This cemetery may be new in comparison with the one in the centre of the village but, most probably, it was founded in the 18th century if not earlier. Anyway, it remains one of the two largest cemeteries of Polish Tatars, who come to visit their family graves on the days of Muslim holidays and find their resting place here after death. And it is a lovely resting place - at the end of a birch-tree alley on a forested hill some distance from the village.
The earliest graves are modest, enclosed with an iron fence and the headstones devoid of any inscriptions. Later ones, following the Polish tradition, have bigger more expensive tombs and inscriptions in two languages: Polish and Arabic. What decidedly distinguishes them from the tombs in our Catholic cemeteries, are the symbols of the half-moon, the star and the Koranic verses inscribed in Arabic.
There are many Polish-sounding surnames inscribed on the headstones but first names like Ali, Mustafa or Fatma leave us in no doubt that it is not an ordinary Polish cemetery.
Bohoniki boasts one of only three mosques in Poland. The first mosque was built here before 1717, when the number of Tatars living in Bohoniki came close to 50 and there were more living in the neighbouring villages of Drahla, Malawicze and Kamionka. The present mosque though dates back to the 19th century and was built after the old one had burnt down. Although the number of Tatars living here is now considerably smaller, it is the centre of religious life for Muslims from the whole of eastern Poland who come here to celebrate Ramadan Bairam, Kurban Bairam (Eid El Adha), Aszur's Day (a Shia feast?), Moulid El Nabi (the Prophet's Birthday). The place and the Pilgrim's House right across the road are also used for social gatherings and Tatar balls, the tradition of which goes back to 19th century Vilnius. Once a month the Mosque becomes the venue of Friday prayers where not only Polish but also Arabic and Ottoman can be heard.
Visiting the Mosque is easy at all hours of the day thanks to its keeper and our landlady, Mrs Eugenia Radkiewicz. Just ring the bell of the house right across the road or go to the Pilgrim's House and they will tell you where to find her. But I am sure she will notice you before you even ask and come speedily on her bike to give you a guided tour of the place. We have never seen a more conscientious keeper and guide.
The Old Mizar or Tatar Cemetery is situated by the main road east of the Mosque. Actually, the first early-18th-century Mosque in the village is believed to have stood on this site as well. The name 'mizar' or 'miziar' is said to be of Turkish origin and the Polish Tatars owe it to their ancestors - political refugees from Turkey, which was then torn by civil wars after the fall of Tamerlane's Mongolian empire.
The cemetery is fenced and the gate locked, but you would never guess it was there if the board did not inform you about it in Polish and Arabic. Actually, its site was discovered only in the 80s of the 20th century when the local people tried digging there for gravel.
Our landlady told us there were some stones remaining there and you can see them if you explore the spot from the path at the back, which runs at the top of the small hill, which we did but to no avail.
A place archaeologists might be interested in.
The Mosque is divided into two parts: the part with the minbar for men and the part for women with net curtains through which they can watch the men pray and participate in the prayers. The walls of the Mosque are decorated with verses from the Koran, pictures of Mecca and other Muslim symbols. Many of the decorations have been brought here by the locals returning from hajj. The floors are all covered with carpets and you are expected to leave your shoes in the hall.
Souvenirs like postcards are available from a small stall in the women's part.
Admission: 4 PLN
there are not many Tatars, but Bohoniki is a Tatar village i n the heart of Poland
they were Tatars who got Polish lands 3 centuries ago, they came from Tatarstan and Crimea... I felt curiosity for it, since Turks and Tatars are both Turkic peoples, with comoon roots
this is the mosque of the Tatar village of Bohoniki
the Tatars represent the big majority of the little muslim minority in Poland