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Archive for March, 2013

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Lithuanian Velykos (Easter) traditions

The word for Easter, Velykos, has been borrowed from Byelorussian and means "important day." The word is very accurate because Easter is the year's most solemn feast in Lithuania. Easter is not only the feast of Christ's Resurrection, but also nature's awakening from the winter's sleep.

The early Eastern morn, just before dawn, abounds with magical power. Much of this magic is concentrated in flowing water. Bathing in such water before sunrise prevents all boils, sores, rashes and other skin ailments. If it rains on Easter morning, it is necessary to stand bareheaded in the rain to ensure good growth. Small children who want to grow quickly are reminded of this.

As the sun rises on Easter morning, it "dances" swaying from side to side and changing colour: from green to blue, to red and then golden yellow. This phenomenon can be seen by rising before dawn and watching for the sun's first appearance on the horizon.


Category : Front page

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Making Bullets:
Take One California Girl add a Lithuanian Revolution and Stir

Read the fascinating story of Daiva Venckus, written by our Associate Editor Vin Karnila.

Vin Karnila: Daiva Venckus has been writing a very exciting book about her experiences from those early days of the 1990s. After reading the first chapter I am sure that your next thought will be the same as mine:

Where can I get this book???

Well, this is the bad news – You can’t get it..

I’m not in the publishing business so I have absolutely no idea as to the logic these people use but I’ll try to put it in a nut shell and then let you figure it out. Daiva has shown her book to a number of publishers in the USA. Their reaction was – THEY LIKED IT!!!

So why don’t they publish it???

Their logic is this, they don’t want to publish a book that will basically be a one shot deal. They want to publish a book that will be followed by other books based on the same theme/topic.

What is even more puzzling and even exasperating is that she offered the book to a number of publishing companies here in Lithuania and they were completely unresponsive. For a Lithuanian company to be unresponsive is unfortunately not uncommon but for the life of me I don’t understand why a Lithuanian publisher would not be interested in a book that can be published in Lithuanian for the home market and in English for the worldwide market. There are very few books published here in Lithuania that have the potential be popular in the world wide market and when one is presented to a Lithuanian publisher there is no response – You figure it out???

Dears readers, if any of you are in the publishing industry or if any of you can understand this logic of not publishing a book you think is good because you want to have more books on the same topic to follow it please explain this all to me because this logic totally escapes me??????

My advice would be to self-publish as an online book

I worked with Daiva's dad long ago, so knew her mom, and dad, since she was a baby. Back in 1991, her mom kept me up to date with Daiva's travel to Lithuania and her participation in the effort to kick out the Russians. We were happy to learn she was able to stay safe and return to the USA with a sense of accomplishment in an historic event. Insofar as publishing, I am aware the industry is fickle and always finds room to print trash like romance novels. My advice would be to self-publish as an online book - a friend recently took that approach, and it completely circumvents the publisher roadblocks. Also, by the way, a book on history is not "one of a series" as was told to Daiva, for example the Team of Rivals by Doris Goodwin is a one-off. Yes, Goodwin wrote other books, but not on the same topic. So another suggestion would be to find out who publishes history books, and stay away firms that publish items such as the Hobbit.

Print the book, we need it especially nowadays for the younger generations who don't know what real tyranny can be

Heard the stories from my grandparents who came to America. They told stories of relatives who were left behind and suffered under the communist rule. My grandparents hoped for a free Lithuania but never really thought the Russians would leave short of a 3rd World War. Print the book, we need it especially now a days for the younger generations who don't know what real tyranny can be. Ruta Sepetys book "Shades of Gray" was a one shot presentation on Lithuania and it was a hit. Print the book, we need more encouragement fto love or our Lithuanian Heritage.
Her story is gripping and everyone needs to hear it.
Excellent article, Vincas! Daiva's story is full of amazing details of what was happening during the Lithuanian fight for re-independence! Her story is gripping and everyone needs to hear it. So many secrets in history revealed in her tales. The time is now because this generation needs to learn what happened in Lithuania so we can teach our children. History like this should never repeat itself!
Rima Raulinaitis
Category : Opinions

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Minsk-Vilnius journey to become 30 minutes faster on 26 May

MINSK, 28 March (BelTA) – The journey time by train No.15/16 and No. 37/38 will reduce by half and hour and make 2.5 hours starting from 26 May, BelTA learnt from the press service of Belarusian Railways.

Specialists noted that this will be achieved thanks to optimization of border and customs control.

The details and terms of the Belarus-Lithuania joint project to reduce the Minsk-Vilnius journey time have been recently discussed at a session in Minsk. Taking part in it were representatives of Belarusian Railways, Lithuanian Railways, border and customs services of Belarus and Lithuania. The sides formalized a decision on optimizing border and customs control on trains No.15/16 and No. 37/38. Passenger screening on the Belarusian territory will be done on the route between Molodechno and Gudogai. In Lithuania the checks will be carried out at a special terminal at the Vilnius railways station.

The participants of the session discussed requirements to the rolling stock, train schedules and a possibility to launch additional trains between Minsk and Vilnius.

The reduction of travel time between Minsk and Vilnius down to 2.5 hours is the second stage of the project to reduce journey time between the capitals of Belarus and Lithuania. The first phase was completed in 2011. As a result the travel time between the capital cities of Belarus and Lithuania reduced from 4 hours to 3 hours.

The press service of Belarusian Railways informed that the passenger flow between the two countries exceeded 295,000 people in 2012, up by 51.7% against 2011. About 195,000 people travelled by train No. 15/16 in 2012, or 66.7% of all travelers going from Minsk to Vilnius and back. This means that this train is most popular with travelers.


Category : News

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Lithuanian Velykos (Easter) traditions

Description: laidotuves3a by alfredasfoto.

The word for Easter, Velykos, has been borrowed from Byelorussian and means "important day." The word is very accurate because Easter is the year's most solemn feast in Lithuania. Easter is not only the feast of Christ's Resurrection, but also nature's awakening from the winter's sleep.

The early Eastern morn, just before dawn, abounds with magical power. Much of this magic is concentrated in flowing water. Bathing in such water before sunrise prevents all boils, sores, rashes and other skin ailments. If it rains on Easter morning, it is necessary to stand bareheaded in the rain to ensure good growth. Small children who want to grow quickly are reminded of this.

As the sun rises on Easter morning, it "dances" swaying from side to side and changing colour: from green to blue, to red and then golden yellow. This phenomenon can be seen by rising before dawn and watching for the sun's first appearance on the horizon.

Earlier everyone went to the Resurrection services. If on the way you passed a woman, you'll have an accident. To avoid calamity it was necessary to turn around, return home and then take another road to church.

In Lithuania the Easter morning procession was usually conducted around the church. It was very solemn: church flags were held high, girls strewed flowers, the choir and all the people sang, alternating with a brass band, and the church bells pealed loudly. Three turns were made while singing the Lithuanians' favourite Easter Hymn Linksma diena mums prašvito (A Happy Day Has Dawned for Us). After the services, a blessing was made over the Easter food which was arranged in baskets decorated with greens and placed on the altar-rails.

At the conclusion of the liturgy in Church, the people hurried home. In fact, all large and small roads, every path was the scene of races: whoever arrived home first would be successful all year and would complete all work on time. Even persons walking tried to pass those ahead and reach home first. It is not surprising that accidents happened during such races. Perhaps that is why it was said that a woman met on the road brings disaster (someone had to be blamed!).

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At home, Easter breakfast was eaten. The meal began when the homemaker peeled a blest Easter egg, cut it and gave a piece to every member of the family. This was done so that peace and love would always reign within the family and everyone would live in harmony. Afterward, a variety of other dishes were consumed: meat, sausages, and cakes. On Easter it was necessary to eat well and to satiety, to "recover from Lent" because of the fast all through Lent. If the area had poor families with no Easter food, their neighbours shared what they had and brought the disadvantaged families everything they need to be satisfied and happy.

Children hunted for hidden Easter eggs left for them by the Velykų Senelė (Easter Granny) or Velykė. Bunnies who painted Easter eggs were also a familiar fixture, but they were only helpers for theVelykų Senelė. Very early Easter morning they loaded Easter eggs into a beautiful little cart pulled by a tiny swift horse. The Velykų Senelė used a sunbeam as a whip. Sometimes the bunnies themselves pulled the cart laden with Easter eggs.

The Easter Granny travels around the country, stopping in every child's yard to leave eggs in baskets placed or hung for that purpose. When they awake, good children find beautifully decorated Easter eggs (and in. more recent times even sweets). Bad children only find a single plain completely white egg. If this happens, the child is disgraced. His friends and family laugh at him. Sometimes bunnies accompany the Granny and help her distribute the Easter eggs. They are kept busy not only before Easter and on Easter day, but all year round baking cookies for children. When parents leave their children behind, they promise to bring them a gift, bunny cookies. Upon their return, they tell the following tale:

"I'm walking through the woods (or orchard or past the bushes) and I see a bunny wearing an apron and hat, his sleeves rolled back, taking sweet-smelling cookies from an oven. I say to him: 'May the Lord help you!' He answers, 'Thank you, thank you. Would you like a taste? They're still hot.' Of course, I dol They smell so good, they look so good. . ."

In the meantime the-child can hardly control himself: "What kind of oven was it?" "Tiny, pretty." "Did you get to taste any cookies?" "Yes, of course." "Did you bring me any?"

At this point, the father, mother or other family member pulls out the goodies and distributes them to the children who are extremely impressed not only by the bunny cookies but also by the baking method itself. They can practically see the flushed, rushing bunny mixing the dough and stoking the oven. How wonderful that morn or dad just happened to be passing at the very time the cookies were done! 

Bunny cookies are famous throughout Lithuania. It would be good to remember them outside Lithuania as well.

A variety of games were played with Easter eggs. The simplest is an egg-breaking contest. Two players face off, each holding an Easter egg and hit each other's egg. The one whose egg remains intact is the winner. The egg is held in the fist so that only its tip protrudes. The other player hits it with the tip of his egg. If the egg breaks on the side, the impact was wrong and the owner of the broken egg is not considered the loser. The winner claims the broken egg. After the game the number of eggs won was tallied. It was of paramount importance to have a hard-shelled egg that withstands breaking. In selecting a strong egg, the contestant taps an unboiled egg against his teeth. If the sound is clear and sharp the shell is hard: if dull and muffled, the egg will break quickly; it's not even worth colouring.

Some smart alecks devised an "unbreakable" egg. It was made this way: a raw egg's shell is pricked at both ends. A thin straw is inserted into one end and used to blow out the contents through the opposite end. Another straw with one end shaped as a funnel is then placed into the hole and melted pine or fir sap is poured until the egg is full. If the sap does not flow smoothly, a helper inserts a straw into the opposite hole and draws the air out of the egg. After the egg is filled with sap, the holes are carefully concealed and the egg is then tinted along with others. It weighs about the same as a real boiled egg. Sometimes the empty shell was filled with melted sugar, but it was much heavier and the sugar hardened unevenly making it more difficult to play. Of course, if caught, the cheat was punished. The direst penalty was to eat the "Easter egg."

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Another amusing Easter game was egg rolling (pictures above). This was best done outdoors, but also could be played in a larger room. A trough is made from pieces of wood or bark to measure about 10 cm long and 15 cm wide (it can also be much longer). One end of the ramp is propped up to produce a downward incline, but not too steep. A small circle is drawn at the bottom of the slope for the playing field into which the eggs will roll. When the game is played outdoors, the trough must be placed on a smooth surface because the eggs will not roll in the circle if there are pebbles, high grass, etc. When played indoors, the surface of the circle must not be too slippery for the eggs will roll out. A low wall or enclosure may be built around the circle. When all the preparations are completed, the players begin the contest. Four to eight persons play. Each uses an egg of a different colour to tell them apart. Eggs may also be marked in different ways. The egg is let down the incline. After one contestant finishes, the next rolls his egg aiming to reach the other's egg and tap it. If the egg hits the first one, its owner wins and takes the first egg. The eggs are rolled down the slope in turn. A contestant who wins egg rolls out of turn until his egg fails to hit another. Another player then takes his egg from the circle and rolls it.

Eggs used in the rolling contest may already be cracked (for instance, already used and won in an egg-breaking contest), but their sides should be intact because eggs with cracked sides do not roll well. The trough may be straight or curved in different ways to make the eggs roll longer. The slope may also be made of cardboard from an old box, plastic or any other material strong and rigid enough to support the weight of an egg.

A simpler egg-roll is done without a trough. A circle at least one meter in diameter is traced on a smooth surface. Barriers or enclosures are placed around the circle to keep the eggs from rolling out (crumpled newspaper may be used). A gate is kept open on one side through which the players push their eggs. The first player is chosen by lot. He rolls his egg into the circle. The second player attempts to roll his egg so that it will tap the first one. The game is played like the one using an incline, but in this case the eggs are rolled into the circle by hand with the player kneeling or sitting on the ground.

Because the egg does not roll down a ramp, the entire game depends on the contestant's skill, how he rolls his egg into the circle. If the egg is rolled so hard that it leaves the playing field, the contestant loses his turn.

In the past, only young men and adolescents played egg-rolling contests. It was not proper for girls to do so. They provided their beaus with eggs, cheered the contestants on and guarded the eggs won. Today mostly children (boys and girls) roll eggs. 

If guests arrive on Easter, they are given Easter eggs as gifts. The guests also bring an Easter egg for each family member (or at least the hosts and sweets for the children). Easter morning children go "egg begging" but only to the homes of acquaintances, close neighbours or godparents. When they arrive, they say hello and stand silent at the door. It is quite obvious to everyone that an Easter egg is required. The children politely say thank you, wish a Happy Easter and continue on. When Easter was celebrated for three days, no one went visiting the first day; it was unacceptable to intrude upon people on such a holy day as if someone had thrown you out of your own home.

The first day of Easter was said to be dedicated to God, people were expected to conduct themselves seriously and quietly, spend time with their family, eat well and "recover from Lent." The second day was for recreation, visiting friends and having company. The third day was devoted to relaxation. People slept late, recovered from all the merrymaking because work was waiting in the wings.

For Easter, homemakers set out Easter dishes which remained on the table all day. When guests arrived, the women could then spend time with the company and did not need to work. The table was covered with a white cloth and decorated with greens or fruit tree branches (mostly cherry) which were cut and set in water several weeks earlier so they would bloom for Easter. (Easter lilies were unknown.) Greens were also attached to the tablecloth hem which hung down from the table. The table was laden with cold Easter dishes: baked ham, goose, suckling pig, a basket or plate full of Easter eggs, sweet cheese, bread, cakes, etc. Beer (mostly homemade), liqueurs and cider were served as beverages.

Everyone who arrives to extend Easter greetings must be served. It was considered very impolite for the guest to refuse refreshment. Everything had to be at least sampled and the cook praised, else she would feel insulted.

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The young who behaved with such solemnity all during Lent wanted to have fun on Easter. They assembled at a larger house to sing and dance. This usually was done in late afternoon or evening. During the day, it was popular to swing in swings and sing. If the Easter weather was warm and fair, the swings were hung from a tall tree so the young could swing higher. Given inclement weather, the swing ropes were tied from barn rafters. People swung not only for the fun of it but to ensure a good harvest next summer, just as on Shrove Tuesday. While swinging, the girls and young men sang special songs.

A group of young men assembled to practice singing Linksma diena mums prašvito (a popular Easter hymn), some other songs and make the rounds. These are the so-called lalauninkai (from lalauti — to talk loudly and much). In many other countries, such as the United States or England, carolers make the rounds before Christmas singing Christmas carols and songs. They may be compared to Lithuania's Easter lalauninkai.

These singers are usually unmarried men sometimes accompanied by a fiddler or harmonica-player. Upon arriving at a house, they first sing an Easter hymn; convey their Easter wishes and then carol. The homemaker gives them cake, sausages, Easter eggs while her husband serves liquid refreshments. The Easter eggs are handed out by the young girls of the household. Although most homes were visited, it was predominantly those with unmarried girls. They were told before Easter that the singers would arrive and tried to make beautiful Easter eggs. This was a perfect opportunity to display their talents and show off before the other village girls. It sometimes happened that the singers refused to accept an Easter egg judged to have a poor appearance and this was considered a major disgrace.

The songs these carollers sang were noted for the refrains repeated after every verse. The verses were short, usually composed of only two lines. The refrain had no connection with the song's overall content. These singers were especially well-known in Dzūkija which is famous for similar types or harmony songs.

On the hill a pear tree stood; under the pear tree lay silvery dew. . . The refrain — vynelis vyno žaliasai — refers to new wine.

It is not necessary for lalauninkai to sing the customary ditties, other songs may be selected.

On Easter, a person can learn the following summer's weather, about his personal happiness and gain protection against various pests if he knows what to do and what guesses to make.

If he wishes to avoid seeing snakes all summer, he must avoid seeing a needle the first day of Easter.

If an accident or calamity occurs on Easter, things will go wrong all year, the year will be unlucky.

We've already mentioned the races home from church on Easter morning: anyone who arrives home first will be first to complete all work, everything will go well for him (especially work in the fields).

Prayers are said to be really heard on Easter, it is therefore necessary to pray a great deal.

If Easter morning is sunny and beautiful, the summer will be fair and the weather good; if it rains (or snows) bad weather is to be expected. The worst sign is to hear thunder on the first day of Easter but even this evil may be found to have a "silver lining." If thunder rumbles before leaves have sprouted (trees very rarely had leaves in Lithuania at Eastertime), thieves will have a difficult time plying their trade that year.

If the sunset is very red, dangerous thunderstorms may be expected that summer.


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Decoration of Easter eggs - margučiai - is a very ancient custom in Lithuania. At the foot of the Gediminas Hill in Vilnius archaeologists have found eggs made of bone and clay, which shows that this custom was known in Lithuania as early as the 13th Century. Easter eggs are also mentioned by Martynas Mažvydas in his dedication to his book "Hymns of St Ambrosius" (1549). Easter eggs were particularly popular at the turn of the 20th Century. They were decorated both by grown-ups and children, by rich and poor. Some were dyed in a single colour, some were decorated with patterns.

Decorations are produced by painting patterns on warm eggs with the tip of a stick or a pinhead dipped in hot wax. Droplet-shaped strokes are grouped in patterns, twigs of rue, little suns, starlets and snakes. The most frequent pattern is that of a sun, like those on large and small distaffs. Smaller patterns are joined by dots and wavy lines into larger ornaments. Their combinations are so varied that is is impossible to find two identical Easter eggs. Every village has its own best egg-decorators.

Description: Easter eggs

Basket of Lithuanian Easter eggs.
Photo by Gilanda Matonis.


Category : Lithuania today

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Finnish tourists spend most money per day in Vilnius

A survey of visitors in Vilnius in 2012 commissioned by Vilnius' city municipality has revealed just how much visitors from different countries spend in Vilnius, reports LETA/ELTA, referring to the city's municipality.

The biggest spenders at LTL 635 (EUR 184) a day, are the Finnish, followed by Russians at LTL 497 (EUR 144) a day. Visitors from Russia and Belarus spend more of their money on tangible goods.

The average money spent by a tourist in one day was found to be LTL 275 (EUR 80), while total expenses over the duration of their stay averaged out to LTL 1,120 (EUR 325).

According to the survey, business-oriented visitors in Vilnius spent, on average, LTL 643 (EUR 186) a day. In 2012, tourists spent 35.3 percent of their expenses on housing accommodations, 22.8 percent on food, 22.7 percent on goods, 8.1 percent on transportation, and 6.8 percent on cultural and leisure activities, Vilnius Municipality's press office said today.

The survey reveals that most visitors from Lithuania's closest neighbors (Russia, Poland, Belarus, the Baltic States) have been to Vilnius before. Regardless, they tend to stay in Vilnius for a few days, and Vilnius remains a primary or at least important goal.

Vilnius as a whole was rated positively by visitors, with almost all criteria averaging at 4 or more out of 5. The city received its highest marks for residents' friendliness and hospitality, and for its taxi services (excluding those to the airport). Medium marks were given to the city's public toilets and to the public transportation information system. Polish visitors tended to rate Vilnius the highest, while French visitors rated it the lowest.

A total 81 percent of visitors indicated that it was either likely or very likely that they will return to Vilnius within the next 5 years. Almost all survey respondents said that they will recommend visiting Vilnius to others.

Category : News

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Gediminas’ Tower,
the symbol of Lithuania

Photos: Aage Myhre, March 2013

Gediminas' Tower (Lithuanian: Gedimino pilies bokštas) is the only remaining part of the Upper Castle in Vilnius, Lithuania.

The first fortifications were built of wood by Duke of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Gediminas. Later the first brick castle was completed in 1409 by Grand Duke Vytautas. Some remnants of the old castle have been restored, guided by archeological research.

It is possible to climb to the top of the hill on foot or by taking a funicular. The tower houses an exposition of archeological findings from the hill and the surrounding areas. It is also an excellent vantage point, from where the panorama of Vilnius' Old Town can be admired.

Gediminas' Tower is an important state and historic symbol of the city of Vilnius and of Lithuania itself. It is depicted on the national currency, the litas, and is mentioned in numerous Lithuanian patriotic poems and folk songs. The Flag of Lithuania was re-hoisted atop the tower on October 7, 1988, during the independence movement that was finalized by the Act of the Re-Establishment of the State of Lithuania on March 11, 1990.

Read more…

Category : Front page

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Gediminas’ Tower,
the symbol of Lithuania

Photos: Aage Myhre

Gediminas' Tower (Lithuanian: Gedimino pilies bokštas) is the only remaining part of the Upper Castle in Vilnius, Lithuania.

The first fortifications were built of wood by Duke of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Gediminas. Later the first brick castle was completed in 1409 by Grand Duke Vytautas. Some remnants of the old castle have been restored, guided by archeological research.

It is possible to climb to the top of the hill on foot or by taking a funicular. The tower houses an exposition of archeological findings from the hill and the surrounding areas. It is also an excellent vantage point, from where the panorama of Vilnius' Old Town can be admired.

Gediminas' Tower is an important state and historic symbol of the city of Vilnius and of Lithuania itself. It is depicted on the national currency, the litas, and is mentioned in numerous Lithuanian patriotic poems and folk songs. The Flag of Lithuania was re-hoisted atop the tower on October 7, 1988, during the independence movement that was finalized by the Act of the Re-Establishment of the State of Lithuania on March 11, 1990.

The Castle Hill surrounded by rivers was a convenient location to build a castle and establish a bigger settlement. Archaeological investigations have revealed that there had already been a settlement on the Castle Hill in the Neolithic. In the 9th century, the hill was reinforced with wooden and stone fences, whereas in the 11th-13th centuries a wooden castle had already been erected. The early history of the castle is closely related to the history of the development of the city.

During the reign of Grand Duke of Lithuania Gediminas, Vilnius was already known as the capital of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and the Vilnius Castle was mentioned for the first time in the 1323 treaty between Gediminas and the Teutonic Order. Often the Higher Castle is referred to as the Gediminas Castle. During the reign of the first rulers from the Gediminas dynasty the Vilnius Higher Castle was of great significance not only as a political centre of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, but also as a constituent element of the defensive complex of the capital (together with the Lower and Crooked Castles) that withstood an intensified attack of the Teutonic Order during the second half of the 14th century. When a fire destroyed the wooden castle, a brick castle was constructed during the reign of Grand Duke of Lithuania Vytautas at the beginning of the 15th century. The remains of the brick castle have survived until the present day.

Eventually, as the situation in the state changed, the castle lost its purpose and subsequent fires and wars, after which it was not repaired, devastated the castle. During 1610-1613, a prison functioned in the basement of the castle, whereas the Higher Castle was last used as a defensive fortress during the war in 1655-1661. The Muscovite army was temporarily settled in the castle. Afterwards, the castle was completely desolated and was slowly disintegrating and declining.

The defensive functions of the castle were brought to light in the 19th century, when a fortress was established in the territory of Vilnius castles following the order of the Tsar of Russia in 1831. The ruins of the Higher Castle were also taken care of, i.e. the remains of the southern and northern towers of the Higher Castle as well as its western and northern walls were demolished, the masonry was conserved, and a sloping Castle Hill was reinforced. In 1838, a wooden two-storey structure of optical telegraph was erected on top of the western tower. When the fortress was removed from the territory of Vilnius castles, a new road was built on the slope of the Castle Hill in 1896, the slopes were planted with trees, and a café was opened in the western tower. During the interwar period, the conservation works were carried on.

When Lithuania restored its state in 1918, the flag of Lithuania was first hoisted on the Gediminas Castle Hill on January 1, 1919. Unfortunately, this was not for long. Vilnius region was occupied by the Polish and only on October 29, 1939 the tricolour of Lithuania was hoisted again on the castle tower. During the World War II the western tower of the castle was damaged badly.

After the war, although Lithuania was occupied by the Soviet Union, the tower was rebuilt and, in 1960, when the territory of the hill was arranged and the fragments of the castle buildings were conserved, the Castle Museum was opened in the western tower.

From 1968, the museum became the subdivision of the National Museum of Lithuania (at that time, the Museum of History and Ethnography). When the Lithuanian National Revival began, the flag of Lithuania was once again hoisted on the castle tower on October 7, 1988, whereas in 1995, when the castle tower was renovated, a renewed exposition opened its doors to visitors. A picturesque panorama of the capital of an independent Lithuania opens up from the scenic overlook installed on the top of the tower. The castle tower together with the flag of the Lithuanian state became the symbol of national struggles for independence and statehood.

Category : Historical Lithuania

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Vytis tail up or
Vytis tail down?

Rimgaudas Vidziunas
‎*Question* Vytis tail up or Vytis tail down? Have you ever noticed? Can anyone answer the symbolism? Thank you...

Irene Simanavicius Hmmmm..scratching my chin. The one I have at home the tail is down. what does it mean?

Frank Passic Even horses have to relieve themselves....

Darius Udrys Quick! Who can think of a discussion that would be an even bigger waste of time?
Darius Udrys Quick! Who can say something even more bathetic?
Darius Udrys Quick! Who should consult a dictionary?
Darius Udrys Who made you the boss of the internet?
Darius Udrys

Lietuvos žvaigždelės ir krūvelės | mobili versija
Šįmet kalbėta, kad statinys labai svarbus – juk Lietuva 2013 metų antroje pusėje pirmininkaus Europos Sąjungai (ES).

Bernard Terway Darius - what kind of a point are you trying to make? Your comments are simply stupid. I can think of something more "bathetic" in a split second. That is you.
Darius Udrys Oh, what wit! It's been a while since I've heard one from the "yo mama" series of rejoinders.

Merry Kay Aldonis I learned that whenever you see an elephant with his tail up, it meant either good luck or something very strong and vigor about it.

Merry Kay Aldonis I have a Lithuanian/English Dictiionary, but it does not say anything about tail

Virginia Pudinas Schoenfeld It's the elephants trunk Merry Kay. Not his tail. I think the tail on the horse just depends on the artists mood.

Merry Kay Aldonis Virginia Pudinas Shoenfeld you are ABSOLUTELY Correct!!

Merry Kay Aldonis In penmanship and writing analysis, they used to say that if you ended sentences or signatures with the last letter curving upward, always meant more of a positive nature.

Vytas Levickis After Independence there was confusion in Lithuania when the Vytis was depicted with the tail down. Now officially the Vytis has its tail up. This is the opposite to the Belarus Pahonia, the official coat of arms of Belarus from 1991 to 1995, which is nearly identical to the Vytis, but has its tail down. Both depict a charging knight on horseback
Darius Udrys My coworker says that in high school her history teacher made them discuss this issue and it was even a question on the test. Super. Next, why don't we discuss whether the left rear hoof should be ahead of or behind the right one?

Vijole Arbas then there is the question of the angle at which the knight holds his head high.
Category : Opinions

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Laima Andrikiene as opposition leader?

Lithuanian MEP Laima Andrikiene has also decided to vie for the position of chairman of the largest opposition party Homeland Union – Lithuanian Christian Democrats.

„It was not easy to make up my mind but I don't want to and cannot disappoint people who trust me as I received 88,840 priority points during the 2009 EP elections. This number of citizens of our state wanted me to represent them in the European Parliament. Compared to the 2004 EP elections, the number of my voters increased by over 18,000 (18,556), or 26 percent! I was elected into the European Parliament after receiving 70,284 priority points,“ Andrikiene said in a statement sent to BNS.


Category : News


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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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