• August 29, 2014
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Stroll around the streets in Vilnius: Kalinowski – unmatched conspirator

“One of them, Zygmunt Sierakowski, called Sierakauskas by Lithuanians, was a Pole born in the Ukraine, Antanas Mackevičius (Antoni Mackiewicz) was a Lithuanian and the third, known as Konstanty Kalinowski in the Polish community, as Kastuś Kalinouski in the Belarussian, as Kostas Kalinauskas in the Lithuanian, probably did not know himself of which nationality he was” – wrote Tomas Venclova about the three famous leaders of the January Uprising in Lithuania.

Today I invite you to a stroll around the K. Kalinausko street (Kalinowski street), which before the Second World War was called Mała Pohulanka street. We start out tour in the Pylimo street (Zawalna street) and we go uphill all the way to the M. K. Čiurlionis street (formerly Zakrętowa street). On the right side of the street there is a building of a general practitioner’s clinic (Centro poliklinika). Right after the war it was the seat of a Russian school where a major emphasis was put on teaching English language. Mostly Jewish children were taught there. In the courtyard of the building a sculpture of the famous American guitarist, composer and singer Frank Zappa was placed in 1995.

Going uphill, we pass a charming, short street (only 70 meters long) with two tenement houses – the Rose Avenue (Aleja Róż). At the corner of the street there is a tenement house built in 1902 by famous surgeon Tadeusz Dembowski. It served as his private surgical and orthopedic clinic which had, for that period, a very modern operating theatre. The doctor occupied the ground floor, the reception hall, hospital rooms and therapeutic physical training room were situated on the first floor. It is worth pointing out that Tadeusz Dembowski was an honorary member of the Vilnius Medical Association Supporting Polish Performing Arts, the publisher of the “Kurier Litewski” and the first publisher of the daily newspaper “Słowo”. Opposite the former clinic there was another building belonging to the central health centre. Embassies of Belgium and Finland are located further down the street. At the corner of the Kalinausko and Tauro (Buffałowa street) streets there is the seat of the Vilnius College of Technology and Design. The building houses also the Petras Vileišis Railway Transportation Faculty.

In the last century the building was the seat of the King Sigismund Augustus Gymnasium. The school was famous for high quality teaching. Many graduates of the school are personalities from the world of science, politics and art. Among others two Nobel prize winners – Czesław Miłosz (in literature) and Andrzej Schally (in medicine). Aviator, diplomat and great French writer famous for “the Roots of Heaven” and “Promise at dawn” Romain Gary also graduated from the school. A bilingual memorial plaque on the wall of the college recalls that Miłosz attended the school in 1921-1929. A neoclassical tenement house built in 1911 surrounded with a high wall is situated next to the college. Currently, the building serves as the Embassy of Finland. According to some sources, before the Second World War the building was the seat of a private clinic with an obstetrics room.

It is worth to stop for a while at the place where now the Wedding Palace is located to recall some of the people of merit who were buried at the Protestant cemetery which no longer exists. The Wedding Palace was built here in 1974. A part of the gravestones were destroyed, few were moved to the Rasos Cemetry, Ordhodox Cemetry in Lipówka and to cemetery in Sołtaniszki. The city park is situated on the former burial grounds. During the construction works in 1960 a classicist cemetery chapel, grave chapels, gate and fence were demolished.

Many professors of the Vilnius University, men of letters, military men, Evangelical and Calvinist ministers, educators, social activists and 1863 insurgents were buried there. It was the burial place of Vilnius bookseller and publisher Krystian Glucksberg, naturalist and friend of Władysław Syrokomla Wilhelm Grabowski and a friend of Adam Mickewicz Karolina Kowalska. Many people connected somehow to Mickewicz were buried here – Wawrzyniec Puttkamer who was the husband of Maryla Wereszczkówna (she was the beloved of Mickewicz), her son Stanisław and grandsons Hipolit and Wawrzyniec Puttkamer. There also were graves of the Wagner’s family members who were landowners in Šalčininkai – the place often visited by Mickewicz. Albert Żametta who painted the 19th century Vilnius in its full beauty was also buried there.

The only remnant of the cemetery is the Niszkowscy grave chapel built in classical style by architect Karol Podczaszyński at the beginning of the XIX century. In the underground crypt designed for family members’ graves an excellent professor of surgery of the Vilnius University Jan Fryderyk Niszkowski was buried. On the opposite side there is an Orthodox church called Romanowska which was built in 1913 at the highest point of the city as the Russian custom dictated. Its location made it dominate over the city. It was constructed for the celebration of the 300th anniversary of the Romanov rule. The Ordtodox church has been renovated for almost 20 years and the works is still not finished – currently the building’s elevation is being renovated. Finally the bright green colour of the dome was replaced by the original gold colour.

After finishing the school in Svislach Konstanty Kalinowski (1838-1864) entered the Department of Law at the Saint Petersburg University where he obtained the degree of Candidate of Law Sciences. During studies he established contacts with the Polish and Russian revolutionary circles. When he came back to Poland, he travelled across the Grodno region disguised as a merchant or a vagabond and tried to prepare peasants to a massive popular uprising. He was explaining to them that abolition of socage is only a poor substitute of freedom, that only an independent country could bring them real freedom. In 1862-1863 he published a magazine in Belarusian language „Mużyckaja Prauda” (lit. Truth for Peasants). “Because of his activity today he is considered to be one of the founders of Belarus, although he has imagined a country called “Lithuania” which would include territory of Lithuania and Belarus – a country similar to the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. He gave due recognition to the Lithuanian language and issued some of his proclamations in Lithuanian. Kalinowski did not reject the connection with Poland, but he also did not follow orders given from Warsaw…” – wrote Tomas Venclova. In 1862 he moved to Vilnius and become the leader of the Reds in Lithuania. During the uprising he was an assistant of the Governor of Vilnius, then a Commissioner Plenipotentiary of the Polish National Government in Lithuania.

It is a lucky coincidence that Sierakowski street almost neigbours Kalniowski street. Both Sierakowski and Kalinowski were  January Uprising insurgents, but represented two different groups – the Whites and the Reds. The Whites (Sierakowski) were more interested in national affairs like restoration of the old republic while the Reds (Kalinowski) also wanted to liberate the country from the Tsarist Imperial Russia, but they were radical and aimed at fundamental reorganization of the new country with equal rights for peasants.

Both Sierakowski and Kalinowski were educated people. Sierakowski – before he was hung at the Lukiškės Square in Vilnius – lived an exciting life. We have described some events from his life in the last article of this cycle. What we have not mentioned is that Seirakowski during his stay in Europe has established contacts with Napoleon II, the leader of the fight for national liberation and unification of Italy Giuseppe Garibaldi and with a Russian emigrant, radical revolutionist Alexander Herzen. He also was a friend of Minister of War under Alexander II Nikolay Milyutin who even wanted to give Sierakowski a medal, although the Pole has put forward a daring proposal according to which Poland and Lithuania should be given autonomy. He also demanded equal rights for all nationalities and protection of all religions in these two countries. When the uprising broke out, Sierakowski sent a letter to Milyutin to inform him that he will now fight on the insurgents’ side.

As we have emphasised Kalinowski was an extreme radical who at the end of the January Uprising expelled the Whites from the Vilnius government. After the execution of Sierakowski, Kalinowski was active for half a year sending orders to dispersed, but still fighting peasant troops. According to the leader of the Whites, that is the opposite side, Jakub Gieysztor Sierakowski was “the purest, the finest example of an unmatched conspirator”.

Sierakowski hid himself in one of the rooms at the Vilnius University. He lived there under an assumed name. However, he was betrayed by somebody and arrested. A connoisseur of the Vilnius history the late Antanas Rimvydas Čaplinskas wrote in his beautifully published book “Ulice św. Jana, Dominikańska i Trocka” (available only in Lithuanian) about the monastery building complex by the Holy Spirit church and pointed out that when in 1795 Lithuania became a part of the Russian Empire the Catholic monastery was facing difficult times. In 1807 the monastery was converted by Russians into a military hospital and prison where Vilnius residents opposing the new rule were locked up. In 1812 the building was transferred into a French hospital. After the defeat of the French, many were imprisoned here by Russians, among others the vice chancellors of the Vilnius University – Hieronim Stroynowski and Józef Twardowski, members of the Filaret Association and the November Uprising insurgents.

January Uprising insurgents – Konstanty Kalinowski, Józef Kalinowski (entered a monastery taking name Rafał) who in 1992 has been formally declared a saint, Jakub Gieysztor, rev. Stanisław Iszora were also imprisoned here. There is a plate in Lithuanian and Belarusian commemorating that fact. Konstanty Kalinowski was hung at the Lukiškės Square. Ludwik Narbutt died somewhere in the woods. The romantic era was coming to an end. That time was marked by gallows, executions by firing squad and black ravens over dead bodies. Herzen, Garibaldi and the world press commemorated insurgents, but it was only a symbolic gesture.

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

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