Drohiczyn is located just two hours’ drive east of Warsaw. This thousand-year-old town is
situated on the bank of the Bug River in Siemiatycze County in eastern Poland. Drohiczyn
was founded on an old trade route—most likely a defensive settlement, highlighting its
importance as a strategic point. It had been mentioned in the Rus chronicles as early as
1061. Centuries ago, the town and its environs was an impassable primeval forest. The river's proximity allowed for further development of agriculture, trade, and even establishing a customs office. At the end of the 15th century, Drohiczyn was granted the rights of a town. It is considered the historical capital of the Podlasie region.
The city’s greatest prosperity occurred during the 16th century. By the beginning of the 17th
There were three churches of Unic and Orthodox faith, and four monasteries, two Catholic (Franciscan and Benedictine). Drohiczyn also had a hospital, a pharmacy, and a school. This period of successful development was interrupted by the war with Sweden and the consequent destruction of the town: first in 1657 by the Transylvanian army of George II Rakoczi, and later by Moscow troops in 1660, during which Drohiczyn lost approximately 70 percent of its population. In the 18th century, Drohiczyn became well known for its schools run by the Franciscans and the Jesuits.
In 1939, as a result of the Hitler-Stalin pact, Drohiczyn became a border town. The Soviets
plundered it, destroying many of its historic buildings. NKWD deported many of Drohiczyn’s inhabitants to Siberia in 1940. After 1941, with the Soviet Union's German invasion, the Germans continued the plunder and destruction. Nowadays, Drohiczyn has a population of around 2,000.
There are two must-visit spots for tourists touring the town: St. Nicholas Orthodox Church and the Catholic Cathedral of Holy Trinity. St. Nicholas, the Miracle Worker Orthodox Church in the center of Drohiczyn, is one of Poland's most impressive orthodox churches. It was built in 1792 as a Uniate church in the Classicist style. The Uniate Church (Polish: Ruski Kosciol Unicki) is a historic church in the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth following the Union of Brest in 1596. It was mostly dissolved following the partition of Poland in 1795. In 1839, the Russian invaders closed the Uniate church in Drohiczyn and turned it into an Orthodox one - domes were added; side altars, organs, and pulpit were removed. Inside lies a range of ornate objects spanning several centuries: the Drohiczyn Icon of Our Lady from the 16th century, icons from the 17th and 18th centuries, and an iconostasis from the late 19th century. The most recent addition is a polychromy designed in the 1980s by Greek architect Sotyrys Pantopulos.
Another highlight of Drohiczyn is The Holy Trinity Church, which boasts a long history. Following his baptism in 1386, the Lithuanian prince and King of Poland, Wladyslaw Jagiełło
(1362-1434), founded a parish church in Drohiczyn. However, it is possible that 100 years
earlier, a simple Catholic church stood in the same place. It was not until the Soviet occupation from 1939-1941 that the church's interior was completely devastated. The Baroque altars were entirely chopped up, and a stable was built inside the temple. Thus,
the church shared the fate of many places of warship under the Soviet occupation. The then-parish priest Father Edward Juniewicz (1894-1989) managed to save only eight of 38 paintings and two of 153 sculptures; the rest became destroyed by the Soviet troops. After the German-Soviet war break in July 1941, the Nazi troops entered the city and set up a shooting range inside the church.
The seemingly lazy Bug River has sandy islands around Drohiczyn. The Castle Hill, which is
gradually washed and taken away by the river, dominates the town. There is an enchanting view of the Bug valley and the river's bend from the top of Castle Hill, which turns by 180 degrees just below the hill.
Drohiczyn area's pastoral landscape is filled with many small villages and tiny Catholic and Russian Orthodox churches reminiscent of its rich and multi-ethnic past. This settlement used to be inhabited by the Jews, Lithuanians, Poles, and Russians. Wandering around, one can still get a glimpse of Drohiczyn’s glorious past.
All Photos Grzegorz Litynski, www.litynski.com