The 30th anniversary of unveiling the Vilnian monument of Adam Mickiewicz

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The day was quite cold and windy. In Vilnius it was said under breath that by Wilejka the monument of Adam Mickiewicz is supposed to be unveiled. The works have lasted there since some time. In the square designed by an architecture Vytautas Čekanauskas there were foundations for the future monument. It was built over 50 cm plinth with an inscribed inscription: ADOMAS MICKEVIČIUS.

On 18th April 1984, on the plinth, the posture of the Poet was already standing, covered with the fabric. During the second half of the day people started to gather. Probably the half of them were those who liked his creative output – the rest – the comrades from the seat by the Łukiski Square [(Lukiškių aikštė] that at that time bore the name of one of the October Revolution`s  leaders. In Vilnius it was lauder and lauder about the polish movement “Solidarność”. It expected apparently some patriotic demonstrations and there was  the incredible silence.

The author of the monument –  a great sculptor Gediminas Jokubonis evidently did not know what to do. He, whose hands, as Leopold Staff said in one of his poems, „ in the stone the youth sculpted”, was helplessly glancing at the assembled people. Suddenly Łucja Brzozowska-Józefowicz, the manager of the schools` and youth`s department „Czerwony Sztandar” [“Red Flag” ] (currently – „Kurier Wileński) [ “Vilnian Courier”], which came to this ceremony with her daughters and husband, stood out from the crowd. She handed Jokubonis roses, and he, thanking, said: “These flowers are entitled to Adam” and laid them under the monument. This was a ground – breaking moment. People moved towards the monument. Someone took the fabric off. It appeared the figure of the Poet – a youth , full of hope, adoring Lithuania, extolling its beauty. The Vilnian laid the modest bunches of the flowers under the monuments, thanked its authors. They repeated: “ We have Mickiewicz! Finally…”.

The men from the Committee for State Security [Komitet Bezpieczeństwa Państwowego] had to feel disappointed. They did not wait any disturbances. Surely they had their hands full soon. 1987 „by Mickiewicz” the first mass meeting of the Vilnian dissidents took place. It  initiated the independence movement. Then the next mass meetings took place. It became a tradition that different undertakings connected with Mickiewicz were held by his monument. Soon the participants of the international poetic meetings “ Maj nad Wilią” [“May by the Wilejka”] will meet there.

After unveiling the monument the Jokubonis invited the circle of the people to the near the Fine Arts Department for a wine. To the room, where some years ago the dean of the Fine Arts Department of Stafan Batory University in Vilnius  [Wydziału Sztuk Pięknych Uniwersytetu Stefana Batorego w Wilnie], Ferdynand Ruszczyc absolutely reigned. And where the fierce discussions referring to the commemoration of Adam Mickiewicz through the monument in Vilnius were held.

The battle for the bas – relief and the name

Let`s get back to the roots. 1978 Gediminas Jokubonis worked out the first sketches of the monument. It is not the secret that there were friendly people towards Jokubonis among the republic authorities. It was passed the law about putting up the monument of Adam Mickiewicz in Vilnius. The sculptor at once begun working out the plaster model. In Autumn 1981 he went to Ukraine, to the quarry in the Sarny region. He chose grey – brown, weighting 40 tones granite block. It was transported to the Vilnian combine “Daile”. The stone mason master Jonas Valeśka started laborious carving. Out of the block that weighted 40 tones was created a figure that weighted 15 tones and was 4,5 meter high (without the  pedestal).

As the project`s authors assumed, near to the monument of Adam Mickiewicz there were supposed to be placed 6 bas – reliefs that came from the unfinished, pre – war monument sculpted by Henryk Kuna. They pictured the scenes from “Dziady” and included religious contents. It was enough for the decision – makers to forbid to move the granite plates from the square ISP where they were laying for over a half of the Century.

However, Jokubonis was aiming all the time at placing the bas – reliefs near to the monument of Adam Mickiewicz. It happened only 10 years later. From that time on the creative output of the two artists create the whole. Far from any kinds of “isms” tried to get the authorities` permission for inscribing on the monument in Polish: ADAM MICKIEWICZ. Unfortunately he did not live to it. He died in 2006.

The typical Vilnian story

It was said much about different ideas and plans that refer to putting out the monument of Adam Mickiewicz in Vilnius. During the Russian annexation it went quite well: it was created an unanimous committee at night and the bust of the Bard was placed in the St. John Church.

In the interwar years, as Stanisław Pigoń wrote: „ The thought or the project appears that is greeted by the more or less professional reviewers, in the discussions casual judges are involved, self – taught experts, even the bystanders; the discussion is getting more and more intensive, finally ends with the general trick: the artist, reviewers, the dilettante were at each other`s throats”.

It should be added that in the commemoration of the Bard in Vilnius were involved such artists as Xawery Dunikowski, Zbigniew Pronaszko (the mock – up of his work of art was put on the right side of Wilejka and courted stormy discussions), Antoni Madeyski and some others. Henryk Kuna was doing well. The monument projected by him was supposed to stand near to the current square V. Kudirko, at that time bearing a name of Eliza Orzeszkowa. The fact that the Vilnian are argumentative people delayed the realization of the works. And then the war broke out. Luckily, the bas – reliefs  that were sculpted in the granite and the plate with the Svetivit`s mask that currently is leaning against the Observant church`s wall, managed to approach Vilnius.

Bard in the beautiful surroundings

In the different cities and places there are monuments of Adam Mickiewicz. Monumental and chamber ones. Paris, Warsaw, Lviv, Cracow… However we dare to claim that none of them in situated in such charming place like the one in Vilnius. By the Wilejka that is creating a delicate bend, in the background two beautiful temples: masterly St. Anna and different in its medival character the church of St. Francisco and Bernard, called by the Vilnian simply the Observant Church. On the opposite side of the street, formerly St.Anna, currently Maironis, there is a renaissance monumental St.Michael. The whiteness of its walls oppose the Gothic redness of St. Anna and the Observant. There are always many tourists in such a charming corner of Lithuania. Very clearly: the picturesque, winding alleys leading towards the most important trails: Zamkowa, Wielka and Ostrobramska streets.

Source: http://www.wilnoteka.lt/pl/artykul/30-rocznica-odsloniecia-wilenskiego-pomnika-adama-mickiewicza

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

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