Vilijampolė Borough in Kaunas, Lithuania | True Lithuania
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Vilijampolė Borough

Still sometimes called by its Yiddish name "Slabotkė" Vilijampolė was the Jewish district of Kaunas. Unfortunately, little remains of that era with the Jewish community decimated and forced to flee during World War 2; many buildings were demolished afterward.

Southern Vilijampolė (the area around Jurbarko, Veliuonos, Linkuvos streets) remains more authentic, with its primarily wooden buildings crowded on small lots along narrow streets, a few of them still unpaved.

The small rental apartments in architecturally unimpressive buildings once housed poor Jewish and non-Jewish families (rich Jews left Vilijampolė for better boroughs in the 19th century but were forced back during the German occupation in 1941). Even the local Catholic church building lacks the typical glory: built as a simple two-story house it received a tower only in 2004.

Buildings in Jurbarko street. This trunk road delimits the southern boundary of historic southern Vilijampolė. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Northern Vilijampolė was largely rebuilt by the Soviets in Stalinist (a few buildings around Sąjungos square, itself a former cemetery) and Functionalist (further north) styles. The street layout has also been changed there.

Unappealing looks earned Vilijampolė a bad reputation, not helped by the infamous Daktarai gang of the early 1990s which was based there.

Žemaičių road in northeastern Vilijampolė climbs a hill and from there you can enjoy a panorama of the city. Unfortunately, it is Vilijampolė itself that is most visible there and the lovelier neighborhoods (Old Town, New Town) are in the background. Therefore other vantage points such as the top funicular station in Aleksotas offer better views.

A cafe on poles overlooks the Vilijampolė skyline. Kaunas city consists of low Neris and Nemunas valleys and higher hill districts, providing good viewpoints. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Just like Aleksotas, Vilijampolė was considered to be a separate town until 1919. Vilijampolė stands on the opposite bank of Neris river from the Kaunas Old Town and on the opposite bank of Nemunas river from Aleksotas.

Vilijampolė map is included in the map of Kaunas fortress area.

Article written by Augustinas Žemaitis

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  1. are the names of the streets the same as they were before WWII?

    • Many are. Under the Soviet occupation, the Kaunas street names were changed, however, with the 1990 independence, most were returned. However, there are some names that are not the same anymore.

  2. I think my family came from there. Shufro is the last name. We want to visit next year.

  3. My family is from there. Last name Schaewitch and variations thereof.

  4. i just happened on this website. my family was from Vilijampoile. The names were briker (brin later in the USA) and Glezer (glasser) in the USA. Also, Linder and blumenthal and stein and possibly, rosenberg. we visited there 4 years ago. i want to return. covid put a halt to travel, but it is on my bucket list for a return visit.

  5. My mother’s great grandmother came from this town. Last name Karpas.

  6. My family was from there, and the Germans murdered all but three in the Holocaust. Their last name was Tzseler, however, it was changed when they immigrated to the USA to Chesler in the early 1900’s.

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