- June 20, 2016
Polish-Lithuanian Commemoration of 185th Anniversary of Fights for Vilnius
The ceremony commemorating the fight of Poles and Lithuanians in 1831 against the Russian annexationist was held on 20th June by the November Insurgents’ Monument at the Paneriai Hill.
Just where the fierce fight for Vilnius took place, at the city foreland, the anthems of Poland and Lithuania resounded on the occasion of the 185th anniversary of the battle, and wreaths were laid by representatives of the Embassy of the Republic of Poland in Vilnius and Ministry of National Defence of the Republic of Lithuania.
“For both nations historical events are very important; they highlight our mutual history. Just as once we fought together, now we’re also in one alliance. Being allies, we can always achieve more than alone,” defence attaché at the Polish Embassy in Vilnius Colonel Mirosław Wójcik told “Kurier”.
The monument at the Paneriai Hill shaped like a cross in memory of the fallen Polish and Lithuanian insurgents is the only monument in Vilnius commemorating the mutual fight of both nations for liberation from the Russian Partition in the November Uprising of 1830-31. There is an inscription in Lithuanian and Polish placed on it, “For our freedom and yours,” as well as another on tablets, “The site of the battle of Lithuanian and Polish insurgents under the command of Gen. Antoni Giełgud with Russian troops on 19th June 1831. Six hundred insurgents died here. Glory to the fallen.”
Until recently, the monument, which commemorates Polish and Lithuanian heroes of the mutual fights for liberty, was visited exclusively by Poles. Thus, a year before the 184th anniversary of the battle fought for Vilnius, for instance, it was only Polish Ambassador in Vilnius Jarosław Czubiński who laid wreaths at the monument; he was accompanied then by a handful of journalists from the Polish-language media in Vilnius.
This year’s anniversary ceremony had a unique solemn setting. The insurgents fallen in 1831 were commemorated by representatives of the Lithuanian side as well – the Ministry of National Defence was represented by Chancellor Daiva Beliackienė, the tribute was paid by soldiers of the Guard of Honour, national anthems were played by the Lithuanian Armed Forces Orchestra, soldiers gave the 21-gun salute on command. Also flowers were laid at the nearby cemetery where 364 fallen soldiers of the Russian troops had been buried.
The fallen insurgents’ monument, a granite cross on a slanting pedestal, was unveiled on 19th June 2001 on the 170th anniversary of the battle fought at the foot of the Paneriai Hill by Russian military units and the insurgent units under the command of Gen. Antoni Giełgud and Dezydery Adam Chłapowski. In that battle for Vilnius, approximately 15,000 soldiers took part; the number of the enemy combatants, however, amounted to over 22,000 people. The Polish command was planning to capture the city quickly, but the enhanced Russian army went on a successful offensive in the end, causing a significant loss among the insurgents (more than 2,000). Among the participants of the ceremony at which the monument was unveiled were the then Polish and Lithuanian ministers of defence, Bronisław Komorowski and Linas Linkevičius.
NOVEMBER UPRISING IN LITHUANIA
The November Uprising broke out in Warsaw in 1830. In March of 1831 it moved to Lithuania. It was the inhabitants of the Telšiai district who took up arms first capturing Kelmė and Raseiniai. In the latter a district government was formed, which was headed by Józef Rymkiewicz, Juliusz Grużewski, Ignacy Staniewicz, Ezechiel Staniewicz. The population fiercely attacked minor Russian units. The song „Dar lenkai neprapuolë, kol žemaičiai gyvi…” [Poland has not yet perished, so long as Samogitians still live] became popular. The news of the uprising in Raseiniai spread rapidly across whole Lithuania and met with a quick reaction. The districts which joined the uprising were in the factual order: Telšiai, Šiauliai, Panevėžys, Kaunas, Ukmergė (where famous Emilia Plater took up the battle), Trakai, Ashmyany… At the beginning of June, the corps of the Kingdom’s of Poland regular troops entered Lithuania, comprising of 12,000 soldiers under the command of Gen. Antoni Giełgud. Soon he became the commander-in-chief of the insurgent forces in Lithuania. In order to suppress the uprising, the military reserve of the Russian Empire came into Lithuania; it changed the ratio of forces to the disadvantage of the insurgents. On the Paneriai Hill, 19th June, it dealt a crushing blow to Giełgud’s soldiers, who, after the successive defeats in the battles of Kaunas and Šiauliai, had been retreating towards the Kingdom of Prussia. Although the uprising suffered a defeat, it was one of the steps towards liberty and statehood of Lithuania.
Translated by Karolina Katarzyńska within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.