Literary expert Jazep Januskevic (photo) is very hard to catch. Our meeting had been postponed so may times I got a feeling that he was not a real archivist, for they never seem very fast. However, the reason for this bustle is the coming 200th anniversary of the patriarch of the Belarusian literature Vincent Dunin-Martsinkevich. The anniversary will take place in 2008, “very soon”, according to the scientist. An organizational committee is being established to draw up a list of pre-holiday arrangements. A lot is to be done: it is planned to restore the estate of the writer and poet in Lyutinka, erect a monument to the great Belarusian in Minsk and publish complete works.
The name of the writer, poet and playwright is the most promising one for researchers, as two centuries was not enough to learn everything about the prominent Belarusian. Vincent Dunin-Martsinkevich is a mysterious figure, and schoolbooks that tell us about the writer seem to have little truth about the real Vikenty Martsinkevich from original documents and archives.
— It is believed, or let’s say critics loved to write that Dunin-Martsinkevich was a nobleman and bought the estate in Lyutinka, although he did not seem very rich, hence the image of a sweater and exploiter,” Januskevic, the senior researcher of the Literature Institute of the National Academy of Sciences, tells me. — This is not true, the Minsk-based registration office issued a document back in 1847 confirming that the writer had put his estate in pawn for 700 rubles in silver. The redemption books are unbelievably thick: the writer died in about 40 years, and the estate did not belong to him when he died. His descendants and even local peasants repaid the rest of the pawn. The final payment was made by the illiterate Anton Zhidovich in 1899, after the death of Vincent Dunin-Martsinkevich.
It is just close to impossible to believe that the man that had been trying for so long to get rid of the debt burden was in relation to the noblest families of the Russian Empire. Januskevic made a sensational discovery a couple of years ago: Vincent Dunin-Martsinkevich’s sister-in-law, the wife of his brother Ignat-Matvei, was princess Volkonskaya. The 13-year-old Vincent was present at the wedding of his brother with the princess Yelizaveta Volkonskaya in St. Petersburg in early February 1821.
There are still many blanks in the biography of the writer. Scientists were having heated discussions about the place where Vikenty Ivanovich had studied. Some named Vilnya University, others claimed he was a student of St. Petersburg Medical Academy. There were no documents proving any of those versions. The solution came unexpectedly: in 1819 the mother of the future writer responded to a request about her son’s documents “Vikenty Martsinkevich is in St. Petersburg in care of the bishop of Roman Catholic churches Bogush-Sestrintsevich. His documents are at his uncle’s in the Slootsk district, so I send them to you.” Quod erat demonstrandum — Vikenty was in St. Petersburg. He did not study there for long, though, because he lost his conscience as soon as he entered the mortuary.
Two years is just a glimpse in history, and although more than 700 days are left until the anniversary of the great writer, scientists have already started arguing where the monument to Vincent Dunin-Martsinkevich should be located. Some say it should be close to the Gorky Park (the house where the writer lived during his Minsk period was near the governor’s park), others are certain the best spot is in Freedom Square close to the city hall. Offices where Dunin-Martsinkevich started working were located not far away — in the building that is now the House of Trade Unions.
— Vincent Dunin-Martsinkevich started his career of an assessor in Minsk district land court, and his work started in this building, Januskevic says. — Besides, the first Minsk theater is located nearby, and this may play the key role in determining the spot for the monument. The theater saw the premiere of the first Belarusian opera “Idyll”, and Dunin-Martsinkevich was the one that wrote the libretto.
The arguments where the monument to the writer and playwright should be erected seem irrelevant compared with the importance of the memories about the great Belarusian and his outstanding contribution to Belarus’ cultural heritage.
by Svetlana Dumovich