Masskwietyszki/Masikvietiskis

This was the home of Minna Keller, wife of Mathäus Spurgat. Their oldest daughter, Heinrette, was born here in 1862. She married August Grigoschat, immigrated to Grand Rapids, Michigan, and lived the rest of her life there.

We drove quite a while to find this village, not that it wasn’t on the GPS, but that we avoided gravel roads to get there and took a rather circuitous route. We noticed the sign for a village named Suwalki which we had also passed earlier. Just where was this last village, Masskwietyszki/Masikvietiskis? We went through Gudele/Gudeliai again, this time approaching it from the opposite direction and noticed that the same mooing cow chained to the iron post was still chewing grass next to the only village sign. It was an indication, perhaps, of how life does not change much in the rural areas. The map and the GPS showed Masskwietyszki/Masikvietiskis to be between Suwalki and Gudele/Gudeliai which we had already passed. Perhaps it was just a collection of houses built during the Soviet occupation.

We finally came to a collection of houses. Our guide said this must be Masskwietyszki/Masikvietiskis, but we did not see the familiar village sign. The four houses on the south side of the road looked as if they were the countryside houses many city people own in order to get back to their rural roots in this agricultural nation. Some appeared modern with many conveniences. Vilius knew that the owners would not be of any help with the history of the village. A bit farther down the road, our guide spotted an older home set back from the road. He spotted a woman working in her garden and went to talk to her. He returned with an enormous surprise. Her grandfather was named Plushkat, a German; her father was German; her mother was Lithuanian. A few hundred yards down the road were a German Cemetery and a Lithuanian Cemetery!!! Of course, we had to go! We started down the road, and in a few minutes she joined us.

We walked down the muddy ditch and up again into the lost world of an old German cemetery, seemingly long ignored. Another surprise awaited us. Here was a third marker just like the two we had seen yesterday on the road near Oszurty/Opsrutai and in Pilviskis/Pilviskiai! The Lithuanian words translated as “Old German Cemetery of Masisvietiskis Village.” Again, someone cares! The old woman our guide had talked to started to walk back down the road. We walked among the graves, silently, reverently, recording a few names.

Karl Raeder is remembered with an iron cross. We could read the date as geb. (born) 10 December 1860. gest (died) 7 June 1900. Only 40 years old, he died shortly after Adolph and Pauline left Vilkaviskis for Essen, Germany.

Only partially visible on another marker was “DemAugererd. Dem Herzei. Owi-nen.” The rest is illegible.

A small, very well kept family plot was the resting place of the Plushkat family, the family of the old woman who still owned the adjacent property. On the left visible on the most recent grave was “E. Plushkat 1877 to 1895.” In the middle was “A. Pluschkat, 1872 – 1921,” (roughly the age of my grandfather Adolph Spurgat, whose life in America, had given him another 20 years than his contemporary Karl Pluschkat.) On the right was “A. Plushkat 1891- 1910.” Perhaps the E. Plushkat was the wife and mother; A. Pluschkat, the father; and A. Plushkat, a 19 year old son who outlived his parents.

The serenity was soon broken by the need to go. We scrambled up and down the muddy bank again, walked quietly down the road, only to find the old woman waiting for us. The only way to describe the last moments of our 23, 3 day village adventure is to contemplate the life of this woman. The only way to describe her is as a crone, not derogatory, but precise. One tooth, wrinkled face, more than slightly protruding chin, dark eyes. She spoke in an animated, rapid fashion. She had most likely lived a life of remembered freedom, even if through the experiences of her grandparents and parents. She had survived in her family home through 50 years of Soviet oppression. She wanted to know if the information she gave us would be on tv as once a group of people had stopped by to ask if they could film the area for tv. She looked at me carefully. As she chattered animatedly, she indicated that we should not leave our car along side of the road, and used a cutting motion across her throat, and beamed her eyes directly at me. Unable to absorb any more of the moment, we thanked her, walked away, amazed at what I just seen in the almost-not-found- village of Masskwietyszki/
Masisvietiskis.

My last remembrance of her is captured in a somewhat blurry cropped version of this photograph. "One tooth, wrinkled face, more than slightly protruding chin, dark eyes, she spoke in an animated, rapid fashion. She looked at me carefully. As she chattered animatedly, she indicated that we should not leave our car along side of the road, and used a cutting motion across her throat, and beamed her eyes directly at me."

My last remembrance of her is captured in a somewhat blurry cropped version of this photograph. “One tooth, wrinkled face, more than slightly protruding chin, dark eyes, she spoke in an animated, rapid fashion. She looked at me carefully. As she chattered animatedly, she indicated that we should not leave our car along side of the road, and used a cutting motion across her throat, and beamed her eyes directly at me.”

This was the third marker like this we had seen in 24 hours, all of which were totally unexpected. Stepping into this remote piece of the past was simply an overwhelming  and unanticipated finale to the four day adventure we had been experiencing.  It was the culmination of six months of studious preparation for this journey and an almost twenty year celebration of the Spurgat family research.

This was the third marker like this we had seen in 24 hours, all of which were totally unexpected. Stepping into this remote piece of the past was simply an overwhelming and unanticipated finale to the four day adventure we had been experiencing. It was the culmination of six months of studious preparation for this journey and an almost twenty year celebration of the Spurgat family research.

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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