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Archive for May, 2010

A Canadian recapturing his roots

- Posted by - (1) Comment

Vic Pakalnis here. I was born a Lithuanian – Canadian in a small northern mining town , Malartic , Quebec. My parents Vytautas Pakalniskis and my mother Elena Tamasauskas came to Canada after  World War II. They met and married and I was born in 1950. My grandparents also came over at the same time: Simas and Elena  Tamasauskas . They   taught  me Lithuanian at home ; I learnt French on the street from friends and English when I went to school . My grandparents told me of the glories of ancient Lithuania but also of the hard times under the Nazis and then the Bolsheviks.  It was a sad tale they recounted – my grandfather’s brother was a priest that was sent off to Siberia never to return.  I recall aunts and uncles that had settled in Detroit , Michigan sending packages back home and the stories of misery under Soviet rule . My parents and grandparents never did see Lithuania again  and I certainly had misgivings about visiting but with my 60th birthday approaching, my “ Bucket List”  beckoned , I decided to go  to Vilnius  with my  19 year old son, Peter . This was last summer: June 2010. The journey back home to a place I only imagined for many many years.

We only spent  a week  there – cost us less than $5k all in, but it was a  priceless experience and one you might think of having if you haven’t been to Lithuania recently or haven’t been at all . My son Peter and I came away with a number of great friends and 3 projects that we’re working on.


Vic Pakalnis with his son Peter and the Lithuanian Ambassador to Canada, Ginte Damusis. 

To prepare, we met with the Lithuanian Ambassador to Canada : Ginte Damusis ,   exceptionally  helpful. She provided contacts with the Mykolas Romeris University (MRU), the Lithuanian Institute for Public Administration and briefings on current issues in Lithuania.  The Embassy is quite helpful for business contacts and  even  tourist information . My background is in the mining industry and in the Ontario Public Service (32yrs with the Ontario Ministry of Labour )  and so I was interested in how the new democracy was  unfolding . My son is studying Political Science at Queen’s University , Kingston , Ontario  where I teach  presently .  So our first stop was at MRU ‘s  School of Public Administration . I delivered a lecture on Canadian public services . they were particularly interested in  how we evaluate leadership competencies in the public service . Ontario’s  TRIC to Leadership evaluates 4 key competencies – ability to transform ( T)  , manage change; deliver results ( R)  , good ideas are not sufficient , you need to show results , to lead by inspiration  (I)  not command and control and finally C for connects , across private and public sectors , across ministries , across oceans . Every senior manager from Deputy Minister to Director is evaluated on these competencies.

MRU  is a modern facility, a great learning environment  and the faculty and graduate students attending the session were impressive – they  knew exactly the issues  facing a  professional , non-partisan public service .  There was an interest in establishing an institution relationship  between MRU and Queen’s U.  ( Project #1) .  We’re hoping to deliver  public executive leadership training that might attract interest from other Baltic countries .  I found  the public services in Lithuania  to be less than they can be terms of customer satisfaction  , efficiency and in how they serve the elected government  of the day – the younger generation is ready to change that but there needs to be a renewal in the public service to make that happen .

Someone that has not an ounce of Lithuanian blood but has the soul of a Lithuanian is former Ontario deputy minister  of tourism, Thomas Gibson . He visits Lithuania annual and always enjoys it.  He advised me to meet up with VIC News editor, Aage Myhre when in Vilnius.  And so I did and I met a kindred spirit . He  showed off his town – the night clubs  - 20 or 30 at last count ,  the restaurants  , old Vilnius  and  new Vilnius  and as we sat in the Square  in front of the Presidential Palace sipping  Courvoisier Cognac  -watching the many brides and their bridesmaids touring the square ( picture of the bride et al)  he turned to me and said – “ You know , Napoleon Bonaparte  ( he enjoyed Cognac too) stood  20 feet from where you sit and on June 28th , 1812  addressed his troops before marching off to Moscow . “  Now every Canadian would know that 1812 is significant – it’s  in the War of 1812 that we fought and won the battle against the Americans  , in fact  in burning down the White House we gave the Americans an opportunity to paint it white .  So  as the brandy flowed ,  the plan for a reunion in   June 28th , 2012  took shape . Perhaps  we could get  a  gathering of a few  Canadian – Lithuanians ,   perhaps  get  that famous  poet and singer  and proud  Lithuanian–Canadian  Leonard Cohen to sing :  first we take Vilnius and then we take Berlin !  By the way, the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts has the hat that Napoleon worn on that day in Vilnius June 28th 1812.  Perhaps we get it and the Napoleon exhibit over for the occasion. (Project #2).


The Lithuanian Parliament (Seimas) 

The trip to the Lithuanian Parliament, Seimas  was momentous – its bright , well organized  and  unlike parliaments in Ottawa and Toronto , it has windows !  The party system is similar to Canada‘s. The conservatives are in power  and two parties resembling the liberals and NDP are in opposition .  Outside the Seimas is an exhibit  with pictures , tank barriers and steel girders that stopped the Soviet tanks from occupying the Lithuanian parliament – Never take democracy for granted  -   Peter buried a rock we brought from Canada and  that we buried near the exhibit . if you find it , read the message and re-bury it please.

And finally the discussion  centered around Lithuania’s greatest need   -  a number of  options emerged and then   Egle ,   Aage‘s wife convinced me that that  Lithuanian’s greatest need was ENERGY . As part of the requirements for entry into the EU, Lithuania had to de-commission its Russian built nuclear plant . It provided 80% of the country’s energy .  It was replaced by an oil burning plant with oil piped in from Russia   . Its expensive and not particularly reliable and a source of greenhouse emissions . So what about a  Canadian  CANDU reactor , the safest nuclear reactor in the world , doesn’t use enriched uranium , and that doesn’t contribute to climate changing greenhouse gasses .  ( project #3 ) .  It would be good for Canada , Lithuania and neighbouring Baltic countries.

The four amigos : Zilvenas , Aage , Vic and Peter committed to change Lithuania for the better. 

So as I  came back to my life in Canada,  my time in Vilnius is still fresh in my mind, I‘ve recaptured  my Lithuanian roots and more importantly my son has  very much discovered  his roots – he is working on opening a business in Vilnius and is  working his political network in Ottawa to get that CANDU  reactor into Lithuania .   I’m working on the draft agreement with MRU and as for  VILNUS 2012 -  stay tuned !!!





Vic Pakalnis , P.Eng. , MBA , M.Eng.


Kinross Professorship in Mining & Sustainability

The Robert M. Buchan Department of Mining

Goodwin Hall - 25 Union st , Room 325B

Queen's University

Kingston , Ontario Canada K7L 3N6

Tel 613-533-3327

Fax 613-533-6597

My son Peter in Trakai, Lithuania’s Middle Age capital. Peter loved Lithuania so much, he has already returned once for business – last autumn –  and will be again soon!

Summer in Vilnius is fantastic! The lively Rotuses (Town Hall) Square is the centre of it all, and Peter enjoyed very much moving around on a Segway (you see him on one in the street, to the right).

Category : Lithuania in the world


Have your say. Send to:

By Dr. Boris Vytautas Bakunas,
Ph. D., Chicago

A wave of unity sweeps the international Lithuanian community on March 11th every year as Lithuanians celebrated the anniversary of the Lithuanian Parliament's declaration of independence from the Soviet Union in 1990. However, the sense of national unity engendered by the celebration could be short-lived.

Human beings have a strong tendency to overgeneralize and succumb to stereotypical us-them distinctions that can shatter even the strongest bonds. We need only search the internet to find examples of divisive thinking at work:

- "50 years of Soviet rule has ruined an entire generation of Lithuanian.

- "Those who fled Lithuania during World II were cowards -- and now they come back, flaunt their wealth, and tell us 'true Lithuanians' how to live."

- "Lithuanians who work abroad have abandoned their homeland and should be deprived of their Lithuanian citizenship."

Could such stereotypical, emotionally-charged accusations be one of the main reasons why relations between Lithuania's diaspora groups and their countrymen back home have become strained?

* * *

Text: Saulene Valskyte

In Lithuania Christmas Eve is a family event and the New Year's Eve a great party with friends!
Lithuanian say "Kaip sutiksi naujus metus, taip juos ir praleisi" (the way you'll meet the new year is the way you will spend it). So everyone is trying to spend New Year's Eve with friend and have as much fun as possible.

Lithuanian New Year's traditions are very similar to those in other countries, and actually were similar since many years ago. Also, the traditional Lithuanian New Years Eve party was very similar to other big celebrations throughout the year.

The New Year's Eve table is quite similar to the Christmas Eve table, but without straws under the tablecloth, and now including meat dishes. A tradition that definitely hasn't changes is that everybody is trying not to fell asleep before midnight. It was said that if you oversleep the midnight point you will be lazy all the upcoming year. People were also trying to get up early on the first day of the new year, because waking up late also meant a very lazy and unfortunate year.

During the New Year celebration people were dancing, singing, playing games and doing magic to guess the future. People didn't drink much of alcohol, especially was that the case for women.

Here are some advices from elders:
- During the New Year, be very nice and listen to relatives - what you are during New Year Eve, you will be throughout the year.

- During to the New Year Eve, try not to fall, because if this happens, next year you will be unhappy.

- If in the start of the New Year, the first news are good - then the year will be successful. If not - the year will be problematic.

New year predictions
* If during New Year eve it's snowing - then it will be bad weather all year round. If the day is fine - one can expect good harvest.
* If New Year's night is cold and starry - look forward to a good summer!
* If the during New Year Eve trees are covered with frost - then it will be a good year. If it is wet weather on New Year's Eve, one can expect a year where many will die and dangerous epidemics occur.
* If the first day of the new year is snowy - the upcoming year will see many young people die. If the night is snowy - mostly old people will die.
* If the New Year time is cold - then Easter will be warm.
* If during New Year there are a lot of birds in your homestead - then all year around there will be many guests and the year will be fun.

* * *

* * *
Christmas greetings
from Vilnius

* * *
Ukraine won the historic
and epic battle for the
By Leonidas Donskis
Philosopher, political theorist, historian of
ideas, social analyst, and political

Immediately after Russia stepped in Syria, we understood that it is time to sum up the convoluted and long story about Ukraine and the EU - a story of pride and prejudice which has a chance to become a story of a new vision regained after self-inflicted blindness.

Ukraine was and continues to be perceived by the EU political class as a sort of grey zone with its immense potential and possibilities for the future, yet deeply embedded and trapped in No Man's Land with all of its troubled past, post-Soviet traumas, ambiguities, insecurities, corruption, social divisions, and despair. Why worry for what has yet to emerge as a new actor of world history in terms of nation-building, European identity, and deeper commitments to transparency and free market economy?

Right? Wrong. No matter how troubled Ukraine's economic and political reality could be, the country has already passed the point of no return. Even if Vladimir Putin retains his leverage of power to blackmail Ukraine and the West in terms of Ukraine's zero chances to accede to NATO due to the problems of territorial integrity, occupation and annexation of Crimea, and mayhem or a frozen conflict in the Donbas region, Ukraine will never return to Russia's zone of influence. It could be deprived of the chances to join NATO or the EU in the coming years or decades, yet there are no forces on earth to make present Ukraine part of the Eurasia project fostered by Putin.

* * *
Watch this video if you
want to learn about the
new, scary propaganda
war between Russia,
The West and the
Baltic States!

* * *
90% of all Lithuanians
believe their government
is corrupt
Lithuania is perceived to be the country with the most widespread government corruption, according to an international survey involving almost 40 countries.

* * *
Lithuanian medical
students say no to
bribes for doctors

On International Anticorruption Day, the Special Investigation Service shifted their attention to medical institutions, where citizens encounter bribery most often. Doctors blame citizens for giving bribes while patients complain that, without bribes, they won't receive proper medical attention. Campaigners against corruption say that bribery would disappear if medical institutions themselves were to take resolute actions against corruption and made an effort to take care of their patients.

* * *
Doing business in Lithuania

By Grant Arthur Gochin
California - USA

Lithuania emerged from the yoke of the Soviet Union a mere 25 years ago. Since then, Lithuania has attempted to model upon other European nations, joining NATO, Schengen, and the EU. But, has the Soviet Union left Lithuania?

During Soviet times, government was administered for the people in control, not for the local population, court decisions were decreed, they were not the administration of justice, and academia was the domain of ideologues. 25 years of freedom and openness should have put those bad experiences behind Lithuania, but that is not so.

Today, it is a matter of expectation that court pronouncements will be governed by ideological dictates. Few, if any Lithuanians expect real justice to be effected. For foreign companies, doing business in Lithuania is almost impossible in a situation where business people do not expect rule of law, so, surely Government would be a refuge of competence?

Lithuanian Government has not emerged from Soviet styles. In an attempt to devolve power, Lithuania has created a myriad of fiefdoms of power, each speaking in the name of the Government, each its own centralized power base of ideology.

* * *
Greetings from Wales!
By Anita Šovaitė-Woronycz
Chepstow, Wales

Think of a nation in northern Europe whose population is around the 3 million mark a land of song, of rivers, lakes, forests, rolling green hills, beautiful coastline a land where mushrooms grow ready for the picking, a land with a passion for preserving its ancient language and culture.

Doesn't that sound suspiciously like Lithuania? Ah, but I didn't mention the mountains of Snowdonia, which would give the game away.

I'm talking about Wales, that part of the UK which Lithuanians used to call "Valija", but later named "Velsas" (why?). Wales, the nation which has welcomed two Lithuanian heads of state to its shores - firstly Professor Vytautas Landsbergis, who has paid several visits and, more recently, President Dalia Grybauskaitė who attended the 2014 NATO summit which was held in Newport, South Wales.

* * *
Read Cassandra's article HERE

Read Rugile's article HERE

Did you know there is a comment field right after every article we publish? If you read the two above posts, you will see that they both have received many comments. Also YOU are welcome with your comments. To all our articles!
* * *

Greetings from Toronto
By Antanas Sileika,
Toronto, Canada

Toronto was a major postwar settlement centre for Lithuanian Displaced Persons, and to this day there are two Catholic parishes and one Lutheran one, as well as a Lithuanian House, retirement home, and nursing home. A new wave of immigrants has showed interest in sports.

Although Lithuanian activities have thinned over the decades as that postwar generation died out, the Lithuanian Martyrs' parish hall is crowded with many, many hundreds of visitors who come to the Lithuanian cemetery for All Souls' Day. Similarly, the Franciscan parish has standing room only for Christmas Eve mass.

Although I am firmly embedded in the literary culture of Canada, my themes are usually Lithuanian, and I'll be in Kaunas and Vilnius in mid-November 2015 to give talks about the Lithuanian translations of my novels and short stories, which I write in English.

If you have the Lithuanian language, come by to one of the talks listed in the links below. And if you don't, you can read more about my work at
* * *

As long as VilNews exists,
there is hope for the future
Professor Irena Veisaite, Chairwoman of our Honorary Council, asked us to convey her heartfelt greetings to the other Council Members and to all readers of VilNews.

"My love and best wishes to all. As long as VilNews exists, there is hope for the future,"" she writes.

Irena Veisaite means very much for our publication, and we do hereby thank her for the support and wise commitment she always shows.

You can read our interview with her
* * *
Facing a new reality

By Vygaudas Ušackas
EU Ambassador to the Russian Federation

Dear readers of VilNews,

It's great to see this online resource for people interested in Baltic affairs. I congratulate the editors. From my position as EU Ambassador to Russia, allow me to share some observations.

For a number of years, the EU and Russia had assumed the existence of a strategic partnership, based on the convergence of values, economic integration and increasingly open markets and a modernisation agenda for society.

Our agenda was positive and ambitious. We looked at Russia as a country ready to converge with "European values", a country likely to embrace both the basic principles of democratic government and a liberal concept of the world order. It was believed this would bring our relations to a new level, covering the whole spectrum of the EU's strategic relationship with Russia.

* * *

The likelihood of Putin
invading Lithuania
By Mikhail Iossel
Professor of English at Concordia University, Canada
Founding Director at Summer Literary Seminars

The likelihood of Putin's invading Lithuania or fomenting a Donbass-style counterfeit pro-Russian uprising there, at this point, in my strong opinion, is no higher than that of his attacking Portugal, say, or Ecuador. Regardless of whether he might or might not, in principle, be interested in the insane idea of expanding Russia's geographic boundaries to those of the former USSR (and I for one do not believe that has ever been his goal), he knows this would be entirely unfeasible, both in near- and long-term historical perspective, for a variety of reasons. It is not going to happen. There will be no restoration of the Soviet Union as a geopolitical entity.

* * *

Are all Lithuanian energy
problems now resolved?
By Dr. Stasys Backaitis,
P.E., CSMP, SAE Fellow Member of Central and Eastern European Coalition, Washington, D.C., USA

Lithuania's Energy Timeline - from total dependence to independence

Lithuania as a country does not have significant energy resources. Energy consuming infrastructure after WWII was small and totally supported by energy imports from Russia.

First nuclear reactor begins power generation at Ignalina in 1983, the second reactor in 1987. Iganlina generates enough electricity to cover Lithuania's needs and about 50%.for export. As, prerequisite for membership in EU, Ignalina ceases all nuclear power generation in 2009

The Klaipėda Sea terminal begins Russia's oil export operations in 1959 and imports in 1994.

Mazeikiu Nafta (current ORLEAN Lietuva) begins operation of oil refinery in 1980.

* * *

Have Lithuanian ties across
the Baltic Sea become
stronger in recent years?
By Eitvydas Bajarunas
Ambassador to Sweden

My answer to affirmative "yes". Yes, Lithuanian ties across the Baltic Sea become as never before solid in recent years. For me the biggest achievement of Lithuania in the Baltic Sea region during recent years is boosting Baltic and Nordic ties. And not because of mere accident - Nordic direction was Lithuania's strategic choice.

The two decades that have passed since regaining Lithuania's independence can be described as a "building boom". From the wreckage of a captive Soviet republic, a generation of Lithuanians have built a modern European state, and are now helping construct a Nordic-Baltic community replete with institutions intended to promote political coordination and foster a trans-Baltic regional identity. Indeed, a "Nordic-Baltic community" - I will explain later in my text the meaning of this catch-phrase.

Since the restoration of Lithuania's independence 25 years ago, we have continuously felt a strong support from Nordic countries. Nordics in particular were among the countries supporting Lithuania's and Baltic States' striving towards independence. Take example of Iceland, country which recognized Lithuania in February of 1991, well in advance of other countries. Yet another example - Swedish Ambassador was the first ambassador accredited to Lithuania in 1991. The other countries followed suit. When we restored our statehood, Nordic Countries became champions in promoting Baltic integration into Euro-Atlantic institutions. To large degree thanks Nordic Countries, massive transformations occurred in Lithuania since then, Lithuania became fully-fledged member of the EU and NATO, and we joined the Eurozone on 1 January 2015.

* * *

It's the economy, stupid *
By Valdas (Val) Samonis,

n his article, Val Samonis takes a comparative policy look at the Lithuanian economy during the period 2000-2015. He argues that the LT policy response (a radical and classical austerity) was wrong and unenlightened because it coincided with strong and continuing deflationary forces in the EU and the global economy which forces were predictable, given the right policy guidance. Also, he makes a point that LT austerity, and the resulting sharp drop in GDP and employment in LT, stimulated emigration of young people (and the related worsening of other demographics) which processes took huge dimensions thereby undercutting even the future enlightened efforts to get out of the middle-income growth trap by LT. Consequently, the country is now on the trajectory (development path) similar to that of a dog that chases its own tail. A strong effort by new generation of policymakers is badly needed to jolt the country out of that wrong trajectory and to offer the chance of escaping the middle-income growth trap via innovations.

* * *

Have you heard about the
South African "Pencil Test"?
By Karina Simonson

If you are not South African, then, probably, you haven't. It is a test performed in South Africa during the apartheid regime and was used, together with the other ways, to determine racial identity, distinguishing whites from coloureds and blacks. That repressive test was very close to Nazi implemented ways to separate Jews from Aryans. Could you now imagine a Lithuanian mother, performing it on her own child?

But that is exactly what happened to me when I came back from South Africa. I will tell you how.

* * *
Click HERE to read previous opinion letters >

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مبلمان اداری صندلی مدیریتی صندلی اداری میز اداری وبلاگدهی فروشگاه اینترنتی گن لاغری شکم بند لاغری تبلیغات کلیکی آموزش زبان انگلیسی پاراگلایدر ساخت وبلاگ بوی دهان بوی بد دهان