Michal Kleofas Oginski (1765-1833) was a Lithuanian Prince, by virtue of lineal descent from Rurik, founder of the Kievian Russian state. He commanded a regiment of riflemen during the Kościuszko Insurrection of 1794 which attempted to resist the Second Partition of Poland-Lithuania. After Russia’s suppression of the Insurrection, Oginski emigrated to France, at which time he wrote the following Polonaise, his best-known work.
"Pan Tadeusz", "Pan Tadeusz" (1928), "Pan Tadeusz" (1999), Adam Mickiewicz, Andrzej Wajda, Lithuania, Poland, Ryszard Ordyński
The process of rediscovery, generally involving painful efforts of reconstruction, of lost masterworks of the Silent Era of the cinema is still very much underway.
I am remembering with great pleasure the premiere in January of 1981 at Radio City Music Hall of Abel Gance’s “Napoleon” (1927). Karen and I found ourselves by accident sitting next to Susan Sontag (with whom we were mildly acquainted) and Lillian Gish (to whom Sontag introduced us), and we all had a very enjoyable time exchanging witticisms and appreciative observations.
Another major American premiere that we were fortunate enough to present at was that of Andrzej Wajda’s “Pan Tadeusz” (1999), shown at a Polish cultural center in the basement of an old church in the heart of that city’s Polish neighborhood. Polish-language art films were shown there regularly, and that movie theater is the only one I have ever attended whose concession stand featured wine and beer and Polish sausage as well as popcorn.
In it, a family vendetta between two families of old-fashioned Lithuanian nobles turns into a revolt against the occupying
Russians in 1812, just prior to Napoleon’s invasion. Pan Tadeusz is for Poland what Don Quixote is for Spain, simultaneously the supreme achievement of its national literature, and moreover the definitive portrait of its national character. Pan Tadeusz was described by Worcell as “a tombstone laid by the hand of genius upon our Old Poland.”
There was not a dry eye in the auditorium as the background narration solemnly intoned the poem’s famous opening line:
“Litwo! Ojczyzno moja! ty jesteś jak zdrowie;
Ile cię trzeba cenić, ten tylko się dowie,
Kto cię stracił.”
Lithuania, my fatherland!, thou
Art like good health; I never knew till now
How precious, till I lost thee.
I had always assumed that the Andrzej Wajda version was the first, and only, attempt ever made to film Pan Tadeusz, but
I recently received some correspondence from the Polish cultural news web-site, Culture.pl, and when I went to investigate the site, I discovered that two attempts had been made to film the novel during the silent era, one of which, directed by Ryszard Ordyński was actually completed and released in 1928.
The film was, of course, lost, all copies believed to have been destroyed. But, as the Polish government cultural web-site reports, “in the 1950s… the Polish National Film Archive came into possession of a 40-minute, destroyed fragment of the film, which had an original running time of just under 3 hours. The year 2006 turned out to be crucial – several other incomplete copies of the film surfaced in Wroclaw. After years of re-mastering efforts, the “Nitrofilm” project team … managed to reconstruct almost 120 minutes of the original picture.”
A gala premiere of the re-release of this spectacular cinematic landmark took place in Warsaw last November 9.
New Horizons review
It will gradually be shown at film festivals world-wide, and will presumably eventually be made available on DVD.
Died 16 February 1665, Polish national hero Hetman [Field Marshal] Stefan Czarniecki [pronounced “Charnyetsky”] of an infected wound received in battle against the Cossacks the previous July.
One of the greatest commanders in Polish history, Czarniecki fought in 27 major engagements. He played the principal role in evicting the Swedes and the Russians from Poland in the mid-17th century period of national disaster known as “The Deluge.”
Despite his age and illness, Czarniecki persisted in traveling in the most bitter winter weather to Lwow, but his strength began to fail and he was taken to a cottage in Sokołówce. Recognizing that he was dying, the hero is said to have insisted that his white charger be brought to his bedside for a last farewell. The horse refused the water and oats offered to him, and instead beat the floor with his hoofs, saluting his master. Czarniecki sank into a coma and died after receiving the last rites.
The horse also died shortly afterward, and the peasants living near Czarnca Wloszczowa, where Czarniecki was buried, claim that on February 16th, the hoofbeats of Czarniecki’s horse can be heard on the nearby meadows as he continues to watch over his master’s grave.
The king had arranged, before his death, for a strengthening of the alliance and personal union between the two countries via the Union of Lublin which merged the separate Polish and Lithuanian Parliaments and which provided for his own succession by an electoral monarchy. Henceforward, the king of the Commonwealth of Poland-Lithuania would be freely elected by the nobility of both nations.
On 16 May 1573, Henry Valois, third son of King Henri II of France and of Catherine de’Medici, Duke of Angoulême, Orléans, and Anjou was elected King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania.
Several months prior to his election, on January 28, 1573, the Polish Parliament in Warsaw went out of parliamentary session and into the mode of a Confederacy (in order to preclude the use of the Liberum Veto.
The Confederacy of Warsaw pledged the entire nobility of Poland-Lithuania not only to refuse to enforce any measure by state or church undertaking to compel religious conformity, but to resist actively any such measure by armed force.
[W]e swear to each other, on behalf of ourselves and our descendants, in perpetuity, under oath and pledging our faith, honor, and consciences, that we who differ in matters of religion will keep the peace among ourselves, and neither shed blood on account of differences of Faith, nor punish one another by confiscation of goods, deprivation of honor, imprisonment, or exile.
During the debate, Crown Chancellor Jan Zamoyski is reported to have said: “For the heretics [Protestants] to return to the True Faith, I would give half my life’s blood, but to defend their right to obey their own consciences, I would give all my life’s blood.”
The succession in 1825 to the throne of the Congress Kingdom of Poland of the autocratic Nicholas I, who made clear his contempt for constitutional government, led inevitably to revolt. The reactionary order imposed by the Congress of Vienna was tested all over Europe in 1830. Greek independence was recognized by Britain. In July, the Bourbon monarchy fell in France. In August, the House of Orange was expelled, and Belgium declared its independence. Fear that the Tsar might use the Polish Army to suppress the revolutions in France and Belgium led to revolution in Poland. Wojciech Kossak, in two famous paintings (the other), illustrated Polish cadets and Warsaw civilians in combat with Russian cuirrasseurs in the attack on the Belvedere Palace, the Polish equivalent of the White House, then the residence of Grand Duke Constantine, the Russian Governor General. The statue of King Jan Sobieski appears to be leading the Polish assault. This was the opening battle of the November Insurrection of 1830-1831.
Highly amusing, NSFW language, Lithuanian mineral water commercial. The water is named for Lithuania’s most illustrious Medieval Grand Duke.
I’m not sure what the narrator’s accent is, but it isn’t a Lithuanian accent.
King John Sobieski and the military forces of Poland-Lithuania put a stop to Islamic aggression against Europe and Western Civilization for over three centuries.
How many people realize that the 9/11 attacks were deliberately timed to represent an Islamic response to the Relief of the Siege of Vienna?
A moving and nostalgic video which adds a musical background to 19th century hand-colored sketches of palaces and manor-houses in the former Grand Duchy of Lithuania (today’s Lithuania and Belarus) by the artist Napoleon Orda. Orda’s drawings record the romantic architecture of an aristocratic world swept out of existence by Revolutionary violence and totalitarianism.
The “Eastern Borderlands” is a translation of the Polish word kresy.
A short film celebrating the passage of the first liberal constitution in Europe by the Polish senate, May 3, 1791, the passage of which provoked treason by magnatial aristocrats (The Confederacy of Targowica) followed by intervention and partition of the country by Russia, Prussia, and Austria. Tadeusz Kosciuszko led the national resistance to the partition. The final defeat of Kosciuszko’s forces was followed in 1795 by the Third and final Partition of Poland-Lithuania. The actual document wound up locked in an iron box under guard in Moscow’s Kremlin, so much terror did it strike in the hearts of despots. Poles and Lithuanians still sing the praises of the Constitution of the 3rd of May which extended the rights enjoyed by the nobility to the entire country. The Third of May is today a national holiday in both countries.
Hat tip to Anna Borewicz-Korshed.
A quaint, folkloristic animated history of Lithuania, from the Pre-Cambrian to today.
It probably won’t make much sense to the non-Lithuanians out there. The armored wolf you see at one point is a symbol of Lithuania. It seems that Grand Duke Gedymin took a nap while hunting and dreamed of an iron wolf. As the result of his dream, he founded the city of Vilnius. The transition from the Battle of Grunwald (1410) to the Third Partition (1795) is rather quick, but that is the linguistic nationalist perspective for you.
The depiction of the communists as crabs is, I think, some kind of linguistic pun.
Hat tip to Viktorija Ruškulienė.
Battle of Varna, Christopher Columbus, History, Legends, Lithuania, Order of Saint Catherine of Sinai, Poland, Wladyslaw III
Wladyslaw III (1424-1444) was a child when he succeeded his father Wladyslaw II Jagiello to the throne of Poland in 1434. The boy king had been molded by the influence of his tutor, Bishop Zbigniew Olesnicki, to embrace eagerly the role of defender of the Christian Faith. In 1440, Wladyslaw accepted the throne of Hungary, pledging himself to defend that country against the Turks. In 1443, he launched a military campaign in the Balkans which liberated Sofia, and inspired a revolt in Albania, forcing the Turks to sign a peace treaty.
Wladyslaw was promised support from a number of European nations and the protection of a strong Christian fleet, and urged to resume the offensive. On August 4th, 1444, he proceeded to break the truce. No support was forthcoming, and it has long been rumored that the Genoese accepted substantial fees to ferry the Turkish Army across to the European shore, where on November 10th Wladislaw and his army was trapped their backs to the sea at Varna. Some authorities think the Christian Army might possibly have fought its way out of the encirclement, but faced with overwhelming enemy forces, the boy king simply placed himself at the head of two squadrons of Polish heavy cavalry, and brandishing a captured scimitar, charged directly at the Sultan’s person surrounded by the janissaries in the center of the Turkish camp. The king’s body was never recovered.
Turkish accounts claim the king’s head was first exhibited on a stake, then preserved in a jar of honey and taken to Brussa, the capital of the Turkish state, as a trophy.
A new book, just released in Spain, titled, “COLON. La Historia Nunca Contada” (COLUMBUS. The Untold Story), by Manuel Rosa, bases itself on a Portuguese legend that Wladyslaw survived and contends that Chrisopher Columbus was his son.
The legend suggests that Wladyslaw renounced his throne as the result of guilt, believing that his defeat was the judgment of God for his breaking the truce. He is said to have traveled in obscurity to the Holy Land as a penitiential pilgrim, becoming a Knight of Saint Catherine of Mount Sinai, and then settled on island of Madeira.
On Madeira, he was allegedly known as Henrique Alemão (Henry the German) and resided on land received directly from the King of Portugal, who served as his best man at his wedding to a Portuguese lady.
He is said to have built the church of Saint Catherine and Saint Mary Magdalene in Madalena do Mar in 1471), in which he is said to have been the model used for Saint Joachim meeting Saint Anne at the Golden Gate in a painting by Master of the Adoration of Machico done at the beginning of the 16th century.
Manuel Rosa adopts the viewpoint of the legend contending that Christopher Columbus had access to four royal courts on the basis of his own royal paternity, that Columbus’s marriage to a Portuguese noblewoman long before his voyages of discovery was only possible on the basis of his own illustrious birth, and that Columbus’s 1498 will stating he was born on Genoa was forged 80 years after his death.
Columbus’s light hair, fair skin, and blue eyes are also cited by the author as evidence of the great navigator’s Lithuanian ancestry.
Rosa has proposed modern DNA testing using material from royal burials at Wawel Hill in Cracow to confirm his theory.
Publisher’s press release
The author, incorrectly listed by his publisher as a professor at Duke University, is actually employed as a help desk IT staffer at the Duke University Comprehensive Cancer Center.
Christopher Columbus (detail), from Alejo Fernández, La Virgen de los Navegantes, circa 1505 to 1536, Alcázares Reales de Sevilla.
On today’s date in 1989, the 50th Anniversary of the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact, a human chain of protestors 400-miles-long stretched across the Baltic States demanding freedom and independence from the Soviet Union.
Hat tip to Publius via Karen L. Myers.
The Vytis (Knight) is the national symbol of Lithuania
I’m of Lithuanian descent, and I can tell you that the Lithuanians think of themselves as a knightly nation and identify enthusiastically with their medieval warrior ancestors. In our Lithuanian parish’s elementary school, we spent every art class drawing and re-drawing the Vytis as our nuns explained to us that we descended from the knights of old and should behave just like them.
I did not know that these kind of reenactments went on in Lithuania. I would expect that this kind of thing was not permitted under the Soviets, and represents a recent development.
Here in America, the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) conducts tournaments with knights wearing armor and battling with wooden swords and heavily padded maces. The Lithuanians in the video, on the other hand, are bashing one another highly vigorously using actual metal swords. Since we don’t see anyone being divided into so many parts and losers do seem to survive, I assume the swords used are at least blunt edged. They do put up a good fight though.
The tournament seems to be conducted by a Lithuanian version of the SCA called Viduramžių Pasiuntiniai (Medieval Emissaries). They seem to be doing this every year. Google will translate the web page.
Hat tip to Stasys Daugirdas via Viktorija Daugirdaite Ruskulis.
Correction: I originally (following Google’s translation) translated the organization name Viduramžių Pasiuntiniai as “Medieval Courier.” Aistė Volkytė, witing from Lithuania, advised me that “emissaries” would be the more accurate translation.
[A] Lithuanian debt collector is offering an unconventional service to retrieve arrears: witchcraft. The Vilnius-based Skolu Isieskojimo Biuras (debt collecting bureau), has hired Vilija Lobačiuvienė, the Baltic nation’s most famous self-styled witch, to hunt down companies and individuals who are failing to pay up. Lobaciuviene, 53, who claims to use hypnosis, herbal medicines and “the bio-energy field,” promised Thursday to “do whatever I can to help people.”