Sejny, border lands

Chance has had it so that, aiming for a secondary border crossing to Lithuania from Bialystok (where I stayed the last few days), I ended up in the small town of Sejny (ten kilometres away from the Baltic country) the very day of their local annual holiday.

Desfile de majorettes. Sejny.
Parade with majorettes. Sejny.

It’s been fun to watch the parade with majorettes –something I haven’t seen since my early childhood– and the local wind-percussion band behind, and to loiter around the fairground, on the esplanade by the monastery’s church, nosing about the stands that offer traditional Polish food, while on the stage nearby a nostalgic flavoured musical group plays songs of unmistakably slavic melodies. Clic on the photo below for a short charming video.

The Polish stretch of the Camino de Santiago goes through Sejny, and I find it odd that, rather than naming it in Polish (Droga Świętego Jakuba) they use the Spanish expression Camino Polaco, meaning Polish Camino. These Poles have funny criteria when it comes to translations or adopting foreign words. Recently, for instance, I heard of a new street they’ve named after the Star-wars hero Obi-Wan Kenobi, but only after declining it to genitive the Polish way, which results in a bizarre Obi-Wan Kenobego street.

El Camino de Santiago en Polonia pasa por Sejny.
The Camino de Santiago in Poland goes through Sejny.

Borders, always defended with such a patriotic zeal and often at the expense of so many lives, aren’t but the fancy outcome of changeable laws that only seldom reflect a social reality.
Sejny was founded during the early middle ages by Baltic tribes, then was disputed along the late middle ages between Lithuanians and Teutonic knights, and only much later, on the XVIIIth century, Poles came claiming rights over this land and fighting battles to get it. Also the jolly Sweds were here, devastating the town to its ashes; and Prussian imperialists as well, and so did the omnipresent Russians.
It was finally the whiny Polish who got away with it after WWII; but at some point of history all the aforementioned nations have claimed these lands, and despite Sejny being a small town, economically irrelevant, it has been for centuries the scenario of struggles and victim of destructions, shifting hands quite often. Such is the doom of border lands. On the other hand, I find it quite meaningful the fact that, after every devastation suffered, it was the monks who –with their humble and patient work– brought it up again, settling down and rebuilding their monasteries where fear of war made the population run away.
On a side note, it’s irksome to see this modern fashion of Church-hating visceral Antichrists want to annihilate our religion (our culture!) and erase from our societies all traces of it, ignoring that their very selves would probably not exist had it not been for Christendom! Or as if they could change the past by modifying the present, such an Orwellian idea…

Peculiar monasterio fortificado de los Dominicos, único edificio que sobrevivió a la asolación sueca.
Peculiar fortified Dominican monastery in Sejny, the only building to survive the Swedish devastation.

The hotel where I stay in Sejny, despite the evident signs of having been updated, still preserves some of its original 70’s flavour in style and furniture. Clean and decent, I find the price ridiculously low, telling of the neighbouring Baltic countries.
On the next morning, the first thing I do I buy Lithuanian currency, which gets done painlessly in one of the several kantors (exchange offices) existing in town. Poland is one of the best countries I know for currency exchange, as there is never shortage of kantors, which don’t charge a fee and have a quite fair margin, sometimes as low as 0,2 %.
Despite the similarities of most Western countries, every time I cross a border I feel some excitement, as of a surprise anticipated. What shall I find behind?, how the roads will be?, how are the people’s lives?, what’s their language like?, will they be friendly or hostile?, shall communication be easy..?

Cruzando la frontera lituana.
Crossing the border with Lithuania.

The border where I’m crossing to Lithuania is totally devoid of police or customs officers; only the facilities are there, and they give me a foreboding of poverty… But I’m leaving it here for the moment. Whatever I am to find in Lithuania, that will be the matter for my next chapter.

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The shortest full documentary about Poland ever made.

It happened by chance; I didn’t plan it.

I had just crossed the border and stopped in the first Polish village offering accomodation. After settling in at the hotel, I went for a walk and took the camera with me. I happened to take only two pictures, the only two things that caught my eye in my strolling mood; but, upong reviewing them, I realized that they summarized and comprised all about present-day Poland. Everything you might possibly want to know about this country’s society nowadays, you’ll find in those two pictures, which might not have been taken anywhere else.

That’s my Poland. That’s how it’s meant to be. That’s how I like it. Don’t ever change.

Worshipping the beatified John Paul II.
Worshipping the beatified John Paul II.
Four blokes "kurwing around" in the park.
Four blokes “kurwing around” in the park.


Podlasie is a stroll in the rain along the forestry park, and a sweet — sweet first kiss under the umbrella: her strangely bland lips, intensely crimson, constantly juicy, provokingly fleshy.
She in an absurd sanguine dress, all buttocks, merrily dancing and laughing along a country dirt road in Supraśl.
Her hobbit feet in purple suede shoes stepping on the mossy cobblestones of Tykocin.
She in a red gown taking the picture of a tourist who takes the picture of a ruminating cow who inevitably looks at her.

Her red laughter from the back seat of the red car.

A balneary whose decaying customers coveted her freshness, beauty and youth, while disapproving of my age; father and daughter?, satyr and nymph?

She peeping through the window of and old russian style restaurant with a well, an ancient dry tree-trunk and traditional russian music.

An orthodox church, her heavenly eyes staring at the heaven’s doors with reverence and awe.

A drowsy warm afternoon, flies buzzing around the massive wood table where she’s squatting: hot, humid and knickersless.
A silent walk in the forest looking for a cushiony place where to lay and get laid.
Her emerald-blue eyes reflecting the sky-blue sky.

She shooting at the shutters of the shelters and the sheds.

A forest road leading nowhere and her musical voice asking a peasant some impossible directions.
The heat and her odourless sweat, and her groans and her naked thigs under her uplifted skirt in the trunk of the car.
A trading post with strange, delicious food over solid wood tables, under the tree branches, right by the Belarusian border where her roots lay.
Her strawberry lips crimsoned by ripe leaking strawberries in a sunny summer day.
A little wooden room in the Hajnówka youth hostel, with a narrow bed where we love and sleep and love in inevitable close-up contact the whole night long.
A bicicle ride to Zabłudów, pursuing her hypnotic rump bottom, wrapped up in clownish rainbowed trousers; chasing the notes that her chrystal-like laughter writes in the air.
A break for lunch, and her perfect, snow-white teeth biting lipstick-red tomatoes and blood-brown kabanos.
A worn out, unfolded map of the region where she traces with her bitten-nailed fingers delicious trips that would bring us delicious memories of… Podlasia.