My own Saleker family have roots in the tiny rural village of Luki (Lithuanian Liukių) which lies just north of Wischtiten (Lithuanian Vistytis) dating as early as 1862. The village is even smaller today but before WWII, it was composed mostly of Prussian-Lithuanians who had called this Suwalki region of Lithuania home as early as 1732. Due to the village’s size, not much is known about its origins. One Lithuanian author has presented some history which provides us some idea into Luki’s past.
At one time, a large estate (here translated literally as a mansion) once existed in the small village of Luki, where many neighboring peoples lived and farmed as serfs or tenant farmers, probably until Russia banned serfdom towards the mid-to-late 19th century. One of the manor houses still stands today. This photo was provided to me by Onute Kartaviciene who lives in neighboring Reitschunen (Lithuanian Reiciunai) Though it is in black and white, it was taken in the last 10 years or so.
Ugnė Ražinskaitė originally published this article in Šiaurės Atėnai on 3 March 2016. The article was translated into English by Vaidas Butkus, a student at Vilnius University on 15 Oct 2018. It has been published here with the author’s permission.
Lukiai Mansion History
[Liukių dvaro istorijos]
By: Ugnė Ražinskaitė
Originally published in Šiaurės Atėnai 15 Mar 2016
Translation by Vaidas Butkus
There is little to no information on the old Liukiai mansion and its owners (Vilkaviškis district., Meiliūnai village) - it is said that the landowner’s surname was of German origin. Local resident Eugenija Ulevičiūtė-Kartavičienė (1925–2015) remembers her own grandfather’s Kazys Ulevičius (around 1853– around 1943) stories about this mansion. Allegedly, his stewards were very rigorous and harsh – they would beat their serfs or villeins tormenting them with blows to the shoulders. One time two serfs were cutting swaths – one of them cut a narrower one while the other was cutting a wider one, in accordance to their abilities. Steward had seen it and hit the serf, who was cutting the narrow swath, on the back. The serf, who was cutting the wider swath, hit the steward to the head with a scythe and fled to Germany.
Ulevičius K. also told that, allegedly, a steward by the name Kosteris hanged himself in the mansion’s barn. Later on, the next overseer used to frighten his serfs, who were stealing cow feed, with this very story. He, supposedly, would tie up an armful of hay, hang it on a rope and put on the side of hayloft. When workers would come to the barn to steal hay, the steward would pull the rope and the hay stack would fall on the thrashing-floor frightening the thieves, who would think at the moment of a startle that the hanger is coming.
Another story, which is related with the landowners’ family, is quite tragicomic. Landowner’s daughter, who was supposedly buxom, was therefore not given much to eat because the parents wanted her to lose weight. The landowner daughter was tormented with such a hunger that she would eat the potatoes, which were boiled by the housewives of intention to feed pigs. In reality, the memories of this manor are not of the positive kind. Vincas Ališauskas of the Dobilyniai village told his daughter Teresė Ališauskaitė-Ražinskienė that beyond the Debesiūnai (Debesis) homestead willows were growing and gallows were standing. Serfs were hanged there for crimes. In the interwar period a roadway was being built there and then many human bones were found (allegedly serfs were hanged and their bodies would be buried not far from the gallows).
„Lietuvos istorijos metraštis“ (Year-Book of Lithuanian History) (1986, p. 105) it is written that Liukiai manor was established the year 1867 and gifted to the Russian general adjutant Nikolajus Suchozanetas (1794–1871) - tsar deputy in Poland. Suchozanetai used the coat of arms “Szczy-tomir”: white lily in a bluish background with a crescent on the side. Liukiai (Luki) are mentioned in lit. “Lenkijos Karalystės ir kitų slavų kraštų geografinis žodynas” (Geographic dictionary of the Kingdom of Poland and other Slavic countries) (1879, t. V, p. 480) as a village and farmstead in Kaupsodžiai county, Vištytis parish, with 24 houses and 153 inhabitants. By “Lietuvos istorijos metraštis” (Year-Book of Lithuanian History) data, in the year 1900 when the Liukiai entail owner was Jefimovičius F. A. According to the source, 457 margas (old European land measurement unit where one margas is 0,71 hectare) used to earn up to 245 rubles of yearly income.
In addition to numerous stories, which were indeed frightening, not much remains of the Liukiai manor. The residential building is still standing but is completely abandoned. From 1972 the inhabitant of this house Jonas Bakšinskas once told that the manor building used to have tall and narrow windows – some of them were bricked up; the roof that was covered with chips did not remain, veranda has rotten and fell down, the inside layout of the house was also changed; the stone barn that was near the manor has completely collapsed; the long storage room of stone and bonded lime mortar under the manor is also almost in ruins. Foal houses that once stood near the manor are also unrecognizable, even the apple orchard and other huge parts of tall maple trees are completely cut down and leveled with the ground. Though, at least two really impressive linden and thick pear trees are still standing. Eugenija Kartavičienė recounted that the mansion collapse began as early as the interwar period in Lithuania, when Liukiai manor lands were distributed and gifted for the people, who worked in it. Small farmhand houses (of clay, stone, wood) were sold out and demolished. Stone materials of these houses were collected, reduced to rubble, bought and brought to Kybartai town, where a pavement for a market was apparently built from them, some roads were also built from the remaining materials. On the side of the roadway, down the manor, there were two ponds that, unfortunately, are no longer existing – they were leveled to the ground. No remains are left of a garden, where many different trees were growing: apple, cherry trees and around the area some olive trees were planted. Kartavičienė remembers that big maple and linden trees were growing beside the manor – the smaller ones she cannot recollect.
In the years of independent Lithuania an elementary school of Liukiai was established in the manor. By the 1930s, the school teacher of the time being - Juozas Dapkūnas is mentioned. During the German occupation years, by the testimony of Kartavičienė, E., the manor building was inhabited by settlers from Lithuania. During the Second World War the mansion was used as a Russian military base or post (rus. zastava). Liukiai manor was a safe place for the people, who came back from the forced evacuation to Germany of the Second World War. Teresė Ražinskaitė-Jakštienė recalls: “Ulevičiai family also had their homestead burnt to the ground, the same happened to us, but later on they allowed us (to live in the manor), Ulevičiai were living downstairs, on the first floor, and we were allowed upstairs. We lived there for approximately two years. Later years we created our own and moved to our own home. Ulevičiai family also built their own house just besides the roadway”. After the war (in the Soviet years), a school was established and working in this manor building, the teachers, who worked here, were Jonas Vilkaitis, Vanda Buktinaitė, and later – Stefa Sasnavičienė, Stasė Grinkevičiūtė, teacher Žibas.