Upninkai is in Jonava region, on the right bank of Šventoji River, about 15 km East from Jonava. It is thought that the name of this region derived from the Lithuanian word upė (river), because this area is surrounded by rivers Šventoji, Širvinta, Neris and many smaller rivers. A small river named Lietava flows through this ward. From this name Lietava, based on the opinions of some explorers, the name Lietuva (Lithuania) might have derived. Upninkai land is the biggest ward centre in Jonava region.
People have lived in the surroundings of Upninkai from very old days – it is proved by the abundance of archaeological remnants, Stone Age camps, hill forts, burial mounds, old defence fortifications and other things.
In written sources, the name of Upninkai was first mentioned in the first half of XV century, when Upninkai estate belonged to Astikai noblemen, later Radvilos, Petrauskai and other. In the year 1613 map of the Great Duchy of Lithuania in the Eastern part of Lithuania’s north, among 26 wards, Upninkai were mentioned together with its prayer house. The first church was built there in middle of XV century by the owner of the estate Astikas Radvilaitis. In 1750, the prayer house of St. Michael Archangel was renewed; parochial school was active.
Fires often affected Upninkai. In 1807 majority of lands of Upninkai burned down together with the church. Until the rebuilding of the church mass was held in the presbytery. After suppressing the uprising of 1831, Tsarist government closed it down. Another fire destroyed dwelling houses, distillery, a few saloons, shops and presbytery.
The fire did not touch only the estate’s grain storehouse made of stones. On the behalf of the owner – the storage room was turned into a church, and the interior of the holy place was decorated by sacral art pieces, which were saved from the burnt down church.
After the 1863 uprising the school was Russianized, Lithuanian language and press were banned, book smugglers started their activities, they smuggled forbidden Lithuanian literature from Prussia. J. Vareikis became a book smugletr of this region at a very young age of 18 encouraged my Skaruliai church dean V. Šlegeris. He helped to bring forbidden Lithuanian books (forbidden by Tsar‘s rule) from East Prussia. Later he worked as a rafter – he rafted wood by famous rivers: Šventoji, Neris and Nemunas. After reaching Tilžė on rafts, he took books and came back to Sudarga through Smalininkai on foot. J. Vareikis himself was illiterate, that is why he wanted that people would pursue education. He established a primary in Saleninkai with his own funds.
During the First World War, when Germans took over Upninkai, in 1915 by the initiative of the dean of the church the primary school was re-opened. During the restoration of the country of Lithuania, Upninkai committee was established. Upninkai volunteers filled up the newly formed Lithuanian military forces. During the years of independence a church choir was established next to the church‘s parish. Up until the Soviet occupation subdivisions of Riflemen and cathalic youth union “Pavasarininkai“ were located here, different cultural events were held here. Both occupations painfully affected the people of these regions. In 1941 nazis killed Jews who lived in Upninkai. Before the war ended, next to Gudoniai village, many Svilas-Slyva squad partisans were killed. Many families were sent to live in exile due to support of resistance against Soviet Russia.
Coat of arms
of the community of Upninkai