- June 8, 2013
The Polish “deluge” in Kėdainiai
The Polish festivities in Kėdainiai do not occur frequently, especially when they are celebrated altogether. This weekend the palace of Radziwiłł and Uspaskich not only had the members of The Kėdainiai Polish Association as their guests, but also The Association of Poles in Lithuania in Lauda (Liaudė), The Polish Institute in Vilnius alongside the coordinators of an educational project devoted to the commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the January Uprising. The most colourful and extravagant element of the “Polish weekend” was obviously the 9th Polish Culture Gala “Znad Issy” (“By the Isa River”), which was attended by numerous guests from Poland and even from Latvia.
The participants of the Polish gala started gathering in front of the edifice of administration of the council in Kėdainiai already in the early morning, in order to take part in the colourful parade towards the Old Town Market Place, where seven orchestras could proudly present their impressive skills.
The Old Town in Kėdainiai can boast about several historical buildings. At the turn of the 18th century, the Old Market Place, which was also frequently named “The Jewish Market Place”, became a centre of the Jewish district and the Jewish community. It served its function as a marketplace until the outbreak of the World War II. The Old Synagogue was built nearby, followed by the New Synagogue. The latter became utterly empty after the war, since almost 2,5 thousand of the Jews from Kėdainiai, who constituted almost a half of the overall number of the inhabitants of the city 50 years earlier, were killed by the Nazis and their Lithuanian partisans during the war.
The New Synagogue now seats the Multicultural Centre, reminding about the multinational and multi-religious history of Kėdainiai, the symbol of European toleration and harmonious co-existence until the 20th century. It is worth emphasizing that in the 17th century the Scotsmen, who had been forced to leave their fatherland, were allowed to settle there. A new photography exhibition entitled “Hello, Poland!” was displayed in the antique synagogue in Saturday afternoon. It is a result of the contest held on the eve of holding the Presidency of the European Council by Poland (in the second half of the year 2011), being also a perfect opportunity to demonstrate the contemporary Poland both with all its complexity and richness of identity and its modernity combined with tradition. In the mid-year preceding the presidency of Lithuania, the exhibition has been displayed all around the country – it has been already shown in Ukmergė, Radviliškis, Tauragė and Skuodas.
(The above photo displays the photography exhibition: “Hello, Poland!”, the Dunajec Castle at Czorsztyn Lake in Niedzica, photo: lenkijosinstitutas.lt).
No sooner had the exhibition been inaugurated and the participants of the Gala “Znad Issy” had decided on having a dinner and some rest, as it was scorching mercilessly, than the crowds of the school youth started gathering in “Grėjaus namai” centre. These young people were members of an educational project, entitled: “We adopt the monuments of the January Uprising”, also initiated by the Polish Institute. One of its stages involved the trip to nearby Podbrzezie (Paberžė), where the only one in the world museum devoted to the January Uprising of 1863 was located, as well as the local church, to which priest Antoni Mackiewicz had directed the peasant troops. The meeting in Kėdainiai was the final part of the contest and required taking part in a history quiz. The newest results of the project research were also displayed, since the major goal of this venture aimed at searching and presenting the souvenirs of the uprising in our family environs.
Over 300 students from 37 schools in Lithuania have been involved in the project, including 27 Lithuanian, 7 Polish and 3 Russian schools. Gathering all of them on one day would be literally impossible, hence the meetings in Kėdainiai and Podbrzezie (Paberžė) were held on three separate days. The Lithuanian and Polish students (from the Vilnius Region – Šumskas and Zujuny – Zujūnų) broadened and tested their knowledge about the uprising precisely on Saturday. The students from Pagiriai, Jašiūnai and Vilnius (The Secondary School in Leszczyniaki, The John Paul II and Adam Mickiewicz Grammar Schools) also participated in the project.
In the afternoon the festivities moved from Kėdainiai to Krakės, where the participants of the 9th Polish Culture Gala “Znad Issy” followed another colourful and loud parade towards the Freedom Square in the town centre. After a short show of the orchestras, the performances moved to the local culture centre. As opposed to the celebrations in Kėdainiai that did not gather many enthusiasts, almost the whole room in culture centre was filled with crowds. It could finally be noticed that it was not exclusively the festivity of the bands. And yet, the number of artists present in culture centre in Krakės outnumbered considerably the spectators…
The Poles in the Kėdainiai region (Lauda – Liaudė) do not constitute a dense community anymore, as they used to before the World War II. Its rests are dispersed in various villages and towns. Krakės is not any larger Polish culture centre, so why was it selected to host the aforementioned festivities? “We simply have our friends there, which I cannot say about other towns, even those inhabited by a considerable number of Poles…” – explained Irena Duchowska, the organizer of the celebration festivities and the manager of the local Associacion of Poles in Lithuania APL “Lauda”. “We were never given a penny for a Polish event by the authorities of Kėdainiai Region, yet we never had problems with obtaining a permission for them” – she concluded.
The participants of the gala participated in the Holy Mass in Podbrzezie (Paberžė), where another group of youth explored the vestiges of the uprising. An ostentatious final concert was held in the park of Kėdainiai. Its participants reminded those having a walk in the park that the Poles have always been present there, in the very heart of Lithuania and that they still are…
But for how long…?
The support for the dying Polish character of Lithuania has been supplied for years by the Polish groups from the Vilnius region, as well as the guests from Poland, who are arriving there more and more willingly. This year among those who attended the festival were: the wind orchestras from nearby Sejny, Olecko, Ciechanowiec, Pułtusk, Szumowo, Dzietrzakowice (three latter along with majorettes), The Kurpie Orchestra with Dance Group from Lelis, the “Połoniny” Song and Dance Ensemble from Rzeszów, the choirs: “Pasjonata” (Olsztyn), “Concordia” (Dobre Miasto) and last but not least “Gozdawa” (Raczki).
Our compatriots from Poland were joined by our friends from Latvia – the Polish choir “Jutrzenka” (“The Dawn”) from Rēzekne (the former Polish Livonia) and the famous Latvian male choir VEF from Riga. The final gala concert was also attended by the Lithuanian friends – the Polish group “Jutrzenka” (“The Dawn”) from Nemenčinė and “Kotwica” (“The Anchor”) from Kaunas. A perfect organization of the festivities was granted by the hosts or – to be more precise – the hostesses, the female members of the Polish Choir “Issa”, which celebrated its 15th anniversary this year.
On the basis of private data.
Tłumaczenie by Joanna Mirek w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Joanna Mirek within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.