Deep in the far east of Catholic Poland are two historically Muslim villages with histories dating back to the Middle Ages. Kruszyniany and its smaller sister village, Bohoniki, are the last Polish villages still inhabited by the Lipka Tatars, a Muslim Turkic people who originally came to Europe in the 1200s. The Tatars joined the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in every major military campaign of the time, notably the Battle of Grunwald in 1410, and as a reward for their loyalty, the Tatars were granted the right to settle in eastern Poland.
Over the centuries, the Tatars adopted the Polish language and integrated into Polish society while maintaining their distinct religious and cultural identity. Despite their religious differences with the Polish state, they were considered full citizens who had earned their place in Polish society on the battlefield. After World War II, however, the resulting border shifts in Eastern Europe resulted in these Tatar communities being splintered between Poland, Lithuania, and Belarus, with only the villages of Kruszyniany and Bohoniki remaining within Polish borders.
Today, Kruszyniany is the center of Poland’s original Tatar community, and its modest yet impressive Green Mosque attracts visitors from all over the country who are interested in learning more about Poland’s Muslim minority. The mosque is maintained by descendants of the original Lipka Tatars who are enthusiastic about sharing their unique history and culture with their fellow Poles and with the rest of the world. Across the street is also a restaurant (Tatarska Jurta) serving traditional Tatar cuisine with English- and Polish-language descriptions of Tatar dishes.
Kruszyniany’s smaller sister village of Bohoniki, about 30km to the north, also boasts a traditional wooden mosque maintained by Tatar-descended locals who are happy to explain their history and religious customs to curious visitors.
Know Before You Go
The Green Mosque is best reached by car, but there are daily (although infrequent) bus services to Kruszyniany from Białystok. Its less-touristed sister mosque in Bohoniki has no bus service, but is 7km from the Sokółka railway station and can be reached by bike (or hike) or a pre-arranged taxi. There is usually a community representative on site during the day to receive visitors, but tours and information are only available in Polish. Some limited English documentation is available for purchase at the Green Mosque in Kruszyniany.