Vilkaviškis one step between the past and the present
Vilkaviškis one step between the past and the present Vilkaviskis is one of several rather old towns of Sūduva (Sodovia) that originated from a village situated in the western edge of Birstonas Wood, in the confluence of the two rivers Vilkauja and Seimena, in the second half of the 16th century. The road from Kaunas to Prussia passed through the village. The name of the town emerged from the river Vilkauja. As the linguist Aleksandras Vanagas wrote, ,,the name of the town is a derivation of the name of the river Vilkauja at the bank of which the town is situated and the suffix -iskis. The initial town name was „ Vilkaujiskis ", later it turned to the version that was easier to pronounce „ Vilkaviskis ".
Presently, Vilkaviskis is a small but brilliant corner of Suvalkija. It has numerous cultural monuments and resorts connected with people who contributed greatly to Lithuanian history and culture.
History of Vilkaviškis and its Surroundings
Vilkaviskis District Municipality, with its area of 1259 square kilometers, is situated in the southwestern part of Lithuania. The district borders with Poland in the south and Kaliningrad Oblast of the Russian Federation.
Vilkaviskis District Municipality was established in 1991 when Lithuania regained its independence. The name of Vilkaviskis, the municipality centre, appeared in the historic annals at the beginning of the 16th century. The city blazon consists of a double red lily on a blue background. Historians assume that Vilkaviskis was vested the autonomous right in 1660 when the Lithuanian Chancellor of that time, Kristupas Zigmantas Pacas, held the position of the Head of the Vilkaviskis Neighborhood. Whereupon the town „ borrowed" the blazonry symbols from the family blazon of the noblemen Pacai, which depicted a double lily on a red background.
As described in the book, „ Vilkaviskis municipality 1918-1938 " by the prewar burgomaster A. Sajeta, the name of Vilkaviskis was first mentioned by Queen Bona Sforca when the frontier of Alvitas (Pasirvintis) was markedaround the year 1561. However, the date that the name of Vilkaviskis was first mentioned that is referred to most often in various literature sources is 1620, when the Head of Prienai Neighborhood Steponas Pacas built the first church in Vilkaviskis. The confirmation privilege of Zigmantas III Vaza dated 20 April 1623 states that the Vilkaviskis church was built by the yeomen of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Prienai and Birstonas Governor, Birstonas Wood administrator Steponas Pacas and his wife Ona Rudaminaite near the Prussian border at the village called Vilkaviskis. The church was built because the Catholic faith could expand due to the fact that, at that time, local people still followed pagan customs.
On the 18th of June, 1633, Vladislovas IV allowed Steponas Pacas to transfer the Vilkaviskis Neighborhood to his son Kristupas. On the 13th of October, 1655, the Vilkaviskis Forestry came to Jonas Miesenskis (Mierzens-ki) from Magnus de la Gardie for eternal use. In 1660, Vilkaviskis gained the Magdeburg rights and Steponas Pranciskus Medeksa became the Administrator of Vilkaviskis.
On the 15th of April, 1730 Augustas II enabled Tekle Radvilaite- Visniavecka, the wife of Mykolas Kaributas Visniaveckis, head of the Vilkaviskis Neighborhood, Chancellor of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and General Army Regimentor, to govern the Vilkaviskis Neighborhood for life. The Vilkaviskis Neighborhood Inventory 1732 indicates that at that day there was a market place and the following streets within Vilkaviskis borders: Dvaro (Zamkowa), Gudelin (Gudelska), Kauno (Kowienska), Naumiescio (Wladyslawowska), Aukstoji (Wysoka), Varsu-vos (Warszawska) and Gardino (Grodzienska). There were also 25 shops.
In 1738, the Vilkaviskis Neighborhood was governed by Vilnius Vaivoda, the Grand Hetmon of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania Mykolas Servantas Kaributas Visniaveckis, however, it was administered by Anastazijus Da-novskis, the Treasury Yeoman.
During the Russian-Prussian War when the Russian army was freely marching through Lithuania, Vilkaviskis and its surroundings suffered together with other areas of Lithuania.
On 26 December, 1773, Stanislovas Augustas privileged Aleksandra Cartoriskaite-Oginskiene, the wife of Grand Hetmon of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania who governed the Vilkaviskis Neighborhood, to govern the latter for life (in the case of her husband's death).
At the end of the 18th century, Vilkaviskis suffered from several fires. Two known fires of September 1781 and June and September 1782 swept off 40 Jewish houses (106 dwelling houses remained unharmed) and seven Christian houses, as well as the manor inn, Jewish stills, warehouses and belongings.
In 1795 Vilkaviskis was annexed to Prussia.
When in 1806, Napoleon Bonaparte conquered Prussia, and the Germans left Uznemune (the territory over the River Nemunas). Here, the Constitution of Napoleon came into force and Napoleon Bonaparte himself visited Vilkaviskis on 22 June 1812.
The Congress of Vienna 1815 transferred governmental rights of Duchy of Warsaw to the Russian Empire. In 1816, the Augustowa Voivode District was established and Vilkaviskis was a member of it.
As the number of dwellers grew, there were many buildings built for new purposes. In 1881, the telegraph station was started; later, in 1895, they were allowed to open a drug warehouse pharmacy and a soap-works. The slaughter house was built in 1904. As Vilkaviskis was a district centre, many central departmental institutions were established here: the district head and board, the court of justice with hypothec. The czarist Russia army units were located here at some point. Around 1910, huge redbrick buildings rose and they were intended for a distillery and administration. In addition, a few oil-mills were constructed.
During World War I, Vilkaviskis was occupied by the German army twice. The second occupation started in February 1915 and lasted for more than three years.
At the end of 1918, when the German occupation weakened, townspeople were allowed to organize their own administrative government. The first Transitional meeting of the city committee was held on 23 November and 12 elected committee members gathered together. In 1929, a compulsory primary education was introduced and the first primary school was built in 1935. Three years later, in 1938, the second six-grade school was opened. In 1926, Vilkaviskis episcopate with its centre in Vilkaviskis and the first bishop Antanas Karosas was opened. In 1930, the theological college was built according to the project of the architect Vytautas Landsbergis-Zemkalnis. This theological college functioned until 1944, when Lithuania was occupied by the Red Army.
Following the new local autonomy law, on the 2nd of May, 1931, Vilkaviskis was granted the primary town rights. The municipality took care of the town streets, houses, industry and trade. Streets, pavements, and the exterior of houses were cleaned and repaired. In 1933, a ferroconcrete bridge over the Seimena stream was constructed, costing approximately 90 thousand litas.
At the end of the 1940s, metal, crockery and glassware, oil, soda-water, shoe, sweets factories, soap-works, and bristle processing enterprises were operating in Vilkaviskis. In addition, there were two hotels and several printing houses.
After the Russians occupied Lithuania on the 15th of June 1940, they nationalized private hospitals, factories, workshops, bookshops and other enterprises in Vilkaviskis. As a borderline town, Vilkaviskis was ,,stuffed" with Russian soldiers. On the 13 through the 15th of June 1941, 569 people were exiled from the Vilkaviskis district to Siberia in cattle-trucks. On the 22nd of June 1941, at seven a.m., German army planes bombed the town. When the Germans were reeling back in 1944, severe battles were fought in Vilkaviskis. The town was absolutely devastated; there were ruins everywhere. During the postwar exiles, many people from the district (later from the region) were expatriated; in 1948, there were 1205 expatriated, in 1949, there were 613 expatriated, and in 1951, there were 463 residents expatriated.
In 1950, when counties were reformed, Vilkaviskis became a district centre. In the first postwar years, the metalwork plant „ Pasaga " was opened; the sewing factory started operating in the building of the former theology college in 1955. Seven years later, the transport company was established and the Vilkaviskis canning factory launched its operation. In 1983, the construction of a new hospital was finished, and in 1969 a S. Neris secondary school was opened; later in 1979, the second secondary school was opened. The cinema was opened in 1986 and in 1991 a new recreation centre invited its first visitors.
Currently, the Vilkaviskis District population is about 50 thousand people. One half of them are residents of rural areas, the other portion of the population lives in the towns of Vilkaviskis, Kybartai and Virbalis. Vilkaviskis District Municipality governs twelve neighborhoods. Vilkaviskis District is crossed by a very important highway, Vilnius-Marijampole-Kaliningrad and a railway line Kaliningrad-Vilkaviskis-Kaunas-Vilnius-Moscow. The district benefits from the highway „ Via Baltica", as it provides a wider range of communication possibilities and contributes to the tourism development.
Suvalkija (southern and southwestern region) is a territory of plains; however, a diversity of relief is typical to the Vilkaviskis District: plains are specific to the northern part and highlands can be found in the southwestern part. The major part of the district is covered by farming lands; these are among the most productive lands in the country. This influenced the forestry of the region and forests cover only eight percent of the area.
This remarkable corner of Suvalkija is rich in cultural monuments and resorts related to the history and literature heritage of the region.
There are lakes and ponds in the territory. The River Šesupe and two of its tributaries, Rausve and Širvinta, as well as other streams, furrow the land. Vistytis Regional Park can be distinguished for its wonderful, hilly
landscape. The park includes three mounds. Kylininkų hills stand out with their relief expression and picturesque quality and the highest hills (Dunojaus, Janaukos, Pavistycio, and Forests hide oaks of 300 years old and 200 year old pines and firs. The Great Footed Stone of Vištytis lays at the edge of the park. Natural values are preserved both in the Virbalgiris botanical and zoological reservations.
The remaining mounds speak about the past of this region. The region boasts as many as forty of them.
The Vilkaviskis regional museum is situated in Paezeriai (Seimena Neighbourhood) manor. Nearby, in the Ozkabaliai village, the founder of the Lithuanian newspaper ,,Ausra " and the signatory of the Independence Act of the 16th of February, 1918, Dr. Jonas Basanavicius was born in 1851. At the moment, the museum is established in his homestead. In 1989, the Lithuanian national rebirth oak forest was started. The granary-museum of Dr. Vincas Kudirka, a writer and the author of ,,National Hymn ", is in Paezeriai (Pilviskiai Neighborhood).
The People of Vilkaviskis Have Many Things to be Proud Of
The Vilkaviskis District has always been famous not only for its extraordinary plains and highlands, historical details retaining mounds, and historical and cultural monuments, but also for wonderful and hard-working people.
There are many Jewish people from Vilkaviškis, who sounds Lithuania in the world - talent artists, politicians, businessmen. Tradesmen, craftsmen, simple workpeople built and created Vilkaviškis. They were different, but - our neighbours. As we, Lithuanians, they were good and bad, saintly and unbelieving, indulgent and unforgiving. Today they are extincted from our town, the vast majority of them were killed in the years of Holocaust. Almost forgotten by young generation, again surfaced from the mist of history. Jewish people anyhow in memories must return to the history of our town Vilkaviškis.
Many honorable Lithuanians were born in the Vilkaviskis District. These are not only the aforementioned great personalities such as the patriarch, the signatory of the Independence Act Dr. J. Basanavicius or the author of the Lithuanian hymn Dr. V. Kudirka, but also many other public men.
A great number of culturally prominent men originated from the villages of this district: the writer Vincas Pietaris was born in Ziūiriai-Gudeliai, the poet and translator Kazys Bukaveckas, Opsrutai; Paezeriai brought forth the writer Antanas Krisciukaitis-Aisbe, Jurksai the poet and translator Jonas Zilius-Jonila, and in Naudziai village the painter and sculptor Petras Rimša spent his childhood. In Degsniskiai, the poet and translator Petras Arminas-Trupinelis was raised; in Geisteriskiai, the poet and translator, the member of ,,Keturi vejai" movement Juozas Tysliava was raised. A beautiful small town Kybartai brought forth the painter Isaakas Leviatanas and the Kapellmeister and composer Emilis Mlynarskis. Salomeja Neris and Kazys Bradunas were born in Kirsai. There are many other prominent personalities linked to the district.
Today, Vilkaviskis society may also be proud of a great number of people glorifying the district such as numerous arts, music and dance groups and sportsmen.
Latter-day artists attempting to retain traditions of their native region cherish the ancient Lithuanian culture, spread ideas of authenticity and take care of the folklore of their land: dances and songs written down by their ancestors, their instrumental music, and their oral folklore. Numerous dance groups of national and contemporary dance sway in jolly roundelays.
The best known are the folklore ensemble ,,Siiduviai", the country music group „ Vingis", the mixed chamber choir, folklore ensemble ,,Grazupis", the Bartninkai vocal ensemble ,,Aista", the Pilviskiai ethnographic ensemble, the chapel of Alvitas village „ Širvinta ", the female vocal ensemble „ Svaja ", mixed vocal ensemble of Pajevonis recreation centre, county groups of Girenai, Vistytis, Virbalis, vocal ensembles, the folk music group „ Zemyna ", the folk dance group „ Zemyna ", the modern dance group „ Skac ", the girls dance group „ Katpėdėlė ", the female vocal ensemble of the Kybartai recreation centre, and the wind-instrument orchestra „ Kybartai".
Great sportsmen of the region sound the praises of Vilkaviskis. Quite a number of sports clubs operate actively: the table tennis club ,,Sudavija", the bicycle club ,,Aira", the football clubs ,,Sveikata" and ,,Atžala", the track-and-field athletics club, and wrestling club „ Ravyras ". Every year, a chess championship is held in Vilkaviskis together with the championships of table tennis, basketball, football and track-and-field athletics. Sportsmen are invited to join Lithuanian national teams; they participate in European and world championships
The children's football team of the sport club ,,Kybartų jaunystė" took part in the international football tournaments in France, Poland and Latvia.
The tennis player Arturas Rybakas won a silver medal in the table tennis championship of the Republic of Lithuania and the Vilkaviskis team was awarded a bronze medal. The cyclists of the region have participated in the international competitions in France and Spain and have been among prizemen or winners.
The table tennis team has won the team table tennis championship of the Republic of Lithuania. Tomas Kairys won the silver medal in the pentathlon of the European track-and-field championship for disabled sportsmen.
The tennis player Kęstutis Žeimys succeeded in the Lithuanian championship and became a champion in the couple's competition.
The wrestler Vaida Puidaite became the champion of Lithuania and won seventh place in the cadet championship of Europe. Nerijus Markauskas has brought two silver medals to Vilkaviskis from the track-and-field championship of the Republic of Lithuania.
Developed by Daiva Juškevičienė