Shtetl Routes. Vestiges of Jewish cultural heritage in cross-border tourism in borderland of Poland, Belarus and Ukraine


Shtetl Routes. Vestiges of Jewish cultural heritage in cross-border tourism in borderland of Poland, Belarus and Ukraine


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Ostryna - Cultural Heritage Card

Since 1991 Ostryna is an urban-type settlement in Shukino district Grodno region of the Republic of Belarus.

Synagogue in Ostryna
Synagogue in Ostryna (Author: Filina, Natalya)

Historical and natural landscapeDirect link for this paragraphGo back to indexGo back to index

It is an administrative center of Ostryna settlement council. Ostrinka river flows on the territory of Shuchino district (it is a left tributary of Kotra river, its length is 17 km). On the left bank of the river not far from village Kulbachino an archeological memorial is situated (an ancient settlement).

Population of the settlement is 2.2 thousand people. (2006). The settlement is situated 22 km from Shuchino and 29 km from the railway station Rozhanka on  Mosty — Lida railway line. It is situated on junction of motorway Grodno — Ostryna —Radun.

Geographic coordinates: 53°43′48″ N. 24°31′45″ E.

Historical and cultural memorials: Holy Transfiguration Church, New St. Teresa of the Child Jesus RC church.

HistoryDirect link for this paragraphGo back to indexGo back to index

Ostryna The author of a toponymical dictionary Zhuchkevich connects origin of the name with surnames Ostreyka, Ostren, Ostriy.  According to the Geographic dictionary of the Kingdom of Poland Ostryna got its name from the name of the river it is situated on (Ostrozhy or Ostreyka - now Ostrinka). Local inhabitants explain the origin of the name from the word "ostriy" (sharp). According to the legend during the period of Mongol invasion a sanguinary battle took place near the up-to-date settlement.

 In 1386 Ostryna is mentioned on maps of German knight-spies as lands of the Great Prince of Lithuania whose vicar in this settlement was boyar Minigaylo.

Ostryna is mentioned in the book of the Great Prince of Lithuania and king of Poland Kazimir IV "Records of country lands of king Kazimir" 1451. In the 15th - the 16th centuries Ostryna is a king domain and the volost center of Trokskiy povet (district) (a household yard "Ostryn' with volost"). In 1487 it became a settlement.

Ostryna Tatars. During Mongol and Tatar invasion in the 13th century nomads didn't reach Ponemanye. Tatars settled on the territory of the Grand Duchy of Liuthuania at the end of the 14th century. Great princes Gedymin, Vitovt and others invited Tatars from the Golden Horde and the Crimea and used them in their struggle against the Teutonic Order. In 1394 after Timur was defeated khan Tokhtamysh retreated to the territory of the Principality. Prince Vitovt settled them in Lida and the neighborhood. It is possible that during that very period Tatars first appeared on lands of Shuchino. Numerous children of Crimean khans fought for power with each other. Those who were defeated hided on the territory of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.  In 1491 relatives of the Crimean khan Mengli-Girey (tsarevich Devlesh-sultan and his uncle Iztemyr) escaped to Kiev. In 1514 king Sigizmund I the Old presented Azubek-sultan (the son of Devlesh-sultan) with 70 yards, stablemen, 2 parabkas and 6 waste lands near Ostryna. It is unlikely that a Muslim could be presented with bond Christians. Circumstances of appearance of Ostryna Tatars are not known. It is possible that they stem from not numerous people of Tokhtomysh, escapees from the Golden Horde and captive Crimean Tatars.  Some of them were also brought by Azubek-sultan.

Azubek-sultan started the well-known family of Ostryna princes (tsarevichi). Ostryna princes had lands not far from the settlement. Starting from 1520 Ostryna belonged to Khraptovichi. Tsarevichi were the most powerful Tatar family in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and took important positions there. They had a right for their own troops. They obeyed directly to the great Prince and were judges between Belorussian military Tatars. For performing their service Ostryna Tatars obtained lands in Menskoye and Trotskoye voivodeships. The main duty of Tatars was military service. Tatars went to war only on horses, armed with bows, arrows, sabres and lassos. During peaceful time Ostryna Tatars dealt in horse breeding, tanning and shoe-making. They worked as couriers, postmen, guards and carriers of merchants' strings. In the 16th - the 19th century Tatars became known as good farmers.

Gradually Ostryna Tsarevichi became poorer and in the 17th century they lost their lands and were never mentioned in written sources.

 In the beginning of the 16th century Ostryna vicars were presented by Gleb Pronskiy, Fedor Khraptovich and Semen Skindzer. In 1520 king Sigizmund I the Old had to pay a debt to A.I. Khraptovich (500 kopas of groshs). He gave him "his yard... Ostryna for a period of three years until the sum of his debt is returned"   In the 16th - the 18th century Ostryna was an eldership center in Lida povet (district). In 1556 Ostryna Church of the Holy Savior obtained a gift from Sigizmund August and Zanevichi. In 1641 Vladislav IV presented the settlement with the Magdeburg Law and an emblem: a silver tower with a red roof on the background of a sky field and a hand armed with a sword on the roof (description of 1792).

According to information of some Polish sources in 1666 a RC church was built in Ostryna. It was contributed by Kshyshtov Zigmund and Klara Isabella (Klara Isabella de Malgi Laskari), Pazi and chancellors of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. But this statement gives rise to doubt.  The reason of this doubt consists in the fact that the RC church was built but there is no information about it in any report of inspections performed by RC priest Nickolay Slupskiy during 1674 - 1676 on the territory of Belarus. Information about this RC church is neither presented in documents of a later inspection (1744). And inspections presupposed checking of all even very small RC churches on the territory of Belarus. And of course a new RC church wouldn't be overlooked. Conclusions drawn by historian N. Rovby seem to be more realistic. He thinks that the matter was not about building a new RC church but about a restoration of an old Ostryna church which had to be reconstructed into a Uniate temple.  Such a conclusion may be drawn on the basis of documents used by Y.V.Povaybo (now he is an RC priest Yezhi) in his diploma work on the history of Ostryna RC church.

In 1706 Ostryna was the main base for Sweden troops during the Great Northern War. In 1738 the settlement included 57 houses. In 1763 according to the privilege presented by Aufust III to P.Ziankovich Ostryna eldership was passed to his son M. Ziankovich. In 1793 Ostryna became a volost center. In 1795 the settlement was included to Lida district of the Russian Empire.

From 1818 and till the end of the 1940-s settlement Ostryna was in a long lease of Kherson public governor and then of a French peer count Armand Emmanuel Charles Sen-Pri.

In 1859 the settlement included: 170 houses, 970 inhabitants, a wooden church, a chapel; in addition to this weekly markets were organized.  Local trading was positively influenced by the multiple Tatar community.  In 1866 population of Ostryna was 1196 people. During 1882 – 1985, 1885 the settlement had: 295 yards, 1,210 inhabitants, the volost administration, a church a chapel, 2 Jewish praying houses, a school, 10 shops, a brewery, a water mill a tannery, 8 drinking houses; in addition to that markets were organized on Sundays. In 1897 population of Ostryna was 2410 people. In 1909 the settlement had 1145 inhabitants; a public school was in operation as well as a one-form parochial school (from 1898), and a shop.

In 1916   construction of a "cold" synagogue and a "warm" synagogue was started instead of those burnt. During the same period a bathhouse was built (all buildings have survived).

In 1919 population of the settlement was 1,481 people. In 1921 Ostryna became a gmina center in Lida district. And in 1926 the settlement became a gmina center of Novogrud voivodeship in Poland. In 1931 the settlement had a status of a town; it had a gmina administration, a church, two synagogues, a post office; on Mondays markets were organized. Fairs were organized on monthly basis. Since November 1939 village has become a part of Belorussian SSR. Since the 15rh of January 1940 it is an urban-type settlement of Vasilishki district (since the 3rd of August1954 it is a district center in Baranovichi region). On the 12th of October 1940 it became a village council center of the same district and region. On the 20th of January 1960 the settlement was included to Shchuchino district. From the 25th of February 1961 it is a village council center.   From 1962 г. and up to the 25th of December 1962 the settlement was a part of Skidel district. In 1940: it had 224 yards and population of 2,744 persons.

During the Second World War from the 24th of June 1941 and up to the 12th of July 1944 Ostryna was occupied by German troops.  It was released by units of the 5th guard cavalry division of the 3rd cavalry corps during the Vilnius operation. During occupation a group of underground activists acted in the settlement.  In 1949 the following collective farms were organized: collective farm of the 30th anniversary of the BSSR, "Stalin's Flag" collective farm; during 1950-1953 newspaper "Kolkhozny Put" was edited in Ostryna.  As of the 1st of January 2001 the settlement included 1005 yards and its population was 2,407; it was the center of "Soviet Belarus" collective farm. 

On the 23rd of June 1941 Ostryna (Острина, Острына) was surrounded by German troops and starting from this very day nobody could escape. Ostryna was occupied during a period of more than 3 years (up to the 12th of July 1944).

A German officer from Gestapo was appointed as the commandant of the district. From the very first day he took significant measures aimed at extermination of Jews.

(A story told by Mordekhay Tsirulnitskiy, former prisoner No 79414)

 I was born in 1899 in settlement Ostryna which is now in Grodno region. There I lived up to Hitler's invasion. Our family was big. We had five children. Our children were really nice. They all learned at school. After establishment of the Soviet power the eldest daughter (by the period of occupation she was already 22) entered Grodno construction-engineering technical school. In spring of 1941 she became the second year student there. The elder son 17-year old Yakov learned at the polygraphic school. Other children were yet pupils of a secondary school: sixteen-year old Ioel went to the 9th form, thirteen-year old Vigdor was a pupil of the 8th form and the youngest daughter Lania (she was only 9) started her learning at the 4th form.

Ostryna is situated not far from the border. On the 23rd of June the settlement was already surrounded by the Germans and those who were trying to escape had to come back. And on the 25th of June German troops entered Ostryna.

Shootings of people were started next after penetration of Germans to the settlement. Among the first victims were participants of the Soviet power organization and members of Soviet activity in our district.

Our settlement was included to Shuchino district. In the beginning of September a Gestapo man was appointed as the commandant of the district.  I don't remember his surname now - my memory became weaker after the camp.  From the very first day of his appointment presecution of Jews started. First Jews were prohibited to go beyond borders of the settlement.  Penalty for violation of this order was death. In this way 80-year old Arye Tanevitskiy was shot dead by Germans not far from the settlement. During the same period rabbi Bezdanskiy was killed. Alongside with other citizens of the settlement he was brought away as if to a concentration camp. And several days later we learned that all these people had been shot dead.

Then an order was issued prohibiting Jews to appear in streets of the settlement on Sundays. And again violation of this order led to shooting and not only violators but also all members of their families were shot. Chaim Khlebovskiy wife went to the street for water. She was caught and shot together with her husband and two little children.

On the 7th of November a shed was caught fire. Germans accused Jews in arson and ordered all Jews immediately to come to the square "for inspection". Several dozens of people including those who didn't arrive in time and those whose documents according to Germans were out of order were immediately shot dead.

Shootings became usual and frequent phenomenon in our settlement. In most cases they were organized during market days in order to frighten local peasants. The commandant living in the district center (Shuchino) often arrived to Ostryna and on these days we knew that shootings were going to take place. Among others all teachers were shot dead: Miller with his wife and two daughters, Yelin and others. Synagogue old man Draznin was among them.

One day (it was at the end of November 1941) all Jews were again driven to the square; they were ordered to take their valuable things with them. People thought that a resettlement was going to be organized.  But German just confiscated the belongings. Houses were also subjected to continuous plunderings. Later I learned that a German agronomist had bursted into my house and had stolen copybooks and pencils of my children. Those who tried to perform the slightest opposition were killed.

According to commandant's order a list of inhabitants had to be presented on a wall of each house. If during an inspection anybody wasn't found the entire family was shot dead. Osher Amstibovskiy's family consisting of eight persons died in this way.

Ghetto in Ostryna was organized in the beginning of December 1941. Jews from neighboring villages and settlements Noviy Dvor and Dembrovo were driven to our settlement. Those who arrived told us that all weak and ill persons had been shot dead. During ghetto organization some 10 people were killed. New orders were coming and new shootings were performed. Leyb Mikhelevich and his sister Feyge-Sore were shot dead for bringing to the ghetto a small amount of rain behind their backs. Osher Boyarskiy was caught during milling grain and he was shot dead. And it just impossible to keep everybody in memory!

On the 8th of January 1942 it was announced that Ostryna (as well as the entire Grodno district) was included to "Reich"

Population from the ghetto was every day driven to the forest for performing obligatory works. Men were engaged in lumbering and production of resin. Supervisors beat working people to a frazzle and those who were too weak or dropped behind were immediately killed. There were multiple situations when persons accused in sabotage were sent to prison. And if a Jew found himself in prison he stayed alive just to the nearest Friday. On Fridays shootings of all prisoners were organized in prisons (including all Jews).

During liquidation of ghetto in Ostryna (on the 5th of February 1943) 1,969 Jews were killed.

ArcheologyDirect link for this paragraphGo back to indexGo back to index

A drilled wedge-like axe was found not far from the settlement. It is presented in Krakov Archeological Museum in Poland. In 1968 a Moscow archeologist V.V.Sedov discovered an ancient settlement approximately 1.5 km to the north-west from Ostryna near Kulbachino on the bank of Ostrinka River. He advanced a hypothesis that that was the ancient town Ostreya known according to the "List of Russian Remote and Nearby Settlements". The settlement is oval in form and its area is 75x75. Belorussian archeologists M.Tkachev and S.Pivovarchik performed excavations on the territory of this settlement. They found out that the Slaves had lived there yet in the 10th century: burial mounds belonging to that historic period were found not far from the settlement.

Samples of constructions and architectureDirect link for this paragraphGo back to indexGo back to index

(only existing objects)

Holy Transfiguration Church (1855). It is a monument of architecture performed in the retrospective Russian style. Three-leveled chapel is the vertical dominant of this construction.

St. Theresa of the Child Jesus RC Church (2001) is a representation of a Neo-Ghotic architecture: high lancet windows with rosettes, counterforts, turrets, a tower at the entrance under a steeple tent. Under the entrance a rose-window is presented; doors are decorated with artistic ironwork. Planning is performed in accordance with a cross-like scheme.

Synagogues 1916.  – construction of a "cold" synagogue and a "warm" synagogue was started instead of those burnt

Memorial placesDirect link for this paragraphGo back to indexGo back to index

Monuments: Alaiza Pashkevich (aunt), Lenin; two common graves:  5 underground activists, 21 soviet warriors and 17 partisans who died during the period of 1941-44, as well as 11 Soviet Party workers who died during the period of 1945-48.

Museums, archives, libraries, private collectionsDirect link for this paragraphGo back to indexGo back to index

Out of school activity center, recreation center, a settlement library and a children's library. An ethnographic museum composition is presented in the school. 

Touristic infrastructureDirect link for this paragraphGo back to indexGo back to index

Cafe "Favorite", working hours: from 09:00a.m till 06:00p.m.; on Fridays and Saturdays: from 09:00a.m. till 02:00a.m. Cleaning day – the second Monday of each month. In village Kulbachino (5 km) "Bobrovaya Hata" agrarian farm is situated.

ReferencesDirect link for this paragraphGo back to indexGo back to index

1.        Адамушко В. И., Бирюкова О. В., Крюк В. П., Кудрякова Г. А. Справочник о местах принудительного содержания гражданского населения на оккупированной территории Беларуси 1941-1944. — Мн.: Национальный архив Республики Беларусь, Государственный комитет по архивам и делопроизводству Республики Беларусь, 2001. 

2.        Памяць. Шчучынскі раён. – Мінск, БЕЛАРУСКАЯ ЭНЦЫКЛАПЕДЫЯ”, 2001 г.

3.        Российская еврейская энциклопедия. Острына // [Электронный ресурс] Дата доступа 21.07.14 г.

4.        Еврейская электронная библиотека. В местечке Острино. // [Электронный ресурс] Дата доступа - 16.07.14г.

5.        Несьцярэнка А.,  Шаблюк В.. Астрына // Энцыклапедыя гісторыі Беларусі. У 6 т. Т. 1: А — Беліца / Беларус. Энцыкл.; Рэдкал.: М. В. Біч і інш.; Прадм. М. Ткачова; Маст. Э. Э. Жакевіч. — Мн.: БелЭн, 1993. С. 226.

6.         Астрына // Цітоў А. Геральдыка беларускіх местаў (XVI — пачатак XX ст.). — Мн.: Полымя, 1998.

7.        Соркіна І. Мястэчкі Беларусі ў канцы ХVІІІ — першай палове ХІХ ст. — Вільня: ЕГУ, 2010.

8.        Ostryna // Геаграфічны слоўнік Каралеўства Польскага і іншых славянскіх краёў. Tom VII: Netrebka — Perepiat. — Warszawa, 1886. S. 733—734.

9.         Острино // Туристская энциклопедия Беларуси / редкол. Г. П. Пашков [и др.]; под общ. ред. И. И. Pirozhnika. — Мн., 2007

Храм Преображения Господня г.п. Острино // [Электронный ресурс]


Author: Irina Milinkevich