Posts Tagged With: Bernardine Cemetery in Vilnius

Polish cemeteries in Vilnius

The day after my wanderings in Vilnius, I decided to go to the Rasos cemetery, where is buried the urn containing the heart of the Marshal Pilsudski (Marshal’s tomb is located on Wawel Hill, about which I wrote here). I walked so slow that pensioners were overtaking me, but I gritted my teeth and at the snail’s pace got to the cemetery. The urn is buried in a common grave with Marshal’s mother, Mary née Billevich Piłsudska. On the grave it’s written only MOTHER AND SON’S HEART and two quotations from Slovacki. The mausoleum  is placed in the middle of a small Polish military cemetery, where are buried the soldiers killed in the 1919, 1920, 1939 and 1944. Marshal ‘s wish was that his heart was buried among his soldiers. Military Cemetery is well presented, although on some tombstones names were barely legible. Some of the tombstones are damaged by bullets, but I could not figure out whether this occurred in the course of Operation ” Ostra Brama ” in July 1944 ( the liberation of Vilnius by the Home Army and according to plan “Tempest”, welcoming Russians as the host ).

Mausoleum with heart of Marshal Pilsudski

Mausoleum with heart of Marshal Pilsudski

Soldiers' graves. One can clearly see damaged gravestones

Soldiers’ graves. One can clearly see damaged gravestones

The Rasos cemetery looks a little worse, a lot of tombstones is neglected and one has to blaze a new path to reach them, but do not forget that this is a very old cemetery, it was founded in 1769. And walking through the cemeteries is my little “thing”, I like to read the names on the tombstones, find out how many years they lived, what they were doing. Of the most famous characters in the cemetery lie, inter alia, Joachim Lelewel (historian, Adam Mickiewicz’s teacher), Rafał Radziwiłłowicz (doctor, psychiatrist, brother of Stefan Zeromski and prototype of Dr. Judym from “Homeless people”), Adam Pilsudski (Marshal’s brother, Senator, Vice President of Vilnius ), Anthony Wiwulski (architect, sculptor, author of the Grunwald Monument in Kraków and the Three Crosses in Vilnius), Maria Piłsudska (the first wife of the Marshal), Eusebius Slovacki ( Julius Slovacki’s father) and many professors and lecturers of the Stefan Batory University (founded in 1579) and other prominent Poles and Lithuanians.

"Dr Judym's" gravestone

“Dr Judym’s” gravestone

Adam Pilsudski's gravestone

Adam Pilsudski’s gravestone

Joachim Lelewel's gravestone

Joachim Lelewel’s gravestone

Black Angel from Rasos cemetery

Black Angel from Rasos cemetery

After returning from Kaunas (post coming soon), I went to the Bernardine Cemetery in Vilnius. This cemetery looks much better than Rasos and mostly thanks to the late Andrew Przewoźnik, who was the Secretary General of the Council for the Protection of Memory of Combat and Martyrdom. More than 150 gravestones have been restored by the Council.

Plaque at the entrance to the Bernardine Cemetery

Plaque at the entrance to the Bernardine Cemetery

This cemetery is not as old as Rasos, it was founded in 1810. Many outstanding Polish and Lithuanian scientists and artists rest there, you can also find the graves of insurgents from 1863 and soldiers from 1919. It was a really strange feeling, strolling among the Polish graves in a city that is not Polish anymore. But don’t worry, I will not call to get Vilnius back 🙂

Soldiers' graves from 1919

Soldiers’ graves from 1919

Tomb of insurgent from the January Uprising

Tomb of insurgent from the January Uprising

After a visit to the cemetery, I decided to complete the list of monuments and walked to the Cathedral of Vilnius (dedicated to Saints Stanislaus and Ladislaus), the burial place of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania and the Polish kings at the same time. The cathedral makes a beautiful impression from the outside, but inside it seemed a little harsh, but that’s my opinion. The first temple on the site was probably built in the second half of the thirteenth century.

The cathedral

The cathedral

Cathedral's interior

Cathedral’s interior

After the cathedral I went to the Polish church (Holy Ghost’s) for a second. From the outside, the church seems to be squeezed between the buildings, but inside it looks really nice. But the assessment of both churches I leave to you, my dear readers.

Inside the Holy Ghost's church

Inside the Holy Ghost’s church

One of the plaques hanging in the church commemorating Home Army's soldiers

One of the plaques hanging in the church commemorating Home Army’s soldiers

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Vilnius stories – part 1

Today, the first entry from Vilnius – I say first, because it will be more 🙂

I stayed at Renata’s from Couchsurfing. She picked me up in the evening from the airport (in neighbourhood of which located is Gypsy camp – apparently the local place to buy various narcotic substances 🙂 ) and went to her apartment. Walking through the backyards I realized that I smile and I came to the conclusion that the backyards look very familiar – they are surrounded by ugly blocks – gems of Soviet architecture. Probably our architects were given projects from Russia at the time 🙂 There is, however, one major difference between the blocks in Poland and Lithuania – Polish ones are insulated, painted, very nicely presented in a word, and Lithuanian? Almost ruins – have not seen any older block (built more than 20 years ago) in Vilnius and Kaunas, which would not be shabby, with balconies threatening to fall down and bury passers-by under.

A small sample of the Lithuanian construction

A small sample of the Lithuanian construction

My main goal was to contact Ms Halina Jotkiałło (starts out as a story of espionage) as I had something for her from Ms Wala (with whom I do Fridays at the Sikorski Museum). The two ladies met in London when Ms Halina and her group came from Vilnius with shows. Ms Halina lives at some distance from the centre, so I decided to walk along the Vilnia River as I wanted to see that mysterious Vilnius with my own eyes (that day I did some 25km on foot, I do not need to tell you my legs hurt “a little bit” the next day 🙂 ).

And another one...

And another one…

I hope that the level of music education in Lithuania looks better than the building of the Academy of Music...

I hope that the level of music education in Lithuania looks better than the building of the Academy of Music…

I already described above my aesthetic experience (or lack of them) at the sight of residential buildings in Lithuania, so I will not repeat myself. I heard before leaving from a few people, that Vilnius is beautiful and yes, the old town is beautiful, but go outside the old town and it’s different world. One can see it’s a poor country.

A Polish trace ;)

A Polish trace 😉

In the foreground is the former employer of Ms Halina, but she also wrote for other newspapers

In the foreground is the former employer of Ms Halina, but she also wrote for other newspapers

But back to Ms Halina – she is a retired Polish journalist (among other things she worked for “Courier Vilnius”, previously called “Red Flag”) who spent her entire life in Vilnius. Her husband, George (Jerzy) Surwiło was a very respected journalist, writer and activist for the Polish culture. Her occupation and functions performed by her husband meant that Ms Halina was sometimes invited to various events where she met many celebrities and politicians. They were among others Richard (Ryszard) Kaczorowki (the last President of Poland in Exile), President Kaczynski and his wife and George (Jerzy) Waldorf. There’s an interesting story regarding President Kaczyński. In 2005, during his visit President Kwasniewski and President Valdas Adamkus unveiled at the entrance to the Bernardine Cemetery in Vilnius a plaque advising that the work is carried out under the aegis of the Foundation of Adam Mickiewicz, under the patronage of the Presidents of Lithuania and Poland (though apparently Lithuanians didn’t give too much). Well, in the course of his presidency, when President Kaczynski visited Vilnius, he said that if the plaque is not removed he won’t visit the cemetery and will withdraw all financial support. The result is a new plaque, picture of which you can admire below. And no, it is not my goal to denigrate the late President Kaczynski, I quoted the story, because we spent a lot of time talking about the cemetery (Ms Halina also met the late Andrew (Andrzej) Przewoźnik, the then secretary of the Council for the Protection of Struggle and Martyrdom, who is largely responsible for the restoration of the Bernardine Cemetery and many others).

The new plaque at the entrance to the Bernardine Cemetery

The new plaque at the entrance to the Bernardine Cemetery

The afternoon passed pleasantly and quickly, with wine and conversation. I picked up a few words in Polish spoken in Vilnius which is totally different from Polish I speak. Listening to Ms Halina’s stories of the olden times and Poles, it felt as if I was there, transferred in time. I have to admit that the life of Poles in Lithuania is a totally different story. They’re Polish too but they had lived in the Soviet Union. Ms Halina talked about how the books were smuggled from Poland, because one could not get anything in Lithuania. Smuggled books were later read in turn by the intelligentsia. So maybe life was not so hard in communistic Poland – certainly Poles in Lithuania struggled more to remain Polish. The beautiful thing is that Ms Halina still feels Polish, loves Poland and is interested in all aspects, including the rising Polish tennis stars. You can meet Ms Halina and other ladies from Vilnius on 1st and 2nd November at the Powązki cemetery collecting money to keep Polish cemeteries in Vilnius. Dear Varsovians – be generous!

Let me finish with something pretty - cathedral with the statue of Gediminas

Let me finish with something pretty – cathedral with the statue of Gediminas

Categories: RTW trip | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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