- September 30, 2014
20th anniversary of Ponarska Family: “Not until recently was Ponary talked about”
In Ponary forest, on the periphery of Vilnius where the mass murders of World War II were committed, on Monday, there was a ceremony celebrating the 20th anniversary of Ponarska Family Association’s establishment.
The ceremonies consisted of inter-religious prayers of Poles, Jews and Russians. The monument commemorating the victims of the Ponarska crime was decorated with flowers and lights, which were brought by the participants of the ceremony. Moreover, the appeal and the mass for the victims’ memory took place in the Polish Quarter.
Maria Wieloch, chairperson of the Association, said: “For us it is a thrilling experience. This is the place of death and mass burial of the people so close to us. This is the place where my father was murdered”.
Behind the initiative of establishing Ponarska Family (as the imitation of Katyńska Family) stood Helena Pasierbska, who, during the war, as a teenage girl was kept in the Vilnian prison at Łukiszki for half of the year. Maria Wieloch said: “That was the time when Helena promised to herself that if only she would live it through, she will devote her life to say the world what happened at Łukiszki and Ponary. And she kept her promise”.
During World War II, between 1941 and 1944, Ponary forest was the place where mass murders were committed by SS, German police and Lithuanian police working with colaboration with them. Around 100 thousands of people were murdered there. Among them around 60-70 thousands of Jews, thousands of Polish intelligentsia from Vilnius and AK soldiers, as well as Romani people, Russians and Lithuanian.
The main goal of the Ponarska Family is to make people know about the Ponarska crime and, by this, saving it from oblivion.
Maria Wieloch said: “Not until recently was Ponary talked about. Presently, the word ‘Ponary’ is more and more often associated with the crime”.
In last twenty years, thanks to the efforts of the Association, several dozen of Ponary vistims’ memorial plaques and monuments were created. A special website was opened and new information and documents are still being collected. Thanks to the Association, a few weeks ago two more names of the murdered Poles were engraved on the memorial plaque in Ponary. In total, there are about 400 of them.
Wieloch points out that there would be much more of them, but it is very hard to find documentation as gestapo gave the acts with the confirmation of death only to those who asked for them, and many did not do it”.
Officially, it is considered that several thousands of Poles died in Ponary. Ponarska Family states that around 20 thousands of Poles were killed there. Wieloch says that during the exhumation, it was established that around 100 thousands people were killed in Ponary. Around 70 thousands of them were Jews, and the others were Poles, and some Lithuanian, Romani and Russians.
On Wednesday, in the Museum of Vilnius Princess in Mejszagol, as a part of the 20th anniversary of the establishment of Ponarska Family Association, there will be a blessing of the plaque in memory of Polish clergyman killed in Vilnius during World War II.
Translated by Aneta Gębska within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.