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Archive for August, 2011

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The Chronicle you wrote is excellent. You have done a great job and should be proud of it.

Jonas Kronkaitis,
Brigadier General, former Commander of Lithuania’s Armed Forces

Category : Opinions

Many thanks for writing your Chronicle of Lithuania!

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We, Lithuanians in diaspora or in Lithuania itself, should be very grateful and obliged to Great Friends of Lithuania like you!

Valdas Samonis, PhD, CPC (Canadian – Lithuanian)
The Web Professor of Global Management(SM)

Category : Opinions

I would read with my grandchildren your well illustrated publication and encourage them to ask questions

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I am Isolde Ira Pozelaite – Davis AM, a grandmother of three beautiful grandchildren.

A lady who lives in the Lithuanian retirement Village where I live as well, has given me to read a photocopied pamphlet LITHUANIA IN A GLOBAL PERSPECTIVE.

I would like to buy, If this is possible, 3 copies of this excellent publication. My grandchildren are 7, 12, 14 years old. I would read with them your well illustrated publication and encourage them to ask questions.

This would lead to a discussion and explanations. Have been a High School teacher for 38 years teaching French and German and 20 years Lithuanian in Australia. As you see old habits are difficult to forget. Will be 87 years in May, 2010.

Isolde Ira Poželaitė – Davis AM

Category : Opinions

Dummheit und Stolz wachsen auf einem Holz

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Dr. Stan Backaitis

Several months ago I had arranged a visit between the minister of energy and a CEO of an important nuclear reactor manufacturer. The meeting was supposed to be for the benefit of the minister on information of what is forthcoming in the future, particularly in small reactors and the possibility of establishing a European affiliate of the company in Lithuania.

The minister graciously extended an invitation to the CEO, but the minister's secretariat refused to extend even the slightest courtesy to this visit, such as picking up the visitor from the airport and transporting him to the meeting, setting up a meeting agenda, or even providing to the visitor's office the address of the ministry.  They claimed that this was just another sales visit, and the visitor should take care of everything on his own.  As a result the CEO canceled the meeting and eventually went to London. The European affiliate was established in the UK. Thus through such arrogance another opportunity was lost.

There is a lot truth in the German proverb "Dummheit und Stolz wachsen auf einem Holz".

Stan Backaitis
Washington, USA

Category : Opinions

I spoke to a number of Lithuanians with degrees from top Western universities, who don’t want to return to Lithuania – according to them, the “natives” know everything better

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Ambassador Algirdas Žemaitis

You have lived long enough in Lithuania and must realize that many of the problems of the present day Lithuania are due to their reluctance to learn from the Western countries or accept advice from Lithuanians who lived and studied in the West. The relative success of Lithuania after World War I was largely due to the replacement of Russian educated officials by those who got their degrees in the West. My own father was the first Lithuanian with a degree in forestry from a Western university and introduced major reforms in the forest management, which survived even during the Communist occupation.

Alas, after 20 years of restoration of independence to paraphrase Kipling "The East is East, the West is West and the twain shall never (so far) meet". I spoke to a number of Lithuanians with degrees from top Western universities, who don't want to return to Lithuania - according to them, the "natives" know everything better.

I might add that for me it was easier to obtain an audience with the Pope, than with a Minister for Foreign Affairs of Lithuania.

Ambassador Algirdas Zemaitis
Vilnius – Rome

Category : Opinions

Lithuanian unemployment rate drops sharply

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Lithuania’s unemployment dipped to 15.6% in the Q2, compared to 17.2% last quarter (according to labour force survey). In Estonia unemployment rate dropped from 14.4 to 13.3%, in Latvia – from 16.6 to 16.2%. Lithuania’s figure was just above DnB NORD estimate (15.5%) and is in line with the annual forecast.

In Lithuania, job growth accelerated in agriculture, construction and retail trade. Graduation in June usually brings an upswing in youth unemployment, however this summer rising economic activity and preparation for the European Basketball Championship are expected to absorb most of it. Emigration has also eased down – during the first seven months 33.1 thousand people left the country, i.e. 29% less compared to the same period last year (46.7 thou).

Assessment: Employment will improve further on the back of solid growth of economic activity. We expect unemployment to reach 13% in Lithuania, 14% in Latvia and 10% in Estonia by the year-end. Admittedly, gradually improving employment figures are expected to increase pressure on labour costs – bottlenecks emerge in the sectors with most visual recovery.

Jekaterina Rojaka
Chief Economist

Category : News

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VilNews will this summer from time to time publish poetry that we receive from our readers. Please send us yours!

Night Knight

by KR Slade

I finished at school then home I came.
And fourteen days past Christmas next
my father went in sleep to his grave.
When I had forgotten so long before
the stories at bedtime that he had told.
I’d always to sleep and miss some part
but waked again to hear some more;
so all the story I’d often heard but never
remembered from start to end, the all.
Wasn’t it just of our to-make-believe ?
Didn’t we laugh because it wasn’t true ?
But now I know that jest was only just
to make it less scary for then and now.
The legend that would for me come true.

Read the poem here...

Category : Culture & events poetry / Opinions

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Night Knight

by KR Slade

I finished at school then home I came.
And fourteen days past Christmas next
my father went in sleep to his grave.
When I had forgotten so long before
the stories at bedtime that he had told.
I’d always to sleep and miss some part
but waked again to hear some more;
so all the story I’d often heard but never
remembered from start to end, the all.
Wasn’t it just of our to-make-believe ?
Didn’t we laugh because it wasn’t true ?
But now I know that jest was only just
to make it less scary for then and now.
The legend that would for me come true.

What little child dreams not of knights ?
Big they; strong; protect from dark nights.
The horse must of white, so too the armoured knight.
With touches of gold on spurs and swords,
handles, hilt, and harness: to herald.
Shield, with that more-ancient cross of ours,
held high on arm to cover heart to thwart,
while the hand holding reins aims stead.
Above all: sword drawn, held high, the ready.
Always red: all-behind Sir Knight and horse
on fields of battles: that is a crest of blood.
That mighty, charging, mounted knight be Vytis.
We, who know, are of his people, tribe, and nation.
He knows us, each and every one of us that be,
and may again demand any/all of us to his army;
and each and every one of us, we’d have no choice,
have to go, to answer the call, mustered we’d must.
But not to worry, you my cousins; just this, a story.
Legends have their ways with little boys and girls.
And scary times remember many bedroom nights.
Makes sleep so preferable to wakened fright.

An anniversary later of Dad’s death came Vytis.
For others he comes at times significant to them.
Riding calmly to my bedside that unexpected night;
Warm moist breath again from horse’s hairy nostrils
tickled my belly, made me giggle, awakened me gently.
We needed not introductions, the Sir Knight and I.
We had been known to each, the other, long-time now.
He spoke to me in a language that I did not know;
no matter language; I knew his message instinctively.
His message: he was going to be coming back for me.

Further anniversaries passed; nothing new much noticed.
Then, un-foretold was to be what was the penultimate:
Vytis and stead arrived on the hour’s time, with news
that anniversary next, that I was to be ready-waiting;
When I was going with them, and never coming back.
To a far-off land, I’d never known: but there, home.
No, I would not need to take any thing, all awaited me.
There was no thing more to do, to come more ready.
That night, I would be ready, as had I always been.
It would just be then, that was my-own time to go.

When the time was coming, I was so much excited.
Many nights I could not sleep, for not knowing when.
The days I busied in preparing, yet not-knowing what,
until consumed by unknown, but certain fate, I slept.
To be awakened once again by horsy, hairy breath,
Soft, nudging nose caressing, tickling me to wake.
But it was only noble horse, and me; no knight.
No knight; at least not yet, until I dressed myself
in that white shining armour, so heavily laden-on,
from on horse’s back to mine, together to horseback.
I was quite surprised to know how it all fit together.
Seemed to come quite natural, one piece, then the next.
I mounted, rode some, then we went from trot to gallop.
To more time in air than to touching ground we went.
Until I was feeling as comfortable as ever I had known,
and there afterwards as fearless as I have never known.
My left side shielding sword sheath near to my dagger.
Reins effortlessly I holding to my horse’s bridled head,
that so-gallant beast, my friend, who knew my mind.
My right arm drew and brought up that mighty sword.
Above my helmet, to sail and rudder through the wind.
When in time a voice in passing yelled to me, “Vytis !”
I turned to look, in autonomic acknowledgment.
When then, I remembered all, that of the legend old.
How Vytis is reborn/renewed, from time-to-time.

For an unknown time since, I live in a forest deep.
And there when I do sleep, my horse be by me;
I am-become the warrior, not ever unescorted.
He standing by my trident boughs of mighty oak;
still, always warming me: his body and breath.
I safe at home in my sacred three-forked tree fort.
He still always holding all my armour, at the ready.
With close nearby other faithful sons and daughters,
in our quiet armies ready, as we must always be.
And hover-over all of us does stand guard our God,
Perkunas, his thunder ready; never does He sleep;
old-looking, ancient man, white haired and bearded:
God of all thunder, lightening too; chief of all the gods.

So sleep you well too, now, all my young cousins,
you of our nation now republic’d, finally, once again.
You: safe, secure, with good tomorrows coming.
Remember: be ready, always, to take your turn as Vytis.
And now rest well, to know and remember: legends live.

All Rights Reserved: 2004

Category : Blog archive

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Searching for the Holy Grail?


Forget Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland. Forget the Louvre Museum in Paris. If you're among the millions who have read Dan Brown's book 'The Da Vinci Code', you have probably also made some reflections on how the Holy Grail disappeared, virtually without a trace, after Leonardo da Vinci died in 1519. In that case I will now give you some hints and clues that you can begin to investigate. 

Let me first put on the table some facts Dan Brown missed in his book. Brown, and many with him, thinks of Florence, Rome and Paris as the cities da Vinci was linked to. Most people forget that he lived and worked in Milan for many years, and that it was precisely here he painted ‘The Last Supper’ that Dan Brown so strongly emphasizes in his evidence collection. 

Brown also does not mention that da Vinci for many years lived in the house of the Sforza family that ruled Milan at that time. But it is in this house the solution to the riddle lies. For it was here 42 year old Leonardo had the pleasure to live when a beautiful baby girl was born in 1494. Bona was the name she was given, and she and 'uncle Leonardo' had a lot of fun together while she grew up. But not just fun. Leonardo had great pleasure in sharing many of his thoughts and ideas with the wise little girl, so when she was a grown young lady of 20 she was quite well informed about many of ‘uncle Leonardo’s’ undertakings, not only in the public sphere but also in the secret. The future Grand Duchess of Lithuanian did, indeed, get a top education...

Deepest of all the secrets Leonardo shared with young Bona, was the story of the Holy Grail and the knowledge of Jesus' marriage to Mary Magdalene. When Leonardo reached his 60s and his health began to fail, he became increasingly concerned over what he should do with the Grail, which by then had been in his possession through two decades. The Milan area had for years been occupied by France, and the North Italian daily life was still strongly marked by war and strife, so Leonardo's concern was not without reason. He had got increasingly concerned that the Grail could come in wrong hands after his death.

It was then that the great idea arose. Leonardo was well aware that Europe's largest and leading nation at the time, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, was a country built on intelligence and peaceful coexistence between people of many nationalities and cultures, so in 1515, when he found out that the Lithuanian grand duke’s wife was deceased, he was not slow to contact his friends at the Holy Roman Empire to suggest that his young friend, Bona Sforza, should be married to the wise ruler of Lithuania and Poland, Grand Duke Sigismund. His idea was, if the plan succeeded, that he would use this connection for his own special purpose and secretly send the Holy Grail for safe custody in the Grand Duchy under the control of the new Italian-Lithuanian royal family. 

Leonardo's plan succeeded beyond all expectation, and already in 1517 Sigismund appeared in Milan to discuss a potential marriage with Bona Sforza. It soon became clear that the arranged marriage was acceptable to all parties, and Leonardo was thereafter not slow to share his idea and concerns with the prospective marriage couple. The idea was that the Grail should be 'camouflaged' as part of a book collection that would be transported to the Grand-Duke's Palace in Vilnius after da Vinci’s death.  Sigismund and Bona were married in 1518, and Leonardo died only a year later, in 1519. 

Sigismund the Old 
Sigismund the Old and Bona Sforza.

The scheme to move the Holy Grail to Vilnius went according to the plan, and the Grail was not long after incorporated as the secret key point in the library that was created in the Royal Palace. The library was based on a large amount of very valid books collected by Leonardo and Bona Sforza, all from the intellectual centres of those days in Italy and other European countries.

The royal couple then ruled successfully for many years over Lithuania and Poland from the palace in Vilnius, proudly aware that they were in possession of Christianity's top secret. When Sigismund died in 1548, widow Bona decided to share the secret with their son, Sigismund Augustus, who had succeeded his father as Grand Duke of Lithuania and King of Poland. After the death of her husband, Bona herself moved to Masovia in east Poland. She stayed there for eight years and then moved to the city of Bari in southern Italy, where since her birth had carried the title ‘Duchess of Bari’

In 1558, a year after settling in Bari, Bona Sforza was poisoned by her trusted officer, Gian Lorenzo Pappacoda. He was acting on behalf of King Philip II of Spain, who wished to avoid repaying his sizable debts to the Grand Duchess. Bona Sforza was buried in a sarcophagus in the Cathedral of Bari. Her sarcophagus stands there, still today, as a sad but strong symbol of the close ties of that time between Italy and Lithuania.

Loyola and Jesuit Theologians
The founder of the Jesuit Order, Ignatius Loyola, sent
his leading theologians to Vilnius immediately after
having been contacted by Sigismund Augustus.

Eleven years after Bona's death, representatives of the Jesuit Religious Brothers came to Lithuania to establish their Order. The Brothers’ first and main task was to plan and build an educational institution of the highest level, and to move the library where the Holy Grail was hidden, from the Royal Palace to a safer place within the new institution, controlled by the Jesuits, Christianity’s leading brotherhood.

The background for this move by the Jesuits, was that Grand Duke Sigismund Augustus after the message of his mother's death reached him, had got into deep worries similar to those of Leonardo da Vinci 50 years earlier: How to best hide and protect the Holy Grail for the future?  An important element in his worries was that he was childless, and he had now to face the fact that he could be the last ruler of the world famous Jogailo Dynasty. No wonder he worried that the Grail could get into wrong hands when his reign and life came to its end.

In 1565 he had reached his conclusion; to share his big secret with the Jesuit Brotherhood that had grown to be one of the Roman Catholic Church’s leading movements during the mid 1500s. An open-minded, tolerant monarch and a loyal Roman Catholic, Sigismund had during his reign peacefully sought to counteract Martin Luther’s Reformation in Eastern Europe, and he concluded now that the Jesuits, who successfully preached the Counter Reformation, would be the perfect protectors of the Holy Grail after his death. The Jesuits organised their order along military lines and strongly represented the autocratic zeal of the period, characterised by careful selection, rigorous training, and iron discipline, so Sigismund was convinced they would be the right ones to protect the Grail against the Protestants or any military intruders.

It was with great force that the Brothers came to Vilnius by the end of the 1560s. They had access to large resources both from Vilnius and Rome, and had ahead of their arrival agreed with Sigismund to build an outstanding intellectual and spiritual teaching institution around the Holy Grail. The Grail was thus the beginning of the wonderful Vilnius University, which opened as a Jesuit College in 1570 and as a University in 1579.

Sigismund Augustas was only 50 years old in 1570, but it was already obvious that he didn’t have many years left to live. It was therefore essential to have the Holy Grail moved from the Royal Palace to a safe place where Lithuania's future rulers would not have access. With this in mind, in 1570, Sigismund gave the chapel next to the new college as a gift to the Jesuit Brothers. The Brothers then built, in record time, a bell tower that still today is the highest in Vilnius (at today’s Sts Johns’ Church). The tower was completed already in 1571, and the Holy Grail was immediately moved there from the Royal Palace. 

The rush proved to have been by virtue of necessity, for Sigismund died in the summer of 1572. The Grand Duke passed away knowing that the Grail was in safe hands, though he never got to see the University completed. Sigismund Augustus died childless and thus became the last ruler of the grand Jogailo Dynasty as well as of the Italian-Lithuanian dynasty that Leonardo da Vinci and the Holy Roman Empire had planned with so much energy earlier in the century.

File:Death of Sigismund Augustus at Knyszyn.JPG
The death of Grand Duke Sigismund Augustus in July 1572.

The story of the Holy Grail continued unabated after Sigismund’s death, with frequent communication between the Pope and the head of the Jesuit Brothers in Vilnius. And it was in a direct decree from the Pope that the chapel next to the new bell tower now was expanded to a glorious house of God and given the name Sts. Johns' Church. The name shows that the Catholic Church wanted the highest protection of the new church, the bell tower and, first of all, the Holy Grail. They therefore named and dedicated the new church, not to just one of the St. Johns, but to both John the Baptist and the Apostle John. It was the second time in Christianity’s history that something like this had happened. First time was when the Basilica of St. John Lateran (Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano), the first among the four major basilicas of Rome was built by Constantine the Great in the 4th century. This church is also the cathedral of the bishop of Rome, the Pope, and is thus known as Omnium urbis et orbis Ecclesiarum Mater et Caput: "Cathedral of Rome and of the World." The Holy Grail gave the Sts. Johns’ Church in Vilnius a similar glorious world value, thus the name.

In 1579, after just nine years of construction, the new university buildings were completed. And it was with great reverence the leading Jesuit Brothers that same year installed the library and within it hiding the Grail that Bona Sforza secretly had brought with her from Milan more than 50 years earlier.

And it is there, under the floor boards of the Vilnius University Library, that the Holy Grail has been safely hidden for 430 years now. The Jesuits have been extremely clever and careful not to share this tremendous secret with anybody. But now, dear readers of VilNews, also you know the truth.

Millions of people visited Louvre and the Rosslyn Chapel after Dan Brown's book was published seven years ago, and I wonder how many are going to visit Vilnius University this year, now that the truth about the Holy Grail is finally made public?

Aage Myhre

Here, under the floor boards of the Vilnius University Library, is where the Holy Grail was safely hidden
when the university opened in 1579. The Grail is located exactly beneath the centre (the top point) of
the library’s CROSS ARCH, which is typical and characteristic for the Jesuit Order’s Brotherhood.


PS: Please observe that the above article is pure fiction – though based on real historical facts.

Category : The world in Lithuania

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Now I have another reason to visit Lithuania


A most interesting article! Now I have another reason to visit Lithuania as I have in the past. Would love to at least see Vilnius University as we were unable to enter it on our last trip there. Thank you for the information and will pass it on to other lovers of Lithuanian history.

Irene A. Petkaitis

Category : Opinions

Tell us more about the paining

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Well written! Tell us more about the painting.

Bob & Peggy Moroney

* * * 

Dear Bob & Peggy,

The painting ‘Death of Grand Duke Sigismund Augustus’ (1522-1572) – is a handmade oil painting reproduction by Jan Matejko (1838–1893).

Read more about the painter here:

Category : Opinions


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.

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Click HERE to read previous opinion letters >

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