- April 24, 2017
The first monument of the Piłsudski brothers was built in Zalavas in Lithuania
On the 25th of April, in the evening, in the village Zalavas located in Švenčionys district municipality, the monument dedicated to the Piłsudski brothers Józef and Bronisław will be unveiled. Vytautas Musteikis with his three associates is its initiator and author “Our aim is not to politicize, but only to show how different paths may be chosen by the people from the same family,” said Vytautas Musteikis when talking to Kurier Wileński.
“It took us five years to realise this idea,” said Vytautas Musteikis. “Probably, there will be many controversial opinions, both on the Lithuanian and Polish sides, however, our goal was not confrontation, but a desire to look deeper into history, no matter what the truth was – pleasant or unpleasant. We just have to know it. ”
The monument is in the form of a high plaque with inscriptions in Lithuanian informing about the events from the life of both brothers and with some of their selected quotations. At the top of the plaque, there are reliefs with images of both brothers: “Bronislavas Petras Piłsudskis” (1866-1918) and “Juozapas Klemensas Piłsudskis” (1867-1935) with the Latin sententia “Sit mihi palma fides” (“Let the faith be my shield”) and its translation into Lithuanian. Below, there is engraved date 1887 with an information that this year both brothers participated in a plot against Russian tsar Alexander III and that they were sent to Siberia. Below this, in separate columns, the years and events from their lives were listed.
On the monument, in Lithuanian, the following facts from the biography of Bronisław Piłsudski are listed: 1898-1914 – he studied the life of the natives living in the Far East, 1903 – he was awarded the medal of the Russian Geographical Society “For scientific achievements”, 1916 – he wrote a work on Lithuanian crosses. On the monument, there is also a fragment of his letter from exile addressed to his father: “My love for the people lifts me up…”.
In the second column, there are dates and events from the life of Józef Piłsudski: 1892 – the membership of the Polish Socialist Party, 1914-1918 – he was creating Polish army, 1916 – he proclaimed the independence of Poland, 1918-1922 – he was the head of the Polish state and sought to restore the Lithuanian-Polish state from the sea to the sea, 1920 – he was the Marshal of Poland, 1922 – he took Vilnius and the Vilnius Region, 1926-1936 – he was the autocrat of Poland and the minister of war. The Marshal’s words: “I am Lithuanian and I will introduce Lithuanian order for you!” were also engraved in the stone.
At the bottom of the monument, there is an inscription: “Lithuania, your roots are so powerful, but why are their fruits picked by the strangers?”
“If the state cannot erect a monument to Basanavičius or anyone else on the 100th anniversary of regaining independence, we did it. This monument reflects the tragedy of the nation, the tragedy of families consisting of relatives having different views, as it was in the case of the Narutowicz brothers (another idea we also came up with was a monument dedicated to the Narutowicz brothers). It is interesting, how it happens that one of the brothers is an activist of one state and the second one is an activist of another state,” the artist was wondering.
The place where the monument was erected was not chosen accidentally. “First of all, it is the birthplace of the Piłsudski brothers. We asked the owner of this land for permission, and he agreed to give us a small square for building the monument (the owner of the land is Romualdas Juraitis). We also liked the place itself. It seems odd that others, who keep memory about Piłsudski and create the avenue of remembrance, I would say, did not completely make order around it. We want to show that it is possible to organise the place better,” said the artist.
As Vytautas Musteikis says, Józef Piłsudski is an uncommon figure, a world-class activist, who deserves respect.
“Our goal is not making politics, but merely showing, how different paths may be chosen by the people from the same family,” he said. Józef Piłsudski felt he was a citizen of a common state. The fact that he had seized Vilnius was undoubtedly due to his desire to restore motherland and he did not understand the Lithuanians who rebelled and did not want to live together with the Poles. He often emphasized that Poland and Lithuania need to be together. I think that Poland should be grateful for how much it has received from Lithuania. And Jagiełło, and Kościuszko considered themselves Lithuanians. There are more such people who we can see in a broader context. It is our mentality that we reject what is not written in Lithuanian,” said Vytautas Musteikis.
Vytautas Musteikis graduated from the University of Vilnius where he obtained the degree in history with specialization in archaeology. He was a lecturer at the Conservatory and worked in the Centre of Lithuanian Folk Culture. He is an independent artist now.
In Lithuania, there has not been any monument commemorating Marshal Piłsudski or his brother Bronisław before. It is true that ten years ago a similar initiative was undertaken by the mayor of Druskininkai Ričardas Malinauskas, who considered the establishment of a stone or a commemorative plaque in honour of Józef Piłsudski in this resort town, where the head of the Polish state was also a visitor. Unfortunately, this idea was met with an attack of the Lithuanian nationalists and the initiative was abandoned.
Translated by Magdalena Bobryk within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.