For some reason that is unknown even to me I’m kind of fascinated with cemeteries. The calmness and stillness of the place, the spirit of old times, the emptiness – all of these work for me big time. I enjoy wandering around aimlessly, looking at old, beautiful graves, imagining the lives of people resting there, hoping they had a good one… There’s just something magical about cemeteries and I always try to visit them whenever I have a chance. And especially when I travel as they vary so much from each other and are a perfect examples of local culture.
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Polish cemeteries outside of Poland
There are two cemeteries outside of Poland that are extremely important for our history yet I never got to visit them, not until this year. I must confess that even if I’m a huge patriot and Poland enthusiast (those who visited me in Warsaw this year can confirm) I’m kind of afraid of living in the past and dwelling on the history how it used to be. And these two cemeteries, one in Lviv and one in Vilnius, are perfect examples of places that attracts this kind of thinking.
Rasos Cemetery – the oldest cemetery in Vilnius
The Rasos Cemetery is the oldest and most famous burial place in Vilnius, founded at the end of XVIII century. It’s located not far from the center, in the quiet neighborhood full of wooden houses hidden in the spacious gardens. The cemetery itself spread on the smooth hillsides that makes just for the most beautiful location, perfect for the old, historical graves. There are so many important Polish, Lithuanian and Belorusian citizens burried on Rasos Cemetery that walking around is like a live history lesson…
The Rasos Cemetery in Vilnius operated until 1967 when Soviets (that then ruled the Lithuania as a part os USSR) closed it. Lots of graves of an important value were robbed, the whole place became neglected and wore down. Eventually in 1980s Soviets planned to completely destroy it and build a motorway in its place but due to the pressure of the Polish community and the lack of funds the plans never entered into force.Since Lithuania got its independence back the Cemetery is slowly being renovated thanks to local and Polish help.
It was mid-October morning when I visited Rasos Cemetery in Vilnius. The air was chilly, the day was gloomy, it was about to start raining – the perfect weather for visiting such a dark place. The colorful leaves crunched under my feet, as opposed to the run-down graves around me. They were really beautiful, with small ornaments or little angels statues. It really looked and felt like the time stoped there and I was in peace with it. I just regreted I waited that long to finally visit Rasos Cemetery…
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Practical informations: the Rasos Cemetery is located on Rasu gatve in Vilnius (here’s its exact location), just behind the rail tracks,10-15 minutes walking from the Old Town or the train station. It’s free to enter and walk around the site. I can’t find any info about opening hours but I was there on Sunday morning, around 10am or so and it was already open. The most important grave for Polish people – Józef Piłsudski’s heart – is located outside of the Cemetery’s gate. It’s surrounded by graves of Polish soldiers.
Be sure to check Ewa’s blog Daleko Niedaleko for more pictures of Rasos Cemetery, this time at the different time of the year!
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If you think of visiting Lithuania or just want to read more about the country take a look what else I wrote about it:
- Old Town in Vilnius in pictures
- A mini guide to things to do in Vilnius, Lithuania
- Karaim culture in Trakai
- and more!
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