The Tyszkiewicz’s Palace in Waka Trakai calls for the renovation

Wygląd frontowy pałacu Tyszkiewiczów Fot. Marian Paluszkiewicz

In fact only a few residents of the Vilnius know about the historic and beautiful Tyszkiewicz’s palace in Waka Trakai near Vilnius. The mansion, owned by the famous family in the years 1850-1939 is already heavily damaged and unused, it calls for the restoration to its former glory.

Therefore, the festival with the participation of local authorities from Vilnius, which was held there on September 5, was aimed to draw the attention of visitors to this historic property and show the beauty of the palace’s interiors. Guests had the opportunity to walk along the old park alleys and enjoy the scenery from terraces, see the exhibition of local painters Ojar Mašidlauskasa and Romas Žmuidzinavičiusa in high chambers of the palace and  admire the paintings created during the international open-airs in the vicinity of the palace in Waka Trakai.

During the period of Soviet reign the building was used as the Institute of Agriculture and Cultural Centre. Over the last 10 years, the manor belonged to the nobility of Lithuania and was rather closed to the wider community. After that moment, the Association had received 2.2 million LTL for the reconstruction of the palace but they did not perform many of the renovation works. So the proceeding was initiated and the case went to court on charges of embezzlement, falsification of documents and destruction of the monument. This year, the palace was taken over by the government m. Vilnius, and is managed by the Institution of Public Benefit “Trakai Vokes dvaro sodyba” which applied for the European Union funds for the restoration of the palace and the revitalization of the once beautiful park.

“We would like to show that this palace could be reborn and in perspective serve to spread the culture. We try to make this a facility open to the public – says for ” the Courier” Vaida Markevičiutė,the head of projects from “Trakai Vokes dvaro sodyba”.

In 1850, the Waka was bought by Count Jan Tyszkiewicz, giving rise to Tyszkiewicz’s “Dynasty”, which lasted invariably until the outbreak of the Second World War. During the reign of Tyszkiewicz there was a special boom of these areas in terms of architectural, cultural and social aspects. This dynasty strongly spread culture and put into practice many technical and scientific innovations.

“They were extremely enlightened, educated, very progressive people – says Vaida Markevičiutė. –  The train station in Waka Trakai appeared only thanks to the efforts of Tyszkiewicz’s family. Even the electric current was used here, which was exceptional in those days. They liked lavish dinners, meetings, had pheasants on the table, could add ginger and turmeric to their dishes, which was completely unusual.”

Jan Tyszkiewicz built his headquarters in 1880 according to the design by Leandro Marconi in the neoclassical style. The building was modelled after the palace in Warsaw’s Łazienki Park. How looked the interior of the palace in Waka before World War I we can only know based on the photographs from the collections of Tyszkiewicz’s family and from several other sources. Here is one observation memoirs: “In Waka as in all Tyszkiewicz’s residences are beautiful and numerous collections, works of art. (…) In the living rooms are French furniture from the era of Louis XV and Louis XVI. “Derived from the seventeenth to the nineteenth century paintings were created by Polish, Italian, French, Dutch, Flemish and Czech artists.

The local painter Ojaras Mašidlauskas, who as a child lived in Waka Trakai in 1958 is a passionate of the history of the palace and the Tyszkiewicz’s dynasty. Today his paintings show among other the daily life from the time before the war. He guides us through the interiors of the palace.

” I see before my eyes how the palace looked like before – he said. – In my paintings I reconstruct some details from my memory and some other on the basis of historical materials and my imagination. I was looking for photos, documents being in possession of the older residents but almost nothing had left.”

He shows one of his paintings.

” From this close to the palace building was an underground path which led to the palace. In this building were prepared dishes, which were brought through a tunnel and served in the palace. “

The next painting shows the western gate. According to the historical sources, formely here was a balustrade, which today no longer exists. In the picture the works of art are being driven through the gate to the palace – this detail was added by the artist’s imagination.

The next painting shows the work at the ice house.

” In winter, this room was filled with ice and acid and beer, which were given to drink to the servants in order the employees drink something better than water. It was for the sake of their health.” – explains Mašidlauskas.

The next paintings show fragments of the pre-war reality: the eastern gate, fencing, stables, a water mill.

In Waka was set the first in Lithuania electric mill; the electricity had been restored not only to the palace, but also to the granary (świrna). Corn was imported from the neighboring villages; the railways were set at a kilometer railway crossings distance in order there were no obstacles to easily reach the palace.

According to Mašidlauskas when in Tsarist Russia they started to build and completed  in 1862 the railway line from St. Petersburg to Warsaw, Tyszkiewicz’s family arranged the establishment of the station  in Waka Trakai. As the first people they had a home phone. When they decided to go on a trip,  they telephoned to the central station  in Waka in order their wagon was  attached to the set.

“The railway connected with the world, but also serve many other things for example to deliver fresh fish from Tyszkiewicz’s ponds  to Warsaw and St. Petersburg – says the artist. – The ponds were filled with a variety of fish, including salmon. It was thought that the fish was the best, if it was delivered to the chef still alive.”

Count Tyszkiewicz was one of the first people in Lithuania who possessed a phone after in 1896 in Vilnius was started the first telephone station. “For the convenience of administration of their goods he combined the Waka residence with the Vilnius tenements via phone” – reported the excited relative.

In family memoirs we can read: “In 1898, the park was modernized at the initiative of the young heir of Waka  Count Jan Tyszkiewicz according to the plans of the French architect Edward Andre (Édouard André), who also designed the gardens and parks in Landwarów, Zatrocze and Pałądza”.

The realization of the plan, bringing and planting appropriate plants and the education of the property gardener had taken three years. In the Waka park till today we can find a memorial stone with the inscription: “Jan Tyszkiewicz founded the park and garden in Waka in 1900”.

Next to the palace is funded by Count Tyszkiewicz built in 1870 the neo-Gothic chapel with four stone statues on the front top.  The  members of the Tyszkiewicz’s family are buriedt here, next to the chapel – the final resting place of the last Waka owner – Jan Michał Tyszkiewicz, who died tragically. The light aircraft piloted by Count Zamoyski in which they were returning home from a retreat in Międzyrzec Podlaski, after the troubled take-off fell to the ground from a height of about one hundred meters;  the pilot and his passenger were killed on the spot in May 30, 1939 r.

” Tyszkiewicz’s family had lived here until 1939. After the Polish occupation by the Germans they emigrated immediately. The widowed mother gathered her three small children – Anna Maria, Izabella and Zygmund and went to the relatives in England. In exile they lived very poorly – they often  had  no food to put on the table. . They left leaving all the property here. The children were very able so the relatives paid for their education.” – says Mašidlauskas.

The offspring of the last Waka’s owner has been living in England till today, visitting the patrimony and  keeping the correspondence with the local residents.

“These stone bars once surrounded the entire lawn, now only a few of them had left – shows the artist. – When I was looking for them in the surrounding houses, the people did not even protest when I asked to give it  back to its proper place. Destroyed statues from the top of the palace show the annual field work. The large garden oval marble table and two marble seats were lost irretrievably – now they are probably adorning someone’s garden …”.


Tłumaczenie by Kasia Ratajek w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, Translated by Kasia Ratajek within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights,

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