While in Vilnius, I visited the Rasos Cemetery where many famous Lithuanian, Polish, and Byelorussian writers and artists are buried. On the day I was there, various groups of students were there, having been given the day off from school to tend to the graves in the cemetery in anticipation of the Day of the Dead.
Entrance to Rasos Cemetery
SOURCE: Entrance to Rasos Cemetery. Photographed by Stephen J. Danko, 25 October 2007.
Rasos Cemetery was founded in 1769 by Bazyli Miller, the mayor of Vilnius. In 1801, a chapel and belltower were built.
Grave of Józef Piłsudski
SOURCE: Grave of Józef Piłsudski. Photographed by Stephen J. Danko, 25 October 2007.
Józef Piłsudski’s grave in Rasos cemetery is somewhat controversial, since Polish Marshal Piłsudski was not only a hero in the fight for Polish Independence, but was also the key figure in the Polish annexation of the Lithuanian city of Vilnius. Piłsudski’s body is buried in Wawel Castle in Kraków, but at his request, his heart was cut out and buried in Vilnius with the body of his mother.
Grave of Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis
SOURCE: Grave of Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis. Photographed by Stephen J. Danko, 25 October 2007.
Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis was a renowned Lithuanian painter and composer. He died in 1911 at the age of 35, leaving a legacy of about 250 painting and 300 works of music. Some of his works can be seen and heard online.
Graves of Polish Home Army Soldiers
SOURCE: Graves of Polish Home Army Soldiers. Photographed by Stephen J. Danko, 25 October 2007.
Buried near the front of the cemetery are the bodies of members of the Polish Home Army who died during World War II. Their graves were destroyed during the years the Soviets were in power, but were rebuilt by the Republic of Poland in 1993. Until 18 September 1939 when Soviet forces invaded the city of Vilnius, three soldiers always stood guard at the entrance to the cemetery. They refused to give up their arms to the Soviets and were shot. They are buried next to Piłsudski’s heart.
Copyright © 2007 by Stephen J. Danko