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Brief history of Druskininkai

Druskininkai is the southernmost town in Lithuania; it is also considered to be the oldest Lithuanian health resort celebrated for its salty springs and a mild warm microclimate. This is the present-day Lithuanian name of the region, Druskininkai, that derived from those saltwater intrusions. Although the written sources explicitly mention Druskininkai town only in 1636, however, its history can be traced back to at least the Stone Age period. In the 19th century a lot of representatives of the intellectual society, including the founders of the crystal springs resort and other enthusiastic individuals, headed to Druskininkai town that had been imagined as an authentic„archaeological site„. Nowadays we are all well aware of the famous archaeological findings assemblages contemplated by the explorer of the Lithuanian history T. Narbutas, as well as by the further mentioned doctors of Druskininkai: K. Volfgang, A. Reynier; K. Von Schmidt, the first caretaker of mineral springs and Z. Gloger, the famous historian and ethnographer and many others.
Some of the 19th century sources also explores a historical and archaeological thought related to Druskininkai town and the period of the Crusades. As per this opinion, in the period of the armed conflicts between Lithuanians and Crusaders a tower intended for defence was built on the right shore of the river Ratnyčėlė, by the side of the river Nemunas.
In the 18th century Druskininkai appeared to be only an ordinary Lithuanian countryside site including 5 peasant homesteads. It belonged to the Pervalkas ward that consisted only of 2 small towns: Pervalkas and Ratnyčia, 16 countryside sites (together with Druskininkai) being under the rule of 1 folwark (palivarkas in Lithuanian), 2 farmsteads (small patches of land at field's end), 3 rivers (including water resources of Druskininkai) and 3 narrow inlets. In the 18th century the Pervalkas ward together with a countryside site of Druskininkai was under the rule of and belonged to the Oginskiai family.  The people who dwelled in the Druskininkai countryside region were adult parents and their adolescent children. Usually brothers, cousins, nephews, their children and other blood relatives, as well as relatives-in-law and their helpers were joining the homestead. The house and homestead helpers, mergos of the female sex and bernai of the male sex, used to provide a great help in the land and farm works. The most popular given name for boys among the population of Druskininkai was Kazimieras. Fairly widespread family names of the peasants were nicknames based and also of the typical Lithuanian origin. Throughout the 18th century an incessent continuance of the Sūručiai and Dailidės family and kin was observed.  There appears to be an interesting fact related to the Sūručiai family‘s continuance. At the end of the 18th century a domination of the above mentioned family was officially confirmed, since at this period Druskininkai countryside site consisted of 6 families in total and 3 of them belonged to the Sūručiai kin. Those families were supposed to pay taxes on their income, perform 3-day long corvée labor, imposed on people of lower social standing, handle a mushroom cord to the governor, and the governor was entitled to send them with various tasks to Vilnius city 3 times a year.  Not only were peasants engaged in agriculture and husbandry, they also practiced beekeeping. In 1769 Laurynas Sūrutis had 15 hollow logs, and his neighbour Stanislovas Dailidė owned only 2 logs. However, even those were sufficient to supply the rest of neighbours with honey. Altogether the Druskininkai populants were fit enough to lead the peasants life. The peasants of Druskininkai had been designated as gentlemen farmers. Although this still does not suggest their belonging to one of these upper social classes. The above mentioned gentlemen were meant to be representatives of the upper class of working peasants. They did not appertain to the private country-seat, but to the country-seat and estate of the ruler which caused less exploitation. At the end of the 18th century a small public inn (karčema in Lithuanian) was founded in Druskininkai. It became an establishment where the populants could usually seek food and drink, and enjoy the sad and happy times. Earlier  people had to move long distances until Pervalka and Ratnyčia towns in order to reach the nearest inn.  As for the purpose of prayers and a private confession to a priest, people once again had to travel to the outsider church that was built in the Ratnyčia town in 1650. This communication environment originated in the neighbouring towns and even took place on the territory of Vilnius city. Such way of life mightily affected populants‘ self-awareness and a perception of the world.
Many illustrious stories about the folk doctors come to us from the 18th century. Until present days people talk of the marvellous doctors of the Sūručiai kin and providential Druskininkai springs that helped to treat different diseases. Local countrymen had noticed many times that wounded legs were getting better after wading in the miraculous springs on the side of the Nemunas river, and livestock animals were getting healthier and fatter too after drinking from the springs.
 

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