THE VOICE OF INTERNATIONAL LITHUANIA
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How I came to Lithuania 21 years ago (1 of 6)
Some private memories by Aage Myhre, VilNews Editor-in-Chief
In the summer of 1990 it’s still little known in the west that there once was a country called Lithuania. The fact that this small nation, with its two Baltic neighbours, are engaged in a process of secession from the Soviet Union has still not achieved any major headlines in our western newspapers. The fall of the Berlin Wall is more important. We do not know that the Soviet President, Mikhail Gorbachev, has recently been in Lithuania to meet the country's Communist leader, Algirdas Brazauskas (both pictured left). The fact that Lithuania's prime minister, Kazimir Prunskiene (centre above), has recently been in Norway to try to get the oil company STATOIL to deliver oil to the country, which is now subjected to blockade by the Soviet power, has been heard little about. Then Parliament President Vytautas Landsbergis (pictured right) comes on his first 'official visit' to a Western country, to Norway. That changes a lot.
A young man with a ponytail enters our office community in the centre of Oslo, Norway. It’s a warm, sunny day, mid-summer 1990. Someone has told him that our office, with 16 different small firms, enjoys a relatively large network of contacts, lobbyists perhaps although I do not know much about what that word means. He tells us that he is adviser to a president of a country we have hardly heard of before now. The country is called Lithuania, the president Vytautas Landsbergis, he informs us. The advisor’s name appears to be Ramunas Bogdanas.
What we get to know, is that Landsbergis needs help in finding contacts at the highest Norwegian level in connection with his planned 'official visit' to Norway in late August, the first for a Western country. Bogdanas asks us to undertake such a task. Even if he cannot offer any payment for the job.
We wonder why this Landsbergis has chosen precisely Norway as the first western country to visit on a so-called official basis. Would not the close-lying Sweden have been more obvious? "Sweden accepted the Soviet occupation and annexation of our country during World War II. As early as 1946. Norway never did. Formally, your country still considers Lithuania an independent nation. Therefore he has chosen Norway", explains Bogdanas.
Three of us in the business community sit down to discuss whether we want to accept the proposed mission, Dag Andersen, Bjorn Kittilsen and me. We agree to seek financial support before we answer Bogdanas. We make some calls to Statoil, the Telecom, Oslo Municipality and others. Oddly enough the answers are generally positive, and soon we start with the project. We call ourselves 'Lithuania Norway Corporation'.
Soon we convince our Prime Minister Jan P. Syse, Foreign Minister Kjell M. Bondevik and other leading politicians to give a warm welcome to Landsbergis when he and his delegation arrive. The period of the visit is 29 - 31 August 1990.
For Landsbergis the visit becomes the start of his long, strong relations with Norway. We are all very impressed with his knowledge of Edvard Grieg and Henrik Ibsen. Vytautas Landsbergis is a professor of music and an eminent pianist. In addition to being a politician.
We also introduce him and his delegation to Norwegian leaders in business and culture, and he is among those who get the honour of standing on the balcony of the National Theatre at the opening of our very first Ibsen Festival, along with our Norwegian cultural elite.
The visit becomes a great success. We who helped him are invited to Lithuania.
VilNews e-magazine is published in Vilnius, Lithuania. Editor-in-Chief: Mr. Aage Myhre. Inquires to the editors: editor@VilNews.com.
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