Zygmunt Minejka (Zygmunt Mineyko) 

Zygmunt Minejka was one of the participants of the anti-tsarist uprising of 1863, together with Kastus' Kalinouski.

He was born in 1840 in Balwaniszki and died in Athens, Greece in 1925, and was married to Prozerpina Manaris, the daughter of a high school principal, in Ionina, Greece. He had an extraordinary life and became sort of a family hero, as a result of which many of his descendents were named Zygmunt after him.

In 1858, Zygmunt moved to St. Petersburg. His brother-in-law, Aleksander Tydman was a close relative of the Russian general Franz-Edward Ivanovich Todtleben (1818-1884). Edward Todtleben helped Zygmunt enroll into the best Military Academy in Russia, the commandant of which was the Emperor himself, Aleksander II. Zygmunt received the best military education possible in Russia at that time.

He spent only a few years in this Academy. In St. Petersburg he participates with brother of Kastus' Kalinouski - Baltazar - in collection of illegal student's library, with many books, forbidden by Tsarist censorship.. In Spring of 1861 the news of patriotic manifestations in Poland, Belarus and Lithuania reached studet circles in St. Petersburg. He returned to Lithuania and joined the underground movement against Russia. Together with Kanstancin Yanushevich, brothers Henryk, Piotr, Yakub and Branislau Zavadski, Valeryian Yusevich, Van'kovich's, Cviancicki's form a secret society of "Piantkovich". Soon tsarist gendarmes started arresting young patriots. Zygmunt had to flee the country. He escaped to Italy where he enrolled at the Military School in Genoa (established in 1861 by Garibaldi, who was very supportive of the Polish cause at that time). This school trained Polish volunteers for a future uprising in Poland against occupying Russian, German-Prussian and Austrian Forces. Subsequently, Zygmunt lectured on the subject of war fortifications.

He left a couple of years later in order to join the Polish uprising (1863). He took part in the first battle, led by Marian Langewicz in Galicia, near the village of Grochowiska, on 18 March 1863. Although they won the battle against the Russians, the campaign failed, and Zygmunt escaped through Prussia, to Lithuania. He organized and led a partisan group of 28 young militants. In the first battle, nearby the village of Rosoliszki, about 65 kilometers from Ashmiany, they lost against the Russian regular troops, with only one fatal casualty - Polonski. Zygmunt managed to escape again, and found shelter under a forest ranger's roof. The ranger however betrayed him. The Russian police captured him and imprisoned in Wilno, and a court marshal sentenced him to death by hanging. Zygmunt's mother Cecylia, begged the Empress of Russia to change the verdict, in this she had the support of Todtleben. However, the Empress rejected her pleas. At that, Cecylia bribed generals Wiesielecki and Murawjew with 9,000.00 rubles (at that time, an enormous sum), and generals reduced the sentence to 12 years hard labour in the mines of Siberia.

All prisoners had to walk thousands of kilometers to Siberia. On the way, Zygmunt met French prisoners, similarly sentenced for their part in the support of the Polish uprising of 1863. Russians sent them to work in mines as well and Zygmunt met them nearby the city of Perm. He memorized all their names, in the hope that one day he maybe able to pass this information to the French authorities.

Whilst on this journey between Tobolsk and Tomsk, his close friend Strumillo died of Typhus. Strumillo's sentence was much lighter than Zygmunt's. Russians sent him there only for the settlement. Because Strumillo resembled Zygmunt in age and appearance, Zygmunt successfully switched identity. He ended up in Tomsk almost a free person. There he started up his own business making fur hats, pillows, and artificial flowers. The business was so successful that before long he had contracts to decorate the houses of the richest families in town! Soon he saved enough money to finance his escape. He bought a wagon and horses, the necessary food supplies, and together with two friends dr. Okinczyc and Waszkiewicz escaped through Moscow and St. Petersburg back to Western Europe. The escape was full of strange adventures, sufficient to qualify a separate novel. Whilst in St. Petersburg, police secret agent Plaksin helped him on the final lap to Western Europe.

Zygmunt left St. Petersburg on an English ship under the name of count von Mebert. Initially, he spent a few months in Holland. Later, he moved to Paris where found his way to the Emperor Napoleon III and passed the list of the imprisoned French freedom fighters working in Siberia. When Alexander II of Russia visited France in 1868, Napoleon III brought up the subject of the French prisoners in Siberia. The Emperor of Russia could not deny the list of specific names. He promised to free them. Shortly Russians liberated all the French prisoners and they met Zygmunt whom they had never forgotten. As a reward, the French government let Zygmunt study for free in the best Military Academy. He graduated with a degree in civil engineering and as a result, he had no problems making an honest living. He specialized in the construction of bridges, roads and rail roads.

Eventually he went to Turkey and then he moved to Greece where he spent the rest of his life. He helped Greece in the wars against Turkey in 1896, 1897 and 1912. For example, he prepared the plans for capturing the city of Janina from the enemy. In the 1912 war, these plans were crucial in achieving a victory. King Konstantin (1868-1923) decorated Zygmunt with the highest medals for his service to the country (1917 and 1922). He also worked in the Greek government administration. He was a manager of engineering department of Greek army. The Greek Parliament in 1910 conferred an honorary citizenship on him. He deposited his memoirs and articles in the Library of Jagielonian University.

Zygmunt was also a prominent Freemason. A Loge called Vox Ukrainia, belonging to the Grand Orient du Russie initiated him. Later he became a member of the Grand Orient de France, of the Grand Orient d’Italie and of the Loges Panhellenion and Pythagoras of the Grande Loge de Grece, where he was extremely active. He also belonged to the Supreme Counsel of Greece of the Masonic Old and Accepted Scottish Rites. When he died, thousands of Masons came to his funeral in Athens.


Other Relevant Pages of the Virtual Guide to Belarus

Belarusian Castles and Knighthood
Historic Belarusian Battles
Belarusian Statehood 
History of Belarus

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