VilNews

THE VOICE OF INTERNATIONAL LITHUANIA

22 October 2017
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New series of articles – starting today!

Healing the wounds between LT-Americans and the homeland


Photo: National Lithuanian American Hall of Fame

Aage Myhre, Editor-in-Chief
aage.myhre@VilNews.com

The relationship between Lithuania’s diaspora groups in the U.S. and the home country Lithuania is not always the best. Many here in Lithuania still believe that those who left, whether for economic or political reasons, had very comfortable lives compared to those who stayed behind and had to fight through several decades of inhuman oppression and abuse by the Soviet occupiers.

Many Lithuanians in the United States believe in turn that the mother country does not welcome them to return or collaborate on improving the development of the nation called Lithuania, and have been critical about ongoing corruption, that rule of law is still not working effectively, etc.

VilNews will through much of April focus on this topic, and we hereby invite all with views to prepare posts; in the form of blogs, comment articles or information you think might shed light or be of benefit to the relationship. The goal is to build bridges and contribute to reconciliation!

These are some of the challenges and opportunities we face:

1.
Lithuanian-Americans played a significant role in the post-war years, until Lithuania's recovered independence in 1990-1991, by constantly exerting pressure on the U.S. President and leaders in other Western countries so that they would pressure the Soviet Union to allow the Baltic countries freedom after the Soviet occupation that took place during World War II. Now, as more than 20 years have passed since the freedom bells rang, the question is whether the Lithuanian-Americans have a role to play also today? See our article 
http://vilnews.com/?p=8899

2.
“The majority, I believe, are disappointed and discouraged with the present president’s seemingly unfriendly view toward Lithuanian-Americans and others abroad.” This said Regina Narusiene, President of the World Lithuanian 
Community, in a recent interview (see http://vilnews.com/?p=6704), based on a comment referred to in The Baltic Times, where President Grybauskaite should have said that most prominent U.S. Lithuanian émigrés, instead of focusing on developing U.S. - Lithuanian business ties, prefer providing political advice to the Lithuanian authorities, which may not be that necessary nowadays. She was supposedly “disappointed by Lithuanian émigrés’ inability to attract U.S.-based investments to Lithuania.” Here in VilNews we often hear Lithuanian-Americans say they do not feel welcome to their  home country, and that Lithuania's current president seems to antagonize them. What are our readers’ comments to this?

3.
In a VilNews interview Regina Narusiene told about her youth in Chicago, after she and her family had settled there after escaping from Lithuania in 1944. One of the things she said, was: “I realized that my father was afraid of informers who could make life difficult for us, for our relatives who remained in Lithuania, and for the Lithuanian partisans who kept on fighting against the Soviet occupants well into the 1950s. The KGB had their own spies within the Lithuanian communities in the U.S., so we were extremely careful with what we said outside the home."  Now, when the KGB archives have been made public, are there new traces of KGB post-war activities to be found also in the U.S.?

4.
In a meeting at the Lithuanian Embassy in Washington last year, representatives of LAC (Lithuanian American Council) expressed their concern on a wide range of topics including Lithuania's developing energy policy, the country’s image in the international community, emigration issues and their demographic impact, the prospect of maintaining citizenship rights of recent immigrants, ongoing cooperation between organizations of the Diaspora and Lithuania, and minority issues in Lithuania. LAC representatives suggested that Lithuania would benefit significantly by availing itself of the expertise and knowledge found in the Diaspora communities in developing energy and security policies and a host of other areas such as environmental issues, ecology, medicine, economic development, and the promotion of improved interactions between the government and the people through non-governmental organizations (ref. http://vilnews.com/?p=5031). Has there been any official Lithuanian response to this?

5.
In November 2011, the Jewish Lithuanian Heritage Project hosted a roundtable “Think Tank” at the Lithuanian embassy in Washington. The theme of the discussion was, "A comprehensive Five Year plan to improve Lithuanian-Jewish relations: Cultivating Sunflowers." (ref. http://vilnews.com/?p=9949). In a response, one of our readers wrote: “Is this about the establishment of a new Judenrat to apologize for Lithuanian anti-Semitism? “If truth be told” having a holiday party at Lithuania’s D.C. Embassy is not revolutionary. What would be revolutionary would have been, and would be, is the prosecution of Lithuanian collaborators and SS members, the prosecution of today’s neo-Nazi youth groups, reinstatement of the ban against the display of the swastika and ending the noxious practice of the Uzgavenes holiday when people dress as Jews and beg on the street.” Harsh words?

COMMENT 1:


Rimantas Aukstuolis

“I am very pleased to see this intra-Lithuanian forum open up and give vent to these prejudices we have about each other”

I am very pleased to see this intra -Lithuanian forum open up and give vent to these prejudices we have about each other. VilNews is perhaps the best and only such place I am familiar with, with a broad enough readership to bring disparate but, hopefully responsible discussion to bear on this topic.

I am the American born son of a post WW2 DP father and a US born and raised, second generation Lithuanian mother. The DP's and old immigration Lithuanians never did mix very much and we all have a similar disconnect with the new "third wave". So it's not surprising to see a gap between the Lithuanian diaspora (of whatever immigration) and modern Lithuanian-Lithuanians.

My wife Vita and I, together with our four (at the time) young children lived in Vilnius while I worked as an adviser from the US Treasury in the early 90's. We sure did experience the cultural differences but, on balance, came away, humbled and culturally enriched by the experience.

Yes, I have seen the dark prejudice and defensive suspicion held by some native Lithuanians, some of whom would, on balance, be more comfortable in a Russian dominated, Soviet style environment than a capitalist, democratic society. I have also seen the "successful" overseas Lithuanian who, of course, knows everything better than his native cousins and isn't bashful about letting them know. I hope I wasn't one! I think each of these extremes are embarrassing for people of good will on either side of the divide, of which there are many.

We do need to reach out, however. Lithuania can benefit by the skills of the diaspora which should not be turned away as help from any quarter is needed (President Grybauskaite notwithstanding). Likewise, in spite of our active Lithuanian cultural lives in the diaspora, our Lithuanian language and ethnic identities are fading, our children assimilating. Lithuania, for all its issues is our living, modern cultural cradle.

Rimantas Aukstuolis
Cleveland, Ohio, USA

Rimantas Aukstuolis:
I was born 1952 in Omaha, Nebraska, USA. Mother (Genevieve Jesonis) was born in Omaha to old immigration (1906) parents. Father (Mecys Aukstuolis) was born in Lithuania and DP, post war immigrant. Married to Vita (Musonis), daughter of post war immigrant parents (Vytautas and Genovaite). Vita is a clinical psychologist. We have four children; Kestutis, Algirdas, Lina and Vytautas who is youngest and studying at Ohio State University.

Currently living in Cleveland Ohio area where we have spent most of our lives although Vita was born and raised in the Chicago area.

I have been an international and commercial banker since 1976 and have worked for several large regional US banks. Currently working at Fifth Third Bank in Structured Trade Finance which involves export financing. In 1993 I moved with my family to Lithuania where I worked for the US Treasury Department as an advisor to the then fledgling Bank of Lithuania. We lived in Lithuania for two and a half years.

All members of the family have been involved in Lithuanian activities all their lives and the children all speak Lithuanian. Currently I belong to the Exultate Lithuanian choir in Cleveland and Vita is active with Ateitininkai.

Category : Blog archive



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