Guest Author - Barbara Swiech
Most probably every nation has its greatest poets that, during hardships that their country went through, reminded of its wonderful periods and encouraged citizens with their works. One of such poets in Poland is Adam Mickiewicz, writer of Romanticism, who lived during the partition – period when Poland did not exist on the world’s map. As before the partition Poland and Lithuania formed one country, called Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the multicultural character of this artist should not surprise. Mickiewicz is not only thought to be one of Poland’s Three Bards (with Juliusz Slowacki and Zygmunt Krasinski) but he is also a valued writer of Lithuania.
Adam Mickiewicz was born in the part of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth that now is located in Belarus. He lived and studied in Vilnius (today’s capital of Lithuania). Already at young age, Mickiewicz became interested in Polish and Lithuanian history, what influenced his later works a lot. Together with his friends, he formed a secret organization called ‘Philomaths’ that aimed at country’s independence from Russian Empire.
Very often there is a dispute over Mickiewicz’s nationality. The Poles would most likely say that he was Polish, while the Lithuanians claim Mickiewicz was Lithuanian. Most probably it would be very hard for Mickiewicz to assign himself to any of the two nationalities. As he was born during the times when neither Poland nor Lithuania existed as independent countries, but was brought with the strong memories (brought by his ancestors) of 400 years of co-existence of the two nations, his dream was to gain the very same state of affairs from the time before the partitions.
Greatest works of Adam Mickiewicz tell about the times when the country was strong and when family and tradition were the most important things. He was interested in Slavic literature but was also influenced by mysticism (what one can see in some of his books). Mickiewicz believed in Messianic philosophy that explained the situation of Poland comparing it to messiah who suffers for others sake and freedom.
Although most of Mickiewicz’s ancestors derived from Lithuanian nobility, he spoke only Polish (or at least treated Polish as his mother tongue). All of his works are in Polish although the most popular one – called ‘Pan Tadeusz’ (Sir Thaddeus) - starts with words: ‘Lithuania, my homeland’. For Mickiewicz there was almost no distinction between Poland and Lithuania, as both of them were for the poet components of the country that he dreamt of.