VilNews

THE VOICE OF INTERNATIONAL LITHUANIA

26 April 2017
www.holidayinnvilnius.lt/
VilNews has its own Google archive! Type a word in the above search box to find any article.

You can also follow us on Facebook. We have two different pages. Click to open and join.
VilNews Notes & Photos
For messages, pictures, news & information
VilNews Forum
For opinions and discussions
Click on the buttons to open and read each of VilNews' 18 sub-sections

Three Lithuanias


Vilnius is the first of the Lithuanias, it is a charming city seething with prosperity, renovation, construction, pride and liberal doses of corruption and politics. 


Lithuania’s countryside is the second of the Lithuanias. In some of these villages I sometimes find the Lithuania of my parents - the people who take care of each other.  

The Lithuanians in Chicago Banner
The third Lithuania is the diaspora - what a story that is.  If the diaspora ever decides to return then Lithuania will be an unbeatable and unstoppable country.  

By Kestutis Eidukonis

In my travels and musings about Lithuania and Lithuanians it has become quite clear to me that there is no such entity as a single Lithuania anymore.   Any serious writing or treatment of the subject matter has to recognize this reality.

The singular Lithuania my parents knew and described to me no longer exists.  Lithuania has been transformed into at least three different and distinct entities.  Each with its own good and bad characteristics.   When I discuss Lithuania with friends and relatives it is like the blind men describing the elephant.  Depending on who you talk to.   Lithuania is either beautiful, hopeful or beyond redemption.

Last week I my wife Siga, and a mutual friend from Japan, Sakae Wade were privileged to get a tour of the Palace of the Dukes of Lithuania (Valdovū Rūmai).   Over the years we have watched as this palace was reconstructed amid controversies and supposed scandal.  A lot of Lithuanian media was very critical of the expense, delay and fraud and corruption associated with the Palace.   One could not turn on the TV without hearing negative comments about this undertaking.   I am ashamed to admit, even I, was taken in by some of this "agitprop".  The Palace will open to the public in a few days and I believe visitors will be pleasantly surprised by the beauty and history that will confront them.  After taking the tour I was no longer surprised by the amount spent on the Palace.  

Had it been a simple question of re-creating the Palace a la Disneyland, I don't think it would have cost the amount of money it did.   Fortunately for the posterity of Lithuania, the past as much as possible, was preserved along with the re-creation.  The Palace rests on the original foundations and mirrors them as much as possible.  The preservation of the original must have cost a fortune.  The basement chambers are all climate controlled to preserve the original foundations and other fragile findings.  I strongly advise every tourist to Lithuania to deeply explore this marvel.  The work done to preserve the original archeology has been praised by experts from all over the world.  Yes a lot of things could have been done cheaper - but I think the results were worth it.   I and Siga were very much touched by the passionate words of the Deputy Director of  the Palace,  Dr. Jolanta Karpavičienė, who challenged anyone who wanted to spit on this work and on Lithuanian history to come and take the tour and then if they still wanted to do so to go ahead!   I was very impressed by the passion of all the people associated with not only the Palace, but the entire staff who worked in State Cultural Reserve of Vilnius Castles.  A lot of very dedicated people fighting very hard to preserve Lithuanians heritage with limited funds and lots of political strings. 

The Palace to me symbolizes Vilnius.   Vilnius is one of the Lithuanias, it is a charming city seething with prosperity, renovation, construction, pride and liberal doses of corruption and politics.  The amount of money being lavished on this city is phenomenal.   Tourists in the thousands flock to the Old Town every day!  It is truly one of the most architecturally beautiful and unique cities of the world.   Vilnius truly is an international city.   As one meanders through its winding cobblestone streets one hears a cacophony of languages.  Spanish, Italian, German, Russian, Polish, Yiddish, English and many others being spoken.  I feel very good and comfortable  when I come back to this city.   All of Vilnius is not this nice.  There are indeed many Soviet style apartments and areas that indeed are a little bit depressing.   I have been told that Kaunas is just as nice and more Lithuanian than international, but that is another story.   I think Kaunas is more like Vilnius than the rest of Lithuania. 

The rest of Lithuania is symbolized by the area where my mother-in-law lives.  She lives in a beautiful area of Lithuania that happens to contain the highest point in Lithuania.   There farmers are eking out a living.  The area is reachable only by turning off of the highway and following first a rock paved road, then a dirt road.  First to the town of Stakliškės where Midus is made, than to the farming village of Užuguostis, and finally turning of the rock road onto a dirt road passable by only one car.  The wooden carved sign at this point says Gedanonių Kalva, 4.2 km.  Arriving at Gedenonių Kalva one is struck by the difficulty of reaching the place, the isolation, the greatness,, and the natural beauty, the wild flowers, the plowed fields and the overgrown fields surrounding the place.  One is also struck by how abandoned and overgrown this recently constructed land mark has become.  Over a hundred thousand Euros were spent on this "Landmark".  The already bad road was further ruined by the construction and a very bad winter, along with improperly done maintenance.   I  have only seen tourists there once.  They did not have much good to say about this monument.   The rumor among most of the inhabitants is that this was simply a money-laundering proposition to obtain money from the EU. 

The area is administered by a district administrator who has her hands full.  The population is declining.  From about 3000 inhabitants during Soviet times to about 500, nowadays.  She still has to plow the roads, keep culverts clean handle local disputes and other headaches.  Half of the population works hard, the other half hardly works.  They get by on 350 LT a month unemployment.  When one lives in the countryside,  getting food and firewood is not a problem.  Most people grow their own or a relative grows something and shares it for helping out in the fields.   Some people still live in dirt floor homes, others are a bit more prosperous,  The only bill some people have to pay is for electricity.  This leaves quite a bit left for moonshine and contraband cigarettes.  People do odd jobs for some of the more prosperous people in the area, but for the most part it is very difficult to find help or to get people to work.  The feeling most of the people have here is that they are not a part of Lithuania.  The politicians only look after Vilnius and each other.   The EU is looked upon as a waster of money, and a creator of lazy people, who figure out to milk the system.  The feeling one gets when one visits this area is that the abandonment will only accelerate.  There are already quite a few abandoned farmhouses, where people  don't come or only visit occasionally.   The contrasts could not be more stunning - beautiful nature - abandoned farms.  This area is such a contrast to Vilnius.   Some people might prefer this to living in Vilnius.  I hope they do make the move.   I am sure there are a lot of opportunities for people who want to tame the countryside.

I know for a fact that there are a lot of Lithuanias like this out there.   But here in some of these villages  I sometimes find the Lithuania of my parents - the people who take care of each other.   While some of these people long for the bygone Soviet era - most are patriotic Lithuanians who happen to be totally disenchanted by their government and their representatives and the promises that were made to them.  Gedanonių Kalva symbolizes the Lithuanian Government to these people.

The third Lithuania is the diaspora - what a story that is.  If the diaspora ever decides to return then Lithuania will be an unbeatable and unstoppable country.  I know all the arguments for why they should have stayed in Lithuania.  I also know the reasons most of them left.  It is truly a desperate step to voluntarily exile oneself from the land of your birth, the land of your friends and relatives.   What kind of person does this.   Well, let me tell you that most of the people of the Lithuanian diaspora I have met truly only did it as a last resort.  I do not think leaving Lithuania was a first choice for any of them.  The thing that amazes me the most is that most of these third wavers still love Lithuania, even after all the agonizing things Lithuania has put them through, they still talk and dream of someday returning to a different Lithuania one that doesn't say to them you left - don't come back.  You are no longer one of us.  I remember a conversation with a Lowlander (Żemaitis) who told me,  "Kestuti, you don't understand - they (the people in government) do not want dual citizenship - they do not want you and other Lithuanians who grew up elsewhere.   They are afraid that a lot of you will vote.  They are afraid that a lot of you will run for office.  They are afraid of losing their power base.  After all  over a third of Lithuania is the diaspora, just think of what this diaspora could do if they all retained or got their citizenship.  What if they all voted?  It would change the political dynamic of this country.  That is why the politicians will never let it happen!"

I believe my friend had a point.  If I were sitting in Russia, I could not have devised a better strategy to insure Three Lithuanias!   Divided between rural, city and diaspora.  A Lithuania I can easily dominate with my oil money!  Where my agents will be leaders.  Where corruption of the legal system is allowed to flourish.  Where people do not trust their government.  Where crooks and embezzler's rights are more important than the ordinary Lithuanian's desire to maintain his citizenship and his links to Lithuania. Where is the Leadership of Lithuania?   Where is the person or persons who can unite the country?   Ah but that is why we have three Lithuanias, a dozen parties - more emigration, more loss of economic freedom.  Divide and conquer!   E Unum Pluribus!

PICTURES FROM THE ROYAL PALACE:

 

 

 

 

LITHUANIAN COUNTRYSIDE:


Arriving at Gedenonių Kalva one is struck by the difficulty of reaching the place, the isolation, the greatness,, and the natural beauty, the wild flowers, the plowed fields and the overgrown fields surrounding the place.  One is also struck by how abandoned and overgrown this recently constructed land mark has become.  Over a hundred thousand Euros were spent on this "Landmark".  The already bad road was further ruined by the construction and a very bad winter, along with improperly done maintenance.   I have only seen tourists there once.  They did not have much good to say about this monument.   The rumor among most of the inhabitants is that this was simply a money-laundering proposition to obtain money from the EU.  

LITHUANIA’S DIASPORA:


Faces of the Lithuanian diaspora.
Photo; Justinas Bartkevicius.


Faces of the Lithuanian diaspora.
Photo; Justinas Bartkevicius.

Category : Featured black / Lithuania today
  • I. Simonis

    Great article! Much room for pondering – I was born in Lithuania and left with my parents, when the Russians were coming again, in 1944. My father hd been in the Resistance and he knew what would happen to him and us, if we stayed! There were too many betrayals by people looking to ingratiate themselves with the new regime! It's interesting to me, that the majority of Lithuanians who stayed think that we got off easily! They keep talking about how difficult life was for them and it was, but it was also extremely difficult for the DPs (Displaced People). We suffered through bombings, air raid shelters, hunger and starvation and then life in abandoned Army Camps, under Allied supervision, where there was never enough food and no jobs. Not all of us survived! When we all were finally able to immigrate to Argentina, Australia, Canada, England, the United State of America, Venezuela and other places, no one handed us food or money on silver platters – work and hard work was required to take care of the families. The work ethic was strong in my parents generation and it was passed down to mine and my children's group and most of us have done well through sheer hard work. We also have supported Lithuania and Lithuanians, over the years, especially during Glasnost and Perestroika, with demonstrations, letters to DC, $$$ for direct help and many of us worked manning phones etc to get the word out. So when we return to Lithuania, and are snubbed or otherwise treated rudely by the locals, it just makes me feel so sad that their vision is being ruined by the blinders of mistrust they are still wearing! I hope the younger generations will bring a breath of fresh air to the most beautiful country in the world. My mother used to tell that, but I never believed it until I went back and fell in love with Lithuania and discovered my own roots.

    August 29 2015
    CommentsLike

    • Well observed and stated! I am confident that a new generation of young people, like those at Kurk Lietuva, will make for a better future in Lithuania.

      August 02 2013
      CommentsLike

      • This post really peaked my personal interest.

        July 17 2013
        CommentsLike
        • Vytenis Folkmanas

          Very original and touching article Kestutis !! Bravo !! I believe everyone thinks as you do !

          July 07 2013
          CommentsLike
          • Gail VanWart

            This well written report makes me long to travel to Lithuania again to see this amazing place that preserves another piece of my Lithuanian heritage. Thank you, Lithuania, for spending the money on meaningful cultural preservation and thank you, VilNews, for publishing this wonderful article. Iki.

            July 06 2013
            CommentsLike

            • You have written a good description …………… thank you.

              July 06 2013
              CommentsLike
              • Lois Kirkey

                I love this wonderful and thoughtful essay. Although my great grandfather came from Kaunas, it falls in with the category "rest of Lithuania". And no, he did not really want to leave but was forced to, by poverty and near-starvation. Which agrees with what the article said…At one time, his father was a very rich and well-respected man in town; an owner of a fruit orchard. But then in 1868, a massive fire destroyed his trees. As the land was only rented, the family lost all, and my great grandfather, Louis Cohen, scratched to feed himself, and aid the survival of his family. Finally, at age 18, in 1883, he gave up the struggle and emigrated to America, where he eventually became a citizen. Was his life better here? Not that much but his offspring did somewhat better.

                July 06 2013
                CommentsLike

                • Exceptionally well written…

                  July 06 2013
                  CommentsLike
                  • Boris Bakunas

                    Thank you for your poignant and stirring article, both sorrowful and yet full of hope as well. During my last visit to Lithuania, the restoration of Valdovū Rūmai had just gotten started. Can you imagine the thrill I felt when I saw the finished palace in all its grandeur. It reminded me of our country's heroic past: besieged by invaders for centuries, under the yoke of foreign oppression for nearly two hundred years, yet never defeated, its spirit never conquered.

                    Lithuania is and will remain unbeaten, no matter what grim obstacles stand in its way. One need only look at the new generation of Lithuanians who will someday lead our land of heroes and sorrows into the shining future we can only glimpse in our imaginations. Thank you for your article. Thank you for the emotions it stirred in my heart. Thank you for your vision of Lithuania resurgent!

                    July 06 2013
                    CommentsLike
                    • valdas samonis

                      Re: Diaspora and citizenship

                      RIGHT ON THE MONEY, KESTUTI!

                      July 05 2013
                      CommentsLike



                      

                      VilNews e-magazine is published in Vilnius, Lithuania. Editor-in-Chief: Mr. Aage Myhre. Inquires to the editorseditor@VilNews.com.
                      Code of Ethics: See Section 2 – about VilNewsVilNews  is not responsible for content on external links/web pages.
                      HOW TO ADVERTISE IN VILNEWS.
                      All content is copyrighted © 2011. UAB ‘VilNews’.