Towns of the Lublin Region
Small towns were a characteristic feature of the cultural landscape of the Lublin Region prior to the Second World War. The region’s settlement network consisted of 21 towns and 51 small towns. It was typical for small towns in the Lublin Region to have Orthodox Christians and Uniates living alongside Catholics and Jews, which gave rise to a cultural landscape that was unique on European scale.
The social and spatial phenomenon of small towns with their unique cultural climate ceased to exist as a result of the Second World War. They have only survived in memories, on old drawings and photographs, and in literature. The political and economic transformation in Poland after 1989 has also brought about a faster degradation of small towns. Now may be the last moment to preserve the surviving elements of cultural landscape related to the spatial layout of the particular towns or to specific buildings.
A small town
A small town may be described as a spatial grouping of a limited number of buildings within a specific clearly laid-out area, intended for a small population. The adjective "small" is used to describe populations of various sizes, usually ranging between a few and a dozen or so thousand people, and generally not more than thirty thousand inhabitants. The term "small town" was already used by historians and urban planners in the interwar period to describe settlements with urban functions and of local economic importance.
E. Łuskina wrote in 1910: "(…) A small town, an intermediate form between the village and a city, can easily combine the best characteristics of the two and become a sanctuary of cheerful family life, within moderate limits of affluence and requirements that will always correspond to the national average".
Towns and cities are a fundamental part of the urban structure of a country. Small towns are a repository of national cultural heritage; they are not only a collection of buildings and places, but also living forms that constantly change over time.
Small towns in the Lublin Region are predominantly multicultural towns where representatives of several religious or ethnic groups co-existed until the Second World War, as exemplified by Szczebrzeszyn, Hrubieszów, Tomaszów Lubelski, Kraśnik, Turobin, and Bychawa. Outwardly, a multicultural town is characterized by the fact that places of worship and cemeteries of various religions and denominations exist within a single urban structure. Also typical is the intermingling of culture, art and custom. Frampol, Turobin and Lubartów were examples of a Jewish shtetl, a variety of the multicultural town.
>>> see the virtual model of Józefów Biłgorajski who shows the town space in the period between the world wars
The small town as a cultural phenomenon
The cultural phenomenon of the small town arises from the historical, multifaceted development of the town, and is closely related to its architecture. The transformations of town architecture are directly linked with changes in the space and landscape of small towns resulting from the changing functions of public space, the lack of a clear-cut division between the public and private sphere, or the abandoned condition of disused buildings.
One of the ways to preserve the cultural heritage of small towns is to prepare an inventory describing the basic ingredients of cultural landscape, i.e. their history, including the history of various religious institutions functioning in a given town, a list of monuments of architecture, a list of movable monuments, and a list of intangible assets. The Cultural Heritage Charter of a Town prepared based on such a detailed analysis, may be the basis for developing a conservation or educational program connected with the town’s cultural heritage. Heritage education is indispensable for making communities aware of the values inherent in the spatial layout of their towns.
Most inhabitants of small towns appreciate neither fine architecture, nor the town layout, nor the importance of proper spatial development. In consequence, landscape loses its individual character, originality and identity. Raising awareness is an exceptionally difficult task.
The cultural heritage of towns in the Lublin Region has not been studied extensively. The most important source on the subject is a book by Elżbieta Przesmycka entitled Przeobrażenia zabudowy i krajobrazu miasteczek Lubelszczyzny (Transformations of the Architecture and Landscape of Towns in the Lublin Region). Other important scholarly publications include a collection of papers Miejskie społeczności lokalne w Lubelskiem 1795–1918 (Local Town Communities in the Lublin Region 1795–1918), edited by Albin Koprukowniak, and a book by Katarzyna Więcławska entitled Zmartwychwstałe miasteczko... Literackie oblicza sztetł (Town Raised from the Dead... The Shtetl in Literature).
Materials edited by: Izabela Błasiak, Aleksandra Duź, Joanna Zętar