It is hard to pick a single monument with which to begin a survey of the area. Do we concentrate on those which meant the most to the Jewish population? Clearly, the 500 year old synagogue, called the Kalte Shul, would stand out to our ancestors. They might also cite the Great Synagogue, called the "Groyser Beys Midrash", as a testimony to the community's view of its continued importance in the Russian Empire, though it was, perhaps, more a mirror of the past than a reflection of the actual status of the day, in its size and importance of its central location.
Do we look to the greatest monument in terms of size? The Lyakhovichi castle may have been built first in the eleventh or twelfth centuries as a hill fort, no archeological studies have been done, but it was already there in the days of Gedimin, Kestutis, and Vytaut the Great. It was rebuilt repeatedly, the record of the refurbishing of its wooden walls by Marcin Gostatuas in the mid fifteenth century, is echoed by the replacement of those walls in stone in the sixteenth. Under the leadership of Jan Karol Chodkewiecz, Great Hetman of Lithuania, it received the latest technological defenses in addition to its proven earthenworks, towers, and fortified walls - he built the water surround that could be regulated by a dam. The Sapieha owners in the seventeenth century maintained its armaments to the point that Lyakhovichi was the only castle in the region not overrun by Cossacks in the Khmelnitzky massacres and in the subsequent wars with Russia. The Sapiehas also refurbished the palace, the residential side of the castle, and imported Italian architects to design it as one of their primary households. But the Sapiehas were high-handed and overreaching and the other Lithuanian noble families joined forces against them at the end of the seventeenth century. The animosities were seemingly put aside to fight the Great Northern War but when the Radziwills saw their chance, they had the crown requisition the cannons of Lyakhovichi (a Sapieha possession) for the defense of Sluck, (a Radziwill possession) and the days of Lyakhovichi castle were numbered. The only castle in Lithuania to withstand Cossack sieges repeatedly, fell after its food was exhausted to the Swedes in the Great Northern War. Sluck had successfully held off the Swedish invasion of its walled city, by main force, and its Jewish population was on the walls defending it. We know that Jews, in towns across the Grand Duchy, were equally active in their towns' defense. We can't imagine that in a city where the Jews had resided at least since Vytaut's 1380s accession, the Jewish young men were less active. The women were also required to be available to help in fire brigades during the fighting, but all of Lyakhovichi's defenders were required to stand aside as the Swedes who were Protestants, entered the surrendered city and burned the Catholic Church and the Lyakhovichi castle, to the ground. There is no evidence that any synagogue of the town, or that the Tatar mosque, was disturbed. The sources referenced with the Castle information were 1) "Arhitektura Belarusi. Encyklapedychny davednik" ("Architecture of Belarus. Encyclopedia") - ed.: A.A. Voinau and others, Minsk, Publishing house 2)"Belaruskaia Encyklapedyia" by Piatrus' Brouka, 1993.
Maybe the community would have pointed out the unusual. Proud of its five hundred year history in Lyakhovichi, the Jews were aware that they shared that distinction with "the Lipkas", the Tatar Moslems that Gedimin and Vytaut brought to the country in the fourteenth century. They were Sunni Moslems who traced their descent from the White Horde of the Mongols. The Lipkas were a crucial part of the defense capabilities of all of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and were here prior to the replacement of the wooden fort of Lyakhovichi by the stone castle of the Lithuanian Chief Military Commander. ...The Lyakhovichi mosque was probably fairly plain looking, as from the sixteenth century Union with Poland, the Moslems were forbidden to build them in stone. A simple geometry of a square wooden building, topped by an elegantly slender onion dome cupola, was the norm. Most of the buildings were painted green, some were left in a natural wood stain. The Novogrodek mosque was already three hundred years old when the new "no stone mosque law" went into effect and may have been "grandfathered." The surviving building of that community, appears to be masonry, painted a bright and cheery yellow. ...
In other communities where the small Lipka community lived in close proximity to Jewish neighbors, relationships were generally good. Because the population of Lipkas was so much smaller, there were a number of recorded instances in the civil registers of the area (none so far for Lyakhovichi) where Lipkas converted to Judaism to marry. At the least, the adaptable Lipkas were certainly influenced by their neighbors, both Jews and Christians. When the Lipkas intermingled with other Tatar populations, it was noted that they had a number of differences from the Moslem norm. Their women went unveiled and participated in the business affairs of the community and also the houses of worship were of a different form, built to hold both sexes simultaneously, though not allowing either to see the other during worship. Those changes might not have seemed an overt influence from their Jewish neighbors but the nineteenth century Lipka leadership did chastise their congregations for importing Polish Christmas trees and Easter eggs into Lipka Moslem practice. The site of the mosque is not noted on any plans that I have seen, but possibly it was on Tatarskaya, the street of the Tatars, which while Jews lived there too, was still home to a number of Tatar families in the 1870s.
The large and pleasant-looking Catholic church would not have won monument status in most towns. It was attractively appointed and dated to 1602 when the Hetman, Chodkewiecz had it built, but structurally it is not much different than the Great Synagogue "der Groyser Bais Midrash" of Lyakhovichi's Jews which was thought to have been built around a hundred years later. New May 2008 That statement was based on photographs from the Soviet period, originally the Church of St Joseph, as the Catholic Church was properly known, had a steeple and a superstructure that was removed during the Soviet period. In the time of its building, it was a monument to the prosperity of the Hetman and his dedication to the Catholic Church
In the time of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Roman Catholicism was the official religion of the area but even at an early date, the Catholics were in a minority in the area. Only by combinining with the Uniate church did they move into the higher numbers in the 1700s, but when the Russians divided Poland, they took quick action to gather the Uniates back into the Orthodox fold. The Chodkewiecz family church remained a small, l active, church patronized by the Catholic townsmen and the Catholic Nobility of Lyakhovichi at least until World War I. Countess Rejtan, whose husband had offered to rebuild a major synagogue after its 1879 burning sat in its seats on a weekly basis until the Soviet invasion. Their pew was called the "founder's pew," and presumably dated back to the Chodkewiecz donation.
The ramparts and moat of the castle had to have impacted the imaginations of the Jews of the town - you can see it in the postcards they sent to their cousins abroad; and the games the children remember. The sounds of Christian Feast Days and the bells of the Catholic Church and all of the holiday activities of the Russian Orthodox community around them, had to have resounded through the Jewish community's homes and markets. If you have information on an area historical landmark - a manor house, a hospital, a military campground, et al. please click Contact and send us an email.
The Schneidershe Shul
The Shul Plaza
The Tailor's synagogue was one of five synagogues in the Shul court or plaza. - In the article "The Shuls of Lechovich" by Alter Brevda it says The Schustershe [Shoemakers’] Shul, the Schneidershe [Tailors'] Shul, two Chasidic meeting houses, - one where in its time prayed the great R. Aharle, and the other of the Koidanover Chasidim - all of these were also to be found in the shul-court." Those buildings were somewhere located in the bombed site in this photo from WWI, but the photo caption just indicates the two buildings still standing were the Bais Yakov synagogue on the left and the Schneidershe Shul on the right. The picture of the Schneidersche Shul is just a closeup from the larger picture.
Groyser Bais Midrash today
Women's Second Floor Entry to Great Synagogue
The Groyser Bais Midrash or the Great Synagogue dates to sometime before 1795. That any building in this area lives to an old age is remarkable, but its survival in the Soviet period can be tied to a simple fact - it is a masonry building of uncomplicated shape and could be put to a number of uses. Most recently it has been a fruit-packing factory. The rear stairs which no doubt today, partly work as a fire escape, were built to allow women a discrete entry to the second floor mezzanine where they sat to hear the service.
19th century Brick synagogue
Wooden house in Lyakhovichi
This unnamed synagogue also survived because its brick structure made it easy to reuse for other purposes. The wooden house in Lyakhovichi displays the lacy brick-a-brack detailing around the windows that was considered typical for Jewish householders
The Stoliner ShulThe white building straight ahead is a masonry warehouse on Market Square belonging to Bogin and Kantorovich. Kantorovich's side of the building was used as the Stoliner Shul.
To see a readable image of the Holocaust Memorial,
click image. This memorial is within the town of Lyakhovichi and was dedicated in 1993.
The Beis Midrash (School of Torah Study) during World War I
Filled with those too old and too young to be drafted,
but clearly still on the front lines of the War, studies go on!
click title to see picture more clearly (no further expansion possible)
This little primary school from the Russian period, was on the quiet upperclass residential street shared by Jewish merchants, Russian officials, and Polish professionals, that was called "Sanitarian Street". Young Russian, Polish, and Jewish, children were educated together in the early grades.
Lyakhovichi, Just after World War I
Why Lyakhovichi's geography was so changed. Why old buildings might disappear. Why a community that had seen huge numbers of young people emigrate between 1890 and 1910 might be slow to rebuild after World War I.
Lyakhovichi street in 1920s
Pinsker Rd in Lyakhovichi
including an unidentified "Jewish" building
Photo Taken by Neville Lamdan in 2003 on Pinsker Rd. In the olden days wooden cottages were on both sides of the street, now there is a triangular open space on the right side where previously had been the house of Crown Rabbi Samuel Joseph Mandel We so far know the names of a dozen people who lived on Pinsker Rd in Lyakhovichi! If you have information about your ancestor's home please share it and help us all learn more!
Kletsker Rd in Lyahovichi
The home of the Vinograd family in Lyakhovichi