Volume 31, No.3 - Fall 1985
Editor of this issue: Antanas Dundzila
ISSN 0024-5089
Copyright © 1985 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.


IV. Contemporaries of the "Aušrininkai"


After having become acquainted with the lives of Lithuanian physicians who were actively involved in either writing for, editing, supporting, promoting, or circulating Aušra, it may prove interesting to cast a glance at other Lithuanian physicians who lived in those times. Since the oldest of the physicians who were contributors to Aušra, Dr. Vilius Bruožis, was born in 1843 and the youngest, Dr. Juozas Bagdonas and Dr. Stasys Matulaitis, were born in 1866, let us consider here the physicians who were born between 1843 and 1866.

These physicians lived and worked under different conditions and in differing circumstances. Each had his own particular ideas and opinions; each led a life based on his own individual preferences. Some lived quietly and were dedicated members of their profession, motivated by a genuine concern for the well-being of their fellow man. Others, alongside their endeavors in the field of medicine, were actively involved in public affairs. In recompense for the scholarships that had supported their education, a number of them had to serve for a period of time as physicians in Russia. Some of these physicians settled there permanently, but the rest returned to Lithuania after fulfilling this obligation.

Because the periodical Aušra was so short-lived, having been published for only three years, some of these physicians never had a chance to become its contributors. Others were sitting in schoolrooms during those days. Yet their lives were affected by the ideology and enthusiasm of the Aušra era and led to their eventual participation in Lithuanian public affairs. When the periodical Varpas [Bell] appeared, many Lithuanian physicians became its supporters, known as Varpininkai.

In those times, as is usually the case, university students were quick to respond to current events. They founded secret societies for the purpose of promoting Lithuanian publications, which had been banned by the czarist authorities. Some even put out their own, often handwritten, newspapers. The best known of these organizations was the Moscow Lithuanian Students Association, founded about 1870, which probably counted among its members all the Lithuanian students studying in Moscow. According to V. Biržiška, Lithuanians — sons of the nobility — were already studying in Moscow soon after the revolt of 1863. In the years 1886-93 the association grew to a membership of fifty-eight, and of these, twenty-four were medical students. Most of the members were still in secondary schools (gymnasiums) while Aušra was being published.1,2

Students of the University of St. Petersburg became active relatively early. In 1875 a group known as the St. Petersburg Students Circle concerned itself with Lithuanian publications. This group was to evolve into the St. Petersburg Lithuanian Students Society, which has about forty members during 1897-98. The society's membership eventually reached 150, and it had its own library and presented programs for the public. Medical students studying in St. Petersburg founded a separate society, which was reorganized by Vladas Nagevičius in 1908 into Fraternitas Lithuanica.3

The Lithuanian Students Group of Kiev was founded in 1889, mainly due to the efforts of Dr. Kazimieras Sliekas (1868-1928). This group also had its own library.4

The Warsaw Lithuanian Students Association was founded in 1888. Its first members were the medical students Jonas Gaidys-Gaidamavičius, Juozas Kaukas, Jonas Seniūnas, Vincas Kudirka, Juozas Bagdonas, and Jonas Staugaitis.5

Dr. Antanas Biržiška (1855-1922)

Dr. Antanas Biržiška was born on January 17, 1855, at the Lapkasiai Estate in Vainutas Township, Tauragė County. After graduating from the secondary school (gymnasium) in Šiauliai in 1875, he studied medicine at Moscow University and received his medical degree in 1880. During his studies he associated with Vincas Pietaris and Jonas Basanavičius.

Upon completing his studies, he settled in Viekšniai. In time his reputation grew, as he practised medicine in an area with a radius of 100 kilometers and became known as the "great doctor." He considered the medical care he was providing as his contribution to his nation and felt that he had no time left over for public affairs. Only later, urged on by his sons, Mykolas, Viktoras, and Vaclovas, famed scholars and important public figures, he gradually became active in Lithuanian public affairs. He died on October 11, 1922, in Viekšniai.6

Dr. Jonas Izidorius Dielininkaitis (1850-1924)

A student at the University of Warsaw who later practiced medicine in that city was Dr. Jonas Izidorius Dielininkaitis. Born on July 3, 1850, in Miknaičiai Village, Bubeliai Township, Šakiai County, he attended secondary school (gymnasium) in Marijampolė, graduating about 1876. He then graduated from the Department of Medicine of the University of Warsaw about 1880. When the Warsaw Lithuanian Self-help Society was founded, he served as its vice president and president. He was also a member of the Lithuanian Learned Society and participated in its annual conventions in Vilnius. He practiced medicine in Lomza and Warsaw and left a number of manuscripts on various medical topics. Dr. Dielininkaitis died in Warsaw about 1924.7

Dr. Andrius Jonas Domaševičius (1865-1935)

A controversial figure who lived and worked during the Aušra era was Dr. Andrius Jonas Domaševičius. According to Dr. Kazys Grinius, he was actively involved in Lithuanian public affairs and founded the Lithuanian Social Democratic Party. Prof. V. Biržiška has characterized him briefly as a "physician active in public affairs." Docent Micelmacheris considered him as being the first to set in motion the Lithuanian workers' movement, one who waged a fierce struggle against fascism for the good of the working class and eventually became the first Lithuanian Peoples' Commissar of Public Health.

Dr. Domaševičius was born on November 30, 1865, in the city of Panevėžys. After graduating from secondary school (gymnasium) in Šiauliai in 1889, that same year he began medical studies at the University of Kiev. He graduated in 1890 and then specialized in gynecology and obstetrics at the St. Petersburg Military Medical Academy.8

While still in secondary school, he became involved in underground students' organizations. Later, as a university student, he participated in illegal activities and propagated Marxist publications. When he lived in Vilnius, he was one of the so-called Twelve Apostles of Vilnius, whose goal was to make Polonized city dwellers and laborers aware of their Lithuanian heritage and to attract them to socialism.

In 1896 Dr. Domaševičius organized the first gathering of the Lithuanian Social Democratic Party in Vilnius, which was also attended by the Aušrininkas Dr. Stasys Matulaitis. Dr. Domaševičius quickly gained the trust of the party and became actively involved in forming new units of the party. He traveled to London on party business and, while there, founded several Social Democratic groups among Lithuanian immigrant workers and arranged for the printing of socialist periodicals, among them, Lietuvos darbininkas [Lithuanian Worker], 1896-99.9

After returning to Vilnius, he was imprisoned several times for his political activities and in 1900 was exiled to Siberia. Upon his return to Vilnius in 1904, Dr. Domaševičius participated in the Great Assembly of Vilnius, which demanded autonomy for Lithuania.

He strived for cordial relations with the Social Democrats of Byelorussia, the Ukraine, and Latvia, but joined in the bitter strife against the Polish Socialist Party (Polska Partija Socyalisczna), which was claiming to have the sole right to represent Lithuanian workers. To avoid arrest, he fled Vilnius for a time, returning in 1906. The following year he resigned from his position in the party leadership.

Concurrently he was very active in Lithuanian cultural affairs. Together with Dr. Jonas Basanavičius, he was one of the founding members of the Lithuanian Learned Society; it was upon his initiative that the society's medical section was formed in 1909. He also was one of the founders of the society Rūta (1908) and of a credit union known as the Lithuanian Bank. During World War I he was the representative of the Vilnius District. In 1917 he participated in the Lithuanian National Conference in Vilnius and the elections of the Council of Lithuania.

After the Russian Revolution, Dr. Domaševičius began to incline towards the concept of "proletarian dictatorship." In December, 1918, the Provisional Lithuanian Revolutionary Workers and Peasants Government headed by Vincas Mickevičius-Kapsukas was formed in Vilnius. It functioned until May, 1919. In 1919 the Peoples' Commisariat of Public Health was established. When Dr. Petras Avižonis, who was appointed the first Peoples' Commissar of Public Health, failed to present himself, his duties were taken over by Dr. Domaševičius.10

After the Poles occupied Vilnius, Dr. Domaševičius was twice arrested and imprisoned by the Polish authorities. In 1921 he returned to Lithuania and settled in Panevėžys, where he went into private practice. At this time too he wrote a number of articles on medical topics. He was an active member and sometime president of the Panevėžys Physicians Society. He also founded numerous organizations, among them, groups for combating female diseases, cancer, tuberculosis, and rheumatism. He also continued to engage in his "former interests" — organizing various workers groups. He lectured on Marxism and socialism, giving speeches such as "Women and Socialism," "What is Marxism," and "Materialism: the Philosophy of the Proletariat." For these activities he was arrested and tried several times and was finally exiled from Panevėžys to Smilgiai. In 1934 after he obtained a permit to take a cure at a Latvian resort, he secretly crossed the border into Soviet Russia. Upon his return he suffered a stroke and died on March 19, 1935, in Panevėžys.

After Dr. Domaševičius died, Docent Micelmacheris attempted to portray him convincingly as having been "one of them." He wrote that "although formally not a member of the Party, Dr. Domaševičius did not stand by idly while the workers waged their political struggle for liberation... After his death, some bourgeois Lithuanian 'Democrats' attempted to portray Dr. Domaševičius as almost a bourgeois nationalist, daring to call him 'their long-time coworker'." In conclusion, Micelmacheris stated: "Their efforts were fruitless. Lithuanian workers remember A. Domaševičius as having been one of their comrade fighters, a revolutionary."11

In reality, Dr. Domaševičius was probably neither just a man working quietly for the good of Lithuania nor a zealous Soviet revolutionary but someone in between these two extremes.

Dr. Juozas Kaukas (1863-1895)

One who was involved in Lithuanian public affairs while still a student in secondary school and during his university days was Dr. Juozas Kaukas. He was born about 1863 in Penkvalakiai Village, Pilviškiai Township, Vilkaviškis County. He attended secondary school (gymnasium) in Marijampolė, being one of the students of the great patriotic educator Petras Kriaučiūnas. After rejecting his parents' hopes that he enter the priesthood, he lost their support and had to finance his continued education by tutoring. He later studied medicine at the University of Warsaw, graduating in 1889. He was one of the cofounders of the Warsaw Lithuanian Students Association. He was a Varpininkas and participated in the group's first convention in Marijampolė in 1888. After completing his studies, he practiced medicine, first in Lazdijai and later in Seinai, where he was the head of the district hospital. His articles, signed with the pseudonym Raulas, were published in Varpas, whose publication costs he helped to defray with a generous donation of 2000 rubles. His work was cut short by tuberculosis. After he died in Berne, Switzerland, on July 27, 1895, his remains were brought back for burial in Seinai.12

Dr. Ferdinandas Kauneckis (1861-1935)

A physician who made an important contribution to the cause of Lithuanianism by disseminating Lithuanian publications banned by the czarist authorities was Dr. Ferdinandas Kauneckis. His birthplace was in Kretinga County. His paternal grandmother was the sister of Simanas Daukantas, the renowned Lithuanian historian and writer. His mother's brother was the governor general of Finland in the nineteenth century.

Ferdinandas Kauneckis attended secondary school (gymnasium) in Liepoja and the universities of Charkov and Dorpat (Tartu). He completed his medical studies in 1887 and in that same year was sent to Rostov-on-Don. He remained there until 1891. Returning to his homeland, he went into private practice. Several years later he returned to Dorpat and was granted a Doctor of Medicine degree in 1894.

He then practiced medicine in his birthplace and helped circulate illegal Lithuanian printed matter. In 1895 he set up a secret reading room. He would hide the banned Lithuanian publications in such places as the piles of chaff behind the granary and in wooden wayside shrines. When making sick calls, he would take along some of the banned literature and distribute it in the neighborhood. He safeguarded the entire library of Simanas Daukantas and sent it to Dr. Jonas Basanavičius in Vilnius.

Dr. Kauneckis spent the years from 1911 to 1913 in various clinics in Berlin, Vienna, and Cracow, specializing in gynecology and surgery. Then for a long time he was the official physician of Sėda County and head of the county hospital. From 1920 he was in charge of the hospital in Skuodas. He also had a private practice. Dr. Kauneckas died in 1935 in Kivyliai.13

Dr. Henrikas Laucevičius-Lavcevičius (1855-1931)

Dr. Henrikas Laucevičius-Lavcevičius led a quiet life devoted totally to the care of his patients. He was descended from the noble Lavcevičius family and was the owner of a coat of arms. He studied at the secondary school (gymnasium) in Šiauliai and afterwards attended the St. Petersburg Military Medical Academy, graduating in 1882. Upon completing his studies, he returned to Lithuania. He lived on his family estate (Dzidai-Demereckiai) and had a private practice. He was loved and respected by the local populace and was popularly referred to as Laucius Demereckis. Two years later he moved to Šiauliai and soon became the most popular physician in the area. Though he suffered from bronchial asthma and diabetes, he continued to work until the day he died in 1931.14

Dr. Jonas Langė (1855-1932)

Another doctor who devoted his entire life to his profession, working as a military physician, was Dr. Jonas Langė, who was born on November 7, 1855, in Mažučiai Village, Vilkaviškis County. He graduated from secondary school (gymnasium) in Marijampolė and later from the St. Petersburg Military Medical Academy. At first he was the physician of the Grenadier Guards Regiment in Warsaw. Later he worked at the Ujezdov Military Hospital while specializing in diseases of the eye. He moved to Kaunas, Lithuania, in 1889 and was the physician of the Third Don Infantry Regiment. Somewhat later he was the physician of the Fourteenth Cavalry Division. In addition he also had a private practice. After Lithuania regained its independence (1918), he worked at the Dr. J. Basanavičius Military Hospital in Kaunas. Dr. Jonas Langė died on May 25, 1932, in Kaunas.15

Dr. Petras Matulaitis (1865-1900)

A cousin of the Aušrininkas Dr. Stasys Matulaitis, Dr. Petras Matulaitis was also active in Lithuanian affairs. His birthplace was in Marijampolė County. He attended secondary school (gymnasium) in Marijampolė and was a student of Petras Kriaučiūnas. While studying medicine at Moscow University, he was a member and sometime president of the Lithuanian Students Association. He was actively involved with the publication Varpas, being a member and sometime president of the executive board of the Varpininkai and presiding at their conventions. After practicing medicine in Russia for the required period of time in repayment of his scholarship, he returned to Lithuania and during 1892-95 practiced medicine in Vilkaviškis. He moved to Seinai to head the municipal hospital after its director Dr. Juozas Kaukas, died. Eventually Dr. Matulionis married Dr. Kaukas's widow.

His articles and reviews on medical and agrarian topics were published in the periodicals Varpas, Šviesa [Light], Ūkininkas [Farmer]. Dr. Matulaitis attempted to moderate the polemics occurring in Varpas, especially as regards the clergy. In 1893 he put together a calendar for farmers titled Lietuvos ūkininko kalendorius. He also compiled Lithuanian botanical and zoological terminology. To deepen his knowledge of medicine, he went to Karaliaučius, Lithuania Minor, in 1894. All this time he continued to work for the good of Lithuania. After becoming embroiled in the Sietynas (secret Lithuanian organization) Case, he was arrested in 1897 and two years later was exiled to the town in Kotelnich in the Upper Volga region. Here he became ill with typhus and died on April 5, 1900.16,17

Dr. Bronius Pavalkis (1858-1918)

The two brothers Bronius and Steponas (see below) Pavalkis, who were brothers-in-law of Dr. Kazys Grinius (discussed in Pat III), were also contemporaries of the Aušrininkai and lived and worked during the Aušra era.

Born in 1858, Dr. Bronius Pavalkis attended secondary school (gymnasium) in Marijampolė and pursued medical studies at the universities of Warsaw and Moscow. After graduating, he practiced medicine in Marijampolė and served as the gymnasium's physician.

Dr. Grinius remembers him as having been an able physician, an excellent diagnostician, a witty person with a good sense of humor and a capable anecdotist. He was very popular among his patients and had almost more than he could handle. He was a man of many talents and could rattle off "by heart entire passages of the Aeneid." Because he had acquaintances among the Russian officials, more than once he was able to help Dr. Grinius avoid imprisonment and other difficulties.

Dr. Pavalkis spent the war years with his brother, Steponas, in St. Petersburg. Later he journeyed beyond the Caucasus mountain range and, after moving about from place to place, finally reached the Kislovodsk resort in Caucasia. He died there after succumbing to thypus in April 5, 1918, being sixty years old at the time. Alongside his remains rest those of his sister Joana, who was the wife of Dr. Grinius, and her sixteen-year-old daughter, Gražina, both victims shot to death by Bolsheviks.18 19

Dr. Steponas Pavalkis (1861-?)

A specialist of skin and veneral diseases, Dr. Steponas Pavalkis from 1897 held an important position at a hospital in St. Petersburg. According to Dr. Kazys Grinius, he was still alive and living in St. Petersburg in 1939.18 19

Dr. Albertas Stefanavičius (1848-1931)

A man who was not seen much in public circles but who devoted his life to healing was Dr. Albertas Stefanavičius. He was descended from an old noble Lithuanian family to whose forebears Grand Duke Vytautas the Great of Lithuania had granted large areas of land, including forests, and other goods in recognition of their accomplishments. Dr. Stefanavičius completed his medical studies at the St. Petersburg Military Medical Academy in 1883 and continued his education at the clinics of the University of Kiev. Upo defending his dissertation, he was granted a Doctor of Medicine degree. Afterwards he returned to Lithuania and settled in Slabada, Šaukėnai Township, working as a private practitioner.

When he grew old and his health failed, he returned to his birthplace, the estate in Šaukėnai. After Lithuania regained its independence (1918), he was asked by the Šiauliai County self-rule authorities to reorganize the Šiauliai District Hospital, and he was its chief administrator for two years. He was a member of the Šiauliai Physicians Association and was its long-time vice president. Dr. Stefanavičius died in Šaukėnai on March 9, 1932, at the age of eighty-four.20

Dr. Julijonas Šalkauskis (1849-1933)

Dr. Julijonas Šalkauskis was born in Joniškis, Šiauliai County. He attended secondary schools (gymnasiums) in Šiauliai and Mintauja. He studied medicine at the St. Petersburg Military Medical Academy. Upon graduation in 1887, he returned to Lithuania and worked as a physician in Šiauliai. In 1888 he moved to Riga, Latvia, where he continued to practice medicine. He returned to Šiauliai in 1891 and from 1894 until 1905 was a member of the city council of Šiauliai. In 1905 he was elected mayor of Šiauliai. He spent the war years (World War I) in Moscow, returning to Šiauliai after the war. He held the post of physician for the municipal health department until he was eighty years old. Dr. Šalkauskis died in Šiauliai in 1933.21


Other physicians who lived in those times were Dr. Mykolas Chmielauskas (1861-1937),22 Dr. Mykolas Eineris (1858-1935),23 and Dr. Jonas Ganusevičius (1858-1934).24

Doubtless there were more Lithuanian physicians living and working during the Aušra era, but the above names are all that could be garnered from a perusal of Lithuanian sources.

1 Lietuvių enciklopedija, vol. 17, p. 954.
2 Kazys Grinius, Atsiminimai ir Mintys [Memories and Thoughts], vol. 1, 1947, p. 56.
3 Lietuvių enciklopedija, vol. 22, p. 366.
4 Ibid., vol. 11, p. 455.
5 Ibid., vol. 33, p. 194.
6 Ibid., vol. 3, p. 22.
7 Ibid., vol. 4, p. 531.
8 Ibid., vol. 5, p. 104.
9 Sveikatos apsauga, 1958, no. 7, p. 4.
10 Micelmacheris, Sveikatos apsauga Lietuvoje 7978-19 m., 1956, p. 12.
11 Sveikatos apsauga, p. 11.
12 Lietuvių enciklopedija, vol. 11, p. 186.
13 Medicina, 1936, no. 8, p. 624.
14 Ibid., 1931, no. 1, p. 72; ibid., 1932, no. 12, p. 852.
15 Ibid., 1932, no. 6, p. 442.
16 Lietuvių enciklopedija, vol. 17, p. 519.
17 Grinius, p. 51.
18 Ibid., p. 80.
19 Lietuvių enciklopedija, vol. 22, p. 193.
20 Medicina, 1932, no. 3, p. 239.
21 Ibid., 1933, no. 5, p. 326; Lietuvių enciklopedija, vol. 29, p. 320.
22 Medicina, 1937, no. 10, p. 863.
23 Ibid., 1935, no. 8, p. 621.
24 Ibid., 1934, no. 4, p. 239.