The private and the remote world of the Tomaševski family

© Marian Paluszkiewicz

When a first star appears on the sky, the family is sitting by the festive table. The host makes a sign of cross, takes a Christmas wafer – the Christmas bread which Jesus Christ himself impersonated with and breaks wafer with everyone who is with them during this joyful evening of waiting for the Lord.

This is the tradition celebrated in every Christian family. This is how it has always been and is done in his family – this is how Valdemar Tomaševski, the leader of Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania (EAPL), a Pole who is not only well-known in Lithuania but also in other countries  remembers it. His family is the greatest value for him because it is family where the world of each person starts, either the private world or the one that he will ever be granted to embrace.

Since the United Nations (UN) has announced the upcoming year, 2014, to be the International Year of the Family, thinking about the article to be published on Christmas Eve, so familial holiday, we plan to describe the family of Valdemar Tomaševski. It is easy to plan, but knowing that he has his schedule tight we are not sure if we manage to do it. Mr Tomaševski is willing to do us a favour. So here we are warmly welcomed by the hosts – Mrs Wioleta and Mr Valdemar Tomaševski.

They have been married for 25 years and in 2013 they celebrated their silver wedding anniversary.

They met at school, the old 11th on Krupnicza Street – became the Mickiewicz Junior High School today. In fact, as they both recollect, they became attracted to each other during one of “labour camps” which were organized by the school for the older students. They had such practice near Turmont.

“After all these years, right in this neighborhood, I founded a circle of the Association of Poles in Lithuania. It is still successfully working due to Poles always living in this area.” – says Mr Valdemar. The subject of Polishness and nationality is of paramount importance for the hosts, similar to faith, both of which they took from their family homes filled with national traditions, which had not been erased by soviet influence.

The father of Mr Valdemar came from Giedrojciszki, near Korwie, where he rests when he has at least some free time.

“From the geographical point of view, places and nature are not extraordinary but those forests and bushes and swamps are for me very important, this is where I can calm my soul, this is where I feel like nowhere else.” – he says. Our memories are heading directly to this village, Giedrojciszki, where in 1935 Mr Valdemar’s father, Władysław, was born. For over 40 years he had been a director of Płacieniszki Primary School in the Vilnius region. He died unexpectedly almost on Christmas Eve. His wife and sons, friends and acquaintances still cannot reconcile with that. Such sad memories are coming back each year before Christmas. They have optimistic, warm and joyful memories, though coming from the family home where national and christian traditions where always celebrated. The home of Valdemar’s parents, as well as his grandparents.
His mother, who was a Polonist in the Płacieniszki Primary School for many years, came from Vilnius. Family grounds of his mother are currently Lazdynai, which consists of former villages like: Ragutczyzna, Górne Szałtuny, Šeškinė, which has nothing to do with the district located near Ukmergė road.

Valdemar was born in Nowosiółki but, as he says himself, he does not remember those times. As a little child he lived there with his parents when the building of a new district, Lazdynai, had become. They settled there, nearby the shopping center “Erfurtas”. And this is where his childhood and youth had pasted. He knows every path here, every shrub. All the more that this actually is his patrimony – not returned till this day, built-up with new blocks of flats, or, as it is in case of their grounds, with houses and kindergarten near the shop called “Ąžuolas”.
He started to go to school in Lazdynai but because of the fact that polish classes were only on basic level, he then attended the 11th on Krupnicza Street – today’s Mickiewicz Junior High School.

These were different years but Valdemar and his brother, Mieczysław, knew the truth about Katyn, attack on Poland made by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. The spread this information among their friends at school. Valdemar had even made a step further: during the lesson of patriotic education when the teacher was praising on “great” accomplishments of the Soviet Union, he burst out and publicly, in front of the whole class, accused the Soviet Union of huge crime. He referred to Katyn.

It could have ended badly if it had not been for the fact that brothers were excellent students and there had not been any denunciators at school. The incident had been covered up. But he did not stop to rebel. He has always been brave.

He studied in the Vilnius Civil Engineering Institute, was a soldier for a few years (he could not avoid national service in those times) and he came back to his home town, where his parents, brother and amiable girl Wioleta waited for him. They did not get married immediately, they were both still very young but they already knew they wanted to be married one day. Finally, 25 years ago in the Vilnius Church of the Holy Spirit they promised to be faithful to each other. For better and for worse.

Young people sometimes have to accept the challenge of life. Mrs and Mr Tomaševski had to do it at the very beginning of their new path of life. Their son, Władek, named after his grandfather, was born with serious disease. His parents fought for his health from the first moment of his life, going from one doctor to another. Undoubtedly, Mrs Wioleta, sometimes thought about the reason and ask herself why it had happened to them, occasionally shedding some tears. Ultimately, as years had passed, they became more attached to each other because they knew it was the only way to handle this difficult situation.

So they had and still do need each other, helping one another. When Władek was a baby he cried all nights, Mr Valdemar used to carry him in arms so that his wife had some time to rest. Would any women forget about something like that? Knowing that he did not have an easy life too – he had to defend a diploma thesis. Then a hope for freedom of Lithuania dawned on the horizon and with that a hope for better life for all Poles living there. How could he miss this? He was always at the center of events when fate of his compatriots was hanging in the balance.
He started in 1992-1996 when he worked in the secretariat of Seimas’ group of the Association of Poles in Lithuania. He was also a co-founder of Electoral Action of Poles in Lithuania. During the third meeting of this organization, in 1999, he was appointed its leader and he still holds that position, all Poles putting a lot of trust in him. He was a Seimas deputy for three four-year terms. In 2009 he became a member of European Parliament. And this is still not a full list of his political achievements.

“I do not know a better organizer that Valdemar, and I am not saying this in a wide context, but in case of his family life. Despite his tight schedule, he can combine everything in such a way to find some time to spend only with his family. I can see it and I am sure that his family is the most important aspect of his life.” – says Mrs Wioleta. And she continues: “As a wife I am happy with his every success and I am affected by accusations against him raised during debates which is caused by him being the leader of Poles. I admire him, his ability to bear it and remain a loving father of 24-year-old son Władysław and 14-year-old Paweł. Valdemar is an authority for his sons as his father, Władysław, was for him.”

“It is not an exaggeration to say that our father was a great authority for us. As was our mother. The topics raised by their parents and principles they keep to, are of paramount importance for all children. Talking about Christmas supper brought memories of the preparations in my family home. Me and my brother helped our mother to knead yeast cake, to cut śliżyki (Lithuanian poppy-seed biscuits), to decorate Christmas tree. And what an extraordinary experience was the time when we all sing carols, when we listened to the conversations of the adults, who discussed not only this evening of joyful anticipation but also the Polishness faith, traditions. Our family gathered together, there were about 30 people. Everybody had his or her place by the table, each was given a kind word, best wishes.” – the host of the house recollects. Mrs Wioleta and Mr Valdemar have been spending Christmas Eve at their fireside for years together with the closest family: their sons and Wioleta’s mother who lives with them, Mrs Irena Narkiewicz.

“It would be difficult for us without my mother. Władek needs a day-care. Now, Paweł is older and can help when I have to settle some matters. I cannot leave Władek without anybody.” – says Mrs Wioleta.

She devoted all her career for the family. Does she have any regrets? “Not at all. I have a wonderful husband, loved children, my mother, Waldek’s mother helps too. And I see that Waldek, despite all his duties, always tries to find one day during the week and spends it only with us. How can I not appreciate it?” – says Mrs Tomaševska.

She smiles and adds after a while: “I am trying too to make it possible for him to have some time for his hobby. In the summer it is mushrooming, in the winter fishing.”

When we visited Mrs and Mr Tomaševski, the Christmas tree had not been decorated yet. They always do it a day before Christmas Eve, not leaving it for the last minute. Then there is so many things to do in the kitchen, since in their home they prepare traditional Christmas meals by themselves. “Only then we feel the atmosphere of Christmas”– says Mrs Wioleta.

Valdemar agrees with that; no one would change it – even a herring prepared at home is different. It tastes better, filled with scent of hay from under the tablecloth. And there is also a pike. Sometimes caught by Valdemar, an inveterate fisherman who likes to fish in the winter. Especially in times of biting cold and snow crunching under the boots.

He has been fishing since he was a child, first with his father, then with his brother and finally alone. There was a time when he caught pikes in the Neris river. Talking about which, he adds that there even were wąsacz, a very rare, delicious fish.

The conversation about Christmas took so many time that we have not spoken about their free time yet. As we are about to find out, when they have some spare time, especially in summer, they visit Giedrojciszki near Korwia, where they enjoy their garden in which they planted trees already bearing fruits. This is a place where they also get some fresh air for another days and activities.

What would Mr Valdemar wish for himself and all Poles living in Lithuania?

Above all good health, success for everybody and for each individually and wealth due to privation in which most Poles of Vilnius region live. And, of course, for all people to appreciate the greatest treasure – family and its everlasting values. For them to try to get rid of egoism, for families to become bigger and many more. And one more, the most important thing, to make those small and big dreams come true.

Fresh Christmas tree with the smell of the forest, a table with white cloth, hay, Christmas wafer, best wishes…

And a midnight Mass. A time special also for them because his son Paweł is an acolyte in the St. Joseph’s Church which is located nearby their house.
We would like to sum up this article about the modest Tomaševski family with a poem:

„Kiedyś mama mi mówiła,
Że w rodzinie drzemie siła,
Warto o tym się przekonać
By życiowe trudności
pokonać…”.

(Once my mother told me

that in family strength sleeps,

It was worth finding it,

to overcome all the hardships…)

Source: http://kurierwilenski.lt/2013/12/20/ten-najblizszy-i-ten-daleki-swiat-rodziny-tomaszewskich/

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

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