“Let’s go, girls! We will travel to the year 1822 in Zalessie, hold on tight!” GRISHA says in full enthusiasm. BOM, BAM, BOM, we have landed! As we open the door, we are greeted by the sweet, earthy autumnal smell of fallen leaves. We see a huge, beautiful, and perhaps a little gloomy garden in front of us. We jump out of GRISHA and run through the garden: it is very still, but so beautiful with the cold transparent air and even some rays of sun on our faces!
Then we walk towards a beautiful house standing there in front of us! Will we meet Oginski there? Will he be happy to see us? We open the door of this mansion and there we see a man, he is crying his tears out, and has his hands in front of his eyes... What is going? When he sees us he looks completely bewildered. Who are you? Are you lost? No, we say, and explain him who we are; time travellers meeting important Belarusian heroes. Ah he says, I must be hallucinating from all my grief and sorrow. But he seems to go along with the hallucination as he says, “I will wipe my tears and tell you everything.”
“You see all of this? This is my home, has been my home for the past 20 years! I have been so happy here, appreciating the beauty of this place every day... Unfortunately, I am not a young man any more, and definitely not as healthy as I used to be. Maybe that is the reason for my hallucinations?..” he sort of asks himself. We smile politely...
“So, I have to say goodbye to my home, my everything and move to Florence. And I secretly know that this time I won’t return to my motherland,” he adds with the saddest look on his face we have ever seen. But suddenly he says; follow me I will show you everything! While running through his house, we hear amazing stories that each room has to tell. “This is my study room. Here I sat with my friends and colleagues for hours and hours discussing diplomatic stuff, pressing issues and big news.”
As we run behind him into the next room, he tells us of the amazing music events and balls that were held in it. “This is where I used to play, and the crowd used to dance all through the night. It looks so empty and desolated now...” As we walk through this ballroom, we can almost see the shadows of the past guests, hear their laughter, the chatter and the music. It’s a bit hypnotic.
Then he opens a door to the outside and we follow him. We walk briskly through the garden, trying to keep up with his speed and enthusiasm for this place. He shows us the French and English garden, a botanic garden, a zoo, greenhouses and even a mill! We are amazed by this beauty and understand very well why Oginski doesn’t want to leave his home.
Then we follow him back inside. “How can I ever leave this place?.. I may have not been born here, but this land is where my family comes from.” We feel the pain in his voice. We deicde to ask him whether he could maybe play a song for us on the piano. Maybe he could express his grief for his motherland through the music. “That is a great idea, my hallucinatory friends,” says Oginski, “I will play what I feel and I hope that one day this song will be heard by all that I love and care about.”
As he begins to play his now famous “Farewell to Homeland” polonaise, we just freeze... we stand there in silence and with goosebumps all over our body. Listening to this emotional and touching music. We look at each other and both of us have tears in our eyes. This is a song for all of us, all who with a shared history connected to this land. It starts off very gentle and melancholic, building up to a more resonant and rigorous melody in the middle, and then going to a soft and soulful reprise. His music is just a very good reminder of who we are and that we have a very very rich and beautiful history. After he is finished we applaud as loudly as we can and see that Oginski now has a very sad but also peaceful smile on his face. He says that this is his farewell present to his country, to his motherland. May this piece be remembered by those who need to find their origin, their love, because I am very happy to have found my love for this beautiful country. We tell him that this piece is not forgotten, to the contrary! This is a very famous melody that will be loved by people from many countries in the future. Belarus even considered making it its national anthem at one point! He smiles and says, good! Girls in my dream, will you help me pack my bags? I will have to go soon! After helping Oginski’s pack his bag we wave him goodbye and wish him all the best with his travel and his health!
“Thank you, girls! I will not forget you!” And he is gone...
While walking back to GRISHA, we discuss that we are so lucky to not only have met Michał Kleofas Ogiński, but to have met him during such a difficult time of his life. He was able to teach us an important lesson: we should use the pain and grief we feel to do wonderful things. We suddenly hear softly the polonaise of Oginski this time with Belarusian lyrics, coming from GRISHA. This touches our hearts and makes us cry, again. GRISHA tells us that we just met an amazing man. An international figure that is claimed by many nations. Whatever the truth is, he was connected to our land, he spent a lot of time in Zalessie, the place he loved and called his home. So, it is time that we Belarusians also took pride in Oginski. We can’t agree more with GRISHA! This man was an outstanding politician, who showed courage when it was needed. For example, he used his own money to help fund the Kościuszko Uprising, fought for what he believed was right, and dreamed of restoring unity of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania… But what he was able to realize in his music was beyond politics: it belonged to all of humankind.