The tiny town of Goniadz, some 5 km east of the Biebrzanski National Park headquarters, is a perfect base for those who wish to linger a bit longer in the region. It has plentiful accommodation in private rooms and there is a single, though large hotel. What enhances the scenic beauty of the town is its location on a slope, giving you great views over the valley of the Biebrza River.
Situated in the heart of a region known as ‘the green lungs of Poland’, Goniadz is one of the best destinations in Poland for anyone who loves untamed nature or who simply wishes to rest in an ecologically clean environment. It provides an ideal starting point for hikes into wild surroundings, characterised by marshes and peat bogs.
Despite its position away from more usual places, Goniadz is easily accessible by bus. There are shops in the market place selling the essentials you might need, and a traditional restaurant for you to relax in. Although simple and somewhat sleepy, the town nevertheless has a charm of its own and many interesting spots for you to discover. Sited on a high hill, Goniadz’s main feature is the chapel of St. Florian, built in the 19th century. Its interior holds a tremendous and historic cross with crucified Christ on it.
You might like to visit the Jewish cemetery, situated close to the Polish one, cool in the shade of pine trees. There is only one headstone still standing, others lay on the ground, broken and unreadable. During the Holocaust, 4000 Jews from Goniadz lost their lives in Treblinka.
Goniadz is located in north-east Poland about 50 km to the north of Bialystok, from where it can be easily reached by train. Administratively, the town belongs to the Podlaskie Voivodship and Moniecki Poviat. With less than 2000 residents, this is a typically agricultural town providing a service industry for agriculture.
This smallish town boasts a beautiful location on the verge of the Biebrzanska Valley, on the Biebrza River water trail connecting the lakes of the Augustowska Plain and Elk Lakeland with the Narew River. Very close to Goniadz is the edge of the Biebrzanski National Park, which is the nation’s largest protected area.
Already by the Middle Ages a settlement of the Masovian Princes existed in the place of present-day Goniadz. As a capital of a poviat, the settlement was first mentioned in writing in 1358 on the occasion of confirming an agreement that concerned the establishment of borders between Lithuania and Masovia by the Lithuanian prince, Kiejstut, and the Mazovian prince, Ziemowit Trojdenowicz.
In 1382 a Masovian prince, Ziemowit IV, mortgaged Goniadz to the Teutonic Order for a period of 20 years. After the Goniadz Poviat had been bought back, it was divided into the eastern part, which went to Lithuania, and western part, which remained in Masovia.
Then, in 1509, King Sigmund I bestowed the Goniadz estates on Nicholas Radziwill, the Great Chancellor of Lithuania. Around the year 1530, Peter of Goniadz was born in the town, a theologian credited as being the founder of the Polish Brethren.
As an important trade centre thanks to its river port, Goniadz obtained city rights in 1547 from Petronela Radziwill. Following her death in 1564, Goniadz was taken over by her sister Anna, who subsequently gave the Goniadz estate to King Sigmund August. The year 1572 marked the inclusion of Goniadz into Knyszyn County.
In 1579 King Stefan Batory issued a proclamation establishing a saltworks in Goniadz that would later supply salt to the entire Podlasie Voivodship.
The Swedish Deluge, as well as frequent plagues and fires, all contributed to the town’s eventual decline. In June 1794, during the Kosciuszko Uprising, the insurgents defeated Prussian troops in the Battle of Osowiec.
Due to the location of the front line on the Biebrza River, the First World War brought major destruction to Goniadz. In 1921 a fire consumed the historic parish church of St. Agnes, dating from 1779. A new temple was erected in its place, which was consecrated in 1924.
In 1933, a new seven–grade public school started to be built, but its construction was hindered by the outbreak of the Second World War. During the occupation, first by the Soviets (1939-1941) and then by the Germans (1941-1944), Goniadz was the scene of many tragic events, such as shootings of civilians, massive arrests and deportations of slave labour. In the course of the Second World War the town was on the frontline for five months, until the entry of the Soviet forces. Soon after the war rebuilding works were initiated and today the scars of war are no more than a memory.