Greetings from the past : the December 2013 Slavonic item of the month

Picture and message side of Views.PC.Cooke.1

Picture and message side of Views.PC.Cooke.1

The December Slavonic item of the month is a postcard – the first of hundreds of postcards from the late Catherine Cooke’s collection which will gradually be added individually to the library catalogue.  It shows three scenes from Kyiv (often called Kiev in the west), is written in Polish and French, and is addressed in Russian to a location in modern-day Latvia.  As with so many items in the Cooke collection, there are a great many interesting details waiting to be found.

The greeting on the picture side of the card reads as follows (with a translation into English after it):

Buńciu droga!

W tej chwili przesyłka otrzymana w całości. Całujemy gorąco Wasze ręce za pamięć o nas! Wkrótce obszernie napiszemy dziękując!

Que Dieu vs [vous] benisse!!!

Proszę donieść czy ta kartka otrzymana. Kochamy Was.

Dear Buńсia,

Your parcel has just turned up safe and sound.  We warmly kiss your hands for remembering us!  We will write again soon to thank you more extensively!

May God bless you!!!

Please let us know if you receive this card.  We love you.

The address given on the verso is to the Lukno estate near Rezhitsa (now Rēzekne, a Latvian city) in the Vitebskaia guberniia, which was later divided between Belarus, Latvia, and Russia.  The addressee looks to be Vanda Kazimirovna Buinitskaia (she appears to have been nicknamed Buńcia, possibly through a diminutive form of her surname).  After some research, we have fairly confidently identified her to be the daughter of the writer Kazimierz Bujnicki (Kazimir Buinitskii in Russian).  Bujnicki was a Polish inflantczyk, a resident of the Inflanty, or Livonia.  The address on the postcard fits perfectly with this.

Address side of Views.PC.Cooke.1

Address side of Views.PC.Cooke.1

Bujnicki is little known nowadays, but a two-page bibliographical and critical sketch can be found in volume 2 of the Polski słownik biograficzny (Polish biographical dictionary, R457.P5) in the Reading Room.  The postcard dates to 1899, by which point Bujnicki was dead – he passed away on the 14th or 15th of July, 1878.  His entry in the dictionary contains an interesting detail.  In the general anti-Polish reaction to the January Uprising, which started in 1863 and saw Poles revolt against Imperial Russia, and also in particular reaction to Bujnicki’s own son’s acts of defiance, the Bujnicki estate was attacked twice and eventually burned.  His library and manuscripts were lost, and Bujnicki himself only narrowly avoided death.

Nothing is known of the writer of the card.  It appears to be an elderly hand.  If any reader might be able to help identify it, I would welcome their input!

The postcard, produced by Papeterie S. Kukljenko and printed in Russian (Kyiv was also within the Russian Empire), shows three scenes: the Duma (parliament), the St Sofiia Cathedral, and a statue of Count Aleksei Bobrinskii, the Russian nobleman who founded the sugar industry in Ukraine.  Only the first has survived to current times; the statue was removed in the 1930s, and the Duma was seriously damaged in World War II and later pulled down.  The area where the Duma once stood is now called Maidan nezalezhnosti – Independence Square, the setting of dramatic scenes in recent weeks as the main site of protests against the Ukrainian government’s step back from potential European integration.  Updates about the Ievromaidan (Euromaidan) protests are widespread in traditional and modern media – the Cambridge Ukrainian Studies facebook page is a good source of pointers to various reports, and Twitter users can keep up to date by tracking the hashtag #euromaidan.

The Slavonic item of the month feature aims to celebrate, through examination of particular pieces, the diversity and riches of Cambridge University Library’s Slavonic collections.  It has been running since April 2013.  Items featured in previous months can be found here on the Slavonic webpages.

Mel Bach

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