Contrasting treasures of Ivenets enthral

Unique ceramic articles produced and ancient bells sought on banks of Volma River

By Lyudmila Minkevich

For over seven centuries, the name of Ivenets has softly pleased the ear. It was founded by Grand Duke of Lithuania Vytautas, seventy kilometres from Minsk, but its exact age is unknown. The words ‘venets’ and ‘venok’ (both translated as wreath) are associated with youth, fertility and the beginning of new life.

At present, Ivenets combines traces of the past and present, with modern European-style road signs alongside an old coat of arms depicting a lion (at the entrance to the town). Large, spacious brick houses neighbour yellow, red and green wooden homes, situated so close to each other that it seems they share a single roof. A 21st century snow white church is close to the architectural pearl of two hundred year old St. Michael’s Roman Catholic Church. More evidence of Ivenets’ contrasting treasures is the huge tree which grows from the ruins of the former mansion of Piotr Droguntsev (who owned Ivenets in the past). Its green leaves are certainly pleasing to the eye, while part of the tree was damaged by fire in 1999, stretching black branches to the sky…

Since ancient times, Ivenets has been known as a pottery centre, boasting two tile workshops and 20 making pottery in the early 20th century. Ivenets ceramics enjoyed great demand across Belarus and also in Vilnius and Warsaw. Today, the local Traditional Culture Museum showcases samples of its unique pottery (decorated with white and green zigzags and stripes), alongside 17th-20th century tiles featuring figures.

Pottery is still developing in the town; since 1955, a workshop of artistic ceramics has operated in Ivenets, with a dozen potters having their own workshops. Their articles are sold worldwide, as well as through the museums at Dudutki and Nesvizh. Once every three years, the town hosts a large contest entitled Clay Ringing and, ten years ago, the Centre for Crafts opened at Ivenets’ museum.

Miroslav Romanovsky works at one of the pottery workshops, producing wonderful ceramics. “I inherited a love of clay from my father,” he smiles. “Later, I attended a crafts studio at school and studied at the Belarusian University of Culture. I feel happy, doing what I really love.”

There is also a weaving workshop and a blacksmith’s, while a carpentry studio creates beautiful pieces at Droguntsev’s manor. Carpenter Nikolay Zadreiko began working with wood quite by chance. “Everything began with a school dispute. We argued over whose drawing was best: mine was,” chuckles Nikolay. “I then began studying at a club and graduated from Bobruisk’s Art College. However, I gave up carpentry for 12 years, as I was busy building my own house and bringing up my children. This year, I returned to the hobby, at the request of my soul.” Nikolay’s works now decorate various parts of Ivenets.

St. Michael’s Roman Catholic Church is another attraction, now being restored. At local residents’ request, its former bells are being sought, having been hidden during WWII, probably, on the bank of the river. Several years ago, one was discovered beneath the church’s tower and was returned to its place. The remaining three are yet to be found.

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