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Archive for December, 2011

A sad 70th anniversary

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In June 1941, the first massive arrest and deportation of the Lithuanian population was perpetrated. A cargo of 17.500 people were crammed into cattle cars. Moscow’s instruction often required separation of men from their families: some 4.000 men were separated and transported to concentration camps in the Krasnoyarsk territory while 13.500 women, children and elderly people were transported mostly to Kazakhstan, the Altai Mountains territory, Russia’s republic of Komi, the Tomsk region, and the Arctic zone.

As far back as in the first days of the Soviet occupation the searches for "people's enemies" commenced: only in July 12-16, 1940 more than 500 people were arrested - most of them were public men and politicians, army officers, office employees of the independent Lithuania. In the short run, among the dangerous enemies of the Soviet system were reckoned ordinary members of legal parties, organizations that existed in independent Lithuania, police officers, teachers and even Esperantists and philatelists. The repressive departments established pursuing the example of the Soviet Union took into their disposition Lithuanian archives and looked for the "anti-Soviet elements".

At the beginning of the Soviet period, Lithuanian people most of all suffered from deportations - forced mass removal from the domicile to the remote regions of the Soviet Union. The first mass deportation began on June 14, 1941, at night. People realizing nothing were woken up, sat into lorries and conveyed to the nearest railroad station. Thousands of people woken up from sleep (women, children and old people) were told to leave their homes in a hurry. Frightened, not realizing where and why they were taken, most of them failed to take with them even that formally permitted standard of 100 kg of necessities of life. Crammed into the goods wagons, choking from stuffiness without water and hot meal people were kept for several days in obscurity. Only completely formed trains moved to the East - women, old people and children were sent to deportation, the heads of the families - to prisons and camps. Over few days of June, more than 18 thousand people were taken out from Lithuania. This number would have been even larger but the war between Germany and the USSR started on June 22

People deported in 1941 experienced especially difficult fate. Though the war suspended the further deportation, the conditions of the deported became even harder. Upon arrival at the country impoverished by the nationalization and collectivization, allotting the last stock to the front, the deported interested Soviet authorities only as the charge free labour force. Most of the deported were accommodated in joint barracks and dug-outs. People got ill from the epidemics caused by the starvation and anti-sanitary conditions, many of them died, children first of all. In June, 1942, as soon as they began to accustom to their fate, almost half of Lithuanians were taken from Altai territory for real perish to the north of Yakut.
There Lithuanians were distributed to the isle of Tit Ari (at the mouth of the river Lena), Bykov peninsula (at the Laptev Sea), mouth of the river Jana, other places. Debarked from the barges and left in severe polar conditions without lodging, food, warm clothes they died from starvation and diseases. Less than a half of people deported in 1941 returned to Lithuania after 15 or more years. The condition of prisoners and men separated from their families was even more difficult. When the war ended, many of the camps were liquidated, and the prisoners were for hundreds of kilometers driven on foot to other camps. Hundreds of prisoners died on the way and did not reach new places of imprisonment. NKVD camps were enormous cemeteries, in which almost 8 thousand Lithuanians were buried during 1941-1944.
When the Soviet Union occupied Lithuania for the second time in the autumn of 1944, the number of people reckoned among the "anti-Soviet elements" even increased. Not only members of resistance, but also members of their families, partisans' supporters, etc. were reckoned among them. Arrests and deportations of Lithuanian people were renewed.

People were taken to deportation by goods (cattle) wagons with as many people and things stuffed as it were possible. There were no even most necessary sanitary and hygiene conditions in the wagons, while the journey took several weeks or even a month. Sometimes people did not receive food for several days. Babies and elderly people died failing to undergo long and hard journey via the wide expanses of the USSR.

At the train wagon on the road to Siberia. 1951


Special agents appointed from Moscow arranged Mass deportations. The lists of the families and individual persons subject to deportation - the main one and reserve (in case the fulfillment of the plan failed) were formed by the district's sections of repressive departments. The inclusion file was made for every deported family or person. The property of the deported family was seized and distributed. The deportations were prepared in advance and with great secrecy in order people would not skulk. 

The local authorities were notified about the prospect deportation only on the eve.
The greatest deportations were masked by very innocent, poetic names - codes used in the correspondence of Soviet departments, radio and telephone conversations. For example, the deportation of May 1948 was named "Vesna" ("Spring"), March 1949 - "Priboj" ("Surf"), October 1951 - "Osen" ("Autumn"). By the amount of the deported people the largest were deportations of May 1948, March, 1949 and October 1951. All of them were fulfilled following the resolutions of the Council of Ministers of the USSR detailed by the puppet Council of Ministers of LSSR and the local MGB.

On May 22-27, 1948 more than 40 thousand people were deported from Lithuania (11 thousand children were among them). On March 25-28, 1949, almost 30 thousand people with more than 8 thousand children among them were deported. During the operation, third by the number of deported people, on October 2-3, 1951, almost 17 thousand people and more than 5 thousand children among them were taken away from Lithuania.

Description: were deported for various periods of time: for 20 years (in June 1941), for 10 years (1947 - April 1948), for unlimited period of time (in 1949 - 1953). Large penalties menaced for escaping from deportation.
The total number of Lithuanian people deported in 1940-1941, 1945-1952 exceeded 132 thousand. The major part of them was brought to Krasnoyarsk territory, Irkutsk and Tomsk regions 

28 thousand from 132 thousand deported people perished from starvation, diseases and unbearable work. About 50 thousand of them could not return to Lithuania for a long time. The last Lithuanians were released from deportation only upon announcement of the order of the Presidium of Supreme Soviet of the USSR, dated January 7, 1960.

Workers of Vorkuta mines. 1956

The conditions of Lithuanian people kept in prisons or camps were even more difficult. In 1950, 12 prisons, 8 subunits of concentration camps and 23 inner prisons functioned in Lithuania. It made only small part of the GULAG system. Annually thousands and tens of thousands of prisoners from Lithuania were sent to the prisons and camps scattered in the vast territory of the USSR. The prisoners were transported by stages - from one prison to another or directly to the specified camp. In 1944-1952, more than 142 thousand of Lithuanian people got into the camps of GULAG.

As a rule, healthy people several years after getting into the camps became ailing. The death caused by the tortures while interrogating, difficult conditions of imprisonment, continuous starving, hard work was not an exception. In Far Siberia, Kazakhstan, other localities of the USSR, a great deal of graves of Lithuanians were left. By the data of KGB, about 17 thousand people returned to Lithuania from deportation and camps in 1955-1956.

Lithuanian deportees and prisoners were made a cheap labour force deprived of all rights. People deported to Tomsk region or those who were in Tomsk's camps stung by gnats and blood sucking flies, in winter walking through the deepest snowdrifts, worked in taiga, prepared and floated rafts, gathered resin. In 1942, people deported to the frosty Frigid Zone fished and the rest of them left in the first place of deportation worked in sovkhozs of Altai territory. People exhausted by heat and thirst built roads in Kazakhstan deserts, worked at the cotton plantations of Tajikistan. Many Lithuanian deportees and prisoners worked in Ural Bauxite mines, Kuzbas and Vorkuta coal pits, Bodaib gold mines (Irkutsk region), gigantic sawmills of Igarka. The deportees were paid a little for their work, meanwhile the prisoners worked just for daily food ration which was cut for those who did not succeed to fulfill their quotas.


Category : Historical Lithuania

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Now also available in Lithuanian:
The 2011 bestselling novel ‘Between shades of gray’

The period of the mass deportations to Siberia of Lithuanians, Estonians and Latvians is a very sad part in the history of the Baltics. It is virtually impossible to find a family in Lithuania that was not effected in some way by these crimes against humanity and brutality inflicted by Soviet Russia. What is almost equally as sad is the fact that to this day very few people in the world are aware that these atrocities took place. 

There are people though that do not want these events to become lost in history. Why? To answer that question you would need to ask each and every person what their reason is. Is it to make the world aware of the courage of these people that suffered? Is it done in the hope that the world’s knowledge of these atrocities will help to prevent acts like this from happening again? Is it done with that the hope that the perpetrators of these heinous crimes will someday be brought to justice and forced to atone for their actions?

Again you would need to ask each and every person “spreading the word” what their reasons are. And dear readers maybe this is a good question to ask yourselves – Why should “the word be spread”? 

We would like to introduce you to one of these people that is not allowing this sad part in Lithuanian and World history fade away. We are honored that this author is sharing with us her insight based on years of work. 

Born and raised in Michigan, Ruta Sepetys is the daughter of a Lithuanian refugee. The nations of Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia disappeared from maps in 1941 and did not reappear until 1990. As this is a story seldom told, Ruta wanted to give a voice to the hundreds of thousands of people who lost their lives during Stalin's cleansing of the Baltic region. 

Ruta lives with her family in Tennessee. “Between Shades of Gray” is her first novel.

You can visit Ruta Sepetys at

You can also visit 
Ruta Sepetys' Facebook Page

Category : Opinions

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Stalin's brutal deportations affected Chicago-area families
Lithuanians remember era in exhibit

Vytautas' drawing shows the gulag forced labor camps.
Photo by David Pierini.

A chapter of history largely unknown in the U.S. is being featured in an exhibit on Chicago's Southwest Side.
The Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture tells the story of Lithuanians deported to Siberia. They were among millions of people across the Soviet Union who Stalin forced out of their homes and sent away to perform labor for little or nothing.

Read more…

Category : News

My father and his parents were on the first train of deportees sent to Siberia, and they spent five years in the frozen labor camps between Kasnojarsk and Irkutsk

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European Union's ambassador to Afghanistan

In the spring of 1983, I boarded a train for Kazakhstan along with other Lithuanians drafted into the Soviet military. Once there, we were to receive our orders for deployment to Afghanistan, where the Red Army was bogged down in what was to become one of the most notorious wars of the modern age.

As luck would have it, our commanding officer liked a drink, so once we got to Almaty, then Kazakhstan's capital, we plied him with as much vodka as poorly paid conscripts could afford. He got so drunk that he passed out and didn't wake up until our transport to Afghanistan was long gone.

We let him sleep, of course, and we never did get sent to fight the Afghans. We sat out the war, which helped bring down the Soviet Union, in Karaganda, far from the fighting.
Almost two decades later, I was sent to Kabul as the European Union's ambassador to Afghanistan. Every conversation I have with the Afghan people is informed by the intervening years, when I was on the frontline of Lithuania's fight for independence from the Soviet Union. It is that experience, fighting for the freedom and future of my own country, that helps me understand where Afghanistan finds itself today, on the precipice of despair.

My country, today among the smallest in Europe, was once among the biggest and richest. From the 13th to 15th centuries, it included in its territory Belarus, Ukraine and parts of what are today Poland and Russia. My father comes from a wealthy landowning family, my mother from simple farming folk. Despite representing different ends of the social spectrum, both families faced fierce persecution when the Soviets invaded in 1940. We had a few years' respite from the communists while the Nazis were in control during World War II. The Soviets re-occupied Lithuania in 1944.

My father and his parents were on the first train of deportees sent to Siberia, and they spent five years in the frozen labor camps between Kasnojarsk and Irkutsk. My mother was shot twice and has carried the bullets in her chest all her life—as souvenirs, we like to say. The family's land was confiscated.

During my two years as a Soviet soldier, I had to attend regular political indoctrination sessions, where we were told that the war in Afghanistan was one of "liberation." We had heard that one before, when the Soviets supposedly "liberated" Lithuania after the war.

Read more…

Category : News

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VilNews discussion:
Jewish-Lithuanian relationships in the context of Holocaust and 600 years of coexistence

Donatas Januta and Olga Zabludoff

Dear VilNews Readers,

Many of you will have seen that we over the latest two months have had an ongoing discussion on the topic of Jewish-Lithuanian relations in the context of the Holocaust in Lithuania, as well as long term features of Lithuanian-Jewish coexistence between the 14th and the 20th centuries.

The debate has offered a unique opportunity to contextualise difficult questions, which are both sensitive and important.

The two most active debaters have been Olga Zabludoff and Donatas Januta. We present below a new post from Donatas, but recommend that all posts are read in chronological order to better understand the more overall context.

Go to our Section 5 or Section 12 to read all debate posts.

Category : Opinions

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Donatas Januta: Reply to Olga Zabludoff re Holocaust in Lithuania
History 101: Double standards, red herrings, and one-way streets will not lead to understanding or reconciliation

My dear Olga, in the past you were so generous in trying to give me lessons in what you called Logic 101, but it turns out that when History 101 was being taught you must have skipped class. In discussing the Jewish monopoly in commerce and the trades and crafts in Lithuania, you say that it was the Lithuanians’ own choice not to go into those occupations, that they were free to select those occupations if they had so wanted. I am surprised how you disregard basic historical facts – even after Tautietis pointed you in the right direction in his comment to your Nov. 18th posting.


Category : Opinions

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Donatas Januta: Reply to Olga Zabludoff re Holocaust in Lithuania

History 101: Double standards, red herrings, and one-way streets will not lead to understanding or reconciliation

Donatas Januta

My dear Olga, in the past you were so generous in trying to give me lessons in what you called Logic 101, but it turns out that when History 101 was being taught you must have skipped class.  In discussing the Jewish monopoly in commerce and the trades and crafts in Lithuania, you say that it was the Lithuanians’ own choice not to go into those occupations, that they were free to select those occupations if they had so wanted.  I am surprised how you disregard basic historical facts – even after Tautietis pointed you in the right direction in his comment to your Nov. 18th posting.

While serfdom began to disappear in much of Western Europe during the Rennaisance, in Lithuania serfs were freed only in 1861. My great-grandparents were born serfs. Serfdom under the Russian empire was no different than slavery in the US South before the Civil War. A serf was tied to the landowner’s estate where he was forced to live and work. Serfs were bought and sold like cattle. If a serf escaped from the estate, the landowner got the government’s help to catch him and bring him back. The stories in Russian literature of landowners winning or losing their serfs over a game of cards are based on real life of that time.

The majority of Lithuanians, well over 90%, were peasant serfs. The landowners in Lithuania at that time were often foreigners – Polish, German, Russian, and some Polonized or Russianized Lithuanians. The urban dwellers, the “freemen”, who were the ones free to choose their occupations, consisted mostly of Jews, with Poles, Russians and some Germans, depending on which part of Lithuania you were in.

The emancipation of serfs in 1861 did not free them. The large landowner estates were left intact, and the former serfs still remained impoverished and tied to the land because other opportunities remained closed to them. Landowners were and spoke mostly Polish or Russian, government officials spoke only Russian. After unsuccessful Lithuanian uprisings against the Russians in 1830 and 1831, whose activists were executed or exiled to Siberia: “The rebels’ landholdings were parceled out to court favorites and other Russians in a far-reaching colonization process that led to a large Russian influx. .” (The Jews of Lithuania, Masha Greenbaum, p. 176).  Russian was declared the official language of the country. 

Available education to Lithuanians was limited – books and newspapers in the Lithuanian language were prohibited until 1904. Of the few Lithuanians who were fortunate enough to get an education – in Kiev, St. Petersburg, or Moscow – they could not get a position in Lithuania. Tautietis gave you the example of Dr. Basanavičius (1851-1927), known as Lithuania’s patriarch, who after obtaining his medical degree had to spend his most productive years in Bulgaria. One of my great-uncles ended up being a judge - in Odessa, where he had gone to be allowed to practice law.

My parents were the first generation of Lithuanians in several hundred years who had opportunities to leave the land, to obtain an education, to freely choose a profession, a craft, or a career in commerce. My grandparents – who worked the land their entire lives - encouraged and urged their sons and daughters to pursue education, so that they could leave the hard life of being a subsistence farmer, an opportunity that they themselves had been denied. So, Olga, do explain to me how the Lithuanians themselves “chose” not to go into the fields where Jews ended up having monopolies in Lithuania.

But let's continue with History 101.  You quote from your uncle’s letters about the economic hardship his family was experiencing in Lithuania during the world-wide great depression. You also quote some selected parts from Schoenburg & Schoenburg’s Lithuanian Jewish Communities. Let me quote some other parts from Schoenburg & Schoenburg which relate to the Jewish economic condition in Lithuania in the latter part of the 19th and first part of the 20th centuries.  

 “One important manifestation was the phenomenal Jewish birth rate coupled with a relatively low infant mortality rate, which resulted in a large natural increase in the Jewish population.” (p. 29) “Within the Pale, the population [of Jews] was increasing so fast that Jewish competition among themselves was intense, resulting in less compensation and shoddier goods. * * * Job creation by new enterprises was insufficient to keep up with the rapidly increasing Jewish population. * * * The poorest portion of the Pale of Settlement was Lithuania.” (p. 31).

As a result of such economic pressures, many Jews emigrated, but so did many Lithuanians – including four of my great-uncles – because Lithuanian peasant farmers, the former serfs, were even poorer than the Jews. Nonetheless, in 1918, after much struggle, Lithuania gained its independence, and, as I noted above, that was the first time in several hundred years that Lithuanians had a free choice of occupations and began entering trades, professions and commerce. But, at that time, when Jews constituted about 7% of Lithuania’s population, “almost 90 percent of all Lithuanian trade was in Jewish hands.” (The Jews of Lithuania, Masha Greenbaum, p. 271).

So what do you think happened then?  Economic competition is what happened. As Schoenburg and Schoenburg state above, the economic competition within the Jewish community itself was already intense, and as Lithuanians, who had previously been denied the opportunity, began entering occupations previously occupied exclusively by Jews, the economic condition of the Jews did not improve.   And, to make things harder for everyone, it was happening in the middle of a world-wide depression. Yes, the government assisted in the establishment of farm cooperatives and related enterprises, just as the US government also has a department of agriculture with farm subsidies and the like.

I hope that the above History 101 lesson answers your question  “when were the Lithuanian people not allowed to have a hand in their country’s economy or barred from any particular occupations.”

I do not understand at all why you feel that my statement that I am disappointed in Lithuania’s vote against Palestinian membership in UNESCO is “ultra-nationalist”.  In essence, my comment was that I was disappointed that Lithuania in voting against the Palestinians chose political expediency over their previously stated consistent policy of support for self-determination for all peoples. And you say this also displays my “negative attitude toward Israel.” Not true. It only displays my difference of opinion from yours regarding one particular policy of Israel.  Are we required to agree with all of Israel’s policies to avoid being considered anti-semitic? When even Jews themselves don’t agree with all of Israel’s policies, are you saying that I need to be more Jewish than Jews themselves?

I did not speculate that Dovid Katz was removed from his position because he doesn’t speak Lithuanian. Quite the contrary. I expressly stated that we did not know why his contract was not renewed, and in reply to Bertin’s assertion, I merely mentioned several other possibilities.  Professor Šarunas Liekis, former director of the Vilnius Yiddish Institute where Katz was employed, however, has stated: “When his contract ended it was not renewed for professional reasons, the same reasons it was not renewed at Oxford.” (Jerusalem Post, Nov. 27, 2011).

As for Katz not knowing the Lithuanian language, Katz himself made that issue fair game by posturing himself as a self-appointed expert on present day Lithuania and present day Lithuanians, when he has no credentials, neither academic nor real world experience, on which to claim that.

Olga, your explanations to my two comments under your December 16th posting are just plain silly.

So what if, as you say, “Lithuanian Jews had been living and dancing in Lithuania for 700 years”?   That just shows how distinct and separate Jews kept themselves from the Lithuanians among whom they lived, since during all those 700 years of dancing in Lithuania, Jews did not invite Lithuanian goyim to dance with them. And we can find a clue to that in your Schoenburg and Schoenburg, where the authors write:  “The Jews felt superior to the ethnic peasant population . . .” (p. 41).

Writing about post World War I Lithuania, Masha Greenbaum writes: “Lithuanian Jewry was one of the least assimilated Jewish collectives in Europe. Jews in Lithuania displayed an unflinching will for autonomy and a united front in the struggle for [their own] cultural identity.” (p. 232)   Jews and Lithuanians communicated in separate languages, worshipped separate religions, had separate schools, differed radically in dress and appearance, they did not share any customs or traditions, did not share social activities, did not share a culture and definitely did not dance together.   Jews did not intermix with Lithuanians other than in the marketplace, and Litvak culture is a totally separate and distinct culture from ethnic Lithuanian culture.  

A few years ago, a self-promoting publicist in Los Angeles suggested that some unnamed, and as far as one can tell non-existent, Yiddish dancers be invited to a Lithuanian folk dance festival. He was told that the purpose of that dance festival was to promote Lithuanian ethnic culture, not other cultures. Immediately followed a damning story in The Jewish Journal of Los Angeles, complete with quotes and a large photo of that publicist, and quoting Efraim Zuroff who referred to the Lithuanian diaspora of my generation as being descendants of war criminals.

But that whole story, as I said before, is a total “red herring”, because no Yiddish dance group had asked to participate in the Lithuanian folk dance festival, just as no Yiddish group had ever invited any Lithuanian folk dancers to any Yiddish celebrations.  Lithuanians understand and respect Litvaks’ desire to retain their Yiddish culture as a separate and distinct culture in its own right, and we, the inferior “ethnic peasant population”,  would like the same consideration in return.   But you and Zuroff & Co. think that we are asking too much, even calling our request an anti-semitic act.   There's that double standard again. 

Your and Zuroff & Co.’s repeated argument that there can be no Soviet genocide in Lithuania, i.e., no genocide other than the genocide of the Jews, because that would be equating the two – that argument is even sillier and is simply intellectual dishonesty. It’s like telling a person who was raped that you can’t put rapists in prison because we are putting murderers in prison, and if you put rapists there as well it will diminish the crime of the murderers. Yet the rapist and the murderer are both criminals.  And genocide is genocide, whether it is against Jews, Armenians, Cambodians, Rwandans, Ukrainians or Lithuanians - "the deliberate and systematic destruction, in whole or in part, of an ethnic, racial, religious, or national group",

And as far as what you speculate that Zuroff or Bertin may or may not have meant when they spoke, their own words themselves speak very clearly.    They are both applying a double standard and for them it's strictly a one-way street:  it’s permissible to prohibit Holocaust denial, but it is not permissible to prohibit denying the tragedies of the 50 years of the Soviet occupation; it’s permissible for Israel to search the world for every last geriatric prison guard, but it is not permissible for Lithuania to question the actions of Jewish bandits who robbed, tortured and murdered innocent villagers.

As I said before, Olga, to successfully embrace Lithuanian and Jewish history and find understanding and reconciliation, you won’t find it on Zuroff’s one-way street.

Category : Blog archive

To join EU, Lithuania had to shut its atomic plant. Now it’s paying for it

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In the dense pine forests where the European Union’s eastern border meets Belarus, two giant nuclear reactors sit idle. Lithuania’s 3,000-megawatt Ignalina plant was once one of the most powerful nuclear facilities in the world. The Baltic state has shut down both reactors as a condition for its 2004 entry into the EU, which wants nothing to do with Ignalina’s Chernobyl-style technology. Now the EU debt crisis has forced Brussels to slash its budget for dismantling old Eastern European atomic stations, threatening to leave Ignalina in limbo.

When a reactor is decommissioned, the first task is to shut it down, a job that requires a lot more than simply flipping a switch. The next step in dismantling the power plant: Spent fuel is removed and the reactors, turbines, and generators are taken apart, a complex task. Ignalina’s turbine hall alone contains 190 kilometers of pipes. The EU, which sets budgets on a seven-year cycle, originally earmarked €1.4 billion ($1.8 billion) for decommissioning Ignalina and an additional €1.5 billion for similar projects in Slovakia and Bulgaria: Both sums are expected to be spent through 2013.

The problem is that for its 2014-20 budgetary cycle, the EU has only allotted the three countries a total of €500 million for the next stage of work. Ignalina General Director Žilvinas Jurkšus says he needs €870 million for the next phase of dismantling. As Lithuania can provide only €100 million, the rest must come from the EU, he says. Brussels insists that Lithuania will get only €210 million—its share of the €500 million.


Category : News

Preliminary contract regarding gas supply from expected LNG Terminal signed

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Rokas Masiulis, General Manager of Klaipedos Nafta

The Klaipeda-based enterprise Klaipedos Nafta and the energy company Lietuvos Energija signed the preliminary contract that turned to be the first step in the negotiations regarding the volumes and terms of gas supply from the projected Liquefied natural gas (LNG) Terminal, the company reports to NASDAQ OMX Vilnius.

During the implementation of the LNG Terminal's project, the parties have committed to exchange information and specify all the related data necessary for the conclusion of the main agreement, reports LETA/ELTA.
The Contract also provides for Klaipedos Nafta, the company responsible for the project, to put all efforts so that the LNG Terminal's capacity would allow guaranteeing the total gas volume necessary for Lietuvos Energija.
The parties will specify the gas volumes, terms of delivery, pricing principles, distribution of responsibilities in the main Agreement that is expected to be signed by December 31, 2012.
The LNG Terminal in Klaipeda Seaport is expected to start its operation by the end of 2014.

Category : News

Only 22% of Lithuanians trust their judiciary!

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Throughout the former Soviet Union — which collapsed 20 years ago this December — the idea of a rule of law has failed miserably, with Russia and other countries maintaining a "pocket judiciary" that caters to the powerful and wealthy.

But the Western-leaning Baltics, members of NATO and the EU since 2004, might be expected to be an exception.

"The problem in the Baltic states is that you don't have the law used in that perverse sense (as in Russia), but you have all the real post-Soviet problems of judicial independence," said Andrew Wilson, an analyst at the European Council for Foreign Relations.

People in the Baltics look poorly on the judiciary. In Latvia, only 36 percent of the population trust their courts, according to a Eurobarometer survey in November 2010, while only 22 percent of Lithuanians trust their judiciary.

"I must say that Lithuania is among those countries where trust in judiciary institutions is lowest" in the EU, said Justice Minister Remigijus Simasius.

For many plaintiffs, the biggest frustration stems from the enormous backlog of cases and overloaded judges.

"I must say that Lithuania is among those countries where trust in judiciary institutions is lowest in the EU", said Justice Minister Remigijus Simasius.


Category : News

Why not retire in Lithuania?

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Dear Editor,

I enjoy reading VilNews and, VilNews seems to touch on, if not already delve into, a variety of issues which are relevant to someone who may wish to retire in Lithuania. It might be interesting for much of your readership to more sharply focus on specific retirement issues such as comparisons and advantages of retiring in Lithuania, vs the US. This seems to be evolving as a hot topic in the US as many baby boomers face the reality of high living costs (particularly healthcare) and diminished pension resources.

Detailed and systematic comparisons of living costs, tax issues, health care and real estate ownership might even result in significant "foreign investment" into Lithuania by foreign, especially US retirees. My impression is that many of us Lithuanian-Americans have thought about this possibility. I know several who have taken action. Perhaps such "dreams" should be encouraged with facts, experiences, even government incentives. Thoughts?

Rimantas Aukstuolis
Cleveland, Ohio USA

Category : Opinions

Lithuanian Christmas story from 1960

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A must see, Outstanding story in Lithuanian from the 1950's and 1960's of How Santa Claus found out about Summer and the little children invited him to return and see what Summer is like. Excellent video. Outstanding graphics. Please keep in mind that there are two parts.

Category : Front page


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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