Beloved walls that once embraced me as a child, that taught me to value the importance of truth, beloved city associated with a multitude of experiences…
All that is beautiful in my soul was tenderly nurtured by Vilnius. The first words of love occurred here, the first words of wisdom occurred here, every meaningful experience as a child and young man occurred here in the embrace of your walls, in the embrace of your hills. Vilnius is one of the most beautiful places in the world!
Józef Piłsudski came from an ancient, noble Lithuanian family, which bore the Kościesza coat of arms, so there are many places in Lithuania with links to his life and work. He was an outstanding son of the Vilnius region. He was born in 1867 on the Piłsudski estate in Zułowo, christened in the church of Saint Kazimierz in Powiewiórka and went to secondary school in Vilnius. In 1908 he led the most famous hijack and expropriation ever carried out by the Polish independence movement at the small train station in Bezdany just outside Vilnius. In the years that Poland was independent he would spend holidays in Pikieliszki and Druskieniki. He was buried in the cathedral at Wawel Castle in Kraków, but in his will he requested that his heart be laid to rest in Vilnius, which he referred to as ‘my beloved city’.
Under the leadership of Józef Piłsudski Poland won the war with Bolshevik Russia in 1920 and so kept its independence and territorial integrity for the next 20 years. Not only did this victory put brakes on the advance of communism into Europe, but it also guaranteed the existence in the interwar years of an independent Lithuanian Republic and of the other Baltic States: Latvia and Estonia. Thanks to this twenty-year period of independence these states were able to strengthen their national identity, create the infrastructure required for government and develop their economy and their culture. That is why it was not possible to completely Sovietise them after the Second World War.