• September 6, 2014
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The traces of memory in the Rasos Cemetery

– If I knew that here in the Rasos Cemetery, I have my family, these tombs would have been sorted out a long time ago. Now that after all these years, I found my roots, the need for restoration of graves in the Rasos Cemetery I considered as an act of fate, for my children and grandchildren, to realistically go back to the roots, by symbolic lighting candles on the graves of ancestors , told Alina Wajda © L24

Alina Wajda, maiden name Monkiewicz, a graduate of Vilnius “Five”, for meetings with her schoolmates would come from Bydgoszcz many times. But about the fact that her roots are branded into the ground in the Rasos Cemetery, she learned only last year.

– The mature age obliges to sort out the current issues of life and to write memoirs. There has been established an increasing trend to draw up a family tree. It caused that I also started to look for my roots. Thanks to the internet I found the family Monkiewicz, I received my father’s briefcase with documents, my father’s whom I almost did not know. From his birth certificate, I got to know my grandfather’s and grandmother’s names and place of their burial. So I began to seek further… Thanks to the contact with Ms. Zyta Kołoszewska in the Rasos Cemetery I found the graves of my grandparents Monkiewicz, says Alina Wajda.

Fate’s imperative

At the June meeting of the graduates of the legendary school, which this year had a special meaning – the former “Five”, today the High School under the name of Joachim Lelewel celebrated the 70th anniversary of the founding – Ms. Alina came together with her daughter, Jurata Wajda, residing in France. The arrival to Vilnius was therefore an additional opportunity to visit familial, now beautifully renovated graves.

– If I knew that here in the Rasos Cemetery, I have my family, these tombs would have been sorted out a long time ago. Now that after all these years, I found my roots, the need for restoration of graves in the Rasos Cemetery I considered as an act of fate, for my children and grandchildren, to realistically go back to the roots, by symbolic lighting candles on the graves of ancestors, said Alina Wajda.

Bringing order to the resting place of the grandparents of Ms. Alina was taken up by Czesław Połoński, a Vilnius conservator. Thanks to his work not so long ago almost razed to the ground and actually nameless tombstones have recovered the former shape. Again, from the blocks of stone the inscriptions spoke: Józefa Monkiewicz of Tyszkiewicz born in the year of 1854, died in the year of 1919 / Kazimierz Monkiewicz born in the year of 1850, died in the year of 1941 and the family has regained a fragment of their history.

Poor existence

Among the many memories of former students, on the pages of the recently published book “Always faithful to the “Five” (by Krystyna Adamowicz) we find the memories about the school and the family of the heroine of this publication.

– I was born in Užupis 1, in the family of a pre-war officer of the Telecommunication. The turmoil of war resulted in a complete change of my personal genealogy. During the war, we ran away from deportation to Siberia, as we stood (mom and three children, 4, 6, 13 years), hiding under a different name, cold and hungry … – writes about herself Ms. Alina. – I was five years, when my father – Hipolit, the son of resting in the Rasos Cemetery Kazimierz Monkiewicz, in September 1939, went to war and never returned. Between January and February 1940 we only exist. Today, I’m surprised that we managed to survive these difficult times – continues her tale Alina Wajda.

To search for a place in the world

In 1945, the family of her grandfather in fear of the Soviets fled to Poland. Mother and siblings of Ms. Alina during the first repatriation could not leave the native Vilnius for a simple reason – they did not have money for a journey or clothing, or food. To Poland the family of Ms. Alina went during the second repatriation in 1957, because as she today says, you had to search for your place in the world… This place turned out to be Gdańsk. Here Alina Wajda , maiden name Monkiewicz graduated from the local university, studying Polish Philology, then worked in primary and secondary education in Gdańsk and Sopot. When she married, she lived in Bydgoszcz and took a job in the Main Library of the Pedagogical University of Bydgoszcz. In 1980, she passed the state examination for certified custodians and becomes entitled to be an assistant professor. She conducted lectures and classes with students of librarianship, and has developed a textbook of methodology and organisation of the readership. After retiring, she took up with her husband, Kazimierz, a research of the history of the Pomerania land. They are authors of eight books (including the one available also in electronic form) about the history of historical Tuchola Forest. Poland has offered an opportunity and conditions for the whole family about which in Vilnius they could only dream of.

– When last year I started looking for family roots, I learned that my father’s path led through Siberia, Iran, Africa, and Monte Cassino to the UK. He died in Gdańsk, on the Polish soil, but we did not meet. Looking for family documents I found about 20 Monkiewicz’s metrics, which indicate that a minimum of nine people were buried in the Rasos Cemetery. Of these nine there remained only two graves … Others, if not included in the list of burials, apparently already have been impossible to be duplicated – notes Alina Wajda. With some descendants of the Monkiewicz family Mrs. Alina entered into contact.

Proud of their roots

– The name of my daughter – Jurata – this is a part of my Vilnius roots – Mrs. Alina notes. – Once a teacher Juozas Matkevičius extremely encouraged us to learn a poem by Maironis “Jurate ir Kastytis.” It is a ballad based on the motifs of Mickiewicz’s “Rybka”. As I liked it, I promised myself that if I ever had a daughter, I would definitely name her Jurata. Already living in Gdańsk, I learned that the name was known as well among the Pomeranian population and left its mark in the form of the name of one of the attractive holiday resorts in the Hel Peninsula. Soon I had my own Jurata.

In an interview with the newspaper Mrs. Alina does not conceal: her children – Jurata and Marcin – are proud of their roots.

– I think my grandmother Józefa , maiden name Tyszkiewiczówna, shared blood with the owners of Lentvaris. When a year ago I found a briefcase of my father it reminded me of the strange situation of childhood. I think it was the fall of 1945. There came to us an unknown to me Mrs. Olympia, slim, in a nice clothing, with a little hat; she very warmly greeted my mom. I learned from my mother that the lady during World War I in the demonstrations of Polish patriotic youth in the Rasos Cemetery (at the tomb of Syrokomla) organised the youth into a paramilitary organisation “Strzelec”. She mobilised also my mom. Then she organised actions of assistance by the Vilnius “Strzelec” for the Piłsudski’s Uhlans . The headquarters of aid actions was located in Kraków. My mother, a skilled seamstress, was sewing uniforms and underwear for soldiers of Piłsudski. I also remember that Mrs. Olympia (I did not remember the name) said: “Do not worry, your daddy’s alive. This information comes from the Red Cross in Turkey. For sure I you will meet daddy. Remember, Alusia, your dad comes from a very good family of Tyszkiewicz,” our heroine dates back to the history of nearly 70 years ago. According to the research by Mrs. Alina, her grandmother, Józefa of Tyszkiewicz, probably was the illegitimate child of the founder of Lentvaris, famous for his turbulent lifestyle . And who was Mrs. Olimpia?

A family tree

Jurata Wajda, a professional conservator of stone sculptures, having over 20 years of work experience, initially intended to renew personally the graves of her great grandparents. Unfortunately, the lack of time stopped her. Mrs. Jurata is captivated by the Rasos Cemetery. In her view, the Vilnius historic cemetery allows conservators to show their talents, although, as she stated, these tombstones covered with moss make the cemetery look so romantic and beautiful.

– It is a pity that there are put rather reckless contemporary elements – e.g. gravestones of foreign, non-traditional forms of our culture, imported from China. – Jurata Wajda regrets that modern monuments that can only be justified by reasonable price, adversely affect the preservation of the character of the cemetery.

– I’ll be coming here – she promises. – I never had grandparents, and now, my great-grandparents are suddenly found. Those from the my father’s path are near Krakow. There is a continuity of memory. Everything is documented. My cousin, who is engaged in genealogy, reached even the sixteenth century – emphasizes Jurata Wajda.

– And now we are also proud of a glorious history of my family . I have already come to the year 1700 in the course of genealogical research – Mrs. Alina complements her daughter. Kazimierz Monkiewicz was the son of Bartłomiej. Bartłomiej – the son of Jan, Jan was the son of Antoni, who lived from the beginning of 1700. They began their existence in the area of ​​Trakai – in the village of Krasne, the backwater called Monkiewicze. In 1795 they were deprived of knighthood. They were petty nobles, who could not identify themselves with the right to the land, because the documents after the partitions were lost somewhere. And the tsar requested it. If you cannot identify yourself with the right to the land, he will take it for himself. On this principle, in the district of Trakai about 2,000 owners lost nobility. I have a web copy of the it and basing on this document I found Antoni, Jan, and Bartłomiej who in the second half of the nineteenth century took up gainful employment during the construction of railway from St. Petersburg to Warsaw and moved to Vilnius, where my grandfather Kazimierz was born. My grandmother Józefa of Tyszkiewicz was the second wife of Kazimierz – says Alina Wajda.

According to our interlocutor, the trend to search of own roots, exploring the history of the family – it’s a good thing and worthy following. Looking for traces of the ancestors Alina Wajda acquired documents provided by the family, her father’s, Hipolit Monkiewicz, military badges were found after so many years by good fortune – The Commemorative Cross of Monte Cassino, a medal of the fighting in 1920, and other military medals and decorations with their documentation.

– I was five years old when my father went to war. Today I am 80. I want my children and grandchildren to know where their family come from, even though having a completely different name. With the restoration of the graves of family I regained my identity lost during the war. I want to take this opportunity to thank all those who facilitated my return to the roots – says with gratitude Alina Wajda, an old-time Vilnius resident.

Irena Mikulewicz

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

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