Lake Svityaz is covered with legends and myths.
The republican landscape reserve «Svityazyansky» in Novogrudok district is one of the smallest in the country, its area is only 1193.79 hectares. However, it attracts tourists from all over the world like a magnet. And this magnet is the most mysterious lake of the country, Svityaz, covered with legends and myths, sung by poets and artists.
In 1970, Lake Svityaz and the surrounding areas were declared protected in order to preserve the unique lake-forest landscape, wild plants and wild animals included in the Red Book of the Republic of Belarus. It received the status of a republican reserve in 2007.
It is located mainly in Novogrudok districts on the southern slopes of the Novogrudok Upland, only its small part is situated in Korelichi district. Its relief was formed by glacial end-moraine and water-glacial deposits of the Dnieper and Sozh glaciations about 200 thousand years ago. The total number of natural ecosystems of the reserve is 46, there are 7 especially valuable biotopes here.
According to geologists, Svityaz is a lake of karst origin. It is located in the Molchadz river basin. Not a single river flows into the lake and not a single one flows out.
Eye in the forest
Svityaz is shaped like a round saucer with incredibly clear water. The sun’s rays pass through its thickness and white sand is visible at the bottom. Huge schools of fish inhabit the underwater kingdom.
And you will never understand:
Is it the water high
Like an infinite mirror
Or did the sky
Sink in the depths
And there it shines
This is how the great son of the Novogrudok land, poet Adam Mitskevich, described the beauty of the unique natural creation in the ballad «Svityaz». The famous poem «Svityazyanka» and other works were born here.
Another legend tells that in the middle of the lake there is a church at the bottom and on a quiet day you can hear the ringing of its bells. It is rumored that one daredevil swam there and scratched himself on the church cross.
The Svityaz branch of the Magistralny health resort of the Belarusian Railway is situated on the shore of the lake. People from all over Belarus and from abroad come here to rest and receive treatment.
The lake is an excursion object of the republican route «Mickiewicz Paths». Poetry festivals are held here. During one of them in 1998 I happened to meet Andrei Voznesensky.
«Like a little moon»
It seemed that the muses flew from heaven. Amazing lines floated over Lake Svityaz:
Forget a thief and liar.
Watch Svityaz shining
Through the forest
Like little moon
Like a mosquito will stick
Into your glowing
And the reflection of Mickiewicz,
And an enchanted Muscovite.
You’ll dress in silk and chintz
You’ll rush away, you will be different.
But outside the window
The moon, like Svityaz,
Is rushing for you everywhere …
Andrei Voznesensky was reading his new impromptu poem, which was born right here, on the shore of the lake. And we were listening with bated breath to every word. And we were glad that he came to the poetry festival together with the Belarusian poets and writers on June 5, 1998.
“Svityaz is not just a lake for me,” he said. “This is some kind of radiance that cleans our lives from worries, dirt, horrors …”
The lake was really something special for the poet. The shores of Svityaz inspired Andrei Andreevich for a whole cycle of beautiful poems. It was here that his soul rested. That is why he loved to come here so much.
Svityaz calls for help
Unfortunately, in recent years the water has moved five meters from the coast, and shallowed by a meter in depth. The reason is not only climatic changes, but also a large number of tourists, which upset the ecological balance.
In the summer season, up to 30 thousand people rest on the shores of Svityaz and around. The lake suffers from such congestion. The internal reserves of the reservoir are no longer sufficient for full recovery. And even though there are three tent towns, convenient parking, a pier for tourists, it is not enough.
“We are planning to participate in various programs to make wooden decking around the lake,” says Ekaterina Litvin. “This will protect the root system of trees and rare vegetation from trampling. Also, the rules for staying in the reserve and liability for their violation will be tightened.”
Asian black birches, giant oak and strange mushrooms
In the structure of the vegetation of the reserve forest occupies 79.9 percent, swamps — 9.8 percent, meadows — 8.7 and other lands — 1.9 percent.
The flora includes 515 species of higher vascular plants, including 76 species of bryophytes, 98 species of lichens, 60 species of higher fungi. 22 species of rare and endangered wild plants are included in the Red Book of Belarus.
“There are many relict plants growing in the lake: Dortmann’s cardinalflower, the slender naiad, lake quillwort and rare one-flowered coastal plant, which has been registered only in our country,” continues Ekaterina Litvin. — But the most mysterious plant is the tetradinium javanicum, which is found only on the island of Java. And look what a beautiful forest we have!”
— Why do you have so many black birches? — I’m surprised.
— The soil is special, — explains Viktor Lisitsa, the leading specialist of the Svityazyansky reserve. — Over there, under that black-bore birch, I was picking up boletus the whole week. Once I will cut them in the evening, they grow again in the morning. Miracles, and more!
— This is a type of edible mushroom from the genus Sparassis – a parasite that grows on the roots of trees. It is included in the Red Book of the Republic of Belarus as a rare species, — says Victor.
Having photographed that exotic, we go to the 300-year-old oak tree. A mighty giant with a height of more than 20 meters with a trunk diameter of about two meters has been declared a natural monument. It was growing here when Mickiewicz lived. People embrace it and trust the deepest desires, they believe it gives strength.
Black stork, shellfish and … mermaids
The fauna of the reserve is diverse and reflects the ecological characteristics of all ecosystems. Representatives of 4 classes of vertebrates are registered within the boundaries of the reserve: 6 species of amphibians, 5 — reptiles, 98 — birds and 39 — mammals.
“We have few deer,” says Ekaterina Litvin, “up to ten individuals. But there are plenty of moose, wild boars, wolves, foxes, squirrels, hares. Our task is to preserve everything in its original form, maintain an ecological balance, and teach people to protect nature.
— Do you have mermaids? — I ask.
— Of course! — Sergey jokes. — Many fishermen tell stories that they saw strange creatures with a tail at night.
In his ballad «Svityazyanka» Mitskevich wrote that, according to rumors, on the banks of the Svityaz there are undines or water nymphs, whom people call Svityazyanka. The sculpture of such a mermaid rises above the waters of the lake, its author is the famous sculptor Vladimir Terebun.
Find out everything about the reserve and make a wish
In 2015, the reserve became a member of the project «Assistance in the transition of the Republic of Belarus to a green economy», funded by the EU and implemented by the UN Development Program. For grant funds, an environmental information center for children with a phyto-club «Adventures by the Lake» was built on the bank of Svityaz.
Here you can find out why you cannot take water from Svityaz, what animals and birds are found in the forests, what berries and mushrooms, plants grow here, you can overcome the sports obstacle course, visit Baba Yaga’s house, a wonderful photo zone, leave a note with a wish on the wish tree, play the game «Bird choir», visit the phytoclub.
Or you can go to study nature along ecological hiking trails – specially protected walking and educational routes, created for the purpose of environmental education. One with a total length of 1200 meters passes in the quarters of the Svityazyansky forestry of the Novogrudok forestry enterprise, the second – along the ring of the lake.
Not far from the lake there are a tourist and hunting complex of the Novogrudok forestry enterprise, a children’s health camp, and several agricultural estates.
When you visit Lake Svityaz, you should definitely see its surroundings. Everything here breathes history. Part of the reserve is located near the agro-town of Valevka, where a stunning wooden church of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul has been preserved – an important architectural, cultural and historical monument of republican significance. It was built in 1685. It intertwined the traditions of the Belarusian wooden architecture of the late 17th — early 20th centuries. The carved gilded iconostasis, painted by the famous Russian artist Viktor Vasnetsov is of great value. This iconostasis was transported to the village of Valevka from the St. Alexander Nevsky Orthodox Cathedral in Warsaw, destroyed in 1926.
More than 1,500 exhibits have been collected in the Valevka National Local History Museum located in the local school. School students took part in archaeological excavations together with the staff of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus. Remains of arrows, stone axes, samples of ancient ceramics were found outside the village. Archaeologists suggest that this is the first settlement of the Slavs in Grodno region.
In Valevka there is a sign to Chombrov. Once upon a time there was an estate, where Adam Mickiewicz often came as a child and which he considered his second home. At the beginning of the 19th century, it belonged to Ignatius Uzlovsky, and the grandfather of the future poet Mateusz Majewski was the manager there. There, before the wedding with Nikolai Mitskevich, Adam’s future mother, Barbara, also lived. In 1826, the estate was bought by lawyer Kazimir Karpovich, and it was owned by this family for over a hundred years.
“Chombrov was a typical noble estate with a luxurious home library, a greenhouse, collections of drawings and prints, butterflies and beetles, as well as a rich family archive,” says Tamara Vershitskaya, a researcher at the Novogrudok Museum of Local History. — Our fellow countryman, the famous photo artist Jan Bulgak, has been here, since the owner of the estate Karolina Karpovich was his own aunt and godmother. He glorified these places in his photographs.
The wooden house was burned down during the Great Patriotic War, only basements and fragments of the foundation remained from the estate. Several trees remind of the beauty of the linden alley. Not far from the estate there is a recently restored and consecrated chapel with the figure of Christ carrying the cross.
In 1928, a film based on the poem by Adam Mickiewicz «Pan Tadeusz» was created here. The film stars were the owner of the estate, his family and local residents. Many consider the Chombrov court to be one of the prototypes of Mickiewicz’s Soplitzov in the poem «Pan Tadeusz».