Sobibor, Wlodawa, Poland

Sobibór (Sobibor)

This is a trip through a small Polish village that lies parallel to the Ukrainian border, the border being no more than 1km away. Only a few kilometers to the north is the conjunction of the Polish, Ukrainian and Belarusian borders. the nearest town is Wlodawa, some 10km to the north. Sobibor lies in the Wlodawa Powiat (kind of like a county), in the wojewodzstwo (voivodship/province) of Lubelskie (Lublin). 'Bór' (bor) in Polish means a deep forest, and, indeed, Sobibor is in a deep forest that stradles both Poland and Ukraine.

This page will be like a walk through the village, from north to south. At the bottom of the page is a map with the locations of the photo's marked.

(1) At the northernmost part of the village, on the road from Wlodawa, if we look across the fields to our left we can see what used to be a manor house (dwor). It is brick built, but since the second world war it has been used as a school.

(2) Further on, if we take a right turn up a grassy track between some small cottages. The cottage on the right is being renovated. the traditional form of Polish cottage is made by stacking great wooden beams, one on top of each other, in the form of a log cabin. Typically, the front and back doors are in the centre of the long walls, and are joined inside by a wide hall. Off to one side will be the main eating/cooking/sleeping room for all the family, whilst on the other is a storage and work room. If this cottage was a shop, then the storage room is used as the shop. During the past 50 years or so, it has become common to build cottages of concrete blocks or bricks. The cottage we are looking at here has had a common treatment of nailing on hardboard over the timbers to smarten up the appearance and to help make the place warmer by stopping draughts. As we can see, the hardboard is lying against one wall, and if we look inside the window we could see that the floor boards are being replaced and the stove renovated.
The original roofing material was probably either straw thatch or numerous small wooden tiles. Here it has been replaced by sheet steel, a very common Polish roofing material.

(3) Behind the cottage we just looked at we have a garage, built in the mountain style, with an asbestos roof.

(4)If we follow the track into the wood, after a few hundred metres we come across an abandoned cemetary. There are three types of cross, the plain Roman Catholic/Protestant cross, the 2 bar Orthodox cross and the 3 bar Unitarian cross. The reason that this cemetary has been left to decay is that few people have been buried there since the 1950's, because most of the Orthodox and Unitarian people in the village were moved by the Soviets to Western Poland after the war. A few remained and last burial occured in 1985. Most of the Orthodox and Unitarian (the Unitarian church is really the same as the Orthodox church, but it comes under the control of Rome) crosses use the Cyrillic script as these were mostly people of Ukrainian descent.
Orthodox crosses on long abandoned graves.
An Orthodox cross with cyrillic inscription.
A gravestone in the shape of a church, almost like a Jewish headstone.
The last burials, in the 1980's, with tombs in the modern Polish style and inscriptions in Polish script, but Ukrainian names.
(5) If we return back along the leafy track, just before we reach the road we find a small farmstead on our right. the farming is mixed and in the farmyard we can find many ducks and chickens.

(6) Back on the road and heading south, we pass an abandoned farmstead on our left. Farms in Poland are the smallest in Europe. West and south of the Vistula are the smallest in Poland. Life on a Polish farm is hard as mecanisation is low. With small farm sizes, the chances of improving this is small. Polish peasants love their land, but there is a drift of people off the land and into the towns and cities. As older people die, there farm and land is sold, helping other farmers to create larger farms. Some of the farmsteads will just fall down, others will be bought as holiday homes by people from the city. These city people will either demolish the cottage in order to make way for a larger, modern house, or will be restored to its former condition. House prices in the country are low, for those who have income from a good job in the city.

(7) Mikolaj's (Miko-why) goats. On the opposite side of the road is a field of the farmstead we passed as we were on the track. Between us and the forest is a small pasture for goats.

(8) The next interesting building on the right is a 2 storey cottage built with mountain architectural influences. Just beyond it is a small lake. You can rent rooms here for a relaxing break in the countryside. If you can get hold of an agrotourist brochure, then you will find it under the name "Sosnowy Bor", Sobibor.

(9) After passing the lake, we make a left turn down a small lane. After about 1km of open, flat countryside, we come to a medium size river. This is is the Bug (Book) and this river forms Polands border with the Ukraine. Those trees and the little piece of sandy beach is all we can see of the Ukraine from here.

The use of weedkillers has not been popular in Poland and wild flowers still abound in the pastures and hedgerows.

As we head back to the road we can see how flat this part of Poland really is.

(10) On our left is another ababdoned farmstead, this time with brick buildings, including a brick cellar that has an entrance a bit like a dog kennels. these cellars (piwnica) are very common, a deep long pit is dug, roofed over in wood or brick and the dug earth is put back on top.

(11) On our right is the strange sight of a small pair of blocks of flats. These were built for people who worked on the state farm. State farms were not usualy very succesful in Poland, they were controlled by the state, the workers did the minimum of work and often sold the equipment to private farmers. Now the state farm has gone bankrupt, and the ex-workers would rather subsist on government benifits than seek work.

(12) Back on the road we have the stark low structures of what was a state communal farm, but on our left is the more pleasing sight of some hayricks.

(13) Next on our left we have a pair of small wooden barns and a dung heap.

(14) Another abandoned cottaged, this one quite recently.

(15) Past the shops on our right and we come to a series of cottages in a much better state of repair. The first, tiny yellow painted one is the home of an old labourer. his garden is full of rows and rows of vegetables. Next is a black painted wooden cottage owned by someone from the city.

(16) A farmstead on the left is obviously now out of use, the wooden cottage now separate from the rest of the farm buildings. Here is a fine wooden barn built as a wooden frame with wooden shuttering.

(17) The last house on our right, before we have to leave the main road and proceed down a clinker surfaced track to continue our walk through the village, has a summer kitchen (kuchnia letnia) in the garden. It was very common to have the main stove in the centre of the cottage as it served the secondary purpose of keeping the cottage warm during the colder months. However, in summer, when there was much cooking to be done to build up a store for the autumn and winter, the house would have become unbearably hot to live in. The answer was to have a summer kitchen, away from the house. It also had the added benefit of keeping fire away from the main, wooden house during the dry months.

(18) A little way down the clinker track, we see a small cottage on our left that hasn't had the wall timbers sawn flat. This is quite rare in this part of Poland, although it was probably more popular in the past.

(19) On our right is another small cottage, obviously once quite pretty, but now beginning to suffer from some neglect.

(20) The church appears next, it is of wooden construction, but is quite a newcomer to the village. It replaced an earlier wooden church, but this church is not new as it was originally located elsewhere, possibly in Lublin. It is roman Catholic and above the door is written, in Polish, 'Here is the house of God and gateway to Heaven'.

(21) On the left is another black painted cottage, still with the original door in the centre. This one has a porch, which is quite a common site.

Behind the cottage we find the farmyard. Some of the buildings are brick, whilst others are wooden.

(22) The last cottage we shall look at on this walk is of the normal wooden costruction, but here the main part of the building is faced with hardboard and painted. A small extra piece of roofing on the ends of the building stop rain water getting behind the hardboard.


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