Volume 31, No.1 - Spring 1985
Editor of this issue: Antanas Klimas
ISSN 0024-5089
Copyright © 1985 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.


II. Contributors to Aušra


Though the times that called forth Aušra [Dawn] were such that persons caught or even suspected of distributing or of writing for the banned Lithuanian publications faced the risk of imprisonment or deportation. Aušra did not lack contributors. It has been determined that some seventy persons using various pseudonyms contributed their writings to Aušra during the three short years of its existence. Of these seventy known contributors, ten were physicians: Jonas Basanavičius, Jonas Šliūpas, Juozas Andziulaitis (these first three were also editors of Aušra; see Part I, Lituanus 1984 — Vol. 30 Nr. 3, 14-32 p.), Juozas Bagdonas, Vilius Bruožis (Bruožaitis), Antanas Buivydas, Vincas Kudirka, Stasys Matulaitis, Adomas Sketeris, and Jonas Spudulis. What follows is a closer look at each of them in turn.

Dr. Juozas Bagdonas (1866-1956)

Physician and university professor Juozas Bagdonas, who without hesitation can be placed alongside the great Aušrininkai Dr. Jonas Basanavičius and Dr. Jonas Šliūpas, was born on April 6,1866, in Slibinai village, Kybartai township, Vilkaviškis county. He studied at the two-year secondary school of Naumiestis and then attended and graduated from the secondary school in Marijampolė. He continued his studies at the University of Warsaw, transferring after three years to Moscow University, from which he received his medical degree in 1891. Returning to Lithuania, he then began to practice medicine in Naumiestis, residing there until 1896.

During his student days in Warsaw, he was a member of the Lithuanian students association Lietuva [Lithuania]. After transferring to Moscow University, he joined the Lithuanian students association there and was active in its juridical and economic studies section. In 1886 Dr. Bagdonas's journalistic article "Isz Lietuvos" [From Lithuania], appeared in Aušra under the pseudonym Kvietaitis.1

The young Bagdonas was an ardent patriot and already in 1888 he participated in a gathering in Marijampolė of what was to become the Varpininkai movement.2 The annual conventions (1888-1905) set the course of the Varpininkai, for that was when the executive committee was elected. Dr. Bagdonas would decline when offered a position on the executive committee, but he was an untiring contributor to Varpas [Bell] and Ūkininkas [Farmer], and from 1899 until 1905 he was the editor of both these newspapers.

In 1895 during Easter there was a meeting in Naumiestis at the home of Dr. Bagdonas that included Dr. Andrius Domaševičius, who was the founder of the Vilnius Lithuanian Social Democratic Party. The Varpininkai present at this meeting decided to maintain good relations with the party in order to strengthen its "Lithuanian element."3 In 1896 the socialists among the Varpininkai split off, forming the Lithuanian Social Democratic Party. The Varpininkai formed a political party, the Lithuanian Democratic Party, only in 1902.4 Dr. Bagdonas and Dr. Kazys Grinius considered themselves "moderates" and for a time represented the Varpininkai in the Lithuanian Social Democratic Party.

While living in Naumiestis, Dr. Bagdonas was wholeheartedly involved in the distribution of Lithuanian publications. Since Lithuanian printed matter using the Latin alphabet had been banned by the czarist authorities, in 1896 he had to serve a prison sentence at the Kalvarija prison because of the illegal Lithuanian publications found in his apartment. In those days there was a secret society in Marijampolė, Sietynas, which circulated illegal Lithuanian publications published abroad. When a court case that was to last several years was brought against this organization, some thirty-five persons, among them Dr. Bagdonas, suffered adversely. When informed of the court's verdict, Dr. Bagdonas fled to the West in 1899, first to Lithuania Minor, then to England, and later to France and Switzerland, thus avoiding arrest. Once abroad, he accepted the posts of editor of Varpas and of Ūkininkas (1899-1905) and of Naujienos (1901-1902).

In 1899 Dr. Bagdonas was invited by Lithuanian-Americans to participate in the preparations for the Lithuanian pavilion of the Paris international exposition of 1900; while in Paris he used the pseudonym Daumantas. When he lived in London, he helped found a Lithuanian Catholic parish (1900). While living in Scotland he founded the society Šviesa [Light]. In 1902 he returned to Lithuania without legal permission and took part in the convention of the Lithuanian Democratic Party, but before long he had to leave in haste for Switzerland to avoid arrest. He then lived in Scotland, where he acquired the right to practice medicine and started a private practice.

Dr. Bagdonas returned to Vilnius in 1906. When World War I started, he was appointed chief physician of the military hospital in Vilnius. A year later he and the hospital's patients were relocated to Moscow. When Lithuania regained its independence in 1918, Dr. Bagdonas returned. In 1919 he was asked to serve as the director of the Lithuanian Department of Health. In 1922 he became an associate professor of the Department of Medicine of the University of Kaunas, and in 1924, the dean of the department. While a university professor, he wrote Įvadas į bendrąją mediciną [Introduction to general medicine; 1926]. At this time he also founded the Lithuanian Temperance Association (Lietuvos Blaivinimo Sąjunga) and served as its head and editor of its organ Blaivioji Lietuva (later Blaivybė ir sveikata) [A temperate Lithuania, later Temperance and health].5

His former students and his fellow professors remember Dr. Bagdonas as being consistent, conscientious, and a good educator. Despite his age of fifty-six years, he was a master of auscultation and percussion and taught both methods of medical diagnosis to his students. He also taught his students to be thorough while examining a patient, to analyze and try to understand the patient and to do their best to help him. He must have been one of the better Lithuanian physicians because he was named by the Lithuanian government to head the Lithuanian Department of Health and later was a professor of the University of Lithuania in Kaunas.6

Professor Dr. Juozas Bagdonas was not just an educator and a scholar. He was also active in Lithuanian public affairs and was a writer and a journalist who wrote about political, social, and historical issues. He also was a collector of historical documents (he compiled the archives of the Karpiai family, covering the sixteenth through the nineteenth centuries and consisting of 5,000 documents that were later placed in the care of the Vaižgantas-University of Lithuania Museum).7 He was also a translator. One of his most important translations was that of Vasileski's Gedimino krikštas [Baptism of Gediminas]. His concern regarding Lithuanian historical data led Dr. Bagdonas already in 1901 to urge Dr. Jonas Basanavičius to found a Lithuanian scholarly society to concern itself solely with scholarly research and to establish an ethnic museum.8 In 1907 Dr. Basanavičius was to bring this idea to fruition by founding the Lithuanian Learned Society in Vilnius.

When the ceremonies of the twentieth anniversary of Aušra were being planned, Dr. Bagdonas wrote to Dr. Basanavičius, inviting him to participate in the festivities. Dr. Basanavičius replied as follows in a letter from Varna dated November 3, 1902: "I am wholeheartedly in favor of this project and shall participate to the extent I am able by taking upon myself the task of carrying out one or more parts of the suggested program. The anniversary celebration should take place in early March, which was when the first issue of Aušra appeared."9 In his next letter from Varna, dated December 23, 1902, Dr. Basanavičius stated: "I am now sending the article I promised . . . This article presents the authentic history of Aušra."10

After completing his university studies, Dr. Bagdonas went into private practice in Kaunas. When Lithuania was about to be occupied by the Soviets in 1944, he fled to the West though he was already seventy-eight years old at the time. He immigrated to the United States in 1951 and settled in Cleveland. He died there on June 8, 1956 (A.M.A. Archives).

Dr. Vilius Bruožis (Bruožaitis) (1843-1909)

From Lithuania Minor, a number of whose patriotic Lithuanians had helped in starting up the publication Aušra, also came Dr. Vilius Bruožis (Bruožaitis). He was born on May 17, 1843, in Ragainė county. He completed his medical studies in Karaliaučius, Lithuania Minor, and after defending his doctoral thesis, "Bestimmung der absoluten Blutmenge in Tierkörper," he was granted the Doctor of Medicine degree.

During 1870-71 Dr. Bruožis took part in the Franco-Prussian War as a military doctor. Afterwards he lived in Dresden and Berlin, Germany, and, from 1885, in Tilžė, Lithuania Minor.

Dr. Bruožis had a large practice though "it has been said that Dr. Bruožis charges dearly for his advice and has taken on too many patients."11 He researched new drugs and used them on his patients who were ill with tuberculosis, rickets, and other diseases.

Dr. Bruožis was a "well-built brown-bearded man of considerable stature with an apparently extraordinarily retentive memory," wrote Dr. Kazys Grinius in his memoirs. Dr. Bruožis had his own theories as to the origin of the Lithuanians. In his opinion the Lithuanians were already known to the ancient Trojans in Homer's times (about 1100 B.C.) because the Iliad mentions places such as Tuliai and Alybes, which he had come across in Lithuania Minor. He believed that Lithuania, especially Lithuania Minor, had been in existence for a very long time and that the Lithuanians have been living in these areas for over three thousand years.12 He was such an enthusiastic proponent of these theories that in one meeting of the Birutė Society he "expounded for three hours on whether Lithuanian had been spoken in Paradise."13 This talk was published in Tilžė in Keleivis [Traveler] (1885, no. 22).

While living in Tilžė Dr. Bruožis participated actively in Lithuanian affairs. During 1885-87 he was president of the Birutė Society. His contributions began to appear in Aušra in 1885. First to be published was the poem "Lietuviška tu gimtinėle" [You are my dear Lithuanian birthplace]. After Aušra ceased publication, for a period of time Dr. Bruožis was the accountable editor of both Varpas and Ūkininkas and also the guarantor of publication expenses to the printer Otto von Mauderode. Thus in 1898 he had to come up with 900 marks (400 gold rubles) to save the publication Varpas from financial ruin.

Because of his pro-Lithuanian activities, he was often denounced to the German authorities and even imprisoned. In 1888 a court case was brought against him and he was deprived of his right to practice medicine. Due to the intervention of both his Lithuanian and his German friends, however, this ban was lifted.

Dr. Bruožis was also active in the field of politics. He was hoping to represent Tilžė in the Prussian Parliament but was not elected. He died in Tilžė in 1909.14

Dr. Antanas Buivydas (1856-1919)

A contributor to Aušra who lived far from major centers was Dr. Antanas Buivydas. He began to send his writings to Aušra already in 1883-84, signing them with the pen names Ant. B. and A.J.B. Žagaras. His birthplace was in Šiauliai county. He attended primary school in Žagarė and the secondary school of Šiauliai. In 1884 he graduated from the Department of Medicine of Moscow University with an M.D. degree. After completing his studies, he returned to Lithuania and, settling in Žagarė, started a private practice there.

While still a student he had made friends with Jonas Šliūpas, thus later, when Šliūpas moved to the United States, Dr. Buivydas wrote for Unija [Union] and Lietuviškas balsas [Lithuanian voice], which Šliūpas edited.

In addition to practicing medicine in Žagarė, Dr. Buivydas strove to popularize medical information and was an ardent supporter and distributor of Lithuanian publications. Too, he attempted to instill in his fellow countrymen an awareness of their national heritage. He was denounced to the authorities for his endeavors on behalf of Lithuanian-ism; to avoid arrest he left to live in Russia and worked as a military physician in Turkestan (Kazakhstan).

In 1911 he returned to Lithuania and settled in Kaunas. He taught hygiene at the Saulė secondary school for girls and lectured at the vocational school for girls. He also gave talks on popularized medicine. When World War I broke out in 1914, the schools, and Dr. Buivydas with them, were evacuated to Russia. He lived in Russia until 1919, when he became ill with typhus and died that same year in Tula, not far from Moscow.15

Dr. Vincas Kudirka (1858-1899)

Revered and beloved by Lithuanians, Dr. Vincas Kudirka, a major figure among the Varpininkai, joined the ranks of contributors to Aušra in 1885. Born on December 31, 1858, in Paežeriai village, Vilkaviškis county, to a well-to-do farming family, Kudirka attended the grammar school of Paežeriai and in 1871 began studies at the secondary school of Marijampolė. After completing six years of study, due to parental pressure he entered the Seinai theological seminary, but before long he was asked to leave because of the "lack of a vocation."

He then returned to and graduated from the secondary school in Marijampolė and began to study history and philology at the University, of Warsaw, but he transferred after one year into the Department of Medicine. He graduated in 1889 with a Doctor of Medicine degree.16

In his memoirs, which were published in Varpas (1893, no. 3), Dr. Kudirka stated: "There I was at the secondary school in Marijampolė ... I felt shame in remembering who I was and was especially fearful of my friends finding out that I could speak Lithuanian ... I tried to talk in Polish, however poorly . . . They let us out for Easter vacation . . . Several of us students decided to hire some horses and travel home together. Among us was Basanavičius, a senior. When we were on our way, Basanavičius spoke up, 'Panowie záspiejimy' (let's sing, gentlemen). I had a good voice and was definitely intending to join in when Basanavičius burst forth in Lithuanian, 'Augin tėvas du suneliu.' It was as if I had lost my voice from the shame. 'Chlop,' I thought to myself in Polish, and sat silent, dejected ... I completed my secondary school studies still feeling that it was not quite proper to be a Lithuanian ... I used to say that I was simultaneously both a Lithuanian and a Pole ... I was satisfied in using this shallow excuse to myself and to others . . . With such an attitude regarding my nationality I enrolled in a university, one in which few Lithuanians studied . . . When it was time for summer vacation, I returned to Lithuania. A priest told me that a Lithuanian newspaper was going to be published soon. He showed me his poems, written in Lithuanian, and a letter from Basanavičius ... I read the letter and ... it was as if a pang shot through my heart . . . 'Dawią się dzieci' (they're amusing themselves, like children), I thought in Polish. Soon after, perhaps six months later, I obtained the first issue of Aušra. Quickly I flipped through its pages ... I was so overcome with emotion that I collapsed over my desk, burying my head in my arms and cried . . . Afterwards I felt great peace and a cozy warmth ... It was as if I had abruptly grown up ... I felt mighty and great: I became aware that I was a Lithuanian."17

Until then Dr. Kudirka had associated only with Poles, among whom he was very popular due to his cheerful disposition and pleasant appearance. Thus though he wore Lithuanian homespun, he was well liked by his fellow students in Warsaw.

After his "conversion" Dr. Kudirka began to wage an intense struggle against the Russification of the Lithuanian nation. At the same time he tried to instill an awareness of their national heritage in his fellow countrymen and urged them to develop strong ties with their native land.

In 1888 together with other Lithuanian students studying in Warsaw Kudirka founded the society Lietuva [Lithuania], whose purpose was to publish Lithuanian books and newspapers, to instill in Lithuanians an awareness of their national heritage, and to work for the betterment of the economic condition of Lithuanians.18 On April 17, 1888, Kudirka sent the bylaws of the society to Dr. Jonas Basanavičius, informing him at the same time that the society was intending to publish a new newspaper to be titled Varpas (Bell): "Lithuanians in Warsaw have founded a society that will deal with all matters of national interest . . . We are sending you the bylaws of the society and would like to invite you to join and ask that you send us a most thorough critique of these bylaws. Together with the newly founded society we are hoping to publish a Lithuanian newspaper that would be both of a high intellectual caliber and popular . . . We have recently learned that you are interested in reviving the defunct Aušra. We are of the opinion that the revived Aušra would soon find itself in strained circumstances ... It is always more difficult to try to revive a thing than to foster something newborn . . . Thus, as we see it, instead of attempting to bring the dead back to life it would be more appropriate and beneficial to bring forth a new newspaper."19

The new newspaper Varpas appeared in 1889, and another, titled Ūkininkas came out in 1890.

After completing his studies and receiving his medical degree, Dr. Kudirka returned to Lithuania and settled in Šakiai. He was unable to find an apartment and was granted temporary shelter in a storehouse of the local parish, which was unheated. This was where he saw his patients. After traversing various unpaved and muddy roads on cold and rainy days he would return to these unheated living quarters.20 Several years passed before he was able to obtain a small apartment.

Dr. Kudirka lived surrounded by tuberculous relatives from his earliest days. His mother died of tuberculosis; his brother and his two sisters suffered from tuberculosis. Not surprisingly, he himself became infected. Since effective therapy was unavailable, his condition steadily worsened. The hardships he had endured as a student also played a role, together with the difficult living conditions he experienced when he started his medical practice in Šakiai. He first hemorrhaged in 1889. While visiting Dr. Bruožis in Tilžė regarding Varpas in 1892, he became seriously ill. He collapsed while climbing a staircase, bleeding from his lungs. He was very weak when he returned home, but he had managed to save Varpas from a financial crisis.21

After working for six years as a physician in Šakiai, Dr. Kudirka was himself a very sick man. Upon the urging of his friends, he took their advice and left for Yalta, in the Crimean Peninsula, seeking a cure. Due to the lack of funds, however, he was soon forced to return and found a place to stay in Naumiestis. Not long after his return he was arrested because he was suspected of writing for Varpas, but there was insufficient evidence, and he was released. When his health did not improve, he sought help from Dr. Laurynas Tercijonas in Sevastopol in the Crimean Peninsula. In 1887 after obtaining a passport, he left again to spend two weeks at a resort on the Adriatic Sea. After returning, he no longer practiced medicine. Though he was now very sick, he traveled to Šakiai to check the accuracy of the musical notation of his waltz based on Lithuanian songs, "Nemuno bangos" [Waves of the Nemunas River]. In 1898 he went to Paežeriai to visit his sick father. His love of his homeland and of nature inspired him to set out on foot, with numerous rest stops along the way, to reach the banks of the Širvinta River just prior to his death.

In Naumiestis Dr. Kudirka lived in an apartment attached to a notions shop managed by Valerija Krašiauskienė. Valeria, according to Prof. P. Leonas, was "Vincas Kudirka's guardian angel." Dr. Kudirka had thought of marrying her, but this decision had come too late. As he himself said, "It dawned on me too late." After a time Valerija closed her shop and moved to Šakiai to live with her parents, returning often to see Dr. Kudirka, especially whenever his condition worsened.

In the last year of his life, Dr. Kudirka moved to the home of the recently deceased Reverend Čarneckis, nearer the Širvinta. "Kudirka's health was noticeably steadily worsening. The soles of his feet began to swell and then later his calves, until finally, if he lay down on his side, that side of his face would slacken," is how Dr. Kazys Grinius described his condition in his memoirs.22

In his final days, Dr. Kudirka was cared for by Antanas Baltrušaitis, commonly known as Antanėlis, who was a distributor of banned Lithuanian publications and who with a network of agents smuggled them into the country from abroad (knygnešys). He was at Dr. Kudirka's deathbed and was among the mourners at his funeral. Baltrušaitis later wrote about Dr. Kudirka's final moments, and after Dr. Kudirka's death on November 16, 1899, in Naumiestis, solicited contributions to build a monument in his honor in the marketplace square of Naumiestis.23

Dr. Kudirka was a conscientious physician and, though of poor health, willingly traveled to various villages to attend to the sick, in addition to caring for patients in his office. He was well liked because of his pleasant disposition and was an oft-invited guest of his acquaintances.

His writings in the field of medicine include "Hygiena" [Hygiene] and "Alkogolis" [Alcohol].

He is remembered not so much because he was a physician but rather as a great patriot who waged a relentless struggle for Lithuanian independence. In the brief forty years of his life, ten of which were spent in creative endeavors, he accomplished a great deal. It was on his initiative that the society Lithuania (Draugystė Lietuva), which was the publisher of Varpas, was founded. In 1888 the organization Varpininkai was established; Dr. Kudirka was its very soul. He wrote much but was quiet and unobtrusive during the organization's meetings and let others handle administrative details; however, he was a careful observer of all positive and negative aspects, and when necessary would react spiritedly and to the point.

He was a proponent of unity among the Lithuanians and was a fierce critic of the quarrels of Lithuanian-Americans, writing "skersadryžiai": "Kokiu būdu dygsta ir suįra draugystės Amerikoje" [How associations come into being in America and then disintegrate], stressing that all that was necessary was "a heart that loves its brothers, hands that are unafraid of hard work, tireless efforts, and a voice that can be trusted" (Varpas, 1892, no. 8). He firmly believed that education (enlightenment) would secure a brighter future for the Lithuanian nation and stressed repeatedly that it was necessary to educate not only the boys but also the girls. He held in high esteem and wrote with great admiration about Lithuanian heroic personages who were striving against the Russian-perpetrated reign of terror. He chose to translate into Lithuanian such works as Johann Christoph Friedrich von Schiller's Wilhelm Tell and Die Jungfrau von Orleans [The Maid of Orleans]. He also wrote literary works, notable among them being the satyric "Lietuvos tilto atsiminimai" [Memoirs of a Lithuanian bridge] and "Viršininkai" [Chiefs]. He published a collection of poetry (Tilžė, 1898) titled Laisvos valandos [Free moments].

A man of many talents, Dr. Kudirka was also an artist, though he did not create any major works. In the field of music, however, his contribution was impressive. He was the first to harmonize Lithuanian folk songs, and he published two collections of songs: Kanklės [Lithuanian zithers] and Lietuviškos dainos [Lithuanian songs]. He also composed popular music: polkas, waltzes, and mazurkas. In 1898 he published the music and the lyrics of what was to become the Lithuanian National Anthem, then titled "Tautos giesmė" [Song of the nation]. A six-volume collection of his works edited by J. Gabrys, Vinco Kudirkos raštai [Writings of Vincas Kudirka], was published in 1909 in Tilžė by the Lithuanian Patriots Society (Tėvynės Mylėtojų Draugija). A one-volume collection of his works edited by S. Miglinas was published in 1953, also titled Vinco Kudirkos raštai.

Dr. Stasys Matulaitis (1866-1956)

An Aušrininkas and prolific writer who worked hard for the cause of Lithuanian nationalism and later in life became a Communist was Dr. Stasys Matulaitis. The son of a prosperous farming family, he was born in October, 1866, in Stabuliškiai village, Liudvinavas township, Marijampolė county. He graduated from the secondary school in Marijampolė in 1886 and then studied at Moscow University. In 1891 he graduated from its Department of Medicine, receiving the degree of Doctor of Medicine.

While still in secondary school he came under the influence of the patriotic educator Petras Kriaučiūnas and began to read Aušra and, in 1884, to contribute articles to it. While studying in Moscow he was a member of the Lithuanian students association. Upon completing his studies he returned to Lithuania and went into private practice in Aleksotas (southern section of Kaunas), moving later to Jezna. He was unable to eke out a living there, and in 1893 he moved to Balbieriškis.

When he was living in both Jezna and Balbieriškis, Dr. Matulaitis wrote many articles on popularized science and medicine and participated in the distribution of Lithuanian publications, even giving away gratis Motiejus Valančius's (Bishop of Samogitia) Vaikų knygelė [Booklet for children]. He wrote for Varpas, Ūkininkas, and other periodicals. His articles were published in Tilžė, Bitėnai, Vilnius, Kaunas, and in the United States — New York and Chicago.24 He strove for the democratization of Lithuanian culture and literature and was among the first proponents of socialism in Lithuania.25

In 1894 Dr. Matulaitis participated in the Varpininkai convention in Mintauja. He moved to Pilviškiai in 1895 and, in addition to his medical practice, took on the task of editing both Varpas and Ūkininkas. He was the editor of these periodicals from 1895 until 1899. Under his editorship these publications acquired a distinctly leftist slant as he "with his biting satiric pen fought relentlessly against the czar's despotic regime." Because of his large medical practice involving the care of so many patients, he eventually "began to feel that he was beginning to repeat himself and to tire from all the work."26 Thus the editorship of Varpas passed to Dr. Vincas Kudirka and Dr. Kazys Grinius became the editor of Ūkininkas. A sense of indebtedness to the publications he had edited led to Dr. Matulaitis's offer to assist Ūkininkas financially by paying a certain sum to Dr. Grinius, whose earnings did not suffice to support his family. After freeing himself of his editorial responsibilities, Dr. Matulaitis then devoted his leisure time to the Lithuanian Social Democratic Party.

In 1898 he was arrested when he became embroiled in the Sietynas (secret society that distributed Lithuanian publications) court case and was deported to Russia. Before leaving, Dr. Matulaitis married Vilhelmina Mackevičiūtė, who came from a Polish family of Vilnius but was pro-Lithuanian. He had done so, he himself stated, mainly so that he would not end up marrying a Russian.27

In 1902 under the auspices of the Lithuanian Social Democratic Party he went to Vilnius. Here he practiced medicine and edited Naujoji gadynė [New era] and other social democratic publications. In Vilnius Dr. Matulaitis led an active life. He gave lectures to the general public on medical topics, and he founded a society for the care of destitute Lithuanian children (Lietuviška Neturtėlių Vaikų Globos Draugija) and an elementary school (1906). He also himself aided financially needy students and tried to interest them in writing. In 1907 he joined the Lithuanian Learned Society founded by Dr. Jonas Basanavičius. He was also a member of other Lithuanian organizations. In 1914 once again he was drafted for military service. In 1917 he was a delegate to the Lithuanian Conference of Petrograd (now Leningrad).

After the Russian Revolution Dr. Matulaitis experienced a turning point in his life. He came under the influence of Vincas Kapsukas-Mickevičius and joined the Communist party in 1917. He was to remain a member until 1937. He participated in the struggle for control of the Council of Lithuania in Vilnius in 1918. In 1919 he began working at the Vilkaviškis county hospital, where he also began to organize labor unions.28 In 1921 he became president of the Communist society Šviesa [Light]. He moved to Marijampolė in 1923 and taught history at a secondary school; and organized an illegal Communist group among the students. Members of this group were arrested in 1925. He too was later arrested and jailed. After posting bond he secretly crossed the Latvian border and eventually settled in Minsk, Byelorussia.

Though he was a true and active Communist, nevertheless he devoted much of his time and efforts to the study of Lithuanian history. He worked at the Byelorussian Academy of Sciences editing Lithuanian translations. After authoring 1863 metai Lietuvoje [The year 1863 in Lithuania], which was published in 1933 by the academy, he was granted a doctorate in history. In 1937 during the widespread Great Purge of "enemies of the people," he was deported to Kazakhstan. After being "rehabilitated," he was allowed to return to Lithuania, and from 1945 Dr. Matulaitis lived in Vilnius, where he died in 1956.

In his memoirs Dr. Grinius noted that Dr. Matulaitis had Semitic features and that local Jews frequently addressed him in Yiddish. He was a man of temperament but capable of devotion and affection. He asked no recompense for his editing work and during 1897-98 even contributed a sum each month for editorial expenses.

Dr. Matulaitis was a prolific writer. During the years 1893-1935 he wrote thirty and translated seventeen books and pamphlets on political, social, and historic topics and on popular science and medicine. He made use of several pseudonyms, among them Bendoraitis, Dramgaitis, Dr. Našlys, S. M. Stasys, Šventninkas. Besides writing and editing, Dr. Matulaitis was also interested in compiling folklore, which he then sent to Dr. Jonas Basanavičius. Dr. Basanavičius wrote him from Varna on April 10,1903: "Your letter with the folk tales and the riddles has reached me — thank you very much! I shall include them in either the third or the fourth volume of Lietuviškos įvairios pasakos [Various Lithuanian tales], the first two volumes of which I have just sent to America."29 Later Basanavičius wrote him that "the encylopedia editorial commission has decided to invite you to be a contributor and to ask you whether you would take it upon yourself to write biographies of Lithuanian historical personages" (of grand dukes, magnates, etc.).30

Two of Dr. Matulaitis major works are "Lietuvių tautos istorija" (History of the Lithuanian nation; 1918 and 1923) and "Religija ir jos socialinė reikšmė" (Religion and its social significance). Although his works were thoroughly documented Dr. Matulaitis was more of a journalist than an impartial researcher of past events. Though a prolific writer Dr. Matulaitis wrote little on medical topics (Appendix A).

Dr. Adomas Sketeris (1858-1916)

Another physician among the ranks of the Aušrininkai was Dr. Adomas Sketeris who was born on December 4, 1858 in Noreikanija village, Joniškėlis township, Biržai county.31 He studied at the secondary school in Slutsk, Byelorussia, where there was a dormitory for the children of members of the Evangelical Reformed Church. He completed his medical studies at Moscow University during 1879-84. After graduating and receiving an M.D. degree, he returned to Lithuania and went into private practice, first in 2eimelis, then Linkuva, and later in Papilys.

His articles began to appear in Aušra in 1883 under various pen names, such as Vaistininkas, Vaistytojas, Nenuorama, and others. Later he also wrote for Varpas [Bell], Lietuvos Ūkininkas [Lithuanian farmer], and Vilniaus žinios [News of Vilnius].

He was opposed to the czarist regime and was in favor of children being taught the Lithuanian language in the home by their mothers or private teachers. He was involved in the distribution of the banned Lithuanian publications. He was one of the Varpininkai and participated in their convention in Mintauja in 1894, at which time he was elected convention chairman.32 For his political activities he was deported to Pskov, Russia, in 1902. After returning to Lithuania, he once again took up the practice of medicine.

Dr. Sketeris married Ona Didžiulytė. She wrote poetry, translated writings from Polish to Lithuanian, and compiled Lithuanian folklore. She had graduated from a midwifery school in Dorpat, (Tartu) Estonia, and prior to her marriage had worked in Kupiškis and in Ukmergė. Once married, she became Dr. Sketeris's greatest supporter and assistant.33

After World War I broke out, they fled to Yalta, in the Crimea, where they established and managed a sanatorium for Lithuanian refugees. Ona left her work at the sanatorium for one year to attend and graduate from a nurses and feldshers (physician's assistant) school in Moscow. After returning to her husband, she worked by his side until his death and then returned to Lithuania. She was eighty-two years old when she died in Antavilis in Vilnius County.

Aside from his professional duties, Dr. Sketeris spent much of his time writing. He published a series of articles titled "Ruožai iš Lietuvos gyvenimo" [Slices of Lithuanian life]. He also wrote several literary works: "Ant nakvynės" [For a night's lodging], "Vakaras Tilviko pirkelėje" [Evening in the hut of Tilvikas], and the play "Iš tamsos į šviesą" [From darkness to light]. In the field of medicine he wrote: "Pamokinimas kaip nuog choleros ginties" [How to prevent cholera 1893], "Karštinės" [Typhoid fevers], "Kyla" [Hernia].

Dr. Sketeris was an active member of the Evangelical Reformed Church and was elected kuratorius of the Vilnius Synod.

He died in Moscow in 1916.34 35

Dr. Jonas Spudulis (1860-1920)

Another little-known Aušrininkas and physician is Dr. Jonas Spudulis. He was born on January 7, 1860 in Pasyvinės village, Kurtuvėnai township, Šiauliai county. He was taught the rudiments of education at home, and in 1873 he began to attend the secondary school in Šiauliai. He graduated in 1881.

He was interested in languages, especially his native Lithuanian, which he had studied on his own while still in secondary school. In those times the Lithuanian language was taught only at the Kaunas theological seminary, thus he began to correspond with the seminarians and with the Most Reverend Antanas Baranauskas, who taught Lithuanian at the seminary.

After graduation Spudulis began to study medicine at Moscow University. Here he made friends with Jonas Šliūpas, and they attempted to organize a philology club, hoping to attract to its fold three noted professors, but the authorities did not permit this.35 They also tried to obtain a permit to publish a weekly newspaper in Vilnius to be titled Mūsų amžius [Our age].36 In 1882 they put together a calendar, "Ūkininko kalendorius" [A farmer's calendar] but were unable to get it published. During the summertime they traveled from village to village teaching history.

In 1882 Spudulis moved to St. Petersburg and began studies at the St. Petersburg Military Medical Academy. He defended his dissertation in 1893 and in 1895 received an academic medical degree.

While living in St. Petersburg he was a member of the Lithuanian students club. In 1885 together with P. Matulionis he put out a handwritten publication (there were a total of ten issues) titled Žinių nešėjas [Bearer of news].

Dr. Spudulis was interested in the Lithuanian language not only during his secondary-school days but also as a university student. He gathered data to be used for a dictionary and studied his native Kurtuvėnai dialect. He used the information he had compiled to write a study that won him a silver medal from the St. Petersburg Geographical Society in 1889. He also assisted in readying for publication a Lithuanian-language dictionary whose author was the Rev. Antanas Juška.37

After obtaining his medical degree, he had to serve the required period of time as a physician in Turkestan (Kazakhstan) and Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan. He later practiced medicine in St. Petersburg and in Lithuania — in Šiauliai and in Tauragė.

Dr. Spudulis was a contributor to Aušra from its very beginnings — 1883. He used the pen names Gailutis, Jonas, dr. S-is. When Aušra ceased publication, he wrote for Varpas.

Even while working as a physician, he continued to be interested in Lithuanian studies and began to collect Lithuanian toponyms and surnames. He published some of his data in 1900 in Žinyčia [Treasury of knowledge].38 An amateur linguist, he formulated a set of rules of Lithuanian grammar. He corresponded on matters of linguistics with The Most Reverend Antanas Baranauskas and Kazimieras Būga. He took a stand opposite to Būga's that the suffix -ystė was Lithuanian. In 1908 his article "Del kalbos dalykų" [Regarding matters of language] was published in the monthly Draugija [The society].

Dr. Spudulis was also interested in mathematics, and in 1885 he authored the first Lithuanian arithmetic text containing problems for solving titled Užduotinas.

Dr. Jonas Spudulis died on July 6, 1920, in Tauragė.39 40

*    *   *

One cannot help but admire the unity of purpose of these men of medicine who were not content with healing men's bodies but also attempted to reach their souls by means including their contributions to Aušra. Their lives are an inspiration even today.


Articles and Books Written by Dr. Matulaitis on Medical Topics.

1 Kaip sudarytas žmogaus kūnas? (Composition of the human body) 1902.

2 Kaip žmogus gyvena ant žemės? (How man lives on earth) 1903.

3 Vaikų ir vidaus ligos (Illnesses of children and constitutional diseases) 1912.

4 Iš kur kilęs žmogus? (The origin of man) 1932.

5 Žmogaus anatomija (Human anatomy — a translation) 1900.

6 Chemija (Chemistry — a translation) 1900.


1 Lietuvių enciklopedija, vol. 2, p. 41.
2 Kazys. Grinius, Atsiminimai ir mintys [Memories and thoughts], vol. 1, 1947, p. 117.
3 Ibid., p. 142.
4 Lietuvių enciklopedija, vol. 12, p. 284.
5 Ibid., vol. 2, p. 41.
6 "Dr. J: Bagdonas," Lietuvių gydytojų biuletenis, 1967, no. 1 (25), p. 19.
7 Lietuvos universitetas, p. 600.
8 Jonas Basanavičius, Rinktiniai raštai (Vilnius, 1970), p. 963.
9 Ibid., p. 760.
10 Ibid., p. 767.
11 Grinius, p. 222.
12 Ibid., p. 217.
13 Lietuvių enciklopedija, vol. 1, p. 470.
14 Ibid., vol. 3, p. 293.
15 Ibid., p. 330.
16 Ibid., vol. 13, p. 278.
17 Vinco Kudirkos raštai, 1953, p. 302.
18 Ibid., p. 8.
19 Basanavičius, p. 623.
20 Vinco Kudirkos raštai, p. 9.
21 Lietuvių enciklopedija, vol. 33, p. 169.
22 Grinius, p. 280.
23 Ibid., p. 237.
24 Lietuvių enciklopedija, vol. 17, p. 520.
25 Mažoji lietuviškoji tarybinė enciklopedija, vol. 2, p. 530 (hereafter cited as MLTE),
26 Grinius, p. 219.
27 Ibid., p. 211.
28 MLTE, vol. 2, p. 531.
29 Basanavičius, p. 781.
30 Ibid., p. 843.
31 Grinius, p. 213.
32 Ibid., p. 150.
33 Lietuvių enciklopedija, vol. 4, p. 527.
34 MLTE, vol. 3, p. 217.
35 Lietuvių enciklopedija, vol. 28, p. 37.
36 Juozas Jakštas, Dr. lonas Šliūpas (Chicago, 1979), p. 31.
37 Ibid., p. 63.
38 Lietuvių enciklopedija, vol. 28, p. 387.
39 Sveikatos apsauga, 1968, no. 1, p. 46.
40 MLTE, vol. 3, p. 272.