Sejny Heritage Treasury

The Sejny Heritage Treasury is one of the programs, designed for the local community, dedicated to the 4th and 5th grade pupils of the primary school in Sejny, i.e. 10-11-year-olds.

 


Thanks to the program, the young residents of Sejny could gain knowledge about their nearest neighbours, those who live just around the corner or behind a wall. The designer of the program, Bożena Szroeder, in her talk on the Radio Bialystok, emphasized the importance of working with the youngest, and allowing as soon as possible to join in the stream of the narrative of the town . It includes tales peculiar because embedded in the idea of good neighbourhood, the idea that has been cherished by Borderland for many years now.

The program lasted the school year and was composed of five theme blocks dedicated to the past and present inhabitants of Sejny: Poles, Lithuanians, Old Believers, Gypsies / Roma and the Jews. However, its aims went beyond mere presentations of particular cultures. ‘We were concerned not just to elicit individual worlds, but to find a connection between them and the narrative of the town itself’, explained Bożena Szroeder in the local press.

Apart from theoretical classes, it was also a journey in time and space. Its participants were accompanied by the Borderland team, invited experts and creators and school teachers of the Sejny primary school which has been co-operating with the Center for many years. As it turned out, the  meetings were enjoyed by people in many ways. During the gala concluding the program, it was praised not only by teachers, parents and students but also by the singers of the Riabina ensemble who had an opportunity to present the songs of Old Believers . 

The project included multiple practical workshops, lectures and field trips. In Gabowe Grądy, the participants visited molenna, Old Believers’ temple, where they met with the nastavnik  (teacher) Mieczysław Kapłanow, who spoke about the principles of faith, the differences between the Old Believers and the Orthodox and objects of religious worship. The meeting with the culture of the Russian Old Believers in Gabowe Grądy included also a workshop of the Russian processional dance and songs prepared by the Riabina folklore ensemble with almost 30 years of experience. In Sejny, under Wiesław Szumiński's instruction, the children painted icons. Everything took place according to the tradition: children worked, keeping the rule of silence, using natural paints and stencils.

In Puńsk, the program participants learned about the Lithuanian culture, visited the church and the ‘Old Vicarage’ Museum. The children listened here to the colourful ethnographic tale given by Aldona Wojciechowska on folk culture. They also had the opportunity to try their hand at plastic workshops, using as pattern old Lithuanian curtains they produced on their own Lithuanian paper cut-outs and cuttings of their own design.

The meetings in Sejny were devoted, also to the former residents of the town. The Jewish culture block invoked memory of the Sejny Jews: rabbis, pupils and teachers of the religious schools, merchants, poets and philosophers, as well as ordinary people.  It also concerned important places and symbols, such as the synagogue, kirkut, Torah, Talmud or yarmulka. The children participated also in workshops of Jewish songs, they learnt about songs sung in Yiddish.

The activities devoted to the Roma / Gypsy culture made up a story of the relations of the people with Sejny referring to the interwar period, and included searching for the traces of their stay in the modern town. The activities also helped outline a broader context, presenting Jerzy Ficowski's pioneering works on the Gypsies, or poetry by Papusza and its discovery by Ficowski. Children created works dedicated to the Roma, e.g. They painted wheels with elements of the Gypsy wagon train. The meeting was accompanied by a tale about the traditional Gypsy camps and the customs and secrets of the Roma culture.

The result of the annual work, apart from an exhibition presenting the works of the participants, is the publication of The Sejny HeritageTreasury prepared under the guidance of Bożena Szroeder as the editor . It is a kind of primer with the most important concepts collected during the course of the program. It recalls characters, folk songs and stories important for Sejny. The book has a clear layout, it is divided into five sections that follow the line of the project blocks. It is illustrated by numerous photographs taken during the workshop and presents the project artwork produced by the children. It is also dedicated to the participants of the meeting, there is room here for personal notes and portraits of the children and teachers arranged in ‘class albums’. All the features of the book make it a keepsake publication, and one that can be used to consolidate the acquired knowledge. It may be used by both parents and teachers as a compendium of knowledge about the Sejny region. It can be utilized when working with young people, or for adults coming from outside of our region. It may serve as an inspiration for combining regional education with  presentations of folk art in a way attractive to younger audiences.

Attached to the publication is a CD with the Music of the Place composed during the workshops.

Marta Kowerko-Urbańczyk


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