Henryk Krasinski.

The Cossacks of the Ukraine; comprising biographical notices of the most celebrated Cossack chiefs ... With a memoir of Princess Tarakanof, and some particulars respecting Catharine II., of Russia, and her favourites online

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Online LibraryHenryk KrasinskiThe Cossacks of the Ukraine; comprising biographical notices of the most celebrated Cossack chiefs ... With a memoir of Princess Tarakanof, and some particulars respecting Catharine II., of Russia, and her favourites → online text (page 19 of 22)
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III., King of Poland, a voluntary union between the Polish subjects
of the Greek Church and the Roman Catholic, was partly accom-
plished, by which the Polish Unitarians acknowledged the supremacy
of the Pope, retained however the Sclavonian language in the cele-
bration of divine service, and were not subjected to the inconveniences
of celibacy ; they were, however, not allowed to marry more than once,
and not with a widow, and were obliged to shave their beards. The
metropolitan of Kiow, with several Bishops, publicly assented to that
union with great pomp. This wise and important political event hap-
pened under the papacy of Clement VIH. , and was accomplished chiefly
by the exertions of Adam Pociey, Bishop of Vladimir, and Terlecki,
Bishop of Lutzk. From that time the followers of that creed were called
Unici, Unitarians, or Unistes ; sometimes Greek Catholics. Six millions
of them were formerly under the Polish domination. They were always
subjected to annoyances and persecutions by the Russian Govern-
ment, especially during the present reign. The Emperor Nicholas
ordered their suppression. The celebrated nun, Svientoslawska, (the
Abbess of Minsk), whose name was so familiar to the British and
French newspapers not long since, is of that creed. From two
hundred Greek Catholic nuns, above one hundred and eighty died in
torments, which are too shocking to be mentioned. In vain the
Russian Ambassador attempted to contradict these cruelties,
they were corroborated and satisfactorily proved. The apos-
tate villain, who became, by sordid and selfish motives, the infa-
mous and principal tormentor of the nuns of Minsk, came to an un-
timely end. He did even terrible harm to the Emperor Nicholas'

280 NOTES.

and increased his unpopularity everywhere. In spite of all this,
there are some miserable authors connected with Petersburgh, who
dare to mention, for sordid motives, under the beards of the Poles in
a foreign country, things contrary to historical facts and their own
conviction. They preach, indirectly, the Greek creed in Poland, and
other ideas tending to increase visibly the Russian power ; in doing
so, the above authors will injure only their open protectors, but not
the sacred cause of Poland. Two millions of Unistes are yet to be
found in Gallicia. It is to be remarked that two descendants, in
direct line, from the illustrious families of Pociey and Terlecki, are
among the Polish emigrants. The worthy Count Pociey is at Paris,
and John Terlecki (pronounced Terletski) in London. The latter*
for years, was copying in the British archives, documents connected
with Polish history. He went recently to Posen, believing in the
probability of a war with Russia, and having received a wound, came
back to England and resumed his laudable occupation. He is a
native of the same province as myself, and though we may differ in
opinion on some branches of Polish politics, I consider his conduct
with me, as well as with everyone who knows him well, perfectly in
accordance with an honourable man. Among the real Polish emi-
grants in England, no one possesses more superior knowledge of his-
tory and geography than Baszczewicz, (pronounced Bashtchevitch) :
more fortunate than most other Poles, he formed an accidental ac-
quaintance with an influential clergyman, who procured him a situa-
tion, with a fixed salary, at Leamington, where he became professor
of universal history. Sheltered completely from want, and being of
a quiet disposition, he devoted his time to sedentary occupation and
study, and acquired a stock of information difficult to describe. His
pupils presented him with a splendid watch as a testimonial of their
good wishes and regard. It is a well-known fact, that the protestant
clergy, at all times liberal and eager in promoting knowledge, were
the tried and most valuable friends of the Poles.

A rather curious usage exists among the Unistes. The consecration
of -their respective churches is annually commemorated by a kind of
fete called praznik. This is attended by the neighbouring clergy and
their families, as also by the proprietor of the village (who is mostly
the owner of the presentation) with other guests. The reunion lasts
the whole day, and the guests are regaled with various delicacies,
including a sort of cake (kolduny), 'strongly resembling the English
plum-pudding. In the evening a peculiar dance, accompanied by


singing, takes place. It is called poduszeczka (pronounced podoos-
t-hetchka\ and may be thus described. A circle of gentlemen and
ladies is formed, with a lady or gentleman in the centre. The song
and dance terminated, the centre performer flings a handkerchief to
one of the other sex, bestowing at the same time a kiss upon the
party so selected. The receiver of the kiss then takes his or her
place in the centre, dancing and singing are resumed, concluding, as
before, with the flinging of the handkerchief and kiss, and ^so on, until
the entire company have participated in the " fun." A yet more
singular custom winds up the festivities of the day. The number of
guests precluding the accommodation of beds, their hosts endeavour
to obviate that difficulty by strewing hay on the floor, with a cover-
ing of carpets and blankets, upon which all are necessitated to repose
for the night. But previous to preparing this *' shake-down," (as it
would be designated in England), the company are numbered, the
gentlemen's numbers being placed in one purse, and the ladies' num-
bers in another. The youngest boy and girl are then called in, and
they draw the numbers, by way of lottery, until each lady is provided
with a " sleeping partner " of the other sex. So strictly is this ad-
hered to, that even husbands and wives, or brothers and sisters, are
forbidden to sleep close to each other, if not favoured by the lottery
in which, as a matter of course, some trickery occasionally prevails.
It may be assumed that this strange mingling of the sexes sometimes
leads to unwarrantable liberties. However, this is not of frequent
occurrence, as they endeavour, as far as possible, to guard against
such an abuse by forbidding any one from disrobing, and by having a
lamp burning, throughout the night, in the corner of the adjacent
chamber. Besides, the guests are, generally speaking, sufficiently
numerous to be a mutual check upon indulgence in any impropriety.
In my youth I personally assisted at several such reunions on the
estates of my late maternal uncle, Mr. Gabryel Orzeszko. I recollect
that on one occasion a jealous-minded young clergyman, the hus-
band of a beautiful woman, who attracted the admiration of the
whole neighbourhood, protested against the chance of the lottery,
unfavourable to his wishes. This raised a storm. The master and
mistress of the parsonage, especially the latter, were extremely
offended that he should imagine for an instant that anything improper
could possibly occur in their house. Indeed he narrowly escaped
being well thrashed, though he stuck to the last to the safer side of
the question, in matrimonial fidelity. These fetes are invariably held



in the latter part of autumn, or in winter. But the peculiar custom
here described is not limited to the Unistes. It was popular among
the Greek clergy, and prevails, with slight modifications, in some of
the wild districts of the ancient kingdom of Poland. Doubtless it
originated in the unbounded hospitality of those secluded regions,
where bad roads, snow storms, and numerous hordes of prowling
wolves, render internal communication in winter extremely difficult.
Something somewhat similar, but under different circumstances,
exists, I believe, in the rural districts of Great Britain, as in Wales
the custom of " bundling " is well known. So also in the Carpathian
mountains, where a Highlander courting a widow, was privileged,
by custom, to consider her as his lawful wife during forty-eight
hours, with the option of subsequently marrying or leaving her.
This singular custom is not yet abolished, and is called fryerka.

Page 106. (6). The confederation of Bar was signed on the 29th
of February, 1768, in Podolia, by Adam Krasinski, the Bishop of
Kamienietz, his brother Michael, Francis Potocki, and Pulawski, for
the protection of the Roman Catholic religion, and the expulsion of
the Russians from Poland.

Page 111. (c). The cruelties perpetrated by Gonta and Zelezniak,
during the religious rebellion of 1768, are beyond all power of descrip-
tion. There was a hall at Houmagne where they compelled naked
women to dance on the floor covered with broken glass. These unfortu-
nate ladies were surrounded with spears, and often stabbed while the
music was playing.

Page 112. (rf). These are things which cannot be mentioned.


Page 119. (a). Suppressed.

Page 120. Zelezniak promised to spare every one at Lysianka
if the gates of the town were opened to him. Its governor was
suoh a fool that he complied with this proposition j but no sooner did
he do so, than a general massacre ensued.

Page 126. (6). Levelel says, that when the inhabitants of Houmagne
were slaughtered, some young females of great beauty were spared,
holy water was thrown on them on account of their changing their
creed, and they were given to the Hai'damaques. The rebellious pea-
sants were called Haidamaques. Only three boys were spared by acci-
dent ; they secured themselves on the top of the church, and re-

NOTES. 283

mained three days without food ; among them was the brother of
Colonel Lagowski, who became a clergyman.


Page 175. (a). In an old novel, entitled "Les Annales de Leghorn,"
it is affirmed that the Princess Tarakhanof inspired a real passion in an
Italian youth at Pisa, who having been introduced to her at a party,
accidentally discovered the fatal snare so artfully prepared for her de-
struction. On the sudden departure of the princess from Pisa, her
southern lover followed her to Leghorn, resolved on saving her, or
perishing himself in the attempt ; but by a strange fatality, which
sometimes mars human purposes, he arrived too late, and as she was
just embarking on board the Russian man-of-war. Had he arrived
but a few minutes sooner, he would in all probability have preserved
her from her fate. He was seen running with extraordinary speed
towards the sea shore, crying and gesticulating, and was taken for a
madman. Foiled in this attempt to save the princess, he fell senseless
to the ground, overwhelmed by excitement and despair. This anec-
dote, slightly varied in detail only, was further narrated to me by
several persons ; consequently I am induced to believe it based
on fact.

By the way, speaking of love at first sight, her Imperial Highness
the present Grand Duchess Michel of Russia is most likely uncon-
scious, and may always remain so, that she also excited such a passion
in the bosom of a private Polish soldier, attached to the first division
of infantry, and who was hence nicknamed by his comrades Wielki
Xiaze Michal, that is, Grand Due Michel. Previous to the war of
1831 the Grand Duchess made frequent visits to Warsaw, and was
then seen by her humble Polish admirer, whose peace of mind
she then unintentionally destroyed. How I became the confidant
of this poor fellow's hopeless love may perhaps amuse the reader.
One day previous to the insurrection of 1831 I sallied forth on a
shooting excursion in the neighbourhood of Warsaw, and meeting with
my brother officer, Chmielinski, who was enjoying a ramble, induced
him to accompany me. Scarcely had we entered the forest of Bielany,
when, in a secluded part of it we perceived a private Polish soldier
reclining despondingly, on the brink of a rivulet, while big tears
were trickling down his sorrow-stricken cheeks. Having observed
him at first in silence, we called to him, but received no answer.
Lieut. Chmielinski then touched him slightly on the shoulder, when



he turned quickly round, and recognizing his superiors, made his
obeisance. We then inquired the reason of his grief, promising, if
possible, to alleviate it. He answered that he wanted not money,
nor had he to complain of any ill treatment, but that death alone
could terminate sufferings for which there was no remedy what-
ever. After some entreaty, he frankly confessed his unconquer-
able passion for her Imperial Highness the Grand Duchess Helene of
Russia, consort of the Grand Duke Michel, youngest brother of the
Emperor Nicholas. This confession was corroborated by these words
carved on the trees Cudowna, piekna, bloga, Wielka, Xiezna, Micha-
lowa. (Wonderful, beautiful, sweet, Grand Duchess Michel !) We ad-
vised him to be chary in talking of his love, as there was no telling
what effect such a tale, if known, might have on the mind of the
Grand Due Michel, and especially on that of the Grand Due Con-
st antine his brother, then commanding the Polish army. The latter,
if apprised of his malady, would probably have prescribed a twitch
dance on his skin, as the most effectual means of cure. His comrades,
however, frequently teazed him, and even reproached him, that he
was enamoured of a Russian lady. This always put him in a passion,
and he answered that the Grand Duchess was a German, and not a
Russian lady.

A passion for a married lady seldom produces on the lover's part a
friendly feeling towards the husband, but it did so in this instance-
Lieut.-Colonel Gorski subsequently informed me, that during the last
war, 1831, before a general engagement between the Polish army and
the Russian guard, the soldier above referred to officially apprised
his superiors, that although otherwise determined to do his duty in the
field as became a Polish soldier, yet should he chance to be confronted
sword to sword with the Grand Duke Michel, he would neither kill
nor wound his imperial antagonist, in order to spare the bitter
anguish which such misfortune would probably produce on the mind
of the Grand Duchess, but that he should have no objection to make
him a prisoner.

This singular declaration naturally excited general hilarity among
the officers, who, at all times courteous to the ladies, afforded the Grand
Duchess's ardent admirer the opportunity of drinking sundry glasses
of excellent claret, to the health and prosperity of the fair object of
his affection, whom he saw but twice for an instant, and with whom
he never exchanged a word. The taste of the Polish soldier was by
no means a bad one : the Grand Duchess proved to be the best dancer

NOTES. 285

at the fashionable Polish balls at Warsaw ; she is of dignified stature
and graceful deportment ; she bears an equal resemblance to the
Marchioness of Aylesbury and Viscountess Palmerston, and thus
realising our conception of a Scandinavian queen, one of those northern
beauties so glowingly portrayed in Ossian's poetry. She received a
superior education at the celebrated seminary of Madame Campan,
protected by Napoleon, and was there called la belle savante.

His Imperial Highness the Grand Duke Michel when in a passion
is like a lion, ready to tear, it is said, everything before him, but when
the passion is over, he is sociable, and such a wit, that his jests force a
smile on the most care-stricken countenances. Albeit he is a Kussian,
he behaved well some years ago to one of my female relatives at
Carlsbad. He saved her intended from a journey to Siberia. Indeed
he does not seem to partake of the deadly hatred of the generality of
the Russians towards the Poles, nor is he so much hated by them.

It is to be remarked that the late Grand Duchess Constantine ex
cited almost a similar passion at first sight in the heart of Baranski,
one of the strongest men in the guard in the late Polish army, pro-
bably still alive ; but the latter saw her often at the reviews. She
even remarked him first, and the late Grand Duke, her husband,
wishing to oblige his wife, and having been apprised of his good con-
duct, promoted him to the rank of an officer.


Page 187. (a). As everything on Russia now is interesting and
excites the general curiosity, it may not be amiss to give a sketch
of her principal military commanders.

The most powerful men in Russia, after the emperor, are Princes
Worontzof and Paszkiewich.

The former has an aristocratic name ; has been in England, and
has the reputation of being an accomplished gentleman, an able
administrator, a man of extensive knowledge and information,
rather than a great general, though he is not altogether deficient
in military capacity. He has always, it is said, advised peace being
made with the Circassians, against whom, no Russian general was
ever successful. He owes his elevation not only to his enormous
wealth, to his high friends and connexions at the Russian court, but
also to the minor military successes of Prince Dolgorouki and General

As to Prince Paszkiewich, he is a man that does not belong to the

286 NOTES.

Russian aristocracy by birth, but who owes his elevation chiefly to
his own exertions, and to some favourable events attending his cam-
paigns. His military capacity in the last Polish war was much
exaggerated. When he took the command of the Russian army in
Poland, in 1831, the Poles were deserted and discouraged ; their
indomitable valour was gradually and systemically shaken by the
indecision, weakness, and incapacity of their leaders ; and by many
treasonable machinations which might have been prevented and
crushed, had more energetic measures been taken, a true govern-
ment established, and some generals been shot. The cancer of
anarchy and corruption had spread in all directions. Under such
favourable circumstances, any general possessing a moderate share
of ability and patience, and with such extensive means at his dis-
posal as Paszkiewich had, might have been equally successful. But,
as to his former campaigns in Persia and Turkey, no lover of fair
play, who carefully studies them, can possibly deny him military
talents ; and his rule in Poland, under difficult and trying circum-
stances, denotes a sagacious mind : and though Paszkiewich is not a
man of Suvarof cruelty, and is not disliked, it is said, by the
generality of the Poles, the following circumstance will convince
the reader how terrible are the means he sometimes employs for
repressing abuses and disorders:

Some time since, a Polish gentleman with his wife and daughter
left Warsaw in a carriage and four ; and, contrary to the advice of
his friends, was returning, in the night, to his home in the country.
Scarcely had he proceeded a few English miles from Warsaw, when
he was stopped by a Circassian cavalry patrol. He was robbed, his
servants beaten, his wife and daughter ill-used, and one of the
ruffians cut off his lady's finger on which was a large diamond.
As the use of every kind of weapon is forbidden in Poland, the
gentleman, in the struggle, repelled several of the assailants with his
fist, and gave one of the Russians such a happy blow with his pipe
on the hind part of his head, that it stunned the ruffian, who fell
senseless to the ground ; and soon afterwards another travelling car-
riage liberated the Polish family from further molestation. As the
outrage occurred almost within sight of Warsaw, the gentlemen,
indignant at such a robbery on the public highway, returned imme-
diately thither ; and alighting directly at Paszkiewich 's residence,
demanded an interview with the latter ; the prince soon came out,
and felt eager to know what he wanted. Scarcely had the Russian

NOTES. 287

field-marshal made his appearance, when the Polish lady, excited by
the loss of her finger and by the infamous treatment to which they
had been subjected, opened so skilful an attack on the latter in her
first burst of indignation, (and with her cutting eloquence inter-
spersed with sobbing and screaming), that the conqueror of Poland,
unprepared to parry her reproaches and forcible arguments, could
not at first say a word in justification ; but, after a while answered,
" Madam, remember with whom you are speaking ; if you address me thus
in public, I shall be obliged to punish you : but, enter my house with your
husband, and I give you my word of honour, as a soldier, that no harm
shall be done to you : and there you may say to me what you think pro-
per." She then entered his house, where she was patiently listened
to ; and when a Polish lady unbridles her tongue it is no joke.
Paszkiewich, in all probability, heard such verba veritatis, as he will
never hear again. At all events, he promised her to take all neces-
sary measures for punishing the guilty parties. He called his
aide-de-camp and gave him peremptory orders that all the Cir-
cassians who were engaged in patroling the previous night,
should attend, without the exception of a single man, (whether sick
or dead,) in the Saxon square, the next morning ; and after taking
leave of the injured ladies, he requested the Polish gentleman to
attend him there at the proper time. The next day he inspected,
personally, all the Circassians, made the most minute inquiries, but
could not discover the guilty parties ; and asked the gentleman,
alluded to, whether he could recognise any one among these soldiers
who had robbed him on the preceding night ; the latter answered,
that it was a dark and starless night, and his conscience would not
allow him to criminate any particular man unjustly ; that he thought
however, that they belonged to the field-marshal's guard ; and, that
the one who received a blow on the head from him, must have a mark.
The field-marshal immediately ordered that all the men belonging
to the Circassian detachments, should come, one after the other, take
off their caps, and show him their heads. One soldier actually had
a fresh and bloody mark on his head ; and after a careful examina-
tion it was soon found that it must have proceeded from a blow.
Paszkiewich gave him a box on the ear, accused him of robbery,
and peremptorily ordered him to name his accomplices : he men-
tioned seven persons, among them an officer ; they were all im-
mediately arrested, tried, and convicted. Paszkiewich ordered three
physicians to be called without delay, and seven coffins to be con-



structed in two hours, if they were not to be found ready-made at the
undertakers. When everything was ready, the seven men alluded to,
including the officers, were undressed, tied to their coffins, and,
without any further ceremony flogged to death, in the presence of
the Polish gentleman. When the physicians had pronounced them
to be dead, they were all buried close to the place where they com-
mitted the offence. From that time the spot is called " the grave of
the seven robbers " (grob sied miu rozboynikow). This terrible example
struck terror into the hearts of the soldiers ; and stopped the further
commission of robbery. The soldiers alluded to, were certainly
deserving of exemplary punishment, but the manner of its infliction
was not in accordance with the customs of civilized Europe. I
mention this -anecdote, the details of which I give on the authority
of an eye witness to the circumstance, as it bears the peculiar stamp
of the Kussian rule. Field-marshal Paszkiewich, Prince of Warsaw,
seems to be superior in military capacity to Prince Worontzof, but
the latter, it is said, is more liked at the Eussian court. I noticed
at Warsaw, to my fellow-officers in the Polish guard, in 1828, the
military talents of the former.

Page 199. (e). Uffa ; a town of that name exists near White-
haven, in Cumberland, in a very bleak and deserted neighbourhood,
the most isolated perhaps in England ; where the communication, on
account of the extended moors, steep hills, deep ravines, bad roads,
and snow storms, in winter especially, is difficult. The surrounding
scenery of UfFa is grand, romantic, and beautiful. Not unfrequently
eagles are to be seen on the top of Blackcombe.

Page 226. (a). The word Russian must be distinguished from
Muscovite ; the epithet here does not apply to any part of Muscovy
or Russia, simply so called. Black Russia, White Russia, and Red
Russia, belonged, from time immemorial, to the kingdom of Poland.
The country round Vitebek Polotzk and Mobile v, on the banks of the
Dnieper, of the higher banks of Dzvina, at the present time incorpo-
rated, in a great measure, with the governments of Minsk, was called,
and is still called White Russsia, Biala Rus\ on account of the nume-

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Online LibraryHenryk KrasinskiThe Cossacks of the Ukraine; comprising biographical notices of the most celebrated Cossack chiefs ... With a memoir of Princess Tarakanof, and some particulars respecting Catharine II., of Russia, and her favourites → online text (page 19 of 22)