Almost 250 year old Rossa is one of the oldest cemetery in Vilnius as well as one of the most beautiful cemetery in Europe. On Saturday, it was decorated with more than 1 000 candles which were lighted up as a part of the annual campaign “Light for Rossa”.
On Saturday, it was the first time when the collection for Rossa took place at Vilnius cemeteries.
The chairperson of Social Committee for Care of Old Rossa, Alicja Klimaszewska said “About 13 thousands of people lay at Old Rossa. Some of them were famous, some had already been forgotten, but all of them deserve for memorial light. Those are the people who built this town and who made Vilnius history”.
While giving honours to Józef Piłsudski’s heart mausoleum, Polish ambassador in Lithuania, Józef Czubiński said “Each of these tombs is ours because each of us makes a part of their family, their society, their country and Europe”. He also pointed out that we “have to take care of this place as it is a part of our history, of our common memory but also of our future because on these tombs we try to build future for our children and ourselves”.
Piłsudski’s Mausoleum is located next to the main entrance to Old Rossa. In the crypt, next to the marshal’s mother coffin, there lays the heart of the Chief of the Country. The mausoleum is surrounded by tombs of the soldiers who died in the battles for Vilnius in 1918-1919, as well as by the tombs of Home Army soldiers who died in the battles for the liberation of Vilnius in 1944. After the war some of the tombs were intentionally devastated. Presently, there are 72 tombs of HA soldiers.
At this old cemetery, located on the picturesque hills of Vilnius, there are hundreds of forgotten tombs among which we can find the tombs of: brother and sister of Józef Piłsudski – Adam Piłsudski and Ludwika Majewska, as well as the marshal’s wife – Maria of Korpolwescy. Rossa is also the place of rest for the professors of Stefan Batory University, among others the historian Joachim Lelewel – Adam Mickiewicz’s teacher. There are also tombs of the poet Władysław Syrokomla, the archeologists and writer Eustachy Tyszkiewicz, the sculptor and architect Antoni Wiwulski. Rossa is also the place of rest of Juliusz Słowacki’s father and stepfather – Euzebiusz Słowacki and August Becu.
For years Rossa has been taken care of by Social Committee for Care of Old Rossa, which engages Polish schools, social organisations and media into activities connected with Rossa protection. For over 20 years, the money for Rossa renovation has been collected at Powązki and for 14 years there are collections in Poznań. Money collected in Poland allowed for renovation of about 100 tombstones.
This year, for the first time, the collection for renovation of the ruined tombstones of Rossa took place at some of Vilnius cemeteries. “The tradition of collecting is not popular in Lithuania. We decided to start it and make people aware that rescue of Rossa is our common issue” – said the initiator of the campaign PPA(Polish Press Agency) and the chairperson of Polish Medical Association in Lithuania, Dariusz Żybort.
In Vilnius region there are more than 50 Polish memorials – those are the tombs of the rebels, HA soldiers, the places of battles (in Niemenczyn, Świeciany, Troki, Skrobuciany, Ejszyszki, Koniuchy, Orany…) In Kopciów, near Polish border, there is the tomb of Emilia Plater, the heroine of the November Upraising. The biggest Polish grave in Lithuania is located in Ponary Forest near Vilnius. It is the place where during the WW II the Nazi and their Lithuanian collaborators executed 100 thousands people, mostly Jews, but also 20 thousands of Poles.
On All Saints’ Day and All Soul’s Day, the candles are lighted up at every memorial place in Lithuania. PPA
Tłumaczenie by Aneta Gębska w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Aneta Gębska within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.