• December 20, 2022
  • 65

“Mackiewicz is your man”: the end of the year of Józef Mackiewicz

On Friday, December 16, the last of this year’s events dedicated to Józef Mackiewicz took place at the Polish Embassy in Vilnius.

PhD Tomasz Balbus from the Wrocław branch of the Institute of National Remembrance gave a lecture “Vilnius of Józef Mackiewicz” and presented the calendar for the year 2023 under the same title published by the Wrocław Branch of the Institute of National Remembrance. During the meeting, the project “Lessons in Mackiewiczówka” was also summarized, as it was implemented this year by the Consular and Polish Diaspora Department of the Embassy of the Republic of Poland in Vilnius.

The best way to commemorate Mackiewicz is through the exchange of thoughts

The meeting was initiated by the Ambassador of the Republic of Poland to Lithuania, Urszula Doroszewska, who thanked everyone involved in the project.

“For me, it is a great experience, because reading Józef Mackiewicz accompanies me throughout my adult life; it started back when these books were illegal. This approach to Lithuania and Belarus, which was heroically presented by Józef Mackiewicz, is very close to me, and hence I am very glad that Mackiewiczówka works. This is the best way to commemorate Mackiewicz – through the exchange of thoughts and through respect for the place where he was born,” said the ambassador.

Lecturer, PhD Tomasz Balbus, well known to our readers from his publication in the magazine “Kurier Wileński”, spoke in a very colorful way about the writer’s life and Vilnius – the way Mackiewicz experienced and described it. Balbus also referred to contemporary events.

A keen observer of the Vilnius region

“Why was he so good? Because in his research and observations he looked at the world with the eyes of a naturalist, not from the point of view of a Pole, German or Lithuanian, but from a bird’s eye view. What is valuable in these works for the state, for young people? First, that this is your man, who grew up in this city. He was not a native of Vilnius, he was born in St. Petersburg, but he grew up here, entered adulthood, professional life and was quite an astute observer of the city, Vilnius region. Mackiewicz left behind a lot of interesting descriptions of places, which are still read with passion if you know Vilnius and the Vilnius region. Mackiewicz was also a refugee, which is of particular importance today, when we welcome women and children who are fleeing from what Russian bandits are doing in Ukraine. He also had to leave Vilnius in July 1944, when the Red Army entered here,” Balbus explained.

The guest summarized the events of the Year of Józef Mackiewicz implemented by the Institute of National Remembrance, paying particular attention to the first feature film dedicated to the writer – “Black Ceiling”, which was created on the initiative of the Institute of National Remembrance and premiered two days earlier. He also announced the initiatives that the Wrocław branch and its partners are planning in the future. They will include the exhibition “Architects of Vilnius” and many events dedicated to another writer associated with Vilnius with a very colourful biography, Sergiusz Piasecki.

End of “Lessons in Mackiewiczówka”

During the meeting, Consul Irmina Szmalec summarized the entire project “Lessons in Mackiewiczówka”, which was inaugurated on April 2, on the 120th anniversary of the writer’s birth.

“During that time, 25 four-hour classes were held, the participants of which learned about the work of Józef Mackiewicz, his biography and the times in which he lived. The students also visited the crime scene in Ponary, located 8 km from Czarny Bór. Six groups of pupils from schools in Vilnius, six groups from the Vilnius region, five groups from the Šalčininkai region, one group from the Trakai region, and one group from the Święciany region took part in the “Lessons in Mackiewiczówka”. Two groups of Polish philology students and two Universities of the Third Age also took part in the classes. Mackiewiczówka was additionally visited by teachers from Lviv, members of the Culture Committee of the Sejm of the Republic of Poland and guides from Vilnius,” enumerated the representative of the Polish diplomatic mission.

As she noted, the organizers tried to reach those for whom the trip to Czarny Bór was particularly difficult.

“It is with such people in mind that we organized an open meeting at Vilnius University, attended by prof. Sławomir Cenckiewicz, translator Leonardas Vilkas. In addition to students and lecturers of Polish philology at Vilnius University, a large group of representatives of the older generation of Poles from Vilnius, including students of the Polish Third Age University in Vilnius, took part in the meeting,” said the consul.

A large group of young people attended the meeting | picture took by organizers

Lasting results with materials for teachers

The effects of the project will also be consolidated by specially prepared materials for teachers, prepared by Janina Snarska, a Polish philologist, in cooperation with the Association of Polish Studies in Lithuania.

— In 2011, “The Road to Nowhere” was on the reading list. Thanks to this project, we were convinced that it was worth it. While getting involved in its implementation, we thought mainly about Polish language teachers. I think that the September conference “Mackiewicz, Swianiewicz – Witnesses of Katyn” as well as the materials posted on the website www.polonista.lt, which will be supplemented, will greatly facilitate the work with this novel – said Danuta Szejnicka, president of the Association of Polish Studies in Lithuania.

As explained by Janina Snarska, the author of materials for teachers, on the association’s website you can find as many as five lesson plans based on “Roads to nowhere”.

– Teachers can also find there fragments of the work for specific lessons, methodological tips and specific suggestions – clarified Snarska.

Mackiewicz should stay with us permanently

Consul Irmina Szmalec thanked those directly involved in the implementation of the project, i.e. those who conducted the classes, namely Ilona Lewandowska, a journalist of “Kurier Wileński”, Janina Snarska, a Polish philologist, and a historian, PhD Tomasz Bożerocki. She also thanked the partners of the project for their cooperation, i.e. the Institute of National Remembrance, the Vilnius Region Foundation, the Association of Polish Studies in Lithuania, the Foundation “Help Poles in the East” and the Association of Teachers of Polish Schools in Lithuania “Macierz Szkolna”.

Participants of the meeting received the calendars “Vilnius of Józef Mackiewicz” and the biography of the writer titled “Alone. Józef Mackiewicz — writer and publicist” written by prof. Kazimierz Maciąg. Furthermore, Tomasz Balbus gave a statuette in the shape of the writer to Ilona Lewandowska, who coordinated the project “Lessons in Mackiewiczówka”.

“Let the calendar of Vilnius of Józef Mackiewicz published for 2023 be an encouragement for the work of this writer to accompany us in the future, not only in the year dedicated to him,” encouraged Consul Irmina Szmalec.

Translated by Anna Maria Nowak within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.

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