Rakov

Rakov and its suburbs has always been bubbling with creative energy, which took on various guises at different times. It was fulfilled in the ideal shapes of pottery, in the concept of the perfect bra, in the vibrant crystal ware of the Radziwiłłs, in the science of Marian Zdziechowski and in the music by Michal Grushvitsky, in the unique creative approach to the trade and services during the Soviet-Polish border regime of 1920-1939 and many more other things...

Despite the jumble of outlets, the spring of creativity remains potent in Rakov up to this day.

Rakov's major attraction is the Church of the Transfiguration of the Saviour. It was built on request of Athanasius Szeptycki, the Metropolitan bishop of Kiev, Galicia and all Ruthenia, in 1735. The loosening religious policy in the Russian Empire of the late 19th – early 20th centuries caused more Catholic churches to be built in the territory of the modern Belarus.

Visit the Catholic Church of Virgin Mary of the Rosary and St. Dominic whose architect decided to create something very different from the approved drawings and constructed a tall Gothic cathedral instead of the original 5.5m building. The church has a working pipe organ. Its rose windows, yellow bricks and wall friezes, pointed arches, massive columns and the magnificent carved wooden altar create a mesmerizing atmosphere. Close to the church, there used to be a post house where Marian Zdziechowski once collected letters sent by Eliza Orzeszkowa and Leo Tolstoy.

The churches mean that people of the Orthodox and Catholic faith lived here. And what about the Jews? The reminder of the once numerous Jews in this area, as in many other Belarusian towns, is the Jewish cemetery opened in the 17th century which is one of the oldest in Belarus. Rakov was in the Pale of Settlement, the western region of Imperial Russia where permanent residency by Jews was allowed, and in late 19th century 60% of its population was Jewish. Until 1941, there were as many as four synagogues in Rakov.

A lot of famous Jews came from Belarus, and many of the Belarusian Jews are natives of Rakov. It was in Rakov that legendary Ida Kaganovich was born on 9 January 1886. Here she lived until the age of 16. In the 1930s, she emigrated to Poland and then to the United States where she worked at a dress shop, got married and became Ida Rosenthal. In the 1930s, Ida and her husband made life easier for millions of women by inventing a modern bra instead of uncomfortable corsets. She patented different sizes of cups, alphabetic cup sizes and adjustable fasteners.

The house of Ida Kaganovich used to stand at the site of the modern Rakovsky supermarket. There are no memorial signs. There are, however, plans to install a monument to her brilliant invention (the rumour has it that the monument will contain crystal elements!).

In the 18th century, Anna Radziwiłł established the Europe-wide famous Naliboki Glassworks close to Rakov. The modern 'Isloch' workshop has taken over since then and now produces handmade glass and crystal tableware.

The Yanushkevichi Museum & Gallery will introduce you to the history and culture of the place through the exhibits of different epochs, pieces of music and paintings, so you can better understand the true nature of the wonderful spring of creativity in Rakov.

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