The Podlasie region doesn’t have spectacular landmarks such as The Eiffel Tower, the Statue of Liberty or Colosseum.
However, it doesn’t mean it’s not worth seeing. What is unique and may attract tourists to visit the region is its diversity of cultures, traditions and religions that strongly affected people living in this area. It’s a kind of cultural melting pot where people despite their differences and various backgrounds coexist and live peacefully together.
The Holy Mount of Grabarka is situated in the southern part of Podlaskie Voivodeship near Siemiatycze. It is a Polish Orthodox pilgrimage centre. In fact, there are about 600 000 Eastern Orthodox Christians of Polish, Belarusian and Ukrainian descent in Poland, and every year many of them come here on August 19 to celebrate the Day of Transfiguration of Jesus Christ (called Spasa), which is one of the most important feast days on the Liturgical calendar. On that day thousands of believers bring wooden crosses of different sizes with the inscription Lord, have mercy (Spasi Hospodi) or with the names of people they want to be healed. Their crosses are blessed by the priests and then pilgrims leave them in the “forest of crosses” surrounding the Church. They pray not only for their salvation, healing, godsend, but they also acknowledge the mercy of God.
The place picturesquely set on the mountain is full of green trees and crosses. The quietness and mystery of the site can be a very good escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. To reach the top you need to climb up the mountain but it isn’t high. (it’s also possible to get there by car).
The spring at the foot of the Holy Mountain is famous for many miraculous healings and wonders. Pilgrims and tourists drink water from the nearby spring and wash the parts of their bodies which are in pain with a kerchief. After that, they leave the kerchiefs on the bank which is a symbol of leaving behind their illnesses. They believe that by doing so their health will improve soon.
In the 13th century Tatars raided the area and the icon of Spas Izbawnik (the local version of Jesus Christ) was taken from the church in Mielnik and hidden in the woods of Grabarka to prevent theft. Although it was never returned to Mielnik, and it is unknown where it is, the legend of Spas and Grabarka is still popular among local people.
According to the legend in 1710 during a deadly cholera epidemic God sent an old man a dream telling him to lead the people to the Grabarka Mountain to pray for salvation and leave a holy cross there. Thousands of people were dying in the area when a group of villagers followed by the old man prayed on The Holy Mount and they miraculously survived. Soon the local people decided to build a chapel in the hills of the Grabarka.
Now you can visit here the Church of the Transfiguration of the Lord and the Convent of St. Marta and Maria.
The Holy Mount of Grabarka is a perfect place for prayer, meditation and seeking happiness and tranquility. What many people repeatedly say when they visit this sacred place is that they get closer to God.
Author: Justyna Wasyluk