Tatars requesting a monument on the Vilnius Łukiszki

The only thing reminding people about this key place for the Tatar nation is a small information plate. Photograph taken by Marian Paluszkiewicz

Lithuanian Tatars want to commemorate the place where in the olden days there was a mosque and their cemetery.

 “At the start of the XV century, in Łukiszki there was a Tatar village established with a cemetery around it and a mosque next to it. In the XIX century the Russian authorities decided to rebuild the temple and in 1968 it was completely destroyed for political reasons” – said Dr Adas Jakubauskas, the leader of the Lithuanian Tatar Societies Association to the Courier.

The mosque was destroyed first, the cemetery went straight afterwards and some of its graves were taken to the cemeteries of Rossie and Bernardyński where the gravestones were used to construct a stairway. Any remaining gravestones were simply destroyed.

Eventually, the whole Tatar settlement of Łukiszki was razed to the ground. Today in the same place on the Goštauto Street 11, where is a Physics Institute.

„We wish to commemorate this place in some way as some time ago we had our temple here and it was a place where we buried our ancestors. It is a crucial thing for us. This is why we decided to build a monument here, which will surely not be a problem to anyone. We would like to build it in the middle of the Institute’s square” – says the leader of the Lithuanian Tatar Societies Association – “Quite a few years have passed since the Department for Heritage Protection decided that this very place should remain under protection of the state and there shall be nothing building or raised there.

There are about 3 thousand Tatars living in Lithuania. The Lithuanian Tatar Societies Association has sent out some documents to the Vilnius city council in order to apply for a permission to build the monument and they are now awaiting response. “We even have a model of the monument, of what we want it to look like. It was created by a renowned Lithuanian statue maker, Jonas Jagėla. The monument is to present a half cut Vilnius mosque from the XIX century and will symbolise the broken Tatar history. The monument is to be made of stone and will be built on a 5m stand. Those Tatars who left Vilnius for Poland during the war, are willingly helping us”- said Adas Jakubauskas.

Jakubauskas highlighted that the cemetery in Vilnius on the Žirnių Street is almost closed down. It is a Tatar cemetery that was created in 1905. There is however no space for new graves on that graveyard and we can only bury those who already have relatives lying on this ground. There are also Tatar cemeteries in the village of Sorok Tatary and in Niemież.

“It is very important to us that the monument is constructed. There are many nationality groups living in Lithuania and every single one of them cares for its history and builds statues. We also wish to do so and we want people to know that sometime ago we had a cemetery here so that they can give respect to our ancestors lying right here” – said Motiejus Jakubauskas the leader of the Lithuanian Tatar Societies Association. Jakubauskas pointed out that every kind of history deserves commemoration and respect.

“I think that it is a very good idea to commemorate the Tatar history and I of course support it. I am sad for the fact that such an important place for the Tatar nation is only identified by a small information plate that surely is not noticed by everybody. The situation would have been different if a monument was here and I am hoping that it will soon be built. Money for this project will surely not only be available from Lithuanian but also from Poland where a lot of Tatars who left Vilnius live there” – said the minister in charge of culture’s advisor, Imantas Melianas. “The problem of the place of the mosque is however still up-to-date and that is what is concerning me, it should be solved as soon as possible. Obviously the place should also be appropriate but there isn’t one like that in Łukiszki. I think that a temple should stand inside of town rather than outside.

Tatars have appeared in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania in mid XIV century. They were looking for somewhere to migrate in order to escape religious and political conflicts. Some of them have settled after they have been captured during wars. 

Source:  http://kurierwilenski.lt/2012/09/20/tatarzy-chca-pomnika-na-wilenskich-lukiszkach/

Tłumaczenie Kamil Szwarc w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Kamil Szwarc the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.

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