Bohoniki is a small, peaceful village not far from Sokolka in the east of Poland. Few people would have heard about it be it not for one fact: it was in this area that, in 1679, 30 Tatar soldiers were granted land for their faithful service to the Polish King Jan III Sobiesk. Bohoniki is the last Tatar village before the border with Belarus.


There are now only six Tatar families living in Bohoniki, but, considering that the village does not comprise more than 30 houses, they make up about a fifth of the local population. It is their Mosque that makes the village famous and attracts visitors from all over Poland and abroad.


The village is changing, though. As the young leave for foreign cities the old are left behind. Yet they have survived for 400 years in Poland, so they will survive still, by intermarrying and adapting; the large Muslim cemetery on the wooded hill just outside the village is proof of their endurance and integration, with its Slavanised surnames and Muslim Crescents. When you leave the village and travel back into central Poland you see their legacy more vividly now – when you look upon the faces you may see a Tatar ancestor.


Kirk Ellingham