The ravine of Jan and Cecilia
Sculpture, monuments, memorials
There is one very unusual and even fairy-tale place in Belarus where almost all the inhabitants have the same surname. The majority of local residents have the surname of Bogatyrevichi in the village of Bogatyrevichi. However, it is not the most striking fact which differs this village from hundreds of others. That place gave a start to the Polish realist literature associated with the name of Eliza Ozheshko. The writer told an incredibly beautiful and touching legend of love in her novel “Above the Niemen”.
There is a ravine with a grave and a wooden monument on steep slopes of Bogatyrevichi village. You can also see two unpolished stones nearby, a cross with a sign “Jan and Cecylia. 1549” was set near the stones a long time ago. The village, by the way, has very interesting history of the appearance of its name. There were no people on those lands in the old days, and only wild animals inhabited a forest. The local soil was very fertile, so in the forest it was easy to find many mushrooms, berries and nuts. Deer and chamois often went down to the river to drink, trees were home to squirrels, and martens and hares lived at the bottom. People also lived near the forest. They once decided to take the fertile soil from animals. Therefore, it was conquerors who were called “bogatyr” (epic heroes), hence the name of Bogatyrevichi village. However, the love story of Jan and Cecylia seems to be more interesting and fascinating.
According to the local legend, a young couple appeared in the village in the early 16th century. They did not tell anything about themselves. However, the locals quickly guessed by their appearance that they were from different social classes. The guy was handsome, strong and sun-tanned – obviously, a child of fields, all his childhood and youth he helped his parents to plow a field. But the girl was quiet, calm and reserved – a typical representative of the nobility. It was clear by their speech that the young people came from Poland and, obviously, they were hiding from someone. They answered all the questions about the young couple's destination: “We are looking for a desert”. The guy and the girl traveled through many places, but they could not find anything more picturesque than the coastline of the Nieman. So they stayed there.
During their life, Jan and Cecylia gave birth to 12 children, among whom there were six boys and as many girls. Almost all the boys were looking for wives like their kind: fishermen, hawkers, braveries gladly gave their daughters married to them. However, one son managed to gain the hand and heart of a boyar's daughter. Jan and Cecylia's daughters were taken by bridegrooms not far away, close to the village of Bogatyrevichi. Therefore, the big family lived close to each other.
80 long years passed since the moment when the young couple, being on the run, had come to that land. At that time, those places were ruled by King Sigismund Augustus, who heard rumors that the once deserted land with wild animals had become fertile, with the most beautiful landscapes, flowering fields, and built huts. When the King himself decided to visit the village, he saw an old man and a woman who came out of the house, supported under the arms by the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Sigismund was very surprised to that and even took off his hat before them. Then he proclaimed that from now on, the kind of Jan and Cecylia became equivalent to the gentry and they could enjoy all the privileges of the nobility from that moment. Moreover, the King gave the village a yellow coat of arms depicting the head of a bison.