national or religious minority arouses interest because of its
individual culture and tradition.
Such is the case of Russians who have been living in Suwałki
Region for more than two centuries and who are called Old-Believers
because of their religion. They are a fraction of the Russian
Orthodox Church. In the middle of the 17th century, the Russian
Orthodox Church was reformed in order to eradicate the differences
between this Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church (Byzantine
Church), and to coalesce the sacred books' texts. Especially
the second issue was very controversial, and some clergymen
and believers objected to any changes. It led to dissent which
resulted in consequent cruel persecution -supported by Muscovite
Tsars- of the advocates of "old faith", old books, icons and
persecuted people sought shelter in the most remote corners
of Russia, as well as abroad. Among many countries, they found
refuge in Lithuania and Poland. In Suwałki Region only, they
founded several villages. In the 19th century they moved to
Mazurian Region. During the World Wars some of them were deported
to Russia, but not all returned to their motherland which resulted
in depletion of this community. Presently, not many more than
600 Old-Believers inhabit Suwałki Region. They settled mostly
in Gabowe Grądy near Augustów and Wodziłki in Suwałki Landscape
Park. In both villages they have their churches, while Suwałki
is a seat of the Chief Council of Old-Believers. Already before
the war this religion had been officially recognized by Polish
government as the Eastern Church of Old-Believers (its present
name being: Old Orthodox Pomeranian Church of the Polish Republic).
a village of Old-Believers is 2 km away from the asphalt road from
Jeleniewo to Przerośl. From the Szeszupka bus stop there goes a
gravel road to Szeszupka (500 m), from where one must head north,
following the marks of the red trail.
To find yet another village of Old-Believers, Gabowe Grądy, going
along the Augustów - Białystok road, one must turn right in Białobrzegi,
heading for Promiski and Dębowo. After 2,5 km, at the crossroad,
we turn right and after another 300 m we are in front of an Orthodox
church (called molenna) and a cemetery. In the background one will
see the road to the village. From Augustów to Gabowe Grądy there
runs the green trail (to Lipsk).
The third Orthodox church is situated in Suwałki, in Sejneńska street
21a. Next to it, in the parish building, there is the seat of the
Chief Council of Polish Old-Believers (tel. 566 49 92).