• January 16, 2015
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Jaszuny (Jašiūnai): from Calvinism to miraculous “revelations”

We are continuing the series entitled “Visiting the Šalčininkai District”. Let us stay in Jaszuny for a little longer. This time we will scrutinize the spiritual side of the life of the inhabitants of Jaszuny. The town has a long religious history; one could even call it mystic to a certain extent.

Located on the hill, the historic church of St. Anne can be seen from Liepkalnio street. On the 7th of March 1926 there was a general meeting of the dwellers of the area of Jaszuny under the supervision of the delegate of the metropolitan curia – Fr. Michał Sopoćko (who later became Blessed by the Catholic Church, also known as the confessor of mystic, stigmatic and visionary sister Faustyna Kowalska, the saint of the Catholic Church). A decision has been made to build a temple in the town. The parcel and the building material for the church has been offered by the former estate owners from Jaszuny – Aleksander and Anna Pereświt-Sołtans.

On the 16th of October 1927 Rudnian Parish Priest ceremonially blessed the foundation stone for the church. A wooden temple in the Old-Polish style was built according to the design of the architect Henryk Ganello. The works lasted for a year and the building was officially blessed by Fr. Józef Staszkiewicz, who later became the Jaszunian Parish Priest.

In 1930, Prof. Ignacy Mościcki (the then president of Poland) visited Vilnius region. “At the request of Jaszunian community Mr. President visited the local church.” In July 1934, the canonical visit of Vilnian bishop – Fr. Romuald Jałbrzykowski. The faithful spent 600 PLN on the copy of “Our Lady of the Gate of Dawn” which was ceremonially brought to the church on the 8th of September.

During that time, the Jaszunian Parish gathered 2 080 people. Poles constituted 95% of the community, whereas Jews and Belarusians formed a minority. After the incorporation of Vilnius region into Lithuania, some Lithuanians (mainly officials) came to Jaszuny. The dispute over the language of the church services started. In spring 1943, as a result of the accusation of new officials of Jaszuny, the Parish Father Piotr Wojno-Orański was arrested and sent to the Lukiškės Prison. Wojno-Orański was released after six months, thanks to the effort of acknowledged Vilnian lawyer Mieczysław Engiel who died soon after in Paneriai. The church endured the German occupation and the Soviet rule. Today, there are around 4 000 members of the Parish; its current Parish Father is Tadeusz Aleksandrowicz.

According to some historical sources, the first church or a chapel in Jaszuny was built by Katarzyna Skilendzina’s foundation in the 16th century. It is said that in 1525 there lived a priest, parson, and altarist called Fr. Andrzej. In the second half of the 16th century, Radziwiłłs started buying and taking the Jaszunian lands. In 1561, so called Bartoszewicz sold his part of Jaszuny-Merecz to Mikołaj Radziwiłł. By the end of the century, Krzysztof Radziwiłł – the then voivode of Vilnius, nicknamed “Lightning” – became the owner of the entire Jaszuny. The next owner of Jaszuny was Janusz Radziwiłł, a traitor to the crown during the Deluge; he was a Calvinist who allegedly afflicted Fr. Andrzej on numerous occasions.

According to the tradition, except for the Catholic church there was also a Calvinist congregation under Radziwiłł’s protection during that time in Jaszuny (M. Gajewski „Sławne dzieje Jaszun”, Nasz Czas, nr 13 (552)). In September 1638, Janusz Radziwiłł married Katarzyna Potocka. Their child was baptized in accordance with the Calvinist ceremony in Jaszuny which led to the fight between drunk Janusz and his father Krzysztof.

“I don’t want to mention how I quarreled with you on that day, but I shall remind you that you went too far” wrote Krzysztof Radziwiłł to his son on the 17th of March 1640. In 1645, there was a court proceeding involving Fr. Kazimierz Żabiński and Janusz Radziwiłł. The priest accused Radziwiłł for being heretic, stealing Skillendzina’s bestowals and robbing all the equipment from the church in Jaszuny.

Jaszuny was Janusz Radziwiłł’s favorite residence. It is said that he started his plot against the new king – John II Casimir. (It is highly probable that during that time the Jaszunian church fell into ruin; later on only the chapel remained but it eventually vanished as well.) In 1767, a new Catholic church was built in Jaszuny. However, it was shut down after the January Uprising. During the first half of the 19th century, Balińskis built a chapel in one of the chambers of their palace. After the death of Janusz Radziwiłł, Jaszuny was temporarily owned by Albrycht Stanisław Radziwiłł (chancellor of the Grand Duke of Lithuania) then it fell into the hands of Bogusław Radziwiłł. At the end of the 17th century Jaszuny constituted the property of Ludwika Karolina Radziwiłł, Bogusław’s daughter, who was well known for her love affairs. Michał Kazimierz Radziwiłł “Rybeńko” and his son Karol Stanisław Radziwiłł “Panie Kochanku” (“My Dear Sir”) were the next holders of Jaszuny. In the 18th century, Dominik – Nesvizh ordynat of Radziwiłłs – was the last Radziwiłł that governed Jaszuny (Mieczysław Machulak „W dolinie Mereczanki”).

The chapel of St. Anthony of Padua located on the Jaszuny Station has an interesting history. As it was written in the restoration and blessing act: “on the 13th of June 1935, during the 740th deathday of St. Anthony of Padua, the building of the chapel funded and designed by Eugeniusz Franciszek Orczykowski – the agent of the Vilnius branch of the National Polish Bank – have started. It was an act of gratitude to St. Anthony who helped in finding the lost on the 3rd of May 1935. The chapel was located on the road crossing by the Jaszuny Station (the Royal Road). The land destined for the construction was given by the Jaszuny estate owner – Mr. Aleksander Pereświt-Sołtan.”

Since the opening day the chapel has been an important spiritual centre of the Jaszuny inhabitants. It was always kept clean and maintained in a perfect condition. The ceremony of indulgence was performed there on the 13th of June every year and gathered the faithful from Jaszuny and the surrounding villages belonging to the parish. In 1960s, hooligans destroyed and burned down the chapel. Only rubble and parts of the entrance stairs remained.

In May 2009, the dwellers of Jaszuny met with the Parish Father Andrzej Andrzejewski, the starost of the commune Zofia Graznowa, councilor of the local government Jerzy Michał Borkowski, and decided to restore the chapel as the commemoration of the 75th anniversary of its erection. The works have began. During the removal of debris, a single page flew towards the dwellers – the act of blessing the chapel from 1935, all yellowed and partially unreadable. The excavator surely damaged the bottle in which it was stored. The finding was taken as a good omen which encouraged to continue the works. The text was rewritten and safely buried underneath the foundations of the newly restored chapel. In autumn 2009, the chapel with a foundations made of stone and a statuette of St. Anthony was reopened.

On the 8th of November 2009 (…) Fr. Andrzej Andrzejewski officially blessed the chapel. On the 13th of June 2010 (on the 75th anniversary of the day of its original erection), a ceremonial mass took place there. The little girl on the photograph commemorates this ceremony.

The description of another interesting event written by Rudnian Parish Priest Paweł Sienkiewicz (the letter to curia from the 3rd of September 1930): “5 km from Jaszuny, in Dubje, a superstitious worship on the verge of idolatry takes place. It was started by the alleged vision of the two rural girls three weeks ago. The crowd of religiously uneducated people not only from the area of Jaszuny, but also from few other parishes, and even some distant parts gets bigger and bigger every day. The two priestess leading the worship are rural girls from a village called Śliżuny – Stanisława Korejw, a 19 years old miss, and 11 years old Władysława Adamowicz. The two conduct the service twice a day on 11 a.m. and 3 p.m.. Their service constitutes of singing the Hours of the Virgin, saying one’s beads, singing sacred songs and the alleged visions of Jesus Christ, Mother of God, St. Joseph (Jesus’ foster father) and some angel whose no one except for the priestesses can see. They things they say are absurd. There already are four chapels there: the chapel of Jesus Christ, the chapel of the Mother of God, the chapel of St. Joseph and the one of St. Barbara. There is even a road sign leading to the place.

They say that people from whom one requires higher spiritual awareness like sisters from the parishes of Mało-Solecznicka and Turgielska, and even a single nun participated in those masses. I performed an examination of the priestesses of the cult in the presence of the pupil of the Seminary of Vilnius Stanisław Budnik and the chief forester Mr. Adolf Zwoleniowski (…).” The accounts are murky, unclear, untruthful and unusually trite; for example: “The Mother of God was speaking, why aren’t you praying? Why are you standing there like pigs!”; when the woodman Jodko mockingly addressed these “miraculous revelations” of the priestesses one of them turned to the crowd and said: “The Mother of God said that he shall leave otherwise he will be punished.” On another occasion she said that the Mother of God is tired and that it is all for the day.

Many people believe in those allegedly miraculous phenomena. They kiss a tree trunk, say farewell and announce that their faith in Jesus and the miracle is strong. They spend three weeks from August 18th waiting whole weeks for the miracles that are to come on the 7th and 8th of September. Many claim to see wonders while looking at the sun, e.g. the Host, monstrance, the Mother of God and Jesus (M. Gajewski, Sławne dzieje Jaszun, Nasz Czas, nr 13 (552)).

Current Parish Priest of Jaszuny Fr. Tadeusz Andrzejewski considers these “miracles” as unlikely, due to the lack of any oral tradition that could potentially support their existence; no written texts concerning those “sacred” events survived as well.

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

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