In Białystok, at Pomorska Street, the demolition of the building in which a Koranic school was supposed to operate is coming to an end. There were also plans to build a mosque with a prayer hall for 1,500 people. However, in 1997, all work was stopped and the building under construction fell into disrepair over the years. Now apartments are to be built here.
– As far as the project is concerned, the matter dates back to the late 1980s. Construction works started in 1991, and in 1997 they came to a halt – recalls Tomasz Miśkiewicz, mufti of the Muslim Religious Association in the Republic of Poland.
We are talking about a large building at ul. Pomorska in Białystok, of which there are not many traces left. The demolition is ending.
There was not enough money to complete the construction
– It was supposed to be a Koran school. The complex would also include a mosque with a prayer hall for 1,500 people and an administration building. We were supported by the Islamic Development Bank (a financial organization bringing together countries modeled on the World Bank – editor’s note), but ultimately there was no money to complete the construction, the mufti notes.
He adds that in 2005 the religious association tried to reactivate the investment, but this time financial issues thwarted all plans.
Mufti: the costs of maintaining these facilities would exceed us
– The Islamic Development Bank then granted us approximately USD 100,000 to carry out design work. However, there was no money to build buildings. Besides, our community is getting smaller. I think the costs of maintaining these facilities would exceed us. In 2012, the congress of the religious association decided that we would ultimately not implement the project and sell the plot. And so it happened. Terraced houses will be built there. An era is ending, says Mufti Miśkiewicz.
Investment at ul. Pomorska should not be confused with the idea of the mufti, who in 2018 proposed that a center of Muslim culture be built in Białystok.
– We were looking for a place where it could be built. But ultimately this project also failed, he notes.
They rebuilt the community center
However, the reconstruction of the Muslim cultural center at ul. was a success. Piastowska 13f, which began to function as a mosque when it was officially put into use – at the beginning of 2021.
SEE ALSO: Podlasie – a wealth of diversity
The building was erected in 1930 as a residential house. Later, there was a local library here. After 1981, thanks to the efforts of the local Tatar community, the Zachęta housing cooperative lent the building to the Tatar community free of charge for the purposes of Muslim religious worship and educational and cultural activities.
Two years after the building and the plots of land became the property of the city in 2006, the authorities lent the property to a Muslim association. In 2017, the latter finally bought the land and the building from the city and started trying to renovate it. We managed to do this in 2020. The investment cost PLN 1.5 million and was 90% co-financed by United Arab Emirates.
1.5 thousand Tatars live in Podlasie
A minaret was built next to the building. An orangery was also built. – In addition to traditional Friday prayers, we also organize cultural meetings and religious activities for young people. We also accept groups of tourists, says Mufti Miśkiewicz.
The Muslim community in the Podlaskie Voivodeship currently numbers approximately 1.5 thousand. people, about half of whom live in Białystok. Tatars can also be found in Suchowola, Sokółka and Dąbrowa Białostocka. The number of all Polish Muslims belonging to MZR is estimated at five thousand people.
Main photo source: Muslim Religious Association in the Republic of Poland