman walking a cow.
That is the one road that runs through the village of Morozovichi.

Photos below: Houses, gardens, and the cobblestone road in Morozovichi.

Photo below: A lady of Morozovichi who wondered who I was.

If someone walked down my street, photographing every house and garden, I'd wonder who she was also. This lady came over and asked in Belarusan who the heck I was. My guide explained, and the lady's face turned to a smile. I asked if I could photograph her, and she agreed.

Photo below: Three women in Morozovichi.

The photo was taken with their permission. The two ladies to the left are from the village of Morozovichi. The lady on the right is from the village of Dubatovka. They were casually dressed for working in their flower gardens, and some of the flowers in the above pictures are the result of their efforts.

(2) Dubatovka

Photo below: Graveyard in the village of Dubatovka.

The graveyard is in the woods. These gravesites are at the front of the graveyard. Several of the gravesites have little fences around them. Determining the true number of burials in that cemetery is impossible. There are about 30 markers in the cemetery, but not all gravesites would have markers, and some markers would be for more than one person, and old wooden markers would have returned to the earth. The burial custom in that area is more inline with "Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust. From dust we come; to dust we return." Bodies are not embalmed (an American custom that poisons the earth); bodies are buried in simple wooden coffins and buried directly into the ground, rather than in concrete vaults as has become the custom in the USA.

Photo below: Graveyard in the village of Dubatovka, seen from road.

The front portion of the graveyard is barely seen in this photo. Look across the grass, then across the plowed field, then at the tree line. There are some white stones visible in about the center of the photo.

Photo below: Taisia, 87, of the village of Dubatovka.

Taisia is the lady who walked the visitors back to the graveyard in Dubatovka. She is 87 and has lived in the village since she was a little girl. Her father had traveled to Pittsburgh and earned enough money to return to Belarus and buy land. When the Communists took over, they took the land. Taisa's father learned to say one phrase in English perfectly: "God damned son of a bitch!" At 87, Taisia can quote her father's words, and they come out in perfect English, with just the right intonation. She knows no other English. After she walked her visitors to the graveyard -- a goodly distance for even a middle-aged woman -- Taisia invited us in for "chai," which is tea. I hesitated, but sensed that she would be offended if I refused. We entered her home for tea; we were served tea, a beets & herring mold, carrot & garlic salad, cheese, bread & butter, store-bought cookies, and vodka! Taisia survives off a $75 monthly pension. When I pressed a 100,000 ruble note into her hand as I bid adieu ($13.40 American), she tried to refuse.

The village of Dubatovka has nine residents during the good months -- eight old women and one old man. When the weather gets cold, Taisia will go to stay with her daughter, in a nearby town.

Photo below: Taisia's house.
That's Taisia in the red jacket, walking towards her door.

Photo below: Taisia's garden and yard, next to her house.

(3) Osova

Photo below: The sign says "Osava."
Osova seemed to be about the size of the village of Morozovichi, but it seemed to have fewer people living in the houses.

Photos below: Houses and scenes from Osova.

Photo below: Maria and her nephew, Dima.

Maria is 85. She lives in the village of Osova and had never seen an American before. Her nephew, Dima, took us to his aunt when he saw me and my guide trying to pick apples from trees in an open field. He said that his aunt had many apples that we could have. Dima works on the railroad in Baranovichi. When we saw Maria, the question was, "Is that your mother?" Dima said, "No, my aunt." Maria answered in Russian, but I could understand her words: "I've raised you just like a mother! And now you pay no attention to me!" Maria sent us on our way with a bag of apples. I offered a handshake, and Maria made clear that we would part with a hug. The building behind her is a small barn, and the building in the left of the photo is another out-building. Maria's house cannot be seen in the photo.

Photos below: Whimsy at a house in Osova.

(4) Radziuki

Photo below: The sign says Radziuki.
The sign appears to give times when a bus comes through the area, twice a day. The village of Radziuki has six residents. Two live in one house; two live in another house. I do not know whether the last two live together or in separate houses.

Photo below: Vasili Davlud, 72, of the village of Radziuki.

Vasili is son of Fiodor, who was son of Liavon; Liavon was from the village of Noviny. Vasili and his wife live in a house that is not accessible by road. We reached it by walking across a recently cut corn field. They do, however, have electricity, a mobile phone, and a television. They do their shopping from an "auto-magazine" that comes by once a week. An "auto-magazine" is a store-on-wheels for people living in remote areas.

Photo below: Vasili Davlud, October 1, 2011.

My guide in the villages was Tamara Vershitskaya, to whom I owe great thanks.

From the villages, I went to Mir Castle.

2011 Trip