The Lithuanian Perspective

The next two posts of the history of this area are from the Lithuanian perspective.

The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, so strong in the 16th and 17th centuries, was gradually weakened until it was partitioned in 1772, 1792, and 1795. For twelve years, from 1795 to 1807, Lithuania came under Prussian rule. It was during this time that German “colonists” settled the area. Perhaps this is the time of the –at family immigration into Lithuania although civil records do not document their existence in Wylkowiszki until 1843.

Napoleon’s Invasion

Lithuanians welcomed Napoleon’s French Army as liberators. After the withdrawal of the French Army, Tsar Nicholas I began an intensive program to make this area Russian. The south-western part of Lithuania included Prussia in 1795. The short-lived Duchy of Warsaw in 1807 became a part of the Russian-controlled Kingdom of Poland in 1815 while the rest of Lithuania continued to be administered as a French province. 1

When Napoleon’s army invaded Russia in 1812, a large contingent of the French army was headquartered in Wylkowiszki. 2 On 19 June 1812 Napoleon and his army stationed themselves in a former residency of the foreman (starost). 3 The buildings of the manor were used for storage; a bakery for the soldiers was also created there. The army spent four days in Wylkowiszki, and Napoleon reviewed his troops on the outskirts of the city 4 before leaving for Kowno on 23 June 1812. 5 When Napoleon met with the Jewish leaders, he told them they would not be harmed. He also told them he had visited the Land of Israel in 1798 and 1799 and that he wished to rebuild the Kingdom of Israel. He promised that if he won the war, he would make Wylkowiszki a Little Paris. A large military cemetery from this era still remains near Wylkowiszki. 6

The defeated Napoleonic Army, on their retreat from Russia to France, marched through the Lithuanian town of Wilna. The exhausted and demoralized soldiers did not spare the churches, but stole church vestments and wrapped themselves in them to prevent freezing to death. 7

1 Napoleon, online , data downloaded 13
January 2008.
2 Our Homeland Vilkaviskis, online , data downloaded 2 April 2008.
3 Filip Sulimierski, Slownik Geograficzny Krolestwa Polskkiego [Geographical
Dictionary of Polish Kingdom and other Slavonic Countries] (Warsaw, Poland:
Silimierski I Walewski, 1880 to 1902), 95.
4 A. Janulaitis, J. Baltakevicius, and J. Totoraitis, Vilkaviskis, Encyclopedia
Lituanica [Lithuanian Encyclopedia] (No place: No publisher, no date), 132. Handout
from the Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture, Chicago, Illinois, 10 August 1995.
5 Sulimierski, Slownik Geograficzny Krolestwa Polskkiego [Geographical Dictionary of
Polish Kingdom and other Slavonic Countries], 95.
6 Stuart Schoenberg, Lithuanian Jewish Communities (No place: Scholarly Title, 1991),
344.
7 Jaekel, Bilder aus der Geschichte des evangelischen Deutschtums in Litauen, 132.

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About suwalkigermans

I started family research in 1993. My first two books focused on my maternal grandparents. Both families came from Kreis Rosenberg, West Prussia, to Big Rapids, Michigan. I left the Spurgats from Wylkowiszki in the Russian Empire as the third book because of the difficult and challenging research it required. After I published the book in 2010, I wondered what to do next. I thought I might try to share some of my research with others and maybe at the same time, by going digital, someone would find me. When you read the comments, you will see that happened. The best part of all this is helping others.
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