THE VOICE OF INTERNATIONAL LITHUANIA
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Marija Danguolė Navickienė is the new President of
Lithuanian World Community (LWC).
Photo: Aage Myhre
Marija Danguolė Navickienė, new President of the Lithuanian World Community (LWC)
interviewed by Aage Myhre, VilNews Editor-in-Chief
A new Board of Lithuanian World Community (LWC) was elected during the 14th World Lithuanian symposium held in August 2012 in Vilnius. Marija Danguolė Navickienė was elected new President for the organisation, replacing Regina Narušienė who chaired the LWC Board for six years. Here is our interview with the fresh LWC President.
Congratulations as newly elected President of the Lithuanian World Community (LWC)! For the next years you will lead the huge Lithuanian nation-outside-the-nation representing almost as many people as the country itself. What are your visions for this important job?
My vision is one of attaining mutual understanding, respect and cooperation between the people of Lithuania and its diaspora, as well as among the many different countries of the world where there are Lithuanian communities.
“We have to turn the idea of Global Lithuania into reality and take the relations between Lithuania and Lithuanian diasporas to a new quality level”, said the Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs, Asta Skaisgirytė Liauškienė, in a recent meeting with you. What should, in your opinion, characterize such a new quality level? http://www.urm.lt/umr/m/m_images/wfiles/ioqw1o26229.jpg
I have had the pleasure of recently receiving a follow-up letter from Vice-Minister Asta Skaisgiryte Liauškienė detailing the many ways in which the Lithuanian World Community could work with the Lithuanian government as well as non-government institutions in Lithuania to fulfil the concept of a Global Lithuania. Among the suggestions were joint projects in academic, business, cultural and other fields. They are impressive and concrete in themselves, but the word which jumped out of the page at me was “partnership”. The LWC has long been on a quest for equal standing in conceiving and executing joint projects with Lithuania. This, above all, indicated that a new quality level has been reached. We look forward to working together with this newly redefined concept of partners united for a common cause.
It was in the meeting agreed to continue strengthening the cooperation between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and LWC, cooperating for a common goal. Seen from outside there hasn’t seemed to be too close a cooperation between Lithuanian authorities and the global Lithuanians, are we now seeing an increased interest and understanding from the national leadership?
I sincerely believe that we have entered a new era of increased interest and understanding, not just judging by the contents of the letter from Vice-Minister Asta Skaisgirytė Liauškienė, but several other manifestations which I have experienced. The Lithuanian American Community Board of Directors meeting which occurred at the end of September in Atlanta was attended by so many members of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, including the Minister of Foreign Affairs Audronius Ažubalis, that it almost looked like a Foreign Affairs Ministry convention. Besides the Foreign Minister, we had the Lithuanian Ambassador to the U.S. Žygimantas Pavilionis, Consul General to New York Valdemaras Sarapinas, the director of the Department of Lithuanians Living Abroad Arvydas Daunoravičius and several members of the Lithuanian Embassy staff present. Their attendance and expressions of mutual cooperation were very well received.
“No LT leaders called to tell they love me,” said Rimgaudas P. Vidziunas (65) from Arizona (see http://vilnews.com/?p=1363 ). He is one among thousands of Lithuanians born in German camps for displaced people after World War II. Why do you think nobody called him or sent him a note of recognition and appreciation?
It is difficult to answer this question not knowing if the quote is taken out of context, or is tongue-in-cheek, but if it is seriously expressed, then I would say that Rimgaudas’ expectations are somewhat unrealistic. Being born a Lithuanian is an accident of birth. It’s what you do with it later that really matters. If Rimgaudas and other Lithuanians living abroad participated in 50 years of efforts to liberate Lithuania through lobbying and dissemination of information about her plight to influential people of the world and anyone else who would listen, then they, as a group such as the Lithuanian World Community, Lithuanian American Community and all Lithuanian Communities of the world, are deserving of an expression of love and appreciation from Lithuanian leaders. There have, in fact, been many expressions of appreciation from Lithuanian leaders. They are expressed during cultural events, independence commemorations and throughout the media. Those who actively participate in such activities and read the Lithuanian press are well aware of it.
You are today working as an IT specialist in California, but have throughout your lifetime maintained interest and warm feelings for the homeland you had to fly from as a child at the end of WWII. You are also President of the "Lithuanian Children Hope" Los Angeles department, which over a 20 years period has donated more than 1.5 million US dollars to the Vilnius University Children's Hospital. Is there still today a need for charity and other forms of help efforts for Lithuania?
In reality, I have been retired from my profession for several years. It just doesn’t feel as if I’m retired because I’m working harder than ever. My current volunteer work, whether cultural or charitable or community projects, has given me more joy and fulfilment than any of the jobs for which I got paid. Lithuanian Children’s Hope, a subsidiary of the Lithuanian American Community Social Services Council, is the perfect example of how we can not only help heal Lithuania’s children, but also build bridges between our countries and Lithuania. Charity never goes out of style, be it in a prosperous country like the United States or one recovering from many years of Soviet occupation like Lithuania. It is the gift that keeps on giving – to donor and recipient alike.
There was a time when we used to bring children from Lithuania to Los Angeles for treatment before we had enough money to start rebuilding facilities and buying expensive equipment for the Vilnius University Children’s Hospital. During that time we had the opportunity to live closely with both children and parents while the children were being treated. Upon leaving for home, one of the mothers gave a beautiful speech to the volunteers who cared for her and her child in which she said: “You have done more than heal our children. You have taught us to love.” It is something I shall always carry in my heart. In short, the answer to your question is a resounding “YES!”.
If I’ve understood you correctly it was not California but New Jersey that became your first home in the U.S., and here you had a remarkable career working with secret test programmes for military airplanes?
My first home in the U.S. was New Jersey, but it was in California where I worked on my secret military plane programs.
“Ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.” This said U.S. President John F. Kennedy in his inaugural address in January 1961. What would YOU tell the many Lithuanians scattered around the world today?
I would tell them that it is not enough to eat kugelis and drink Lithuanian beer a few times a year. One would primarily need to be well-informed of events in Lithuania in order to understand her needs and to see where one can help. Some ways to help require years of commitment, while others may involve just writing a Letter to the Editor of newspapers which print libelous articles about Lithuania. The more letters they receive, the more likely they are to take notice and to print the rebuttals. Similarly, lobbying your governments to continue to support NATO involvement in the defense of Lithuania can have a positive effect. There are many such examples.
It is very important to foster Lithuanian culture and education in your communities in order to keep close ties with Lithuania and feel a commitment to be useful to her in the future. You can be a good Lithuanian without jeopardizing your ties or loyalty to your adopted country.
For you be a good leader for international Lithuania, the 'troops' of global Lithuanians must rally behind you. How can that best be done and what would be your invitation to groups and individuals who wish to contribute to your important work that is now in its very beginning?
Even though we are all of Lithuanian ancestry and share the same history and cultural heritage, we are in many ways quite different. This is true not only between the diaspora and the country of Lithuania, but also among the many communities of Lithuanians living abroad. I believe that finding that which unites us is very obvious and merely scratches the surface. I feel a need to explore that which divides us and work to overcome our differences in order to be effective. For example, we could institute some people-to-people programs or cultural exchanges between the different countries of the diaspora to promote understanding and unity.
"Workers of the world, unite!" said Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels in their Communist Manifesto (1848). What about “Lithuanians of the world, unite!” as motto for you and LWC for the years to come?
This motto expresses well what the LWC needs to do in order to achieve its goals. We are all of Lithuanian ancestry, we speak Lithuanian and promote Lithuanian culture and education in the many different countries in which we live. If we would be concerned only with our corner of the world, our successes would be small. If we unite and work together to achieve common goals, we shall become a force – one to be respected and desired as an ally on behalf of Lithuania.
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