1958 PRUZHANY YZKOR BOOK

Chapter 19

OUR AREA DURING THE BIG NORTH WAR

By Sh. D. Borker

 

 

From several centuries ago, there existed the Brest-Moscow route passing by Minsk and Smolensk.It was there in the time of the war of Gedimin with Russia in the XIII century, and fights of Vitovt with the Tartars. Since Pruzhany was established and until today it sits along the Brest-Moscow route

 

The old road that went by Pruzhany served as rest for cars and horses that were used by passengers, and as mail stop. For this reason Pruzhany was never bypassed when military forces fought each other, and Pruzhany suffered the consequences of these wars.

 

Our area suffered its biggest destruction in times of the Big North War which lasted from the year 1700 to the year 1721. Before this war began, in years 1697 and 1698 the then czar of Russia, Peter The Great, carried out a trip through Europe. He was in Germany, Holland, England and Austria. He returned to Moscow via Vienna, Cracow, Zamosch, Brest, Pruzhany and Minsk.

 

In the third volume of Ostrialov's history (called TZARSVOVANIA PETRA VELIKAHO), it is stated that a daybook written during the trip by the same Peter was found in St. Petersburg in 1858. There he mentions each place where he visited. Big cities are described with all details, and small ones are named only when Peter ate, rested or spent a night there. The following is the translation of his writings during his stay in Pruzhany:

 

" ...On the 8thofAugust 1698: We arrived at noon in the city of Terespol, after traveling three miles and we ate there. After mid-day we left, and we arrived to the house of Mrs. Hetman. There we ate and later we went through the city of Brisk that was Lithuania's Capital, surrounded by two rivers, the Bug and the Muchawietz. We crossed the bridge during the night, we traveled three miles, arrived at a lodging called Stepanke, and there we spent the night.

 

The 9th.in the morning, after traveling two miles we arrived to the Hostel called Kivatitshi, we rested half an hour and later we entered the village Zshabin. Five hours after noon, we arrived in the city of Pruzhany, we traveled three miles and there we spend the night. We continued traveling three hours and arrived to Selcz. We left Selcz and traveled four miles to eat and rest in the hostel called Lososine. We continued four miles, we rested three hours, and in the evening we went by the city of Rozhinoy..."

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Two years after Peter had returned from his trip, the Big North War began, among Swedes on one side and the Russians, Poles, Saxons, and Danes on the other side. As we said previously, all this destroyed our area.

 

Lithuania in general, as well as Pruzhany and the surrounding areas suffered much during the nine years following the outbreak of war, when the Polish, Saxon, Russian and Swedish troops fought there.

 

Saxon troops were dispersed through Polish territory (this period is called in Polish history by the name Saxon Times). The confirmation of two cases in Pruzhany is mentioned in the†† Register of the Chevra Kadisha (Community Burial and Religious Center). The first case is for a sum of money that should be paid, and the second is for a Jew who was murdered by a Saxon soldier.In another case, a soldier hits and mistreats a woman in the hotel in which he stayed. It was not an isolated case however many were not registered. Anyway, the army remained during peacetime and it was a punishment for the town.Soldiers were distributed in private homes, and owners had to maintain them. The situation worsened when Swedish King, the famous hero Karl XII in the year 1700 defeated Russia in Norway.He left a small army there and with the great army he entered Poland in the year 1701. He destroyed the country and defeated King August in many battles.

 

In 1705 a part of Russian army arrived Lithuania to aid August, who was in a very severe situation.The troops settled in Grodno, fortified it and established a camp.In the year 1706, Karlís troops of crossed the river Niemon near Grodno. Because it was full winter, a battle did not take place. Russian and Saxon armies reinforced their troops, but Swedes didn't dare to start an open fight because they did not having enough food for the army. Swedish soldiers were dispersed around the entire country; they entered cities and villages of the area and destroyed everything.

 

At the same time the Russian army was not sure of it's capacity and began to retreat to Polesia and Volin where the muddy swamps protected them from an unexpected assault of the enemy's army. When they abandoned the place, they destroyed small and big towns. This was a time of more destruction in the whole area; flames devoured towns and villages.

 

In what measure did Pruzhany suffer during this time? We could not obtain precise data. For this reason, we rely on the information on the towns of the vicinity which were under the same conditions as our city, and because of our geographical location, we could not be avoid the disasters that troops caused when they passed through.

 

Kobrin that was bound during the centuries with Pruzhany was destroyed in year 1706 and set on fire by Swedish troops. In the year 1711, a terrible epidemic took place and that devastated and destroyed the whole city. The same thing was occurred in Bereza.In year 1706, the city of the famous kartuzian monastery that was built in 1648 by the great Sapeha who was owner of the city, was completely destroyed by the Swedes. In addition the whole area suffered when the troops passed through (M. Balinsky, Starozshitna Polska III, 1771). Selcz was also destroyed at the same time, and in year 1710 outbreak there was an epidemic (Kiryš Ne'emana, Sh. M. Fayn, Wilna). From all the information obtained, we reach the conclusion that Pruzhany was not able to avoid the destruction caused by troops in the time of the Big North War.

 

This phase of the war lasted until year 1708, when Karl began to go toward deep Russia, and suffered a defeat there. In that period the Saxons appeared again in our area, and a rich person of Pruzhany had to give an important loan of money to cover expenses of Saxonís army.††

A second episode mentioned in Registers of "Chevra Kadisha", is of another Jew murdered later, in the year 1714, when the war was outside the borders of our area, and the Saxon army appeared again in our town.