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Project stories 20. My „SHTETELE…”

12 / 10 / 2021
Category: Project News


A gentle dawn
to the rhythm of ordinary days,
on Sundays a safe trip to the river
and a whisper in the bushes.

And the bread smells in the bakery,
the horse bows its head over the oats.
For those in love, heaven is enough,
just someone whistles softly.

The town of Belz,
mein shtetele Belz ...

The famous song "Belz Town", written in 1932 for an American performance, like no other text reflects the atmosphere of the "shtetl" (Yid. "shtetele") – many small towns of the borderland, in which until World War II the majority was a Jewish community. Neighbouring other nationalities: Polish, Belarusian, Ukrainian and even Tatar, it gave these towns a unique colour. Long chalats, Hasidic hats, Shabbat candles, benevolent "Shalom", cheerful "Mazzal tow!", the sounds of a klezmer band and the bustle of a Jewish inn... Belz, Tykocin, Orla, Izabelin, Nowogródek, Ziembin, Borysów, Lubcz, Śmiłowicze, Krynki...

There were 10.000 people, there were 12 large tanneries – describes Krynki of his childhood Józef Panasiuk.

A Jew, when he went on the road to sell some goods, did not eat or drink until he traded. When he earned a few zlotys, then he ate breakfast, drank coffee – recalls with a slight admiration another inhabitant of this town, Eugeniusz Dąbrowski [1].

World War II and other events of the last century, as well as the migration of rural inhabitants to cities, caused the shtetls to disappear from the borderland landscape, and with them urban folklore, traditional rites, songs and games that united a diverse, multi-layered and multi-religious urban community. Today, Jewish urban folklore is poorly known and difficult to access, which has been exacerbated by the mass emigration of Jews and the closed nature of this community.

Fortunately, contemporary ethnographers and cultural activists from the Programme area study and promote folklore, as evidenced primarily by the development of the traditional dance movement, the publication of folk songs, the formation of musical ensembles, as well as the creation of ethnographic communities and the organization of festivals related to traditional Belarusian-Polish culture.

These thoughts and experiences were the basis of the ShtetlFest project “Research and revitalization of urban folklore as the main element of festivities in former Jewish townships". Its leader is the State Institution of Additional Education “Children and Youth Creativity Center of Barysaŭ Raion" in Belarus, and the partner on the Polish side - the "Teatr Latarnia" Foundation from the Podlaskie Voivodeship. The project assumes the creation of an international SHTETLFEST BY-PL route, which will cover 6 former Belarusian-Polish Jewish shtetls, promoting the material and intangible legacy of Jews. Project partners organise field research to identify and collect ethnographic material in the form of films and photographs. The results of the research will be used to design the "Shtetl Fest" handbook, containing high-quality visual, textual and audio materials, which will be used to promote the trail. The project also includes discussion meetings, workshops of Yiddish songs and Jewish dances, and every year, an event titled "Shtetl Folk Fest" promoting the trail will be held in a different place. Thanks to it, you will be able to immerse yourself in the atmosphere of "shtetl" for a while ...

It's been so many years,
harmony is playing again,
the clouds are floating away,
the world goes on again [2] ...

More about the ShtetlFest project can be found here.

[1] Source: Youtube, channel "Bagnówka"
[2] Fragments of the song "Miasteczko Bełz" ("Mein Sztetełe Bełz)", which in fact tells not about the town of Bełz, now located in Ukraine, but about the city of Bielce (Yid. Belc) in today's Moldova. The author of the original text was Jacob Jacobs, the music was composed by Alexander Olshanetsky. The author of the Polish version of the text is Agnieszka Osiecka, well known Polish songwriter. (source: Wikipedia)



Project story. ShtetlFest

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