Motol warmly welcomes guests in its own style

Motol, in the Brest region’s Ivanovo district, is quite small, having only about 5,000 residents. However, it’s unique in Belarus, boasting a mix of Belarusian, Polish, Italian, Latvian and Jewish cultures. Legend states that Queen Bona lived in Motol, while the first president of Israel, Chaim Weizmann, was born there. Residents have preserved their own traditions, language and links with their homelands — from as far afield as Argentina and Australia

By Vladimir Efimov

Many guests arrive in Motol to celebrate Christmas and the New Year, enjoying folk traditions with relatives. The Director of the Motol Historical-Folklore Museum, Olga Matsukevich, met us on the eve of the holidays, to explain the culinary traditions of Motol residents. Of course, these are known countrywide — owing to the Motol Delicacies Festival. “I’ll tell you which dishes were cooked for Kolyady,” Olga begins, whetting our appetite. “As a fast precedes this folk holiday, sixteen dishes are cooked, including mushroom kvass, alongside fried, steamed, boiled and salt-cured fish, and sour cabbage with flax oil. On the morning after the fast, sausages and other meat products are prepared, following traditional recipes. Of course, mead always accompanies the holiday, made from germinated grain. Tourists absolutely love it.”

Motol’s residents pass on their tasty recipes from one generation to the next. The museum is home to a diploma given to a local resident — Mukha — for his achievements in sausage making, in the 1930s. His business is now run by his grandchildren. There are three such sausage making enterprises in Motol today, while three bakeries make their own bread, buns (called shortcakes locally) and pies, all to unique recipes. According to Ms. Matsukevich, every Motol home knows how to make its own bread, sausages and cheese.

Tables are laid with wonderful linen tablecloths before dishes are served, with guests welcomed with a round loaf, served on an embroidered linen rushnik cloth. The fabric is even woven locally, being delicate, and semi-transparent, like silk. Some local people still have ancient knitting looms at home but this skill is gradually disappearing. Priceless hand-made pieces are now only taken carefully from old grandparents’ trunks for the most important holidays.

Hand-made jackets decorated with bright embroidery and traditional patterns are similarly precious and saved for special occasions. In days gone by, 12-13 craftsmen worked in Motol; in summer, they prepared sheep skins, ready for them to be sewn into winter garments for villagers and guests. Some Motol-born Belarusians, returning to the village from Argentina, were extremely impressed by these local winter clothes. Of course, it’s not easy for local craftsmen to compete with factories, so hand-made leather jackets are now only seen at the local museum or worn by actors in the Motol Neighbours Folk Theatre. The famous local hand-made shoes are so strong that many local families wear them.

Certainly, Motol is full of skilled people, able to make good quality clothes and shoes, cook delicious dishes and organise a joyful feast.

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