Once forgotten. Today they get enlivened in their Polish culture and tradition. They are allowed to remember that their ancestors were Poles. They can learn Polish language. They can learn Polish literature, visit the country of ancestors.

Dnestr Republic, a country within the boundaries of Moldova, is not considered as an independent country by the international society. However, it has its capital city in Tyraspol and authorities which have been having talks with the governments of Russia and Moldava till not on their independence. In the 18th century these lands belonged to the First Republic of Poland. They got under the violence of Russia together with partitions. In the 20s and next years of the last century they belonged t USSR till the year 1990. At that time an autonomic Dnestr Republic was created. During a referendum which took place in the year 2006, inhabitants of Transnistria expressed their definite attitude for independence. However, this referendum was not recognised by the international society. Russian armies have been stationing on the area of Transnistria till today and before a few years the president of Russia Putin opted that a part of Transnistria should be joined to Moldavia, a part to Russia.

Faith as a support for Polishness

Poles have lived on Dnestr lands for ages. It was here, among the others, where fragments of novels by Henryk Sienkiewicz ‘Fire and sword’ and ‘Mr Wołodyjowski’ took place. Those lands and their inhabitants became heroes also in books of other authors.

However, at the time of the Russian partition, systematic destruction of the Polish society was begun, especially the Catholics. Also at the time of the Soviet occupation in the 30s, till the 90s of the 20th century, there had been persecution of the Catholics. Churches were transformed into warehouses, and Poles were forbidden to cultivate religion or Polish culture in any form. The fight against Catholicism and Polishness had lasted for many years. However, in many families books were read in Polish, although quietly, prayers were said, Chaplet of Divine Mercy and Rosary prayers, the Bible was read… The Catholic faith became a synonym of Polishness. And Poles were sent to Siberia or other soviet occupation camps for these forms of ‘revolt’.

Return to a pedigree

In the Dnestr Republic, numbering about six hundred thousand inhabitants today, nearly eight per cent of them are Poles. They live both in its capital city, Tyraspol, and also in other cities and villages. Most of them, however, do not know either the language or do not cultivate the Polish culture. Strong Polish community has been living only in the capital city of Transnistria, Tyraspol, till today and in a few other smaller towns and villages. Especially in Bielce where there is a centre of the Polish culture: ‘Polish House’. In the town Polish priests from the Order of Sacred Heart do their ministry, as well as in Raszków and Swoboda – Raszków, which within the boundaries of Poland used to be called Ksiedzów. Today in Transnistria the Orthodox believers are the religious majority. Then the Catholics and believers of Moses’ religion.

In the 16th century Raszków was a multicultural town where Poles, Russians, Ukrainians, Armenians and Jews lived. Today over two thousand people of Polish origin live here. Whereas, Poles live in Swoboda-Raszków, which is far away by a dozen kilometres. These are a few hundred families of repeating surnames: Krzyzanowscy, Jakubowscy, Kowalscy and Kryńscy.

Restoring identity

Restoring of Polishness was started by the Order of Sacred Heart in Transnistria in the end of the 20th century. It took place at the time of arrival of prince Władisław Soroka. After some time there were other priests of this religious Order. They arrived from Poland or from the area of Transnistria. However, all of them had graduated from Polish seminaries. And it was for their cause that Polish Catholic churches were restored, which had been transformed into warehouses by the Soviets years before. An example can be a beautiful church funded in the mid of the eighteenth century by the Lubomirscy in Raszków. After some time the Order of Sacred Heart started raising Polishness among Polish Dnestr families, for which they had been sent to Siberia by the communists. Apart from pastoral ministry, priests also started teaching Polish language, later Polish literature, history. After some time the Order of Sacred Heart also took medical and social care of children and the youth. In a few villages and towns there are nearly seven hundred children provided with food every day at present; especially ‘street children’ who, being deprived of parents, often got into the abyss of evil. First of all, it is thanks to the Order of Sacred Heart that the embassy of the Polish Republic in Moldavia gave many young people from Polish families school supplies, Polish literature, and finally, it created a possibility for the Polish society to visit the country of their ancestors.

Throughout the last twenty years, priests of the Order of Sacred Heart often encouraged to establish Polish associations, whereas these were aiming at running an activity which brought the country of ancestors closer. One of these initiatives became publishing a Polish newspaper ‘Jutrzenka’ in Bielce. It includes both information about what is happening in Poland and the fate of the Polish diaspora in Transnistria or in Moldavia. Thanks to the Order of Sacred Heart, in the beginning of the 90s, the first children from Polish Dnestr families went on a trip to Poland. One of the children who came to Poland in the beginning of the 90s was seven-year-old Natalia Syniavska-Krzyżanowska, coming from Swoboda-Raszków village. Today she lives in the capital city of Tansnistria, Tyraspol. She is mother of two daughter; a nurse and also a student of psychology and… organist in a Polish church. She is also a chairwoman of that Association of Polish Culture and a co-founder of the formed Polish House in Swoboda-Raszków under the name ‘Mr Wołodyjowski’; whereas recently – she has been a laureate of this year’s symbolic reward of Jan Rodowicz ‘Anoda’, funded for her whole activity, by the Museum of the Warsaw Uprising, assigned, as funders emphasise, for people ‘who are fighting for values at the time of peace’.

Heart’s desire

When Natalia Syniavska-Krzyżanowska came for a holiday camp in Radom for the first time, she was impressed by Poland so much that she decided to learn about the country of ancestors as much as possible. She started with learning Polish language which was not known in her family. Natalia was also trying to be in Poland as often as possible, in order to learn about the country, its culture. Finally, being an adult woman, she decided pass the culture of ancestors to her daughters, the culture of parents, grandparents – so that they would know what their roots were. Also the roots of their great-grandparents – emphasizes Natalia Syniavska – for, ancestors of the family were buried on the Polish monumental graveyard in Raszków. On its area graves of the mid of the eighteenth century have still remained. Thanks to the initiative of Mrs Natalia, the so-far unkempt Polish graveyard, on which goats have grazed recently, starts to be a Polish necropolis in Transnistria. Poles of various towns far from Raszków by a few dozen kilometres, were buried here.

Beside continuing what was started by the Order of Sacred Heart – that is, teaching Polish language in Polish Swoboda-Raszków village, Natalia Syniavska-Krzyżanowska undertook an initiative of establishing another Polish House in Transnistria, just in Swoboda-Raszków village, so that the house would become a centre of Polishness here as well. As Mrs Natalia explains, the village is inhabited by unusually Polish and patriotic society. – But all feasts in the village are celebrated in the Catholic and Orthodox rites. And, therefore, among the others, the defence of Polish, Catholic traditions is very difficult – emphasizes Natalia Syniavska-Krzyżanowska – For, most of the society of the Dnestr Republic is Orthodox. Winter holidays are subordinated to Orthodox feasts. Christmas is celebrated at our homes in a Catholic and Orthodox way. Married couples from here are usually of mixed nationalities. Certainly, in various villages it is different. In Swoboda-Raszków there are mainly Poles, that is, Catholic families.

Last year Natalia Syniavska organised a summer camp for children of Polish origin from Swoboda-Raszków, also from Tyraspol. Children visited, among the others, Przemyśl and Cracow. A house in the Swoboda-Raszków village was bought for the money granted by Poland. – There is going to be another Polish House, where various activities will be run, concerning Polish culture – says Natalia Syniavska – There is going to be not only a library, but also a band of songs and dance, and a theatre, which has Polish poems and plays in its repertoire. I would like to thank first of all to God for the possibility of realising these plans. But there is a merit not only of our Polish society in it, but also of the Polish embassy in Kiszyniów, as well as of Polish organisations from Poland, and many private people living in Poland. Today I would like to thank them all.

Among many pro-Polish projects, Natalia Syniavska established also a foundation ‘Jasna Góra’ years ago, whose aim is among the others, cultivating Polish culture. Last year a concert of Fryderyk Chopin’s music was organised within it. Ceremonies on the occasion of Polish national feasts are organised, during which Polish poetry is recited. However, the most important aim of the foundation is annual pilgrimage to Częstochowa. Because as the organiser of the pilgrimages emphasizes – Our Lady on the Częstochowa Icon is for us, Poles from Transnistria, a great queen, and Jasna Góra is the heart of Poland. And we want to aim towards this heart.


"Niedziela" 15/2013

Editor: Tygodnik Katolicki "Niedziela", ul. 3 Maja 12, 42-200 Czestochowa, Polska
Editor-in-chief: Fr Jaroslaw Grabowski • E-mail: