The highways that lead to the cities of Brest, Kobrin, Slonim and to the town of Vysokoe pass through Pruzhany. The city has been known as Dabuchin since 1487. In the 16th century it belonged to the Italian queen Bona Sforza of Poland. She brought Renaissance influence and development of trades in this part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.
One travels 89 kilometers from Pruzhany to Brest, 13 kilometers to Arachintsy. By the way, the Belovezhskaya Puscha National Park is not far from Pruzhany. During the Soviet times the state leaders used to make a stop in Arachintsy when they came to hunt in the Belovezhskaya Puscha. To the national park itself they traveled by cars.
The Belovezhskaya Puscha has influenced the history of Pruzhany very much. The forest occupies about 40% of the total territory of the region. By the way, the famous Viskuli is also in the Pruzhany District. On December 8, 1991, the Presidents of Russia, Ukraine and Belarus (Boris Yeltsin, Leonid Kravchuk and Stanislav Shushkevich) have signed an agreement there, which declared the Soviet Union effectively dissolved and established the Commonwealth of Independent States in its place.
Let us get back to the city of Pruzhany itself. It is not very large, with only about 20,000 citizens. The city is so diverse in its history and present that one day will not be enough for a trip in the district. First of all, Pruzhany will surprise you by the variety of monuments. Even a sculpture to Lenin that decors the square in front of the building of the town council (district executive committee) stands out by its grandeur and good artistic execution.
By the way, the creator of the bronze Lenin that resides in Pruzhany is a well-known sculptor Lev Gumilevsky, the honored art worker acknowledged in the world. It is interesting, that the city has preserved all monuments and memorials that mark different historical periods. The citizens of Pruzhany do not want to revise the history and its events, edit them and pull down some of the existing monuments. Many historical events have marked the territory of the district. Maybe, that is the reason why the citizens of Pruzhany handle their historical heritage with such discretion.
Let us visit the northern part of the city. Here you may find the untouched architectural ensemble built in the middle of 19th century according to the project of the Italian architect Lanci. The ensemble includes a manor, two stone outhouses and a landscape park. Besides, there is a wide parkway that leads to the manor. The park has always been a right place to host plein airs for painters, but the majority of them used to leave Pruzhany behind and travel to the Belovezhskaya Puscha. Artists hoped to find their best themes for masterpieces in the virgin nature of the forest. Even the famous Russian landscape painter Ivan Shishkin, who was an itinerant, traveled through the Pruzhany District with his sketch-book. Shishkin’s painting method was based on analytical studies of nature. He became famous for his forest landscapes, but was also an outstanding draftsman and a printmaker. As he was devoted to his forest theme very much, he avoided publicity. He also tried not to appear in public places, especially when any crown-bearing persons were awaited. But eventually in 1886 the painter was ordered to dress properly and come to see the Russian Tsar Alexander III.
It happened that among all paintings of itinerants Alexander III mostly liked the works by Shishkin. The Tsar decided to talk with the painter and advised him to visit the Belovezhskaya Puscha and make some sketches of deep forest that is not so common for the Central part of Russia. Some officials helped Shishkin to organize the trip. He traveled by train to the railway station Arachintsy, then he had to use a carriage to reach the Belovezhskaya Puscha.
But let us go back to Pruzhany. I advise that you visit the Mikhail Church on Sovetskaya Street. The church was built in the beginning of the 20th century and in 1950 it was redesigned to become a recreation centre. Such are paradoxes of our times. Nevertheless, no transformations were able to hide the compelling and bright neoclassic style building.
On the corner of Kommunisticheskaya Street and Sovetskaya Square there is the Alexander Nevsky Church, a brick building constructed in 1866. Besides, if you want to visit a wooden church, you should go to Kofanova Street. Orthodox citizens of Pruzhany built this church in 1887. Nearby there is a Catholic cemetery with a tiny brick chapel. Pruzhany is a good example of how different confessions live peacefully together.
The citizens of Pruzhany are also very careful with treating war monuments from various times. There are graves of soldiers dated back to the First World War on the city cemetery. During World War II Pruzhany suffered much. Only several pre-war buildings remain, some churches and a chapel.
If after the trip in Pruzhany you have some more time and desire, visit the town of Rhuzhany that is a 30–40 minute trip from Pruzhany to the northeast. There you will find a palace ensemble built in the 16th century for the prince family Sapegas. The palace was build, and then it was destroyed. Even now that there are only its remains there one may see how beautiful and grand it was once.
by Ales Karlukevich.
Cards from collection of Vladimir Lichodedov