Liubcha: history and modernity

“Liubcha is a town-type settlement in Novogrudok district. It is situated on the left bank of the Neman, 26 km south-east of Novogrudok and 49 km away from railway station Novoyelnia on the way from Baranovichy to Lida. The settlement numbers 1545 people… It became known in the middle of the 13th century when Novogrudok Prince Mindovg gave it to Kiev boyar A. V. Kian who fled to Novogrudok to escape from a Tatar invasion. Under Great Duke Gedimin it belonged to the Great Duchy (Taken from Belarusian Historic Encyclopedia)
“Liubcha is a town-type settlement in Novogrudok district. It is situated on the left bank of the Neman, 26 km south-east of Novogrudok and 49 km away from railway station Novoyelnia on the way from Baranovichy to Lida. The settlement numbers 1545 people… It became known in the middle of the 13th century when Novogrudok Prince Mindovg gave it to Kiev boyar A. V. Kian who fled to Novogrudok to escape from a Tatar invasion. Under Great Duke Gedimin it belonged to the Great Duchy (Taken from Belarusian Historic Encyclopedia).

That’s what Alexander Yelsky noted about one of Belarusian towns famous for its fabulously rich historical past in the well-known “Geographical Vocabulary of the Polish Kingdom and other Slavonic Lands” where one can find almost any historic event and any ethnographic information, “Novogrudok is situated under 53”56’ north latitude and 43”30’ east longitude, in the water-collecting area of Neman, surrounded by picturesque landscapes with plenty of streams and Neman’s tributaries flowing from here in various directions…” At first sight it seems there is nothing special about the place. But the thing that made me cautious about the article is the tone its author used. It doesn’t seem to be quite an appropriate style for an encyclopedia. Several passages down — and we come across this “with plenty of streams” thing. However, Alexander Yelsky was not lazy and, in fact, was as always meticulously precise about mentioning every water pool of Nogorudok District, a povet at that time: “The most important river in the povet is the glorious Neman serving as its north-western border for 122 milestones; piers are to be found in Yeremcha, Koliadino, Schorsy, Liubcha, Deliatichy, Morin and Krivichy. Due to a considerable sinuosity of the river floating allows no sails, just paddles and poles. If we exclude the numerous streams and unnamed little rivers we can still find here 65 rivers which were assigned some names and are usually mentioned under them (let me mention only some of them): Osa, Osovka, Bolaitsa, Benina, Bereza, Berezka, Volovich, Volovnia, Vedma, Dorogovka, Dveya, Delomlianka, Derevianka…, Ishkold, Kolpenitsa, Kopanitsa, Kocherizhka, Kotovka, Kromashovka, Lipnitsa, Leschanka, Molotovka, Molchadka, Marianovka, Miranka, Molchad, Mutvitsa, Mishanka, Miazovno, Novosadka, Nalibovka, Nevda, Negrimovka, Nezhatka, Petukhovka, Plisa, Ruditsa, Ruta, Retima, Svorotova, Svitiaz, Slochva, Snovka, Servach, Senezhitsa, Tartak, Tropechanka, Trostianka, Usha, Khodosa, Khmarka, Tsitrianka, Cherniavka, Chernaya, Cheshavlia, Sheveliovka, Sharova, Schara, Schorsovka, Yablonevka, Yatra…” Indeed, they make a hydronimic picture of the region! Just add to it a little information on ecological biography of the rivers, describe today’s state of water pools and, as it seems to me, we will make the reading not only instructive but also thrilling. I have always thought that hydronimics is the luckiest among geographical names in terms of changing because it is not usually affected by any of these, that’s why, I decided to carry out an “inspection” of the Novogrudok “sky-blue” encyclopedia by Yelsky. And here I also had the encyclopedia “Sky-blue Book of Belarus” to help me. And you know what — I haven’t found any Osa there. And no Osovka as well. As a matter of fact, there is an Osotska in Novogrudok District and I have also come across one more name — Bolaite, which is a left tributary of the Neman. And Yelsky mentions it under a different name — Bolaitsa. So, perhaps, all these names — Osovka or Osotska and Bolaitse — are used for the same river?.. Never found any Benichanka. And even present-day Novogrudok ethnographists could not be of any assistance here. Berioza is situated on the territory of the modern Zelva and Slonim Districts and it is a left tributary of the Schara. There is also a Beriolzka (sometimes it is called Berezka). Volovich is absent from both the District’s map and the encyclopedia. And as for Volovka — or Valova and Voluvka — it might be the Volovnia mentioned in Yelsky’s book. It has its beginning on the outskirts of Novogrudok and then, one kilometer away from the settlement of Liubcha, falls into the Neman. And there is certain confusion about the rest of the rivers, too. So, it appears that hydronimics is also subject to changing? Or maybe rivers are?
In particular, Liubcha’s surroundings can be of special interest to those willing to study the “sky-blue geography” of Novogrud ok District. If you are tired of traveling about large towns and you have already visited Novogrudok your way should be going right through this little settlement. You are sure to enjoy your trip to the very last moment.
Liubcha is indeed abundant with both history and natural treasures. The local school brought up many famous sons and daughters of our Motherland and it has a rich ethnographic museum. It was created by Mikhail Vitner, a talented teacher of history and ethnographist, whose work was as hard and productive as that of a scientist. Now work in the museum is managed by Mikhail Mikhailovich Karpovich. Though the old teacher retired several years ago, he keeps coming to school every day. Not so long ago thanks to school administration he finally finished reconstruction of the museum. It is a real pleasure to listen Karpovich’s stories about his native place and I do my best to enjoy them whenever I am in Liubcha.
“Our ancient place gave life to famous painter Nikolay Vasilievich Duchits”, Mikhail Mikhailovich seems to know the complete biography of all his fellow countrymen. “Among his works one can find landscapes, still-life and graphics. Many of them have really dear and homely names like “The Neman”, “On the Neman banks”, A landscape near Novogrudok”, for example… Pavel Karavaichik, a poet, a novelist, a critic and a publicist also comes from Liubcha. He used to work in the clinic for nervous diseases at the Medical Faculty of Belarusian State University. In 1931 he was arrested, sent out to Chuvashia and later — shot dead. And we are extremely proud of the fact that Cheslav Seniukh, a Polish writer, translator and journalist, used to attend our school. When he was 16, he and his parents moved to Poland. Cheslav Seniukh translated into Polish works by Yanka Kupala, Yakub Kolas, Vasil Bykov, Vladimir Korotkevich, Yanka Bryl, Sergey Zakonnikov and etc. He can be rightfully called an “authorized representative” of Belarusian literature in Poland. Such great genetic heritage is not occasional. Liubcha has its own ancient traditions of book printing dating back into the 17th century when a printing house was working here. It was headed by Piotr Blastus Kmita then. The printing house published more than 80 books, including “The History of the Hebrew War” by I. Flaviy.
This was the very Flaviy that is reissued now and whose books were absolutely necessary for education in those times.
From century to century Liubcha estate standing on the Neman banks was handed over to the most notorious magnates: Khraptovichys, Gashtolds, Kishkys, Radivils, Gogenloes… As for the last ones, in 1898 Maria Gogenloe sold Liubcha estate for 2348 rubles to Faltz-Fein brothers. Then Lidia von Poker (that’s her name after she got married for the second time) bought the estate from her brothers. But Lidia’s first visit to Liubcha was when she was Nabokova, Dmitry Nabokov’s wife. Her first husband visited the estate as well but he was not really keen on managing a household like this. Here, in Liubcha, Nikolay Nabokov was born. Later he became a world-famous composer. If you ask how he is related to Vladimir Nabokov, the well-known writer, the answer will be simple — he is Vladimir Nabokov’s cousin.
…In my opinion, it is high time we organized a tourist route to Liubcha. The settlement has as much charm as Novogrudok itself and a trip to Liubcha can offer you as many interesting sights to visit as the Novogrudok District would. Besides, Liubcha Castle standing amidst a beautiful and ancient park is being restored now.

Ales Karliukevich.
Postcards from a collection of Vladimir Likhodedov
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