THE VOICE OF INTERNATIONAL LITHUANIA
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I am positive that Lithuania - not only the expats who live there - need writing in English. A lot of it. As much as possible, really.
The presence of a vibrant expat community, which is closely linked with Lithuanians or half-Lithuanians (if I may use this term), who have spent many years overseas and had been exposed to Western culture, is critical as an ultimate mind-opener.
I have always been going against the flow in that I said good things about the Lithuanians who go abroad for a year, for five years or even for good. In Lithuania, it is often seen as a disaster and an exodus of biblical proportions with similarly apocalyptic implications. I see it as a natural part of being a free country. Even if it leads to some transformations that may even be irreversible, such as compromises over what is seen as Lithuanian ethnic purity (which is an artificial and doubtful construct anyway, in my view) or a changer of the Lithuanian identity, emigration is good because it opens the mind and creates new patterns of thinking. It opens up angles which people have not thought about. It changes the way that parts of the society interact with each other and their relationship with the government, the establishment, the educational elite.
A confident and active expat community brings all this to their host land too, and does this in a concentrated and very effective manner. The English-speaking expat crowd is bringing values and behaviours that Lithuania needs the most: perceived and often imaginary "Americanization" is mostly skin-deep and has little lasting impact. And this is why any exchange of written words is so critical.
About two decades ago, I was one of the first employees of "Vilnius In Your Pocket", a city guide started by four expats in Vilnius. VIYP at that time it was the Bible for all English-speaking local residents, witty and bright and colourful, and a brilliant contrast to the drab surroundings of early post-Soviet Vilnius. It no longer holds the exclusive position of cult publication, but its impact is still remembered by those who remember the English-speaking Vilnius 20 years ago. There was also The Baltic Independent, a Tallinn-based English newspaper for which Edward Lucas, today of the Economist fame, was writing - there was a little office in Liauksmino gatve and I was a writer there. Edward lived in Vilnius at that time.
It is, therefore, impossible to say no when people ask me to get involved with the writing for English speakers in Lithuania. So I wish the Editor-In-Chief perseverance in chasing articles from contributors and I wish the publication a huge readership of intelligent and curious people. God speed.
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