• July 11, 2014
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Journeys through the streets of Vilnius: following in the footsteps of famous Lelewel

The street named after Joachim Lelewel is one of the shortest in Vilnius – it has around 200 meters. It is situated in the center of the town. It is beginning in Wileńska street. The greatest building is occupied by the Ministry of Agriculture. Nearby we can find the Grand Theatre of Opera and Ballet.

Before World War II, Joachim Lelewel street was running very close, across Wilii. It is where currently we can find Society of Friends of Learning that now constitute museum of Vytautasa Kasiulisa (Goštauto street). In the 90s of the previous century, the Lelewel street was „transferred” to the old Cicha street (Tylioji street). Its name corresponded to its content until the World War II. There were wooden and brick-built houses.

In 1922 Kornel Michejda arrived to Cracow and was appointed a professor of Department of Surgery on University of Stefan Batory, in his book entitled „Memories of the surgeon” he wrote that nearby the Cicha street he bought a cottage: „… New apartment was made of five bigger and two small rooms. Originally, those smaller rooms, adjacent to Wileńska street, were also big, but when the administration regulated Wileńska street, the gable end was demolished and it was replaced with new, bigger one, substantially withdrawn from the side of street. This way, both rooms were shrank to half of their size. From the Cicha street remained three untouched rooms, namely: my home office, bedroom and room for boys. From the side of garden there was a dining room with an adjacent kitchen as well as large waiting room for sick people. (…) To this property belongs also the second, rather small brick-built house, which is connected with our arc over the gate that is constituting an entrance to a yard, and moreover in the far end of a garden there is wooden cottage with two rooms. Brick-built house has three rooms, bathroom, kitchen and it was also modernized by us. For a few years, professor of pediatrics Bujak was living in the house, while during the whole occupation Hitler lived in it.

Professor Kornel Michejda graduated from doctor’s department in the Jagiellonian University in Cracow, thus he was studying from the greatest representatives of Polish medicine. During his professional career he was appointed a professor by three universities: in Vilnius, Gdańsk and Cracow. He is called „professor of three universities”. In 1922, aged 35 he was appointed an associate professor in recently open Surgery Department in the University of Stefan Batory. He brought to Vilnius not only surgical experience from school from Cracow but he also created well equipped, modern clinic from scratch, in hard postwar conditions. World War II did not stop his scientific and medical work, he worked as a surgeon in Vilnius, prepared publications and course books. In 1939 he became a chairman of the Association of Polish Surgeons.

It is worth reminding that mentioned before professor Władysław Wiktor Bujak was a director of Pediatric Clinic of the University of Stefan Batory. During World War II he managed the children’s hospital in Vilnius.

He is an author of around 50 scientific works, among others „The outlines of pediatrics” (1930), first Polish course book from this field.

Professor Stanisław Kazimierz Hiller was a specialist from histology and embryology. Twice he was serving as a vice-chancellor and vice-president of the Faculty of Histology and Embryology on USB. During war, the Cicha street was almost completely ravished because bombarded was also an adjacent gasworks.

The elderly inhabitants of Vilnius are recalling that after war, until the 60s, on the square across the Grand Theatre of Opera and Ballet was the cinema „Helios”. It was famous for projecting „trophy” films, meaning those achieved during and after war.

Let’s come back to the character of Joachim Lelewel. He was born in 1786 in Warsaw. He studied in Vilnius University, and later on he lectured history at the same place.

„Petite, slim man with active gesticulation and not really fluent pronunciation soon became an idol of the University” – this way he remained in memories. Young people from the university loved him. His lectures were in the limelight. He was removed from the university in respond to the process of the Philomath Society with whom he sympathized. He came back to Warsaw. He was a member of  the National Government in the November Uprising. He is the author of a cry „For our and your freedom” referred to Russian soldiers during the uprising. Later, he left to Paris, lived and worked in Brussels. He died in Paris in 1861. In 1929 his ashes were brought from Parisian Montmarter to Rossa in Vilnius. His 85th death anniversary will be celebrated this year.

Ferdynand Ruszczyc, brilliant artist and painter, market maker of cultural life of Vilnius, vice-chancellor of the Academy of Fine Arts USB, in his book „Journal in Vilnius” writes: „On the day of the funeral of Joachim Lelewel, Vilnius was solemnly decorated. On every house there are flags with national colors, national buildings are decorated. Despite of sunny day the lightening streetlights were covered. Before a memorial service, on the Piotr Skarga square, countless delegations with flags and wreaths appeared. Many young people from universities were standing with color guards of the corporation on the first ground.

Inside of St. Jan church near the coffin with Joachim Lelewel’s ashes, the representatives of the government, the Senate, Parliament and members of academic senates were standing. Requiem mass was celebrated by the mohylowski clergyman bp Ropp. After mass, on Piotr Skarga square, on behalf of University of Vilnius, priest vice-chancellor Czesław Falkowski said goodbye to the ashes of the great professor. He ended his speech with words: our university unanimously decided to bring your ashes, and the government of the Republic of Poland will transport your ashes from French grounds to Poland and recommended us to put solemnly in our ground, in free ground. On behalf of the University of Stefan Batory I am paying the greatest tribute and I declare that your ashes will show us and the youths that in reborn Wszechnica is the purpose of your actions. (…)

Citizens! I am passing this wrapped in national flag coffin to Vilnius land and city as a national relic.”

Next, the convoy was formed. Torches were lightened around the catafalque. Family of the deceased  and representatives of national government were trudging after the hearse. The caravan was so big that at the moment of starting from the University, the forefront of the caravan was already under the Gate of Dawn.

In the end, one more fact stands as an evidence for the attachment of this great Pole to Vilnius. In his testamentary bequest, he gave rich set of antique maps and the library to the Vilnius University. Those precious remembrances are kept in one of the greatest halls of the university under the name of Joachim Lelewel.

Translated by Edyta Zarzeczna within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.

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