Two initials take the place of the name on the tombstone: “NN”. With this formula, used in Poland for those bodies whose identity is unknown, one of the thousands of migrants who have crossed in recent months from Belarus was buried this Thursday in the small Muslim cemetery in the town of Bohoniki.
He did not carry documents, a common practice among migrants, nor has his name or specific origin been determined. “We are almost certain that he is a Muslim brother because almost all the migrants who come from Africa are, and we understand, from the color of their skin and the context, that he is. If in the future it were determined that he is a Christian or a Jew, we would exhume the body and take it to the cemetery of his religion, “Ali Bazarewicz, the imam who officiated, told this newspaper after the ceremony.
October 22 has been established as the date of death and thus appears on the tombstone next to the formula “Rest in peace.” The burial could only be carried out almost a month late because the lifeless body “was found by a policeman recently, very deteriorated and deep inside the forest” of Bialoweza, the usual route of migrants to the interior of the European Union. , has specified.
Maciej Szczesnowicz, leader of the local Muslim community, has also pointed out to a group of journalists that the autopsy has determined that the man was in his 30s and probably died of hypothermia. This Friday, he has advanced, it will also be a burial day, perhaps for two people.
As it was an unidentified body, only the people linked to the burial and the press were present. Around noon, the coffin was transported – first in a vehicle and then carried by four men – to the courtyard of the town’s brown wooden mosque. There, as the imam recited the funeral prayer Salat al yanaza, was covered with a green shroud (color of Islam) with embroidery.
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A hearse later took him to the cemetery. He advanced slowly along a path parallel to dozens of tombstones until he reached a far corner, where the grave in which the coffin was deposited was prepared. The Imam threw out three handfuls of dirt and four men quickly covered it completely with shovels. A mound of earth was left decorated with stones and branches of the nearby conifers.
Beside him lies Ahmad al Hasan. The 19-year-old Syrian, whose name does appear on the tombstone, drowned trying to swim across the Bug River from Belarus, also last month. His family was only able to witness the burial, the first in Poland of the current migration crisis, by videoconference, organized by the Syrian doctor who found the body.
That same day, Gaylan Delir Ismael, a 25-year-old man who died in the arms of his brother, was buried in Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan. More than ten people are estimated to have perished in the current border crisis, although Polish activists in contact with migrants take it almost for granted that more bodies will be found in the Bialowieza Forest when free access is allowed. A part of the forest is in the area prohibited to non-resident civilians, including journalists, aid workers and independent observers.
Located in the northeast of the country, just ten kilometers from the border with Belarus that the man buried on Thursday passed through at an undetermined moment of the current crisis, Bohoniki is an Islamic islet in an overwhelmingly Catholic country. Its inhabitants are about 100 Tatars, one of the oldest Muslim communities in Europe. The members of this Turkic people with a presence in the area since at least the 14th century had a reputation of good warriors, so three centuries later the Polish king Jan Sobieski – lacking money to pay his soldiers – gave them land in exchange for protect the eastern border. Today they account for only 5,000 of the 38 million inhabitants of the country. The Bohoniki community has distinguished itself during this crisis by helping both migrants (not only with the offer of their cemetery, but also with money, clothing and food collections) as well as the security forces deployed in the area, for the who prepare a daily soup.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.