Polesie: 19th Century Accounts
Two Polish writers journeyed through Polesie and adjoining areas. On of them was Józef Ignacy Kraszewski (1812-1887), historian, essayist, poet and dramatist. His account from the 30's of the 19th century - Memories of Wołyn, Polesie and Lithuania - has not been translated into English. Jerzy Piechowski, writing in the July 28, 2001 issue of Tygodnik Głos gives one impression of Kraszewski's account. Ryszard Kapu¶ciński, noted journalist and author, gave another. Below are translations by Peter K. Gessner of both passages.
Piechowski: Kraszewski made a journey through Polesie, Lithuania and Wo»yn. He stayed in various palaces and manor houses the interiors of which were filled with paintings and mementos. In closets, cupboard shelves, and desk drawers - documents, parchments, and collections of coins and medals; on the walls much old armor dating from the 17th century and earlier, all then, after a century of the partitions still extant reminders of the glory days of the Rzeczpospolita. Eventually, though he himself was a historian, the incredibly abundance of these treasures in every residence he visited caused a certain fatigue to overtake him.
Kapu¶ciński: . . . I also read J.I. Kraszewski's Memories of Wołyn, Plolesie and Lithuania. An excellent account from the 30's of the 19th century. In his eyes, Kresy stood for poverty, obscurantism, squalor, villein service servitude. In each village a power triumvirate - church - tavern - manor house. The tavern - an abode of stench and vermin. The Jews of the Kresy - shabby, greedy. The gentry - poor, ignorant, primitive. The only book in the manor houses - a Berdyczow monastery calendar. The peasants - poverty and hunger. Polesie: pine trees, sand, marsh. Flat, empty, boring. Kraszewski frequently uses the term - desert.
Pol: Another 19th century traveler in those parts was s Wincenty Pol (1807-1872) who became famous for the epic composition Pie¶ń o ziemi naszej (A hymn about our land: published 1843), a poetic description of a journey through lands of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (Lithuania, Polesie, Wołyn).