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Archive for February, 2012

How do Baltic presidents get airborne?

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The life of the president of any country is impossible without international visits, which are simply impossible to implement without the achievements of modern civilization - the planes and helicopters. In this regard, Belarusian “Telegraf” journalists have decided to find out, what aircraft high-ranking officials of Belarus and its neighboring states travel by.

Read more…

Category : News

Grybauskaite flies economy class!

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President Grybauskaite aboard the amphibious command ship USS Mount Whitney.
U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sylvia Nealy/Released

President of Dalia Grybauskaite flies by regular air-liners. In Europe, she enjoys the economy-class, outside the continent – business-class.

However, it is exactly economy class that Grybauskaite has used for her first overseas visits to Sweden and Latvia. At the same time, her flight from Vilnius to Stockholm cost $330.

The reason for this is that the Cabinet has considered a private jet too big a luxury for the country.

For flights Grybauskaite employs cruise aircraft airlines Aeroservisas. If the President landed in a country only in order to transfer to the other aircraft at the airport it is usually only meets Lithuania's Ambassador to this country.

In turn, the airline offers a small airplane of business-class "Cessna 560 Citation V," designed for seven to eight passengers among the country's highest officials. At the same time Aeroservisas director Ben Laurinaytis reported that the plane hadn’t been bought specifically for presidential use. "This is a new product, offered by Aeroservisas to its customers," he said in 2009.

Category : News

It is possible to offer some counterweight

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By: Myra Sklarew

When I stood in Rotuses Square in Kaunas last September, I listened to a young man speak about the burden he had carried in his young life to know that his own grandfather  had been one of the killers during the War, a member of the Lithuanian Activist Front and part of a mobile killing unit. The young man asked forgiveness.

And when I stood with a group of some fifty people next to the place of massacre of over 2000 Jewish people in Kedainiai—a place where twenty-nine of my own family members were murdered,  I saw how Lithuanians were making the enormous passage across time and cultural divide to embrace a wrong that they had nothing to do with. I ask myself if I have done enough in my own country to right the wrongs committed by my forebears.

Thus, when neo-Nazis march through the streets of Vilnius and Kaunas, they not only bring harm and pain to Jewish people but to Lithuanians who have made and are making efforts to  come to know those who were their neighbors for centuries, as were my grandparents and their parents before them,  village farmers. I thank the Lithuanians for every single effort they are making to come to terms with this past, for schoolchildren who bring small stones to the graves and massacre places on Holocaust Remembrance Day, by way of their remembrance. I thank the teachers who bring the study of those who once lived among them into the focus of learning. I thank the teacher whose students identified very single house in one village, the families who once lived there, making the hidden and anonymous past alive and literally on the map. I thank the teacher, who long before others had begun this—and not without risk-- had her students interview their grandparents about their former neighbors who often comprised half of their village.

If it is not possible to stop the Neo-Nazi march, then surely it is possible to offer some counterweight, some teaching by Lithuanians—Jewish and Christian together—in public forums and media to bring understanding and education, Of course, it would help if the Lithuanian government took a stand against these marches. Though we honor free speech in my country, the government has ways of subduing the hate--requiring a march to take place at the edge of town rather than in the center, encouraging active counterpoint and teaching. assisting those who wish to protest against hate groups that they may do so without harm. It is no secret that the demonstration of radical hate gives permission to those on the fringe of society to act against others as well. The tight power structure of the neo-Nazis where individual 
identity is submerged in the power of the leader does away with any capacity for empathy.

Though we count on our leaders to offer appropriate boundaries and limits, we have learned long ago in America that change also happens through individual action, not only through dictates from above.

Myra Sklarew, USA
February 26, 2012

Category : Litvak forum

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Michigan loves VilNews!

An avid reader of VilNews in Michigan, USA, bought a new car not long ago. This is what his new license plates look like ...

Democrat or Republican does not matter, Lithuanians in Michigan simply love VilNews!

Category : About VilNews sidebar / Opinions

There are lots of Lithuanians in Michigan

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Frank Passic

There are lots of Lithuanians here in Michigan. My maternal grandfather was Nikodemas Kulikauskas and they were from Lietuva (he was born in Nevardenai near Varniai in 1890, died 1975 here in Albion). 2011 marked the 100th anniversary of my grandfather coming to the US.

Frank Passic, Albion, Michigan

Category : About VilNews sidebar / Opinions

A weekend of books in Vilnius – once again

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Text and photos: Diana Koval

An annual cultural refreshment weekend for all those who cannot imagine their life without books finally happened and as always it was fabulous. Vilnius International Book Fair for the 13th time opened its doors to the numerous visitors from all over the country. Last year there were about 60 thousands of them, and about the same amount of guests are expected to visit Litexpo exhibition center during this last weekend of February.


Category : Front page

A heavy chain and padlock of one Opera House exit door…

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Dominican Father
David O’Rourke

As pastor of an old church, on brick foundations, in earthquake country I never go into any public building without making a mental note on how to get out – fast – if needed. I am also an opera fan, and always check on ‘what’s playing’ at the opera house before booking a flight to Vilnius. The cultural life in Vilnius is spectacular.

But, there has been – and at last look there still is – a heavy chain and padlock of one of the two sets of exit doors from the Opera House. I suppose that the old Soviet janitor who had the key has long since gone to whatever retirement. But if there were ever an emergency and everyone had to get out fast they would never make it.

But then, the man in charge of doors will say, “But there is that whole other set of doors – the entrance set – on the other side of the building.” Sure….

This locked exit door and the lack of hand rails to help going down the outside steps, by the way, has provided me with a metaphor of the Soviet system in one of my poems. Under Stalin and Co no one cared (or even wanted to think about) how you got out of a privileged place like the Opera, or how you went down after it was over. There was only going up. Going out, doing down, God forbid.

David O'Rourke
California, USA.

Category : Opinions

Lithuanian tourism up 15,7% in 2011 – Palanga up nearly 30%!

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Number of tourists in accommodation establishments by city/county, IV quarter 2011

According to the provisional date of Statistics Lithuania, in IV quarter 2011, accommodation establishments received 376 thousand tourists, or 15.7 per cent by more than in the same quarter of 2010. The number of tourists from EU countries increased by 11.3 per cent, Lithuanian residents - 14.3 per cent, tourists from non-EU countries - by 24.8 per cent.

Most tourists came from:

  •    Russia - 35.1 thousand (in IV quarter 2010, 26.5 thousand),
  •    Belarus - 24.8 thousand (in IV quarter 2010, 22.8 thousand),
  •    Poland - 22.6 thousand (in IV quarter 2010, 22.9 thousand),
  •    Latvia - 17.3 thousand (in IV quarter 2010, 14.3 thousand),
  •    Germany - 15.1 thousand (in IV quarter 2010, 12 thousand),
  •    United Kingdom - 7.6 thousand (in IV quarter 2010, 8.3 thousand),
  •    Estonia - 7.1 thousand (in IV quarter 2010, 6.9 thousand),
  •    Finland - 6.7 thousand (in IV quarter 2010, 7.6 thousand).

In the last quarter of 2011, a quarter of tourists stayed in accommodation in the resort towns of establishments:

  •    Druskininkai received 64 thousand tourists, Which is by 20.2 per cent more than in IV quarter 2010,
  •    Palanga - 26 thousand tourists (29.8 per cent by more )
  •    Birštonas - 6.4 thousand (by 1 per cent more), Neringa - 2.5 thousand tourists (by 1.3 per cent more).
Category : News

In 2011 Lithuanian hotels had 1.8 million visitors – 15.4% up year on year

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Number of foreign tourists in accommodation establishments by country, IV quarter 2011

In 2011, the accommodation establishments of Lithuania received 1.8 million tourists, or 15.4 per cent by more than in the same period of 2010, the number of foreign tourists amounted to 1 million (19.5% more).

Category : News

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More about money…  
Russian Rouble –
invented in Lithuania?
President Smetona on
the 10-litas note
1st and 2nd round of
Lithuanian litas
Vagnorkės – Talonas
20 years anniversary
Category : Business, economy, investments / 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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