Wilniuki - a historical concept

An inhabitant of Vilnius and Wilniuk has different definitions. The former shows membership of Vilnius, a place of registration, living and work. The latter is a historical concept. Wilniuk is a child of Two Nations, Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. His ancestors courageously stood the test of partition of the state. They fought for it in November and January uprising. They resisted being pacified during World War I; they survived dramatic years of World War II and set up the Resistance (AK); they never let themselves being Russificated, Germanized or Sovietized, even in different parts of the world, they became Wilniuki.

The true Wilniuk does not necessarily have to come from Vilnius or live there. It is enough for him to come from Vilnius region (until nowadays the stem of Vilnius region is a triangular between Vilnius, Soleczniki and Troki). His roots reach several generations. Wilniuk is a fate. Wilniuk is the one who was exiled from his land; the one who survived Stalinist regime; the one who was flushed from the Land of Vilnius and dispersed all over the world by waves of repatriation. Wilniuk is also the one, who stayed behind and resisted post-war attempts to sovietize the regions; the one who foiled an attempt to make Wilniuki think they belong to different national community, religion, history and culture.

Wilniuk - is a set of unique features that were molded in the process of boiling in Multicultural melting pot called Wilenszczyzna (Vilnius region). Poles, Jews, Karaites, Byelorussians, Russians and other nationalities lived peacefully side-by-side. That is why Wilniuk is the definition of a character. Wilniuk comprises features of Byelorussian humility, a bit of Jewish foresight and a tendency to philosophy, a lot of Lithuanian restraint, which, however, gives way to Russian defiance. This colorful personality patchwork is embroidered with Polish pride and gallant fantasy. 

“There is no true Wilniuki…” – such words can be heard from the people who were exiled from Wilenszczyzna but who in their hearts always stayed there. It is not that bad. It is true that a cogwheel of history ran us over, but it did not smash us or sweep us from the land. It is true that nothing will be the way it was in the past. Many factors were involved here: almost total extermination of Jews and another wave of repatriation (to be precise depatriation) of Poles from Vilnius and Wilenszczyzna. Many people were forced to make decisions to leave home and to head for the unknown, as wanderings were the only alternative to Stalinist camps. During the years of 1945-1956, there was a war in Lithuania between communists and independent underground. From about a few hundred to a few hundred thousand people were victims of the war – all of them tortured in prisons or sent to Siberia. In this situation, moving to the territory of post-war Poland meant life and survival.

Only during the first repatriation (1944-1946) – according to official data – 170 hundred Wilniuki, about half of whom were inhabitants of Vilnius, left Lithuania. This first repatriation was the worst because almost all intelligence was forced to leave.

Those who stayed, mainly inhabitants of villages, became hostages of cruel Stalinist policy. Especially in 1948-1952, when massive collectivization of agriculture began, in the period of which the whole Polish villages from Wilenszczyzna were sent to Siberia. Soviet terror eased a bit in 1953, after Stalin’s death. Then, many deported people could return to former living places. There was an alternative of another repatriation (1955-1959) to the territory of People’s Republic of Poland. There is no information of how many Wilniuki left Wilenszczyzna during the second repatriation.  

There is, however, information that because of mentioned events, only about 180 thousand Poles stayed in Wilenszczyzna. That was a noticeably thinned out society, healing fresh wounds received from Nazis then from Soviets, deprived of layer of intelligence, but yet invincible and stubborn.