Renovated Tatar cemetery will soon be opened

A tomb at Kruszyniany, one of the two best preserved Tatar cemeteries in Poland. Photo: PAP/Jerzy Ochoński

Work on restoring the historic wall of the Muslim cemetery (mizar) in the village of Zastawek (Lubelskie province), closed since the First World War, is coming to an end. It is one of the oldest Islamic monuments in Poland.

The restoration is being carried out by the Muslim Religious Association (MZR) in Poland. Its completion - and the opening of the cemetery for both Muslim religious observance and tourists - is expected in November.

Until the Second World War, there were more than 30 Muslim cemeteries within Poland. According to the Association, there are currently seven mizars in Poland, although burials are held only in three of them: in Bohoniki and Kruszyniany (in Podlaskie province) and in Warsaw. There are also Muslim quarters in regular cemeteries in some big cities, like Gdansk and Wroclaw.

The cemetery in Zastawek is unique. It was here where the first Tatar settlers (and their descendants) were laid. King Jan III Sobieski granted nearby land to Tatar settlers for faithful service in the Polish military. Perhaps the most famous person buried in Zastawek is Tatar-Polish colonel Samuel Mirza Korycki.

The Mizar in Zastawek only partially survived, because in the past many tombstones have been stolen or destroyed. Nevertheless, during the renovation it was possible to uncover over fifty tombstones from the 18th-20th centuries; some of them have legible inscriptions.

According to MZR data, the number of practising Muslims living permanently in Poland is estimated at around 5,000.