Dwellers of Liubavas Manor

Based on the records of the manor nationalisation file of 1940, 12 families lived in Liubavas Manor in the period before World War II. The stories of contemporaries or their descendants give us an opportunity to have a glimpse at the interwar Liubavas Manor.

During the pre-war and for quite a time during the Soviet period the buildings of the manor were still called by their old names: brewery (bravoras), bakery (piekarnia), greenhouse, pavilion, etc. However, their functions no longer had any resemblance with the original ones.

First of all it should be noted that Liubavas Manor is very old. My research shows that the location of the manor house has changed at least 3 times. Hence, to make it clearer I will divide Liubavas into two parts: the manor that is closer to the Žalesa River, and the folwark part - westward, at the upper pond over the road.

I should also mention that up to the early 19th century to reach Liubavas manor from Vilnius one should take a stony road alongside the right shore of the Žalesa River. Later, the road in the north of the estate, going through the spectacular dominant - the Three Crosses hill - became the main one. Contemporaries recollect three oaken crosses on the hill which looked like a mound. Such transformations were changing Liubavas Manor - the house had to turn the façade to the opposite side to create the representative manner for meeting its visitors.

The huge classicist manor house burned down during World War I, therefore its function was transferred to the older folwark house which, according to the manor inventory of 1727 and later layouts had been built at the upper pond in the early 18th century. In the 20th century, the wooden house was plastered, the former symmetric façade replaced by an extension with eight columns in the east side. The main volume of the building and its windows were retained. The façade side had two entrances, the door for servants was at the end of the building and another exit was to the terrace adjoining the pond.

The eastern part of the house was inhabited by Janas Rapolas (Rafał Jan) and Stefanija Slizienis (Slizien), and the western part by servants. Jadvyga Rapcevičiūtė (11 September 1903) served as a maid until 1926. Cook Drobertova also lived in the servants' part, but left for Poland after the war.

As the inscription on the high semicircular oaken gates suggests, outsiders were not allowed to walk around the house. In front of the house, there were round parterres planted with agaves. In winter, to protect agaves against the cold, they were brought to the greenhouse located in front of the officine, towards the river. Contemporaries recall that Janas Rapolas Slizienis was very fond of flowers, while his wife preferred hunting. They both loved horses.

The western part of the folwark house had two wooden officines which could have been used as a kitchen and a laundry-room before. Until 1933, one of them, most likely the southern, was inhabited by the manor administrator Mykolas Orlovskis (1872-2 May 1946), his wife, children and grandson Zbignevas Užykovskis, born on 10 August 1930 in Liubavas Manor.

After the administrator Orlovskis had moved to Poland with his family, a new manor administrator Leonardas Lavinskis (1877-29 April 1962) was inhabited in a stone-made officine of the burnt manor house, near a pond with a stony isle. Clerk Hurčinas, who, according to the contemporaries, was an elderly and rather wealthy nobleman, lived in the eastern part of the folwark officine. It is likely that he was the owner of Paberžė Manor or any other neighbouring manor. Hurčinas managed accounts and manor books. In 1933, the other side of the folwark officine was turned into the workshop of a joiner Vaclovas Mickevičius (1886-1945), while the joiner himself and his family lived in the house of peons, built around 1925 in one of the estate gardens to the north-west of the mill. The Mickevičiai (Mickiewicz) family lived in Liubavas until 1940. In the attic, above the workshop, pigeons were kept.

The other folwark officine situated in parallel to the first one was turned into a smithy, where Ribantovičius worked as a smith and Juzefas Sokolovskis (14 October 1918 - 10 October 1994) as his assistant. After the war Sokolovskis became a miller. The turnover of smiths was high in Liubavas. Smiths repaired not only agricultural equipment, but also the carriage of the owner of the manor. Workers would bring a broken tool and take a spare one from the workshop not to stop the work.

The manor administrator Lavinskis lived in the officine together with his wife and four sons (Kristupas, Liudvikas, etc.). Another flat was inhabited by a gardener Mykolas Dvilevičius, who lived alone.

Hurčinas was a literate person and had high respect of the manor owner. The perfect order in the manor was ensured by plates with instructions hung by the clerk. Thus for instance, there were plates in the cattle shed notifying of when, what and how to feed the cattle, etc.

The second floor of the so-called brewery inhabited four families, including a carrier Mykolas Stankevičius and his brother who worked in the manor. The roof of the old baroque building was high, semi-circular, tiled, with a complex construction and rather big windows. At that time there was no equipment on the first floor, so it was used as a storage-room. The entrance to the building was in the north-west side. The brewery together with a parallel outhouse, the entrance of which was in front, formed a yard.

Services in the chapel of the manor were held every Sunday from 9-10 o'clock. The priest, sacristan Bytautas would be brought from the Nemenčinė Church by a driver Černis. The services were attended by 50-60 people from Palaukinė, Skridai, and Žalesa. Forester Tučinskis would also come from the Little Liubavas. After the services, the priest would visit the manor owner. In 1946, after World War II, a forest worker Stanislovas Meškovskis (1899-1952) brought all sacred paintings, processional flags and other relics of the chapel to the Nemenčinė Church.

A manor shop was opened in a wooden building with gothic windows and wide doors (it could have been a former administration building, the so-called pavilion). The building was in front of the chapel, on the crossroad of the manor roads. The shop was owned by the Sveckevičiai who lived in the southern part of the same building. The other side of the building (with windows to the Žalesa River) was inhabited by a master of horse leather bindings Stempakas who came from Poland. The pavilion sold sugar, salt, biscuits, buns, chocolate, other foodstuff and oil products, also vodka and other household goods. Contemporaries can still remember the special taste of Liubavas chocolate biscuits with pin prick holes. Stempakas kept bees - the beehives stood behind the shop, towards the river.

As I have mentioned before, in front of the mill, parallel to the road and the mill, there was a big wooden building for peons and a barn behind it. The wooden building was a home for six families: the Mickevičiai, the Andriuškevičiai, the Vrublevskiai, the Citovičiai, the Vilevičiai and the Medeišos.

At that time the mill was inhabited by a miller Adolfas Damulevskis, his wife, son Marijonas (born in 1924), daughters Vanda (born in 1922) and Janina (1926-1954). Damulevskis rented the mill from the owner Slizienis. The miller died in 1941, his daughters left for Poland in 1947 and his son for France.

The grain was brought to the mill through the main floor from the pond side, and then weighed. Flour was taken from the opposite side of the building - the inside yard.

Some wander why such a luxurious, I would say a royal mill was built outside the town. One version suggests that the owners of the manor invested a lot as their interest for their savings in the bank were approaching the amount of the deposit, so they had to invest quickly before the interest was not written off.

The building where food was prepared, the so-called piekarnia, was a big old wooden house with two ends and a baroque roof. It was situated on the other side of the manor, near the garden of apples and pears. The building was used for serving food to bachelor workers and cooking. It was also a home for 2-3 families.

Families working in Liubavas Manor were paid by grain and single workers by money. Thus for instance, the Mickevičiai received 10 poods of grain per month. Grain used for the manor purposes and for payment to workers, as well as smoked meat and other food provisions were kept in the manor's granary, in front of the folwark house.

Between the granary and the cattle sheds there was a water point and next to it two pillars kept Liubavas steel gong. The gong tolled everyday at 8 o'clock in the morning, 1-2 o'clock in the afternoon and 6 o'clock in the evening announcing the end of the work.

The cattle shed consisting of several parts with an inside yard was divided into separate areas. You could enter the inside yard through big, semi-circular gates in the middle of the eastern wall of the cattle sheds. The gates area was used for keeping seven sport horses owned by a big horse expert J. R. Slizienis. J. R. Slizienis would harness six of these horses or ride them, while one was left for breeding. One of the premises near the gates was a garage for a black vehicle of the manor owner, called taksuvka by the locals. A thirtyish-year old Aleksandras Černis from Skirgiškės worked as a driver in the manor.

To the right from the central entrance into the cattle shed there were premises for approximately 30 working horses. In front of the gates there was a calf-shed, and on the left, a little bit further from  the folwark manor house, towards the fields - a piggery.

Next to the barn in the north-west of the cattle sheds there was a threshing steam machine, the so-called parovikas. It was a tractor like wood-fuelled four-wheeled equipment rotating the thresher through a 10-meter flat belt drive. Around 10-12 people would work with the threshing machine until Christmas.

Below the brewery, in a lath-covered barn near the river, hay and straw were kept. The stony road, like all over Liubavas, led to the barn.

In winter time workers would cut ice in the ponds into pieces of 70x70x50. The ice cubes would be sledged to the ice-house, where they would be stored, and layered with sawdust. After the ice melted in the ice-house, a new cube would be brought in after the layer of sawdust had been removed.

Only few know that the territory of Liubavas estate reached beyond the left shore of the Neris river. Even during the interwar and the parcelling process, Liubavas Manor managed to retain the ownership of those woody territories covering several hundred hectares. Liubavas Manor also owned the left watercourse of the Neris. A cable transport was installed over the river. The territory extended up to Turniškės, towards Vilnius, and had a separate name - Little Liubavas. The forest provided the manor with wood, berries, mushroom, and the game. On the steep river slope, in the picturesque place there was a seat of Liubavas forester. The seat consisted of two buildings and a pond. During the interwar, the position of the manor's forester was occupied by Tučinskis. Here he lived together with his family. Manor workers could freely pick mushroom and berries in the forest, while outsiders had to buy a ticket. Contemporaries recollect that the forest was full of mushroom.

When describing the pre-war manor, it would be unfair to omit the manor inn near the Neris river. In 1857, the manor had as many as two inns. One was near the Žalesa River on the old Molėtai road, in Žalesa village, where road fee was collected, and the other one on the road alongside the river. After both of the roads had lost their significance, the inns were closed. In 1928 a farmer Františekas Kliukovskis bought from R. Slizienis the Neris inn together with the area of 45 ha. At that moment there lived two Jewish women and a joiner Viktoras Pilkauskas coming from Utena Manor. Even after the building was sold to the new owners, Pilkauskas stayed in the inn for some time and kept around 30 beehives. You can still see a bench made by him in the manor. The swans from the manor ponds would come near the Neris inn. Sometimes the manor owner himself together with his servants would come to catch the swans.

A young fellow who repaired furniture in Liubavas manor gave his picture to his beloved manor maid Jadvyga Rapcevičiūtė, with the inscription on the other side: As a proof of my love - Porfirja Devetnikovas, Liubavas Manor, 25 April 1926.

Gintaras Karosas, 1 June 2010