From Kobrinka to Kobrin
The Castle Square and Suvorov Street are the imprints of history on the city of Kobrin, small, cozy and calm, only 50 kilometers away from Brest. Kobrin Dairy is the key company of the city, besides, the city has the first children’s village of the country. There is also a private ostrich farm, another tourist attraction of the area
Two stars, two sad stories
Kobrin was first mentioned in a chronicle in 1287. The Ipatyevsky chronicle has it that Prince Vladimir presented a whole town to his wife. Kobrin stems from a small fishing village on the river Kobrinka (historians still disagree whether it was the river than gave its name to the town or the settlement was founded even before the river got its name). The village dates back to the eleventh or twelfth century, but an archeological excavation carried out in 1999 showed that there was a cultural level under the city that goes back even into the tenth century. Local scientists and activists still hope there will be more discoveries to prove that the city is much older than it is believed now.
The most famous person closely connected with the city of Kobrin is Russia’s prominent military leader Alexander Suvorov. There is Suvorov Street, there is a museum and there is even a hotel named after the great Russian. So all visitors “get in touch” with the famous commander whether they like it or not.
In 1795 Ekaterina II conferred the rank of field marshal to Alexander Suvorov and presented the estate Kobrinsky Klyuch to him for suppressing the uprising led by Tadeusz Kosciuszko. The estate, which was gifted to Suvorov forever, and the town were going through a very tough period then. Because of wars and epidemics Kobrin turned into a smallish poor settlement that lost the Magdeburg right, or the right of self-government.
Suvorov did not live in Kobrin all the time. There were two “Suvorov periods” in the history of the city, in 1797 and 1800. After his Swiss and Italian campaigns he came back to Kobrin as a generalissimo, but the rank found him old and weak.
Local citizens did not favor the owner of the estate. He tried to introduce the law of serfdom in the city, and locals were made to address Emperor Pavel I, and the tsar ordered Suvorov to give up his plans in exchange for some additional mansions, including the house that is now the military museum.
There are many places of interest in the city that still bear traces of the commander. Near the museum there is a culture palace that was built on the remains of the Peter and Paul Church. The military hero was in the church in 1800, but his prayers did not prevent illnesses and disfavor of the tsar: Suvorov died in St. Petersburg a bit later. To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the man who is in every history book it was decided to move the wooden church to the local cemetery and build a stone church in its place. Another war changed the plans of the townsmen, and although they moved the church, which is now an architectural monument, the spot near the museum remained empty for quite a long time.
The castle square remembers Suvorov, too. The castle still remained when Suvorov became the owner of the place, but he ordered to dismantle the remains. There was not enough time for him to observe the work, as he was summoned to the capital city, and dismantling stopped, ironically allowing Napoleon’s troops to use the ancient walls as almost natural fortification in 1812. Back in the 40s of the 19th century, when a flying bridge was being built over the river Mukhavets, the traces of the castle were eliminated once and for all. The original castle mount was for a long time called Castle Square, then it was renamed Komsomolskaya Square and then the original name “Caste Square” was returned to the famous spot.
Surrounding the square are two architectural and historic pearls of the city — the building of the court (it is now the civil registration office) and the Alexander Nevsky Church, which was erected to honor those who died in the war with Napoleon.
Near the church there is a monument that Kobrin is very well known for. The monument was timed to the 100th anniversary of the victory of Russian weaponry over Napoleon’s troops (the city was almost fully destroyed: of 630 houses 548 were burnt down). First there was a two-headed eagle on the pedestal that symbolized the victory. However, during WWI German troops removed the eagle and two marble boards. The pedestal was then crowned by a bust to Tadeusz Kosciuszko, which remained there until the middle of the century. Kostyushko was then removed, and a bronze eagle was installed on the pedestal, but this one has one head and a laurel wreath in its beak.
The fates of Tadeusz Kosciuszko and Suvorov were quite oddly intermingled in Kobrin: the former was the leader of a national liberation uprising in 1794, the national hero of Poland and the U.S, whereas the latter was a famous commander that dealt with the uprising. The former was born near Kobrin into a noble family and was an honorary citizen of France. After the uprising Tadeusz Kosciuszko was taken to Peter and Paul Castle (a prison), while Suvorov got a rank and an estate near Kobrin for defeating Kostyushko in the vicinity of the city.
Mission of being mother
Journalists have written so much about the first Belarusian children’s village, another peculiarity of Kobrin that it is a tough task to find a newsworthy event. It is always worth writing about the place that gives hope, though.
— I would like to introduce Tatyana Travina to you, the “newest” mom, the deputy director of the village, Svetlana Scherbova, tells me.
Tatyana, a charming woman in her 40s, meets me in a cozy and spacious entrance hall of the “latest” cottage of the village, number 12.
There were four kids at home — Sasha, Anya, Alla and Kirill (Kirill, 15, is Tatyana’s own child), and the other four were at school.
The unusual profession of a “mother” became a vocation for her. She originally started as an assistant, but then there was an opening for a mother, and she decided to take it up.
— We chose children in orphan homes. We look at each other and see at once whether we will manage to live together. Alla is a different story — she had been writing long letters to us asking us to take her. So that was what we did,” Tatyana Travina tells me.
…She can speak about children for hours. After working for many years as a teacher of the Russian language and literature she became a mentor, psychologist and a mother for dozens of kids.
— We were the first village of the kind in the country, and we were working extremely hard to have a regulatory framework for our project, she says.
— We have to think what sort of help we may offer our children when they graduate. As they say, the bigger children the bigger problems…
— We brought up 30 young men and women, Svetlana tells me showing photos. — We follow their fates, we still keep an eye on all of them.
Cold Winter Not a Problem for Africans
This January was so frosty everyone was worried whether ostriches would live. No worries: the African birds may seem heat-loving, but the Belarusian winter was not a problem. They were all kept inside when temperature fell below 20, but no additional heat was provided! When it was just below 15 they were walking outside shocking Belarusian tourists, wrapped in warm clothes.
The ostrich farm with about 600 birds, both grown-ups and rather big nestlings, is located in the village of Kozische, in the vicinity of Kobrin. This is the only farm of the type in Belarus and one of the largest ostrich farms in Europe.
An adult ostrich weighs 150 kilos and is 2.5 meters high. The bird lives about 70 years and lays eggs for about 40 years. Their meat and eggs are very good for clinical nutrition. This meat contains very little fat, but tastes as good as chicken. Ostrich eggs can turn into real masterpieces, as they provide a lot of space for painting, whereas leather is as strong as the skin of elephants, and is great for footwear and smallware. Medicines and cosmetics use the fat of these huge birds, claws are used to process diamonds, and eyelashes are used to make excellent brushes. Besides, tourists buy lots of feathers to have a souvenir of their trips to the farm.
The farm is very young, and there are no production targets yet, however, it seems a very promising tourist attraction.
by Valentina Kozlovich