Marijampole Rimantas Stankevicius General Secondary School together with its partners - Lazdijai District Public Library and the association "Origo" from Polish town Sejny in 2016 implemented a project “ Šešupė and Seina/Marycha - the rivers connecting youth” which was financed by the Lithuanian and Polish youth exchange fund (80 percent of the project was financed by the fund, the other 20% - came from each partner).
It was a 4-day cognitive, ecological and mobile camp, during which the main objective was to make a better use of rivers connections, encourage young people of both nations to cooperate and communicate with each other, take care of environmental problems and enhance their lifestyle and habits. The project participants got better acquainted with each other, in separate sections they improved the ecological status of rivers (collected litter from the riverbanks), learned about water quality tests, got familiar with the impact of pollution on flora and fauna.
The origins of the Szeszupa river are in the village of Szeszupka near Suwalki, in the north-eastern part of Poland.At the beginning it flows through a deep valley in the north eastern Poland (27 km),then 158 km through Lithuania: first it flows towards the north-east in Kalvarija municipality area, from the village Želsva (Marijampole municipality) winds to the north, from the village Gavaltuva turns west and flows mainly on Vilkaviškis and Šakiai districts boundary. Behind Kudirkos Naumiestis the river turns towards north-west, 51 km it flows through the Lithuanian-Russian state border.From the junction with Jotija river to the mouth the river flows through the territory of Russia (62 km). Szeszupa flows into the river Nemunas 85 km from its mouth, to east of Ragainė, towards the village of Lugovoi. Šešupė basin covers an area of 6,104.8 km² (in Lithuania it takes 4899 km²). (1)
Seina (in Polish: Marycha, Belarusian: Марыха) – a river in northeastern Poland, Podlasie Province and Belarus; some parts of it are Lithuania-Poland (about 10 km) and Lithuania-Belarus (about 10 km) natural state border.It is left tributary of the Czarna Hańcza river. Its length - 80.8 km. The river basin covers the area of 432.4 km². The river valley is wide, in some parts forested (Augustów Primeval Forest). The river basin was shaped by Baltic glaciation and has a varied terrain with numerous glacial gutter or melt lakes and kettle holes. The source of the river is located in Poland in the area of Puńsk (Podlaskie voivodeship), next it flows through the town ofSejny, passes through Pomorze lake, then serves as the natural Polish–Lithuanian and Lithuanian–Belarusian border, north to the village Czertok the river flows into the Czarna Hańcza river, as its left-bank tributary. (2)The name of the river Seina comes from Yotvingians. The river is mentioned in 1385 in descriptions of the Teutonic Knights’ way.
Knowledge of these two border rivers and opportunities they provide for young people living on both sides of the border became a common action uniting Lithuanian and Polish youth.
This year on 13-16 June there was a four-day introductory, mobile and ecological camp.
Each partner delegated 10 students who implemented project goals - intercultural dialogue and interest in ecology.
The first activity took place in Sejny, where participants visited the consulate of the Republic of Lithuania. Another class was held in the museum of Wigry National Park. Next they visited the crypt in the Basilica of the Visitation of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Sejny, where Lithuanian poet A. Baranauskas is buried.The project participants had the opportunity to hear a lot of interesting historical facts about A. Baranauskas as well as V. Kudirka - known poets and their connections with Sejny. They sailed on a boatwith a glass botėtom, had the opportunity to be close to beavers’ nest and watch the life of aquatic birds. Later they got really impressed by Camaldolese monastery in Wigry.Originally it was the legendary Lithuanian Grand Dukes hunting manor, later in 1667 king Jan II Kazimierz Waza granted the land to Camaldolese monks who arrived from Italy.On the island of Lake Wigry, in later times connected to the mainland, they created a beautiful, baroque monastery that recalls Ensemble of Pażaislis Church and Monastery in Kaunas, Lithuania.Here settled monks were obligated to pray for the prosperity of the state and ruler.In 1795 the monastery was taken over by the Prussian government and in1796 allmonastery’s goods were confiscated, the monastery became the centre of the Wigry diocese.The day ended with canoeing down the river Seina (Marycha), which on section of Zelwa - Stanowisko flows along Lithuanian - Polish border. The participants had possibility to learn aboutthe flora and fauna of the river Marycha, from the presence of bio-indicators in plants they could test the quality of water in the river and collected rubbish from the riverside. In the evening, a lecturer acquainted them with natural values of the region, cultural specifity and presented the ecological situation of rivers.
The activities of the second day moved to Lazdijai and Kapčiamiestis.A representative of management of the Regional Park in Veisiejai told the camp participants about the administration building which is located in Veisiejai Regional Park,about Dzūkija region (customs and traditions, tools previously used for household and their names), about organized open-air painting and pictures, which are exhibited in a basement of Veisiejai Regional Park, etc. While visiting the central part of the town the participants were told many stories about famous people who lived there, the history of the townand why the doors of the houses around the central square are on the street side. There were briefly mentioned other interesting objects to see in the town and surrounding area.In the village Vainežeris the project participants visited the remains of the manor withthe park with rare trees and a small lake. In that manor in 1831 the participant of the uprising, E. Pliaterytė died. She is also known as Lithuanian Jeanne d'Arc.In that place there is a sculpture to commemorate her by E. Pause.
After arriving to Kapčiamiestis the project participants visited the museum of Emilija Pliaterytė where the museum director widely presented the history of the Countess and other exhibits being there.
In the evening, after canoeing, during which there was observed the environment, taken test tubes of water, collected rubbish the participants listened to a lecture about wildlife in Veisiejai regional park.Particular attention was paid to the strictly protected natural asset of Republic of Lithuania – a pond turtle.The lecturer told about the reproduction of those animals and the methods by which they try to protect them from different threats (e.g. foxes).There were presented statistics on how many places to lay eggs there are every year, how many pond turtles hatched healthy, how many of them survived, etc.Each project participant learned how he can help personally protect those endangered species, also called "iron frog“.
The third day began with a trip to Suwalki Landscape Park and the source of the river Šešupė, located between villages Szeszupka and Turtul. The participants were welcomed by the director of the park.Despite the rain, the participants underwent the tour route "to the sources of Šešupė..."which would be inaccessible if not a wooden bridge over the forest swamps and peat bogs. The young people were delighted that they had found the place where the biggest river of Suduva began. Next it flows through the hometown - Marijampolė. The next point of interest was Puńsk – often called the capital of Lithuanians in Poland. The participants visited Juozas Vaina Ethnographic Museum where they could see a lot of exhibits from the life of local residents and had the opportunity to learn about the cultural heritage of Lithuanians in those areas.
Later, the participants with their samples of water went to laboratories ofMarijampolė Regional Environmental Protection Department (RAAD), where the water of rivers was tested. Using nitrate and phosphate test strips it was found that the content of those materials in both rivers does not exceed the permissible limits. Specialists from Marijampolė district waste management centre acquainted the participants with the need for waste segregation, etc.It was discussed a lot about the prospects of segregation. Most of the students for the first time saw such a large amount of litter. This experience helped to understand the importance of sorting waste, reducing consumerism.In the evening the students together with their group leaders participated in a quiz, which required not only knowledge acquired at a camp but also teamwork and general knowledge.They received preparedleaflets about bio-indicators in plants. They found a lot of information on how can recognition ofplants visually determine the level of water pollution. There was a cool discussion about the plants the participants saw or the state of water they tested. There were questions about the river connecting youth, environmental protection, waste segregation, bio-indicators in plants and none of the participants remained indifferent to those questions. For a long time lasted the debate about new facts that were not from a textbook, but experienced and discovered by themselves ...
That common four-day camp ended with kayaking on route Bukta - Liudvinavas, after which there was a discussion of the project and the dissemination of collected information.All the participants enjoyed the joint action and each of them received a backpack with the logo of the project as a gift and as a reminder of activities and obligation to be responsible. They also made new friends and learned a few words in a foreign language. Experience how much we can learn from a person that is nearby or the environment helped to understand that the ice in relations of cooperation and communication melted. After the camp, the participants felt a little bit tired from such amount of information and experience but they talked with great enthusiasm about what they will be able do themselves. There was conducted an anonymous survey about impressions and expectations. From the results it can be concluded that the camp was successful.Participants' social and intercultural diversity helped to make a step forward to a better communication and cooperation.High speed, a lot of information in a short period of time, but all was experienced personally. And after all, learning through experience is the most important task these days. Thus, the young people living at the border of Lithuania and Poland showed that common action can bring people together and build bridges between nations.