• September 19, 2019
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‘Paneriai Family’: We want the next generations to remember

Ceremonies devoted to commemorating crimes in Paneriai will take place in Vilnius, the Vilnius region, and Šiauliai on 22nd-26th September. The main organiser is the nationwide ‘Paneriai Family’ [Polish: Rodzina Ponarska, TN] Association, which currently brings together about 100 people. The association, composed of relatives of the Paneriai victims, has been taking care of the memory of Poles murdered during the German occupation in Paneriai near Vilnius for years.

– The point is for the Lithuanian authorities and Lithuanian residents to notice us and to realize that the soil in the Paneriai region has been also stained with Polish blood – emphasizes Maria Wieloch, president of the association. This year we will come with a group of 39 people. We will begin on Sunday, at noon, in the Vilnius Church of Holy Spirit with a mass commemorating the victims of Paneriai crimes and the 25th anniversary of our association. On Monday, we will honour the Roma victims in Paneriai, then at the cemetery in Švenčionys, we will pay tribute to Poles, victims of World War I and II. On Tuesday, we will head towards Šiauliai, where we have put up a 5-metre oak cross with the inscription ‘Ponary’ [Lithuanian: Paneriai, TN] on one of its shoulders and with the years 1941–1944 on the other. This cross is dedicated to the Paneriai victims and to the people who remember them. There will be a mass by the papal cross on the Hill of Crosses, there will also be a ceremony to unveil and bless our cross – said the president in an interview with ‘Kurier Wileński’. For the sixth time, Paneriai celebrations take place in September.

– We try to be in Vilnius on 23rd September during the Holocaust Remembrance Day celebrations to commemorate the victims who died in the same pits as our fathers, brothers, relatives. Paying homage to the Jews murdered there, the citizens of the Second Polish Republic, we would like to remind that Poles also lie in Paneriai. We want the next generations to remember about it. Paneriai should exist in our national consciousness – stressed Maria Wieloch, born in Vilnius.

This year is the 76th anniversary of the decommissioning of the Vilnius ghetto, established in 1941 and functioning until September 1943.

On 25th September, as part of the celebrations at the House of Polish Culture in Vilnius, the Paneriai Conference [Polish: Konferencja Ponarska, TN] will be held. It will feature, among others, dr Mantas Šikšnianas, historian of the Gaon Jewish State Museum in Vilnius. He will give a lecture entitled ‘Paneriai 2019: what’s new?’, in which he will discuss the topic of the renovation of the memorial in Paneriai.

– Archaeological work has shown that the area where the crimes were carried out is much larger than we previously had thought. Recently, human remains were found by the railroad tracks near Paneriai. Among others, new railway lines were discovered underground, which means that there had been a large death factory functioning in Paneriai, of which we still do not know many things – Dr Mantas Šikšnianas commented for ‘Kurier Wileński’.

Maria Wieloch pointed out that members of the association will traditionally visit the no longer functioning prison in Lukiškės and the former headquarters of Gestapo and the KGB on Aukų street. They will lay flowers and light candles at the Bernardine cemetery, next to the symbolic grave of the Home Army [Polish: Armia Krajowa, TN] soldier, scout Henryk Pilść, murdered in Paneriai, in Užupis, under a plaque dedicated to professor Kazimierz Pelczar, and in Zułów, under the stelae and Paneriai cross.

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

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