Remaining close, though living abroad

This year, Belarus was visited by descendants of the noble families of Chreptowicz, Czapski and Oginski, each drawn back to their historical homeland by nostalgia.
This year, Belarus was visited by descendants of the noble families of Chreptowicz, Czapski and Oginski, each drawn back to their historical homeland by nostalgia. Most Belarusians associate these famous families with past times and are known from our history textbooks. Few imagine that the grandchildren of those castle builders, book publishers and outstanding military men live in our modern world. In fact, they live close by, though beyond our borders. When they visit their homeland, they realise that they are awaited.  Let’s recollect who has recently visited Belarus and which sites most impressed them.

Who: Radziwills

When: 2009, 2012 and 2014

Where from: Poland and Rome

Where to: Nesvizh, Mir, Polonechka and Minsk

In recent years, the Radziwills have visited their historical homeland regularly. On May 26th, 2009, they brought printed and hand-written books from their family collection, donating them to the Department of Rare Books and Manuscripts at the National Academy of Sciences’ Yakub Kolas Central Scientific Library. These editions now enjoy strict state protection.

Led by Elżbieta Tomaszewska (a daughter of Albrecht Radziwill), members of the noble family visited the National Art Museum and Nesvizh Castle. Duke Matej Radziwill — whose forefathers lived in Polonechka in the 18th-19th century — also came to Belarus often, bringing his wife (also a Radziwill member). Sometimes, they came without announcement, wishing to quietly enjoy the Belarusian countryside.

On June 16th and 17th, in 2014, Belarus received its first visit from the heirs of Leon Władysław Radziwill: his granddaughter Diana, her husband, Ferdinando Carabba Tettamanti, and their son, Massimiliano — a lieutenant with the Italian carabineers. They have lived in Rome since the autumn of 1939, when Maria Radziwill, her son Leon, and her two grandchildren were released from the secret police prison at the request of the Italian Queen.

In 1953, Diana was born. In childhood, she often heard tales of Nesvizh Castle such that, on later visiting, she felt that she ‘recognised places described by her relatives in stories’. The Radziwills and the Tettamantis also visited Mir Castle and the National Art Museum, which holds a collection of family portraits. The noble visitors donated an album holding copies of family photos.

Diana Carabba Tettamanti hopes to return again, saying, “We love this country and the places we’ve visited. They have value for me; I’ve always kept them in my heart.”

Who: Oginski

When: September 25th, 2015

Where from: Poznan

Where to: Zalesie

The 250th birthday of composer Michal Kleofas Oginski was recently celebrated in his Zalesie mansion — with the participation of his heirs, from Poznan. Among them were Zygmunt and Lidia Zielinski and their daughters. All the family members have a musical education: the husband plays the cello, the daughter has mastered the violin and his wife is a composer.

Who: Sapegi

When: 2003

Where from: Poland

Where to: Ruzhany and Novogrudok

Legendary Lev Sapega helped to create the third statute of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Hi heir, Andrzej Sapega, died in London in 1989 but his wife Maria visited Ruzhany, with their two sons, in 2003. Until 1939, their forefathers lived in this Belarusian town.

Maria Sapega came to Ruzhany with the aim of helping to restore the ancient St. Trinity Roman Catholic Church, which stands in the centre of the town. She helped fund restoration, while agreeing to ensure support from the Polish Ministry of Culture and National Heritage.

In 1939, when WWII broke out, Maria Sapega left Ruzhany, reaching Lithuania by car and then moving to Sweden and France. During the time of Hitler’s occupation, she helped partisans and was imprisoned as a result. Someone from the Vatican came to her defence and she moved to live in London, later going to Warsaw, in 1992. “We view ourselves as Poles. At the same time, we realise our close ties with our forefathers, who had their origin in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania,” she used to say.

Maria Sapega died in 2009, while restoration works were in full swing at her palace. At present, it hosts a museum. Maria’s son, George, is keen to return to Ruzhany, with his son and wife (who has Brazilian roots).

Who: Chreptowicz

When: October 5th-6th, 2015

Where from: New York

Where to: Shchorsy, Novogrudok and Minsk

Peter Buteneff is an heir of the Chreptowiczs dukes. He is a lecturer at the Orthodox Seminary in New York and his forefathers once owned Shchorsy. In late 18th century, Joachim Chreptowicz became the first Foreign Minister of the Rzech Pospolita.

Recently, Peter visited the homeland of his forefathers, who left in 1939. His mother also came from a noble family — Russia’s Trubetsky. The latter came from an even older dynasty: Lithuania’s Duke Gediminas.

Peter’s visit was organised by Belarus’ Natalia Vasilevich, whom he met abroad. The National Library also helped. Its Deputy Director and the Chairman of the International Association of Belarusian Language Experts, Ales Susha, accompanied the guest on his tour of Belarus. He says, “I showed Peter a book from the Chreptowiczs’ Shchorsy collection and the representative of the noble family was much impressed and interested. Our dear guest presented a book once belonging to his father to the National Library: a chronicle of the Butenev family. It starts from the Chreptowicz family and contains diverse, valuable materials on Belarus. In Shchorsy, we visited the remains of a former majestic mansion, also attending a service at the church built by the noble family many years ago. We also met Shchorsy residents; some remember times when the family ruled. It was pleasant to hear from Peter that many representatives of the Butenev-Chreptowicz family — who live all over the globe — asked him to return to our land, expressing their wish to also do so. Probably, this will happen in the near future.”

Who: Czapski

When: 2009 and 2015

Where from: London

Where to: Minsk, Stankovo and Priluki

Аlexandra Vankovich and Eduardo Orando Godlevsky visited Minsk for the first time in March 2009; in the late 19th — early 20th century, Jan Karol Alexander Czapski (a famous heir of Godlevsky) headed the city.

Czapski’s heir visited Priluki and Stankovo, near Minsk, where the famous family’s homestead stands in ruin. This May, Godlevsky was invited by Olivaria Brewery (founded by Duke Czapski) to see places connected with his famous forefather, such as the Kupala Theatre and Gorky Park. The foreign guest enjoyed his visit and promised to return. Speaking many European languages, this noble man is now mastering Belarusian.

By Viktar Korbut
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