In 1907, Józef Mackiewicz’s family came to Vilnius from St. Petersburg and lived at 1 Witebska Street, near Rossa cemetery in Vilnius. This is where the story of the publicist Józef Mackiewicz began, who often mentioned his beloved Vilnius and its surroundings in his works. Unfortunately, there are practically no commemorative plaques about Józef Mackiewicz in Vilnius.
Going on a trip to Vilnius and typing in Google the keyword “tours around Vilnius”, one of the first items will be a trip in the footsteps of Adam Mackiewicz. Looking for even an hour, we will not find an equivalent trip in the footsteps of Józef Mackiewicz, a flesh and blood anti-communist, lover of Vilnius. However, such places that left a significant mark on the publicist’s work still exist on the map of Vilnius.
The first such place is the former house of the Mackiewicz family at 1 Witebska Street. The house bordered on the street running along the railway embankment, the Warsaw-Minsk railway. When the tsar was traveling by train, the inhabitants were not even allowed to leave their houses. The publicist, as a child, watched the passing train with the tsar from the window. A memorial plaque was placed here in early 2017.
Józef and Stanisław Mackiewicz attended the once existing private Russian-language Vinogradov Gymnasium in Vilnius. This school was considered the best in the city, it was attended by many children from wealthy Polish families. The gymnasium was located opposite the church of St. Catherine in Vilnius.
Another place worth visiting, following in the footsteps of J. Mackiewicz, is the editorial office of the magazine “Słowo”. It used to be located in a tenement house at the intersection of Barbara Radziwiłłówna and Zamkowa 2 streets (Pilies street (lt.)). The editor-in-chief, and then the owner of the editorial office, was Józef Mackiewicz’s brother, Stanisław Cat-Mackiewicz. Józef Mackiewicz was a publicist in this daily for many years.
Although Mackiewicz and his wife were buried in London, when visiting Vilnius it is also worth visiting the Rossa cemetery, where his closest family – his father and mother – were buried.
Probably the most famous café in interwar Vilnius was Rudnicki’s, located on the corner of Gediminas Avenue. The cafe was located opposite the Vilnius Cathedral, and the Vilnius intelligentsia, including Józef Mackiewicz, came here for a cup of coffee.
The last place on the map of Vilnius closely related to the life of Józef Mackiewicz is his house in Czarny Bór, near Vilnius, where he lived for almost 10 years with his wife, Barbara Toporska. It was in this place that the volume of reports “Bunt rojstów” was created, while the immediate vicinity was often described by the publicist in his post-war novels. After the Mackiewicz family escaped from the arrival of the Red Army, the house was used by third parties for several dozen years. With time, however, it was abandoned and threatened with total destruction. Its former splendor was restored on the initiative of the Vilnius Region Foundation (Fundacja Wileńszczyzna), which started renovation works in 2013. Today, tourists can also visit it.
Written by Łukasz Czunkiewicz
Translated by Joanna Zawalska