- October 9, 2015
Poland – Lithuania (1)
Political relations between Poland and Lithuania– which are today the worst in decades – show how politicians can easily and quickly ruin what Poles and Lithuanians have been laboriously building together for centuries.
You can also call them Lithuanian Poles who often were ‘’the most eager Lithuanians’’ – a count, a senior of Lithuanian archeology and a prominent researcher of Lithuanian history Eustachy Tyszkiewicz wrote about himself.
„Kurier” lately wrote about a discovery (KW, 26.09.2015) of his book with a handwritten dedication that was found in the local museum in Bobtai in the Lauda region. The author wrote in Polish: ‘’(…) Thank you, the Greatest creator, who let me use last days of my life for a scientific benefit for my homeland and among all these odds of my life, He let me stay the most eager Lithuanian until the end. Among current circumstances, there is nothing left for us but to ask God and live the way we won’t be ashamed of when we die and won’t be regretting to die as Lithuanians’’.
In such terms, many Poles, led by the bard Adam Mickiewicz, were ‘‘the most eager Lithuanians’’. ‘’ Lithuania, my fatherland! You are like health’’ – almost every Pole, both in Poland and Lithuania, can today recite these words from memory. Less frequently Lithuanians can do the same –and in the original language of the work, almost none of them. „Kas čia parašyta?” (what written here?) – a girl asks his boyfriend.
„Turbut kažkas lenkiškai” (something in Polish, I guess) – he answers.
A couple returns from the Adam Mickiewicz statue and go for a further sightseeing of monuments. Such a situation takes place not only in the front of the bard’s monument, where one cannot find anything it the original language of the Lithuanian genius’s work (as evidence: „Adomas Mickevičius” on this statue in Vilnius). The one with poem in the original Polish language is situated at a plinth in a park in front of the Palace in Burbiškis. It was built in 1911 by Kazimierz Ulański (1878-1914) from Poniewież as the first statue of Adam Mickiewicz in Lithuania.
A modest exhibition dedicated to his work might be found here as well. However, couches from Poland come here very rarely and for Lithuanian tourists (even though the Palace in Burbiškis is visited by crowds) the statue with an inscription in a foreign language is at most a surprise. Whether a nice one? It’s hard to tell. Lithuanian guidebooks emphasize another statue located in a great palace park crossed by canals with 12 bridges leading to over a dozen little islands (mostly called in a romantic way e.g. Island of Love).
The palace near Burbiškis was built by Giedroyć Family in 18th century. Then, their property was obtained by the Tyszkiewicz family and after the II WW, a Lithuanian general Vladas Nagevičius received it.
A moment later, we meet another couple in love next to the second statue.
„Būtinai padarykim selfi” („We must take a selfie”) – they are taking a photo next to the statue of Vytautas the Great, also created by Kazimierz Ulański. The monument and blooming flowers in spring (during the annual Tulip Festival) attract tourists from whole Lithuania. Also, the original palace( it is an example of various styles), attracts the attention of tourists, unlike an exhibition inside it dedicated to its owners. One can learn from it that the property belonged to the Baženski family and that they were often hosting a permanent Lithuanian activists like Petras Vileišis, Jonas Basanavičius.
For the sake of accuracy, it should be recalled that before war, the property belonged to Baženski family from Pomerania. Their palace was a common place of meetings for Polish intellectuals and artists. Michał Baženski was the one who initiated the creation of the Mickiewicz’s and Vytautas the Great’s monuments. After the war, the Baženski family moved to Poland. In 1991, their descendant Adam Baženski visited his inheritance and handed it over to independent Lithuania provided the park and palace complex will get renovated and available for tourists.
The history of Burbiškis is also connected to the figure of Kornel Makuszyński (1884-1952), the author of famous canon of a children’s literature “120 adventures of Koziołek Matołek’’. Makuszyński was husband of Emilia (1881-1926), who was a daughter of Michał Ignacy Baženski. They lived in Burbiškis in 1913- 1914 and then were coming there frequently in 1922-1925. In 1923, during his holidays ‘’in Lithuania’’, Makuszyński wrote a poem “Song about homeland’’ which three years later got a national award. These information however cannot be found in Lithuanian guidebooks. Also, it’s hard for a tourist who is not familiar with the history to associate Bijotai with the life and work of Dionizy Paszkiewicz (1757-1830). Polish-Lithuanian writer, philologist, collector, historian and author of Polish-Lithuanian-Latin dictionary is being hidden now by the name Dionizas Poška.
Paszkiewicz vel Poška was fascinated by researches on Samogitia ethnography. In 1812, he ordered a cut down of a thousand-years-old oak tree. Inside its trunk, he organized an original museum of historical souvenirs from the times of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth that was a huge inspiration for Adam Mickiewicz. Today in Bijotai, there is an original Baublis museum, an exhibition in trunk of oak trees that is situated in the park with the remains of the palace. Local guidebook informs that „Dionizas Poška” had a brother „Norbert Paškevičius”, who was the one who created this park.
After the war, park and residence belonged to kolkhoz Poški. Nowadays, there are only ruins of foundations remaining there. Local authorities built here a summer stage which is called ‘‘a residence’’ by the locals. The area of park was organized and now is a recreational spot with some boards informing about its former greatness. The locals, using stones from the original building, built a Lourdes cave with a figure of ‘’the most Sacred Woman”, which is a place of local cult.
Meanwhile, visiting a decaying residence in a park in Pašiaušė covered in bushes and weeds, it is hard to guess that in 1851 Stanisław Witkiewicz, famous Polish painter, architect, writer and art theorist, the creator of a zakopianski styl was born here. Until recently, there was a school located in the building. Now, it is a private property and in fact, a ruin
„Privati valda” (a private property) – there is a sign at the entrance into the Biliunai and Babtai residences. Former properties of Polish owners, even though they now have new hosts, are at least neat and available for tourists.
‘’You may look around’’-gloomy old gentleman said in Lithuanian from behind the open doors of a residence. A dog, held captive, suggested that a man is more of a caretaker than an owner of a residence in Billewicze. The building is renovated and is surrounded by a park – it’s hard to tell. Only trunks of precious trees growing in straight lines suggest that it once was a park with a lot of paths and tracks and a small pond. It probably once was a romantic place near water as evidenced by moss-covered promenade with the remains of a balustrade above the empty pond. Here, in Billewicze, on the 12th of October, 1817, Antoni Kossakowski was born– Polish poet, translator, marshal of the Polish primate’s (W. Łubieński) court, later a King’s secretary He was very close to the king Stanisław August Poniatowski. The residence is a private property now what can be read out from the sign on the brass gate.
Palace near Babtai is also a private property.
In the 18th century, the Giedraičiai family built here the palace. Before that, the property belonged to the Szukszt and Prozor Families and after the Giedraičiai family, the owners were the Tyszkiewicz family. After the war, the property was received by Lithuanian general Vladas Nagevičius who used to call it Žemaitkemio dvaras. The palace is still known under this name and a memory board at the entrance informs only about the palace’s last owner. Only after entering inside, one may find out from the wall portrays that there were more owners of this property.
Its current host Mindaugas Šventoraitis willingly lets tourists see the building. He also conducts his own researches on a history of the property and its former owners. The problem is that a lot of archival documents did not survive or they might be found only in Polish and Russian archives, he said.
The palace in Bobtai is not only a historic place of architecture but also a spot for cultural events, creative and scientific meetings.
Kunegunda Białopiotrowiczowa (1793-1883), publicist, writer, poet, social activist and Łucja Rautenstrauchowa (1798-1886), Polish writer, author of adventure books, playwright and translator were born here. Those two were daughters of Romuald Giedroyc (1750-1824), general during Polish-Russian war of 1792 and Kościuszko Uprising and he was honored for his military successes with a Fatherland Defender ring. He received it directly from Tadeusz Kościuszko.
Today, it is hard to find in Lithuania any traces of presence and work of these outgoing representatives of the Giedraičiai family.
Translated by Aleksandra Nowakowska within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.