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


NN Theatre

Radun Cultural Heritage Card

Radun (Polish Raduń, Belorus. Радунь, Lithuanian Rodūnė) — urban-type settlement in Voronovo district Grodno region. It is the administrative center of Radun settlement council.

Jewish houses at Sowiecka street in Radun
Jewish houses at Sowiecka street in Radun (Author: Filina, Natalya)

Historical and natural landscape Direct link for this paragraphGo back to indexGo back to index

It is situated on Radunka River 30 km from the district center — urban-type settlement Voronovo, 24 km from the railway station Bastuny on Vilnius – Lida railway line. A junction of motorways to Vilnius, Lida, Ivye, Vasilishki, Ostrino is situated here.

Radunka River (the right tributary of Desna River) is running on the territory of Voronovo district.  It starts not far from village Povilantsa and its length is 28 km. Its bed is almost completely channeled.

Geographic coordinates:   54.04922, 24.99853 (*)

Historical and cultural memorials:  Polish RC Church of God's Mother Ruzhanzova (1929 – 1933), Yeshivah Hafets Haima (1882 г.), Jewish cemetery (1451)

This settlement had a global fame: Jewish Ecclesiastical Academy (Talmudistic) was working here. It was headed by the well-known Talmudist Israil Meyer-Hafets Haim from Radun (he died in 1935). Young people came even from far abroad to have their study at the Academy.

HistoryDirect link for this paragraphGo back to indexGo back to index

The author of a toponymical dictionary V.A. Zhuchkevich says that the name of this settlement is of Slavic origin and has various semantic meanings: from "radet'" (meaning "to take care of", "to consult", "to be glad".  The most probable origin is from the name of Radunka River.

According to A.F. Rogalev mythological perceptions of our ancestors can be felt.  In these lands people praised life and expressed their gratitude to their forefathers by means of celebrating the ancient holiday Radunitsa.

It is supposed that an ancient Slavic settlement appeared here approximately in the 11th century. And that is supported by availability of burial mounds in suburbs of Radun.   This settlement was included to Daynovskoye principality which existed already in the 13th century and bordered to Grodno principality and later to Volkovysskiy district, Novogrudskiy district and Oshmianskiy district.

In 1217 Radun is mentioned in "Manumenta Germanika" chronicle.  In 1387 it was included to Skyrgaylo Olgerdovich lands. In the charter presented to him by the King of Poland and the Great Prince of Lithuania Vladislav Yagayla it is mentioned that he obtained "town Radynia and the entire volost with all people living in it and with all profit coming from it". In the 15th - 17th centuries this settlement was the center of Radun eldership. In 1440 town of "Radunia" was a household yard owned by King Kazimir IV. According to acts dated by the 15th century Radun yard and Radun volost were administered by a tsyvun.   In 1488 the king informed the grand-ducal tsyvun Senka Andrashevich that he presented the equerry helper Peter with empty lands of Andreykovshina in radun povet (district).  In acts of the Great Prince of Lithuania Alexander and Sigizmund I the Old administrators in Radun district (eldership) are named vicars and holders. The first vicar (starosta) in Radun eldership on Lithuanian Metrica was Yanush Stankavich (Stanislavovich) Kastevich, Podliasye voivode and marchak (1498 – 1527) and then Yan Glebovich (1527). In 1522 King Sigizmund I the Old presented Kastevich with life-long ownership of Radun yard for the debt of 1000 groszs. Radun district had its own armed gonfalon ("horugv"). In 1539 Lenart Kostrym (Kontrym, Kantromovich) was the cornet. In 1565 the register of troops of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was performed by Mikhail Grigoryevich Koleda.

According to lustration in 1538 Radun had 7 streets which were running to the central Market place, 210 Christian houses, 35 beer houses, 1 vodka house and 7 shops where honey was sold.  Settlement of Jews was prohibited.

In 1567 Radun eldership was joined to Lida district of Vilenskoye voivodeship: "Radun district is joined to the same Lida district". Two elderships were divided into 4 voivodeships: Radunskoye dvornaye (voivode Stiatsevich), Magunskoye (voivode Yan Gantsevich), Versotskaye (voivode Mikhna Lukyanovich). The town included 40 plots of land and 10 chambers. There were 141 yards in the town. There was a RC Church grounded by queen Bona Sforza. The fact of its construction is testified by the complaint of Radun boyars about Radun "derzhavets" Shymka Matskavich and Radun officer Patsyk Puzel (Puzias) who ordered them to carry wood for building the church and the yard as if the boyars were ordinary people.

According to acts of the 15th - the 16th century the class structure of population of this eldership was as follows: ordinary people and boyars. 

In 1574 in "Stadnaya Ordination" (instructions concerning horse breeding in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania) the king mentions Radun among points where major stables were situated (50 elite horses were kept there). The volost had to perform additional service concerning taking care of the horses (The center of horse breeding was in Lipniki).

At the end of the 16th - beginning of the 17th century Radun district was headed by Nickolay Stanislavovich Tolvash (during 1579-85 - chastelain and in 1591 - a marshal). In 1612 Dynemborskiy starosta, radunskiy and zhoslenskiy derzhavtsa Adam Talvash were at the head of the settlement. In 1649 the town was granted the Magdeburg Law and an emblem: a red crayfish against a silver field. In 1655 during the war Radun was significantly damaged in the result of fire. Archive of the eldership was taken to Moskovia and the RC church was destroyed. In the second half of the 18th century Radun was under a private ownership. In 1776 it became ownership of Iosif Tyshkevich (Mstislavskiy kashtelian) who paid quarts to the treasury (2,680 zlotys). In 1782 the tax for keeping the troops of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania from an eldership consisted a quarter of its income (2,510 zlotys)

In 1795 Ratun was included to the Russian Empire as a part of Lida district, Slonim vicegerency. From 1796 it is a part of Lithuania government; in 1801 it became a part of Grodno government and in 1842 it was included to Vilno government. In 1838 to the place of previously burnt RC church (1801) an RC church from village Kalesnik was transferred to Radun (from a Carmelite monastery which was closed there).  On the 21st of October 1846 according to the decree of Vilno provincial government Radun had a status of a town and Jews had a right to live in it. In 1860 Radun is an official little town with 121 yards and population of 737 people. A parochial RC church of Randun deanery (10 catholic observances) was situated there. In 1859 a public school was organized (1 teacher and 40 pupils).  The school library had 91 books. In 1866 the town had 101 yard and 869 inhabitants (361 Catholics and 508 Jews). There was a parochial RC church (built of wood). And at the RC church a school, a chapel, a synagogue, a public school and the district government were situated.  In 1885 the town had 101 yard, 808 inhabitants. In the town there were also a Jewish praying house, a tannery, a brewery, 14 shops, 3 drinking houses, 4 smithies, the district and philistine government (starosta David Shelubskiy). On Thursdays auctions were carried out.     According to census of 1897 the town had 310 yards; its population was 2,111 people. There were 2 Jewish praying houses, a public school, steam powered mill, a tannery and a treacly plant, 2 bread storing shops, medical station office, 11 shops, 5 drinking houses, 1beer house.  Radun district had 67 settlements, 535 yards and population of the district was 15,060 peasants; there was also a philistine government. 

During the First World War from September 1915 up to the 5th of January 1919 the district was occupied by Caesar troops. And in March 1919 it was penetrated by Polish troops. Radun district committee was in action during this period (headed by V.Valitskiy); on the 20th of April V.Valitskiy and Spitz (another member of the district committee) were arrested and shot dead in Lida. Starting from the 18th of March 1921 the town is a part of Lida district of Navogrudak voivodeship of Poland, the center of Radun gmina. The town included 231 yards and its population was 1,254 people. In 1929 a strike of workers took place during building Vilnius - Radun highway. In 1935 Jews consisted 90% of population of the town.  This settlement had a global fame: Jewish Ecclesiastical Academy (Talmudistic) was working here. It was headed by the well-known Talmudist Israil Meyer-Hafets Haim from Radun (he died in 1935).  Young people came even from far abroad to have their study at the Academy.

The well-known Jewish village Dugalishok was situated in the suburbs of Radun. During 192-1930-s it was a kind of Jewish resort and tourists sought an opportunity to have a rest there. And that was not accidental! Wonderful landscapes, beautiful pine forests and hospitality of local inhabitants couldn't leave anybody indifferent. 

Before the Second World War Jewish population was about 800 people.  In November 1939 Radun was included to Baranovichi district of Belorussian SSR and activities of Jewish community came to an end.

On the 15th of January it became the center of Radun district of Baranovichi region. And on the 20th of December 1944 this district was included to Grodno region. From the 12th of October 1940 and up to the 30th of April 1958 Radun had a status of a village and it was the center of the village council of the same district. Since the 30th of April 1958 it is an urban-type settlement, the center of Radun district, the center of settlement council of Voronovo district, Grodno region. In 1940 it had about 400 houses and its population was 2,006 people. Population of the entire district was 32, 962 people.  During that period Radun had a district industrial complex, a power plant (20 kilovolt), creamery, oil mill ("naftamlyn"), a bakery, the district hospital, a maternity home, a post office, a telegraph station, a school, an orphan home, MTS, a district library , a recreation home etc.  The following newspapers were published: "For Motherland" body of Radun RCP (B) of Belarus; "Socialist life" - the press organ of Radun MTS political department.

Urban-type settlement Radun was occupied by Germans during more than 3 years — from June (the 1st of July) 1941 and up to the 13th of July 1944.

For controlling Jewish population the Nazis organized a Judenrat (Jewish committee) and appointed Noakh Dolinskiy to be the head of this committee.

In November 1941 Germans were step-by-step performing Hitler's program of extermination of Jews. All Jews of Radun and neighboring villages were collected in ghetto (the total number of prisoners was 1, 834 people).

On the 11th of May 1942 Nazis and their local accomplices killed 1,137 persons (almost all Jews living in Radun and neighboring villages). The most of those killed were women, old persons and children. People were driven to the field 100 m to the west from Radun and ordered them to dig a ditch (length - 70 m., width - 4 m. and depth - 3 m).   And then all these people were shot dead. About 180 persons managed to escape. After the settlement was released 32 Jew came back to it.

As it was mentioned before during this "action" (this euphimism Hitlerites used for mass shootings) 180 Jews managed to escape. Unarmed they attacked armed Germans who managed to shoot dead 20 of them but others escaped and ran away to the forest.

Doctor of historical sciences Itskhak Arad, director of Isrel Museum of Catastrophe and Heroism "Yd va-Shem" during 1972—1993 (at the age of 15 he ran away from a Lithuanian ghetto and at the age of 16 he became a partisan in Belorussian forests and after the war he was a General Israel Defence Forces)wrote as follows:

"People should know. We didn't go to meet the death obediently and without a murmur. We defended ourselves using all possible ways.  Often we did it with bare hands without anybody's help".

Before his escape from Radun ghetto Itskhak Rogovskiy handed his valuables and jewelry to his friends (Shemianskiy family) from Kovalki village. After a certain period of time his son Meyshke needed to take some clothes but Shemiansiye drew him and several other Itskhak's relatives into ambush. Meyshke was killed. Others ran away to the forest. In the beginning of 1943 some Jews who had managed to escape became soldiers of Stankevich's partisan group. Brothers Rogovskiye were among these soldiers. They took revenge on Shemianskiye for their treachery and collaboration: the brothers shot them dead and burnt their house. After the war Adam Rogovskiy wrote a book of memories.

In 1961 a monument was settled on the burial ground of victims of Jewish genocide in Rasun (a soldier with a machine gun)]. Later another monument was set up to Jews of Radun who became victims of the Catastrophe.

On the 1st of May 2011 in the Israel memorial complex "Yad Vashem" on the day of "Memory of Victims of the European Jewery Catastrophe" one of 6 mourning candles simbolizing memory of 6,000,000 Jews killed by the Nazis was lit by 82-year old Avraam Aviel (Lipkonskiy) a former ghetto prisoner in Radun. Avraam Aviel was the only member of his family who managed to survive. He took revenge on the Nazis being among partisans of Belarus. After the war he managed to get to Israeland wrote a book of memories about the tragic fate of Jews in Belarus. He witnessed during Eykherman's process  in Jerusalem. A documental film was made about Avram Aviel's life.

During the Second World War from the 24th of June 1941 and up to the 13th of July of 1944 Radun was occupied by German fascists. On 23rd-24th of June 1941 at the border of Dubitskaya Tara district the battle of the 17th riffle devision and the 21st shooting front against the advanced forces of the 3rd tank group of the fascists. During the period of occupation 987 inhabitants were shot dead; about 300 people were brought for obligatory works to Germany. About 1 thousand living houses were destroyed (including 178 houses in Ratun).

In Radun and the neighboring area there were 3 underground anti-fascist committees with 4 fighting groups, underground district committees CP(B) of Belarus and the Leninist Young Communist League of Belarus. Radun was released from invaders on the 13th of July 1944 in the course of Vilnius operation by units of the 88th riffle division of the 31st army (headed by the Lieutenant-General V.V. Glagolyev) of the 3rd Belorussian Front. In 1944 the population of the district was 2,819 people. All enterprises and institutions were destroyed or blown up. Up to 1950 economy of Radun and the district was restored. A district industrial complex was in operation here. There was a power plant and a hospital here. In 1946 Radun secondary school was established, as well as a school for working youths. At MTS courses of tractor drivers and motor men were organized.  In 1949 the district had: 3 hospitals, 3 outpatients' clinics, 4 village first-aid stations, 3 pharmacy shops (7 physicians, 7 midwifes, 25 nurses, 4 pharmacists). A sum of 978 thousand of rubles was defined for development of health care in the district.   The district had 62 elementary schools, 8 secondary schools, 1 secondary school for working youths, 7 evening village schools, several evening grammar schools (over 700 pupils).  The total number of pupils in the district was over 6 thousand persons. In 1952 Radun Council included 8 collective farms. 

In 1970 the population of urban-type settlement Radun was 495 inhabitants. As of the 1st of January 2004 there were 980 yards in Radun and the population of the settlement was 2950 people.  The following organizations are in operation in the settlement: a milk plant, flax-processing plant, agrarian drying plant, a power station, branches of "Agroprombank" and "Belarusbank", a hospital a polyclinic, a pharmacy shop, a veterinary clinic, agrarian chemical laboratory, a forestry, an electronic communication district department, trading center, 2 secondary schools, a school of music, a boarding-school, a nursery school, a center of out-of-school work, town library and children library, a recreation center. A common grave of 11 Party workers and soviet workers, a common grave of soviet warriors, partisans and employees of State security bodies, a grave of victims of fascism.

ArcheologyDirect link for this paragraphGo back to indexGo back to index

Radun Castle It existed during the 14th - the 17th centuries. Its ruins are situated on a separate eminence among swamps on the bank of Radunka River in the center of village Gorodishe of Voronovo district (2 km from urban-type settlement Radun). The basis of the castle defense was formed as a complex of wooden and ground works: a bank, walls and towers. Under the entrance tower there was a bridge with a vertical lift span ("vzvod"). Cultural layer was defined in depth of 0.4 – 0.5 m. Ceramic works made in the 14th - the 17th centuries were found: terracota tiles, iron spear heads, axes, coins manufactured in the 15th - the 17th centuries. The castle was considered a grand-ducal ownership. On the 20th of October 1536 in presence of the Great Prince of Lithuania Sigismund I the Old a treaty about marriage of Barbara Radzivill and Stanislav Gashtold was signed.

In the 19th century a stone axe was found to the south-west from the settlement. Up to date 10 intact and 4 damaged stone axes of various types (mainly these are wedge-like axes of type 5) are presented in the school museum of the settlement.

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

(only existing objects)

Polish RC Church of God's Mother Ruzhanzova (1929 – 1933)

Hafetz Chaim Yeshiva (built in 1882; up to date a club is situated in this building). Twelve main rabbis of countries of the world were brought up within walls of Radun Yeshiva. It had 200 pupils. Up to date this building is used as the recreation center.

Jewish cemetery (1451) Grave of the well-known tzarddik Rabbi Hafetz Chaim who was a prominent Tora expert is situated here. Place of Radun Jews extermination in 1942 is also one of the memorials.

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

In 1961 a monument was settled on the burial ground of victims of Jewish genocide in Rasun (a soldier with a machine gun)]. Later another monument was set up to Jews of Radun who became victims of the Catastrophe.

Intangible values Direct link for this paragraphGo back to indexGo back to index

Israel Meir ha-Kohen 1838—1933 -  (Kagan, real surname is Pupko; he is mainly known as Hafetz Chaim according to the name of his prominent work. He was a Moralist and a Talmudist, one of the leading halakhic authorities of the new period (Akharonim) and one of the most honorable leaders of the Orthodox Jewelry. He was one of the founders of Agudat Israel who opened the first general congress of the party (Vienna, 1923). In 1924 according to the initiative of Israel Meir ha-Kohen Vaad ha-Yeshivot (Committee of Yeshivas) was founded. It was the supreme administrative body of Yeshivas in eastern regions of Poland. The first work written by Israel Meir ha-Kohen (the total number of works is 21) is the book "Hafetz-Chaim" ("Buoyant", 1873) published anonymously and devoted to a detailed discussion of sinfulness and  backbiting. His book "Shmirat ha-Lashon ("Abstinence in speaking", 1876) is devoted to the same topic.

In his book "Ahavat Hesed" ("Attraction to Benefaction", 1888) the author studies basics and details of regulations in the sphere of charity. The capital and the most popular work "Mishna Bura" ("Clear Learning", in 6 volumes, 1884–1907) devoted to interpretations of prescriptions of Orakh Chaim in the code  Shulkhan Arukh  was being created by Israel Meir ha-Kohen during a period of 28 years.

His work "Mahane Israel" ("Camp of Israel", 1881) is also worth mentioning. It is a guide for following prescriptions of Halakhi for Jewish soldiers of the tsar's army. Halakhic works created by Israel Meir ha-Kohen are characterized by brevity of narration and accuracy of practical conclusions.  Settings are traced by him to sourcebooks.

According to Israel Meir ha-Kohen pilpul is a waste of time. His ethic works are inspired with sincere fear of God and are written in a clear and accessible language.

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

Radun has got a gymnasium, a primary school, a boarding school, a recreation center, a library, a school of art for children.

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

Restaurant "Radun" of the 2nd national category – working hours: from 12:00 p.m. till 10:00 p.m., on Fridays: from 12:00 p.m. till 00:00 a.m., lunch break from 04:00 p.m. till 05:00 p.m. Cleaning day – the first Monday of each month.

Snack bar "Molodiozhnaya"- working hours: from 11:00 a.m. till 08:00 p.m., lunch break from 03:00p.m till 05:00 p.m. On Saturdays: from 01:00 p.m. till 10:00 p.m., and on Sundays: from 12:00 p.m. till 08:00 p.m.

ReferencesDirect link for this paragraphGo back to indexGo back to index

1.                Памяць. Воранаўскі раён. – Мінск, “БЕЛАРУСКАЯ ЭНЦЫКЛАПЕДЫЯ”,  2004.

2.                 Raduń // Геаграфічны слоўнік Каралеўства Польскага і іншых славянскіх краёў. Tom IX: Poźajście — Ruksze. — Warszawa, 1888. С. 450.

3.                Радунь // Энцыклапедыя гісторыі Беларусі. У 6 т. Т. 6. Кн. 1: Пузыны — Усая / Беларус. Энцыкл.; Рэдкал.: Г. П. Пашкоў (галоўны рэд.) і інш.; Маст. Э. Э. Жакевіч. — Мн.: БелЭн, 2001. С. 69.

4.                Радунь // Туристская энциклопедия Беларуси / редкол. Г. П. Пашков [и др.]; под общ. ред. И. И. Пирожника. — Мн., 2007.

5.                Іна Соркіна. Мястэчкі Лідскага ўезда ў XIX — пачатку ХХ ст. // Ліда і Лідчына: да 685-годдзя з дня заснавання горада: матэрыялы рэспуб. навук.-практ. канф., (Ліда, 3 кастр. 2008 г.) / рэдкал.: Худык А. П. (гал. рэд.). — Ліда, 2008.

6.                Авраам Авиэль “Я пришел к тебе, мама..." // [Электронный ресурс].     

7.                Города, местечки и замки Великого княжества Литовского - Издательство: Минск. "Беларуская Энцыклапедыя iмя Петруся Броўкi”,  2009.    

8.                 Смиловицкий Л., Катастрофа евреев в Белоруссии, 1941–1944 гг., Тель-Авив, 2000.

9.                Российская еврейская энциклопедия. Радунь // [Электронный ресурс] Дата доступа – 14.08.14 г.

10.           Академическая вики-энциклопедия по еврейским  и израильским темам. Радунь – еврейская община //  [Электронный ресурс] Дата доступа -11.06. 14 г.

11.            Иудаизм и евреи. Биографии раввинов. Раввины литовского направления. Раби Исраэль Меир Акоэн — Хафец Хаим // [Электронный ресурс] Дата доступа – 17.08 14 г.


Author: Irina Milinkevich