Bychawa, a small town in rural Lubelskie, Poland


A Small Town in Rural Lubelskie

Bychawa is a small town about 25km south of the city of Lublin that can trace its origins back to 1325 when it is mentioned that there was a Roman Vatholic church there. Although the land to the north of Bychawa is relatively flat, the town is located at the confluence of some small rivers in small but steep sided valleys. Bychawa gained its town rights in 1557, which in terms of Europe gave it a range of rights and defined the way it would grow.

When we arrived in Bychawa it was a cool Saturday morning in September, which accounts for why some of the pictures are a bit grey. As the day wore on it became brighter until the sun managed to break through the clouds. I didn't manage to get all the pictures I wanted, but we did enjoy visiting the town neverthe less.

There is a rectangular rynek, or market square, which is now a small park. Most of the original buildings surrounding the rynek have disappeared and been replaced with housing from different periods of the 20th century. There is still one early wooden building, the lower floor brick and the upper in wood, which is of the type that would have been common there. There is no sign of any form of town hall at the rynek, the original having either disappeared or been converted into a house. Just across the road, on the western side, is the sole remaining building you would expect to find there, and that is the church.

One of the few businesses on the old rynek is this one selling equipment for the small farm and garden.

The church appears to have originally been a simple brick, one nave Baroque edifice, but while the end nearest the rynek still visibly the original building with a Baroque spire, it has been much extended in the Classical style. As the original church overlooked a small, steep sided valley, the extension only just fits on the small bluff and the wall defining the churchyard boundary also buttresses the slope here. Within the churchyard, which like most in Poland were closed for burials in the 19th century and are now just grass and trees, is a wooden bell tower from 1862. Inside, if you are lucky to be there when it is open, you can look up to see the three bells. I didn't manage to get a photo of the church as it was closely hugged by mature trees.

The wooden bell tower beside the church.

The small valley which the church overlooks contains a lake a few hundred metres to the north and a variety of trees that makes it obvious that it once formed part of a park. There are the remains of a fortified palace by the lake but they are much overgrown and not obvious to find. Also between the lake and the Kosarzewka river is a mill, but I do not know if it still functions. Between the Rynek and the palace there are many wooden houses and a small hospital. On the east side of the river is the town cemetary, with graves on the sides of the valley and the flat land on the top. Most of the graves are from the 20th century, although there is a chapel in the Neo-Gothic style which is the final resting place of many members of the XXX family.

Fretwork on a minor scale on an abandoned cottage on the west side of the village.

A brick built cottage, but still with the basic dimensions of the wooden cottages pred-dating it.

Beside the church is a large priest's house built in 1902 and extended in 1914. The house has a perimeter wall which look that it dates back to at least the 19th century and was probably the perimeter of the previous building. This part of the town once had many merchants and small businesses and there are a few small warehouses and a disused blacksmiths shop.

A former blacksmith's shop, built on the edge of a steep scarp slope.

Just to the right of the former blacksmith's is this slowly decaying and now abandoned cottage. If you look carefully at the end of the building, you can see that it is actually located on a steep slope, with a lower floor of local limestone.

To the east of the old rynek is the remains of a smaller one, in an area of sad decay that only now is showing signs of recovery. It looks like it was mainly an area for poor people during communist times, but now some of the buildings are being replaced and others renovated.

Just to the east of the old rynek is a smaller one with many 'Russian' traders, which this wooden and brick building overlooks.

Also by the Russian market is this completely wooden building, with just the lower storey plastered.

Unmistakably a town building, with its narrow frontage.

Cottages at the edge of town, not far from the centre of this very small town.

The centre of the town has moved to the southeast and about 200m from the rynek we find a disused synagogue from the 18th century and a smattering of 19th and early 20th century buildings. The synagogue served many years after the second world war as the local fire station, and for this 2 large doorways were knocked into one wall. The building has lost almost all its plaster and glass from its windows, but it is still complete and with what looks like a sound roof. I failed to get a picture of the synagogue as I wasn't certain while there that it was the synagogue, and then I was distracted by an old lorry before I remembered to take a photo of the building anyway.

Nearby are still quite a few wooden houses and shops of one storey plus a couple of rows of 19th century 2 storey shops so typical of rural Polish towns. There are a couple of 3 storey buildings from about 1914, one which you can still make out early painted shop signs. This first building looks to have lost one wing at some stage, but up at roof level there are the remains of a clock with the horse shoe symbol of the town painted on it. The other building has painted, almost gargoyle like heads with intertwinned heads beneath.

2 storey 19th century market town buildings in brick.

Still visible are the shop names from an earlier age, but the building looks like it has lost the wing on the right.

Heads and snakes adorn this building, very similar to the previous, although this one is complete.

On a side street to the west is a wooden, electric powered flour mill from the 1920's. From its location it is likely that this mill replaces an earlier wind powered one. After the second world war it became a co-operative but it was not able to survive the change to a market economy and now stands abandoned.

The electrically powered flour mill, disused.

The local school building, built in the first decade of the 20th century.

Moving further down the street we find 1950's Bychawa, plastered brick residential blocks with their distinctive 2 pane, vertical split windows. In this area we find the town and gmina offices, the dom kultury and other paraphanalia of communist Poland. a bit further beyond are low blocks of flats from all decades to the present, and behind them spreading suburbs of private housing.
This is quite typical of many town houses, even to the ivy growing up around the balcony and over the entrance path. This probably dates from the inter-war period.

Bychawa is a quiet and pleasant town to visit although it does bustle a bit more on market days. On the fringes of the town are many farms and tractors seem as common on the road as cars at times. Many small farmers come in and set up small stalls, or lay there produce on the ground, at various places around the town on almost any day of the week except sunday. Visiting Bychawa is really easy as there are buses at least once an hour. Don't bother using PKS as there are incredibly slow, from Lublin railway station you can take a private minibus which will get you there in less than 30 minutes.

Every summer there is a pierogi cooking competition and this is the most likely time that you will find food to eat here. There are 3 cafes scattered about where you can find something to eat but nothing like a restaurant. At weekends, like most small towns, it is best to bring something with you to eat and drink.

Jewish Cemetery

We failed to locate this as we did not come prepared with information (it was a last minute decision to go!).

Bychawa Jewish Cemetery I :The cemetery is in the center, about 100 meters NE of the market square at Kosciuszki St. Present town population is 1,000-5,000 with no Jews.
Bychawa jewish Cemetery II: located around 600 meters S of the town at Partyzantow St. This unlandmarked Orthodox Jewish cemetery was established around 1910. The isolated suburban flat land has no sign or marker. Reached by turning directly off a public road, access is open to all with no wall, fence or gate.


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