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Archive for March, 2013

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Dustin Hoffman's 'Quartet' Kicks Off Vilnius International Film Festival

The 18th edition of the festival will feature American independent cinema, short films and the "New Europe — New Names" competition.

The 18th edition of the Kino Pavasaris Vilnius International Film Festival (March 14-28) started Thursday in Lithuania’s capital Vilnius, with select screenings in Kaunas, the country’s second-largest city. The festival opened with Quartet, the Golden Globe-nominated comedy directed byDustin Hoffman, and will close with the Hungarian film Final Cut -- Ladies & Gentlemen, directed by Gyorgy Palfi.


Category : News

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11 March 1990, the day Lithuania woke up from its 50 year nightmare

Lithuania’s independence declaration of 11 March 1990 was signed by wise and courageous political leaders who did not want to accept that their beloved homeland should remain occupied. They deserve our respect and gratitude!

Read more…

Judita Gliauberzonaite 
Please, don't exaggerate - it wasn't all a nightmare. 

Vytautas Sliupas
Dear Judita you look so young in your picture, maybe too young to remember the nightmare.

Evaldas Zvinys 
Judita - I understand what you are saying. But IMHO you might hurt some people's feelings: by analogy someone could say that a Nazi or a Gulag camp was not all a nightmare - but normally people just do not say that. Su Švente!

Vijole Arbas
I laud all our brave patriots who are not afraid to live in their own country and build it to its potential.

Jenifer C. Dillis
"Lietuva! Lietuva! Lietuva!"

Aage Myhre 
You know, Judita Gliauberzonaite, it was after the 11 March event in the Lithuanian Parliament in 1990 that I first became aware that my home country Norway had a forgotten neighbouring country called Lithuania. In the summer of 1990 I had my first ever encounter with Lithuanians, and in November that same year I came here for the first time. I met many of those who had signed the Declaration of Freedom 11 March and was impressed with their determination, but also the significant nervousness they felt in the months leading up to the Soviet Union's disastrous assault against Lithuania in January 1991. I maintain that this was, and is, people who deserve our thanks and respect!

Petter Kinn 
As you know, dearest Aage Myhre, we were also rather early! I agree with you!

Irene Simanavicius 

Warren Thompson 
Back in the USSR??? JOKIU BUDU!

Boris Bakunas When I was young, I thought I would never live to see that day. Now believe anything is possible. And when it comes to defending liberty, that goes double for Lithuanians. After all, we've had over a thousand years of practice.
Category : Opinions

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Copenhagen mayor lends support to gay Lithuanians

Following a request from gay rights activists, Copenhagen Mayor Frank Jensen urges Vilnius Mayor Arutras Zuokas to support Baltic Pride parade.

Copenhagen Mayor Frank Jensen pointed to the success of the annual Copenhagen Pride parade, which attracts thousands of LGBT supporters each year
(Photo: Scanpix)

Copenhagen's mayor, Frank Jensen (Socialdemokraterne) showed his support for international gay rights last week in Vilnius, Lithuania.

After the advocacy organisation Association Lithuanian Gay League (LGL) asked Jensen to advocate for the 2013 Baltic Pride Parade, Jensen wrote an open letter to Arturas Zuokas, the mayor of the Lithuanian capital, requesting his support for the event.
As LGL explained, the municipality had granted permission for the parade to proceed but denied participants from marching through downtown Vilnius, citing “security concerns.”

In his letter, Jensen urged Zuokas to allow the parade access to central Vilnius in order to increase public visibility and awareness of the event. Jensen pointed to Copenhagen’s own Pride Parade as an integral part of gay rights efforts.

Read more…
Category : News

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“Zuokas Airline” – AIR LITUANICA – to take off in June:
Is this sensible use of taxpayers’ money in a time of crisis?
Follow the debate in our VilNews Forum

Ulf Hallan Richard Branson: “If you want to become a millionaire, start with one billion dollars and open an airline company.”Aage Myhre My personal comment is that this smells like failure. We have over many years seen state owned airlines in the Baltic and Nordic countries, all bankrupt or on the brink of bankruptcy … The funny thing is that the people of Vilnius seem to accept this without protests… I can only imagine what the reactions would have been in a western capital …

I fully understand that Lithuania needs an airline, and I think the name is very good! But I think, with due respect, that a mayor should be active with totally different things and leave it to experienced business people from the aviation industry to take care of establishing a new airline …

Matilda Allen I am sorry, they’re idiots! Well, maybe we have to look deeper? Paksas , Zuokas….? Money laundry

Aage Myhre to Matilda Allen: We see something similar with regards to how the Lithuanian government has handled the crisis over the last 5 years … People in Southern Europe, where wages and living conditions are much better than here, take to the streets for massive protests against their governments austerity measures, while here in Lithuania people only bow their heads or leave …

Irene Simanavicius to Aage Myhre: You are 100% correct about the Mayor reaching out to the experts. Canadians almost paid billions for an aircraft carrier for our Military Defense, and because one aviation mechanic that lived in Houston who used to be part of our Air force and flew to the Arctic on a regular basis before he retired recognized the plane as NOT HAVING a twin engine. He mentioned it to someone and it got on the news and our politicians were RED FACED for being so stupid and falling for the marketing hype without thinking or asking the experts. It was just a shiny new brand new toy to them. The mechanic said when he flew in the severe cold one engine would completely seize up and if he didn’t have the reserve, well…he wouldn’t be here nor anyone he transported.(so many examples are out there from cocky politicians trying to make their mark):)

Sergey Kanovich Well, owning 83% of the stake while also owning 1 billion LT debt is something worth of Nobel in finance and economy. I bet that this will be a flying tram… On the other hand it is an excellent PR stunt at someone else expense (guess who’s:)) again. And if it fails like other projects failed – who cares…

It also says that the MD of Air Lituanica without the wings is being paid 30,000 LT monthly salary. Municipality last year has allocated 0,5mio, then this year almost 3mio LT. It is not intended to be low cost airline. it is intended to suck monies out of already existing 1 billion LT whole… Unbelievable
Eugene Rangayah  I have come across the a slide highlighting the proposal for the airline and noticed a Brian Joffe in the midst. Mr Joffe has been CEO of the Bidvest group in South Africa, which has a huge investment portfolio spanning the continent. With the support of people like him, with a good entrepreneurial spirit and business acumen, the airline could turn out to be a success. However, I do think that it is very ambitious growth that had been forecast over the next 5 years. It does not seem apparent that any consideration had been taken on the competition from low cost carriers which have positioned themselves at VNO!

Arvi Vaalivonis This is more about the LT pride than business…

Category : Lithuania today sidebar / Opinions

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The capital city of Lithuania, Vilnius, has been named the best value city break destination in Europe by

Best value city break in Europe? Old world Lithuania

The capital of Lithuania and largest Baroque town in Eastern and Central Europe, whose old world charm and picturesque streetscapes earned it a designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, has been named the best value European city break destination.

According to online reservation site’s annual Hotel Price Index report, budget travelers looking for a weekend or short getaway within Europe should consider the city of Vilnius, where the average hotel room comes in at £53 (€61).
While predominantly Baroque, the city is described as a “textbook of architectural styles” for also reflecting late Gothic and Classic domes, towers and castles that line the city’s crooked, narrow medieval streets.


Category : News

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Vilnius: The New Mecca For Belarusian Shoppers And Activists

On weekends, Vilnius looks like a Belarusian city.

Cars with Belarusian registration plates, crowds of Belarusians carrying shopping bags, even bus schedules to Belarus from big shopping centres. In 2012, according to the Lithuanian State Department of Tourism, 400,000 Belarusian guests visited Lithuania.
In politics, Lithuania maintains a critical position against Lukashenka's regime. A significant number of offices of foreign foundations and organisations which work with Belarusian civil society are located in Vilnius.


Category : News

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Is Lithuania’s national bird getting lazy?
Many storks no longer
bother flying to Africa

Lithuania has the highest density of white storks in the world,
considered the country’s national bird.

Photo: T. Marčiukaitis

A new project will try to identify why the stork has changed migratory pattern. This writes Science Daily. The investigation has been launched by the University of East Anglia. Since the mid-1980s, a steadily increasing number of storks dropped their annual migration from northern Europe to their winter quarters in Africa.

Instead, both Portugal and Spain are now the final winter destinations for many storks, which feed on large open garbage dumps instead of crossing Sahara as they previously did.

The project will follow 15 adult storks in a year using GPS transmitters. The goal is to examine why they have changed their migratory behavior. GPS transmitters will reveal where storks forage for food and what movements they make between feeding areas.

Before 1995 there were only about 1000 wintering storks in Portugal whereas in 2008 there were over 10,000 wintering storks and the number continues to grow.

It is believed that a combination of climate change and the many open dumps that exist both in Portugal and Spain are among the factors why storks have dropped the long winter trip to Africa.

Read more…

25 March is Lithuanian Stork Day! See:

Category : Lithuania today / 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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