Routes to Polish Roots in Romania and Republic of Moldova
Romanian history from the 14th century until the 18th century displays significant influence of the Polish history, in terms of its military, political, administrative, social and cultural presence.
The history of Poles in Romania is certainly linked to the history of Bucovina, a region in the north of the medieval state of Moldova annexed and named as such in 1775 by the Austrian Empire. At the time, Bucovina was a buffer zone between Eastern and Western civilization, located in an area where the Ottoman, the Russian and Austrian Empire, have exercised their influences as well as the Slavic, Byzantine and Central European ones.
Polish communities began to grow during the 18th century in Bucovina, with Polish immigrants who came from Galicia. The region attracted ordinary people, where they found better conditions of living, people such as officials, priests, teachers, and few nobles. Let us not forget the so-called “mountain people” in the region Czadec, now belonging to Slovakia. These people inhabited all the cities in Bucovina.
During the Second World War, Poland suffered most from the two evil empires, Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. Following the invasion of Poland by the Nazis and Soviet armies in 1939, over 60,000 Poles took refuge in Bucovina and other regions of Romania. After the war, Poland and Romania have agreed to repatriate thousands of Polish families, both refugees and descendants of the ancient colonies. This process has been one of great magnitude, but not entirely destroyed the Polish communities in Bucovina and Romania.
If considering today Republic of Moldova we can find polish roots in it’s northern districts, where the Polish landowners had land and established even localities. So let’s discover two wonderful countries, their culture and history, but also look for some traces the Polish people left behind.
Day 1: arrival Chisinau – transfer to Iasi, Romania
Meet the guide at the airport and transfer to Romania. Today we will discover the Cultural capital of Romania – Iasi. City tour and visit of the Metropolitan Cathedral, Culture Palace etc. In the evening! Surprise!! In a monastery we will enjoy a blessed wine… and have the opportunity to listen to the Byzantine church music sang by a student’s choir from the Iasi Theological University. Dinner in the Monastery. Check-in at the local hotel.
Day 2: Iasi – Agapia Monastery – Cacica
Day trip to Bucovina region, the cradle of the polish minority from Romania. On the way lets visit Agapia Monastery, located in Neamt area, one of the most important monasteries/orthodox region in Romania, if not THE MOST IMPORTANT. The jewel of the crown is AGAPIA convent, having almost 500 nuns. You will see what they do in their workshops, how they live and learn about their belief. Arrival in Cacica and meeting the local representatives of the Polish community, visit of the Salt Mine and Basilica Minor. Accommodation in a local pension. Traditional dinner.
Cacica (in Polish Kaczyka) is a village developed around a salt mine. Archaeological works in the area show that salt mining has been practiced here since the end of the Neolithic, but industrial exploitation began in the late 18th century. In 1798 a salt mine began to operate here, with workers from the entire Austrian Empire, especially from Galicia. Once, a Polish-German village today is inhabited by Polish, Romanians and Ukrainians. It is called “Bucovina in tablet” because of multi ethnicity and diverse confessions. In Cacica, besides the Catholic minor basilica more than 100 years old, built by missionaries in Krakow and consecrated in 1905, we will find: Ukrainian and Romanian orthodox and Greek-catholic churches. The Polish Association is united around the House of Poland which has 16 places for tourists. Polish language is taught in the village school by teachers from Poland for already 13 years.
Most of the miners were Catholic and following tradition, in 1803 a chapel dedicated to St. Barbara, patron saint of miners, was built at 25 m depth in the mine. The chapel was founded by a Roman Catholic priest named Jakob Bogdanowicz. Even today, one can reach it by descending 200 steps carved into the rock salt. Originally, the chapel walls were covered in wood, but the panels were removed in 1904, and the chapel came to look as it looks today.
In 1890, Joseph Weber, bishop of Lviv, born in Fürstenthal (Voievodeasa, Suceava county), brought missionaries to Cacica from Krakow, to whom he entrusted the construction of a new church. The church holds a replica of the famous grotto at Lourdes, which gives it a special aura of this sanctuary. It was declared as a small basilica by Pope John Paul II. 2011 census results showed that more than 20% of people in Cacica are now Polish – the highest percentage of Poles from Bucovina and Romania.
Day 3: Cacica – Outside Painted Monasteries – same accommodation
After breakfast short stop in Solonetul Nou, a large village, originally inhabited mostly by polish people from region of Czadca. Here we will visit the “Polski Dom” and learn about the folk group “Solonczanka” and how children learn Polish in the School “Henryk Sienkiewicz”.
Among the most picturesque treasures of Romania are the Painted Monasteries of Bucovina. Their painted exterior walls are decorated with elaborate 15th and 16th century frescoes featuring portraits of saints and prophets, scenes from the life of Jesus, images of angels and demons, and heaven and hell.
Day dedicated to the famous painted monasteries. First Outside Painted Monastery to be visited-Sucevita, which was the last of the 22 painted churches of Bucovina and has the largest number of painted images. Sucevita boasts a magnificent depiction of the Ladder to Paradise. Red-winged angels in orderly rows attend the righteous on a slanting ladder to the heavens, each rung inscribed with one of the monastic virtues. Later, let’s visit a local artist who paints the Easter eggs. She will demonstrate us the technique she uses and anyone can try its first steps in this art. We continue to Moldovita monastery, meet sister Tatiana who will present us the paintings. Lunch on the way. Voronet would be the last to visit, around 16.00, we can have the full sun light on the main painting – The Last Judgement. Voronet Monastery (as well as Humor, Arbore, Sucevita and Moldovita ) are UNESCO patrimony – built in XV century by great Moldavian ruler Stefan cel Mare. The Voronet Church preserve great outside and inside frescoes from XVI century, the “Last Judgment” is comparable with Sixtine Chapel from Vatican.
Day 4: Cacica – Bulai – Suceava – Balti (back in Republic of Moldova)
After breakfast we will leave Cacica and drive to Bulai – an another polish settlement, founded in the late XIX century by farmers who came in search of land and better conditions, probably after natural disasters in the surroundings of the town Rzeszów. Visit to the local school, where children since 12 years learn polish language. Also in 2005, Polish language was introduced in the kindergarten of the village. We will not miss also the local catholic church of St. Maximilian Maria Kolbe, built in 1982
Further on, we will stop in Suceava for a short city tour of the former capital of the Moldovan Principality but also a visit to the The Union of Poles in Romania “Polski Dom”. It was inaugurated on March 16, 1990 in Bucharest. Currently, the organization comprising 15 local associations. Union leadership is headquartered in Polish House in Suceava, built in-between 1903-1907 and regained by Poles, after the years of communism in 1996. Free time for lunch
After crossing the border with Republic of Moldova at Stefanesti we shall arrive in Balti city. Accommodation in a 3* Hotel.
Day 5: Balti – Stircea – Soroca
Balti is a small town in which (apart the Romanian language) you can often hear Russian and Polish – here lives quite numerous Polish diaspora. Balti has two faces: one typical, post-Soviet, gray and weary, and the second, filled with old houses with gardens and climatic narrow streets. According to legends, the city was founded by the Princess Ryngalla, who settled here after the expulsion from Poland for the love to the bishop. We will visit Polski Dom/Polish House, the oldest building in Balti – Nikolajevska Church, dating back to the eighteen century,the Armenian Church of St. Gregory and the Orthodox Cathedral of Constantine and Helen etc.
Next stop – Approximately 35 km from Balti is the famous “little Warsaw”. It’s Stricea, the most Polish of all villages in Moldova. Near you can find a great tourist attraction – Butesti gorge, carved in the coral reef, which is a trace of the former Sarmatian Sea.
In the Cosauti famous village of stonemasons we will learn the story of a noblemen of Polish origin Mihalovski Foma Titov. The Agrarian Bank that he build was transformed later in a Soviet House of Culture. Where before the money were deposited and circulated resembles now a small fortification, built of granite, polished and carved stone.
In Soroca, during our visit to the Soroca Fortress, you will have the opportunity to listen to a sort of a lecture on Polish-Moldovan history and can learn many interesting things about John III Sobieski, Wladyslaw Jagiello and John Olbrachcie. Accommodation in 3* Hotel from Soroca.
If time allows we shall visit also the famous “Gypsy Hill” from Soroca that features mansions inspired by the Bolshoi theatre, St Peter’s Basilica and the US Capitol.
Day 6: Soroca – Solonet – Orhei – Old Orhei – Chisinau
First stop for today – Solonet village at Brzozowski’s Mill that belonged once to the Polish nobleman Constantine Alexander Brzozowski (read Bjozovski, n.red.). Well, the mill operates even today and the family mansion is still standing. The mill has over a hundred years, originally worked with steam, but now the grinding process is automated. The family mansion, since 1958 – Soviet period was used as a prison for juvenile delinquents and, after Moldova’s independence was a boarding school for orphans.
Next stop in Orhei to visit the Roman Catholic Church, dedicated to Virgin’s Assumption. It is the only religious building built in Gothic style from our country. Even if it has to be small compared to the giant cathedrals in Germany and France, the beauty and graceful silhouette of the building makes you stop and admire it. Here we will meet the church priest who will us the history of this place.
Orhei Catholic Church was built in 1914 by the Catholics in the city under the patronage of the Doliwo-Dobrowolska Cesarini, a Polish noble of Braviceni. In the late 20’s century. XX Catholic community was composed of 300 parishioners of Polish, German and Lithuanian origin. In 1947, after the establishment of Soviet power, the church was closed, then turned into a warehouse. The building was returned to the Catholic community of Orhei in 2001, and seven years later ended the restoration works. Currently, there are about 40 people who declare Polish origin, but the church has no shortage of parishioners and visitors. Services are held every day.
Lunch will be served in a traditional guesthouse in Old Orhei. Next we will visit the cave monastery “St. Maria Dormata” expanded and modified inside the cliffs by the monks over the centuries and preserved in a functional state.
Arrival in Chisinau and city tour. After check-in, you’ll have a city tour about the capital of Moldova. It includes: visit to the Central Park and the Alley of Moldovan literature classics, the monument of Steven the Great and Saint, Great National Assembly Square, the Triumph Arch, the “Nativity” Cathedral, the Organ Hall, the Market of souvenirs, etc. Accommodation in a 3* Hotel.
Day 7: Cricova and departure home
Before the transfer to the airport let’s stop at the world famous Moldovan Cellars – Cricova, which is a real underground wine city with wide streets, warehouses, tasting rooms. The total length of its galleries is 120 km. The constant annual temperature of + 12ºC and 82–95 % humidity are perfect conditions for aging quality wines there. Cricova is also well known for brilliant sparkling-wines produced by the classic French method.
• Double/twin room: Eur
• Single supplement: Eur
• Accomodation in 3-4* hotels
• Meals according to the program
• Professional English-speaking guide services
• Entrance fees
• Printed info about the sites visited
• Luxury coach transport’ services with A/C
1. This program can be changed upon request.
2. For further information please contact: Cultural Romtour, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Pleases your eyes