Posts Tagged With: Lithuania

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 II

Time  to continue wandering around Vilnius. During my “marathon” on the first day I managed to see quite a lot. Although a non-believer, always with great pleasure I visit churches, what attracts and captivates me is the peace and tranquility prevailing inside. The first sight was the Basilica of St. Peter and Paul in Antakalnis (Vilnius district). The first wooden church on the site was built during the reign of Wladyslaw Jagiello, was burned at the end of the sixteenth century and later rebuilt lasted only until 1655 when it was again destroyed, this time by the Russians. The building in its present form was started in 1668 and completed in 1684, and was founded by Lithuanian hetman Michał Kazimierz Pac. The curiosities worth mentioning are the crystal chandelier in the shape of a boat (a reminder of the sinking of the transport of the main altar with the crystal columns ordered by Pac in Italy) and placed somewhere close to the entrance a large Lithuanian drum (litaur) brought by hetman Pac after the battle of Chocim in 1673 (unfortunately I did not see this as I did not know during my visit about it and I certainly would find a way to see it). The interior is really impressive but I also recommend a walk around the basilica, because there are plenty of Polish traces out there (as in entire Vilnius). In the years 1951-1989 the church served as an art gallery, but it is often encountered situation in Lithuania, that the churches in the communist era were used for other purposes e.g. warehouses.

St. Peter and St. Paul's Church

St. Peter and St. Paul’s Church

The interior of the basilica with the boat-shaped chandelier

The interior of the basilica with the boat-shaped chandelier

Polish trace on the church's wall

Polish trace on the church’s wall

The next stop was the Adam Mickiewicz Museum, located in the house where our poet lived and worked. I was able to get to the museum in front of a large Polish tour, with which I then “raced” to next sights 🙂  Further proof that you can organize everything yourself and see exactly the same things as on organized trip, without having to be rushed from place to place. But everyone explores how he/she wants.

Plaque above the entrance to the Museum

Plaque above the entrance to the Museum

Gentlemen at the Museum (with a lovely Vilnius accent) asked me if I’m alone (I think groups are more common), to which I replied, yes, but that I do not lose hope 🙂 and then they warned me that if I chose Lithuanian girl, I have to take a skinny one, because, according to the Lithuanian custom, the bride must be carried across the bridge (as indeed I saw near the castle in Kaunas). While visiting museum at the same time as Polish trip, I was listening to their guide, telling various tidbits of life of our poet (in this very house he wrote “Grazyna”). I highly recommend the museum, because admission is not expensive, and you can learn something new. Museum is not very big, so you won’t be bored.

Adam Mickiewicz's death mask

Adam Mickiewicz’s death mask

At this desk Mickiewicz created in Vilnius

At this desk Mickiewicz created in Vilnius

A museum board from the beginning of twentieth century

A museum board from the beginning of twentieth century

On the way to the image of Our Lady of the Gate of Dawn I visited beautiful St. Anna’s Church. Napoleon liked this church so much that he wished he could move it to Paris. Founded by Alexander Jagiellonczyk in the late fifteenth century as the Bernardine monastery chapel, the church was rebuilt several times after fires. Beautiful interior stopped me for a while (until the appearance of the Polish tour). Right next to the church is a monument of Adam Mickiewicz.

St. Anne's church (left) and behind the St. Francis and St. Bernard's church.

St. Anne’s Church (left) and behind the St. Francis and St. Bernard’s Church.

St. Anne's church inside

St. Anne’s Church inside

St. Francis and St. Bernard's church inside

St. Francis and St. Bernard’s Church inside

Adam Mickiewicz monument

Adam Mickiewicz monument

Finally it was time for the Gate of Dawn. Madame Wala from Sikorski Museum keeps saying that she prays only to the Virgin of Gate of Dawn and I had a strange feeling that Lady of the Gate of Dawn is closer to the people than the one from Czestochowa. There are no wild crowds like in Czestochowa, people passing by kneel and make the sign of the cross. You can approach the image at a very close distance, I felt a little intimidated standing next to it, but the moment of reflection was ruined by another tour wearing sandals and socks…

The Gate of Dawn

The Gate of Dawn

Painting of Our Lady of the Gate of Dawn

Image of Our Lady of the Gate of Dawn

A short walk away from the Gate of Dawn is St’ Casimir’s Church. Wonderfully restored facade and rich interior meant that I was distracted for a moment and thought about the power of the old Polish Republic, when the aristocracy had the money and the willingness to fund such masterpieces. The church was built in the first half of the seventeenth century, burned down during the Russian invasion in 1655. The fire destroyed the church twice. Napoleon’s army used it as a granary, and from 1839 until 1917, the church was converted to the Orthodox. Since 1963, there was… a Museum of Atheism (an example of Soviet sense of humor). In 1991 large crypt from the early seventeenth century was discovered under the main altar. You can view the interesting black and dark-blue drawing, forming the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, the Virgin Mary and praying monks. Drawings are accompanied by similarly made ​​subtitles in Latin.

St. Casimir's church

St. Casimir’s Church

The interior

The interior

One of the drawings in the crypt

One of the drawings in the crypt

That was the end of my tour, I had to run to meet my CS host. Renata took me to a delicious Lithuanian dinner, mushroom soup served in bread and zeppelins – dumplings filled with meat stuffing with bacon (the name comes from the similarity in appearance to the Zeppelin airships). At the end of the day, after a delicious unpasteurized beer, Renata showed me the Presidential Palace, from a less popular among tourists side.

Presidential Palace from the back

Presidential Palace from the back

It was a very intense day, I did 25 kilometers on foot and legs almost refused to work at the end. Another episode of Vilnius escapades soon.

Bibliography:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Anne’s_Church,_Vilnius

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Peter_and_St._Paul’s_Church,_Vilnius

Categories: RTW trip | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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

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About cats…

Time for first impressions of Lithuania. I’m in Kaunas at my Couchsurfing host’s and slowly getting ready for a Friday night 🙂 Today I’ll slightly go a little off the blog’s topic and say a few words of the local fauna. During a visit at Mrs. Halina Jotkiałło’s house in Vilnius (description of the visit coming soon) I met her four flatmates. Vilnius cats that understand only Polish (because they come from a very good Polish home 🙂 )

I do not know whether you have among your friends people who do photograph every cat they see on the street? I was never one of those people, but somehow, I was captivated by these cats. They very quickly got familiar with me, which means, according to Ms Halina, I’m a good man 🙂 Oh, one more thing, Ms Halina is not an old maid (which the number of cats would indicate 🙂 )

When I read those words before publication, I can not refrain from pronouncing them with Vilnius accent 😀

Here is a collection of Vilnius cats (all cats sheltered by Ms Halina):

Agata - very sociable, and within five minutes she was sitting on my knees

Agata – very sociable, and within five minutes she was sitting on my knees

13 years old Elza - she was embarrassed because she happened to pee at home :)

13 years old Elza – she was embarrassed because she happened to pee at home 🙂

Seweryn - every now and then disappeared somewhere - Ms Halina thought he was having naps somewhere but I think he was seeing a girl :)

Seweryn – every now and then disappeared somewhere – Ms Halina thought he was having naps somewhere but I think he was seeing a girl 🙂

Kasia - very timid and does not have a tail but stump. That's how she was found - people are asking what kind of race is that with such a short tail :)

Kasia – very timid and does not have a tail but stump. That’s how she was found – people are asking what kind of race is that with such a short tail 🙂

Categories: Misc, RTW trip | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

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