Masterpieces from red clay

Souvenirs in Belarusian national style created in Radoshkovichi for almost half a century

By Viktar Korbut

Radoshkovichi is the best place to head if you need a true Belarusian souvenir, just 40 minutes drive from Minsk. A unique enterprise has been working there since the 1970s, creating masterpieces from rare red clay: ceramic tableware and decorative-and-applied items. Each is created using contemporary equipment, imported from Italy, while including hand made details, as in ancient times. Radoshkovichi ceramic items are works of art, unique to our nation.

There is a legend about the special red clay used to create these artworks. It is said that a strong young potter, named Gaida, fell in love with Marysya — a young girl from a noble family, a relative of Queen Bona. According to medieval law, those from different social classes could never marry. However, Marysya was also in love with Gaida and often ordered sculptures from him. One day, the beautiful girl asked Gaida to create a sculpture of her from special red clay. Searching for this rare material, Gaida came to the outskirts of Radoshkovichi and found a deposit on a hillside. He spent many days on the task, injuring his hands so badly that he finally lay bleeding to death. When Marysya arrived with her servants, they found his dead body and the most beautiful sculpture from red clay. Local residents then named this place Gaidukovka and began using such red clay for their unique works, as seen today at Belkhudozhpromysly Ceramic Plant.

If you visit any restaurant serving Belarusian national cuisine, you can be sure that the pots were fashioned in Radoshkovichi. Each has its own master. Ivan Bura’s parents worked at the plant, with their son following in their footsteps. Mr. Bura knows pottery well and the baton is now being taken by Olga Yezhikova, who has painted plates and pots for over a decade. The number of young craftspeople at Belkhudozhkeramika increases each year. For example, Svetlana Trufanova arrived here from the Vitebsk Region and thinks that she was very lucky. She explains, “A creative atmosphere has been created here. I can invent an idea on how to decorate a pot, a vase or a new souvenir and it’s likely to be approved by the artistic council. Soon, the item is rolling off the production line. However, all our designs have reason behind them. For instance, I’ve been inspired by my reading of Belarusian mythology, drawing images which decorate our panels.” This is how unique souvenirs with national accents are born.

Ceramic masterpieces from Radoshkovichi are found in every corner of our country: casserole dishes, bottles for drinks and huge clay aurochs — the most popular Belarusian souvenir since Soviet times. A new product has recently been developed: a ceramic flask bearing symbols of the Belovezhskaya Pushcha. These are now given as gifts by the President of Belarus, bestowed on honorary guests of the country on special occasions.

If you visit the plant in Radoshkovichi, you’ll be invited to place an individual order, which can have your surname or the symbol of your company inscribed. What could be more exclusive?

Daily excursions are organised to Belkhudozhpromysly, allowing visitors to see Belarus’ most ancient crafts in action, with true masterpieces made from soft clay. You can walk through the workshops and visit the museum, which boasts over 5,000 exhibits, ranging from millennia old fossil fragments to contemporary pieces by acknowledged master potters. No two items are identical.

 

Tourist notes:

Radoshkovichi is located on the most ancient road, connecting Minsk and Vilnius. In 1792, the last king of the Rzecz Pospolita, Stanislaw August Poniatowski, gave Radoshkovichi a coat of arms depicting a Christian saint. Bronislav Tarashkevich also lived here, writing the first Belarusian language grammar book. Yanka Kupala, the People’s Poet of Belarus, was baptised in the local church.

A monument to aviator Nikolay Gastello has been unveiled in Radoshkovichi’s public garden. 70 years ago, on June 26th, 1941, at the beginning of the Great Patriotic War, his crew heroically directed their falling aircraft towards a column of German military rolling stock.

The national holidays of Kolyady, Kupalle and Christmas have long been celebrated in Radoshkovichi, with festivities continuing until morning, theatrical performances and concerts by local folk groups. The town and its surroundings also boast plenty of springs, with water used since ancient times to cure illness. Churches and chapels are constructed over some, many of which are of significant artistic and architectural importance. Naturally, local legends and customs are often connected with these wonderful sites.

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