22 January 2018
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NEW book by Yves Plasseraud:

about Professor Irena Veisaite

Her intelligence and

strength struck me

image011 (1)


By Yves Plasseraud,
Paris, France

I have known Irena some 25 years ago within the frame of her Soros Foundation activities, but it was only a few years ago that I began thinking about writing her biography. At the beginning, with Irena our conversations were more or less technical, about Human Rights, minorities, Jewish issues and Lithuanian Jewish relations, in which we were both involved.yves

The intelligence and the strength of her convictions rapidly struck me.

As time went, we sympathized and, as our conversations became more personal, I started understanding better her motivations and their sources. Irena’s ability to show the same interest in general ideas as in individual persons particularly struck me.

Very impressed and interested, I then had the idea to try to sort things out in a book. But, not only empathy and sympathy and the interest of her life story motivated me in undertaking the work, but above all the feeling of the originality and usefulness of her perception of the world (Weltanschauung).

After I got Irena’s – initially reluctant – agreement to engage in the process, I started collecting the necessary information.  This was indeed a difficult task for me although I had co-authored several books on Litvak history, and was already familiar with the sociological context, I was not really ready to undertake such a job, because:

  1. a) A lawyer by profession, I had never written a biography before.
  2. b) I did not master the different languages of the sources.
  3. c) English, the language in which I had decided to write, was not my mother tongue.

My conviction that somehow this book had to be written and the impression that no one would write it if I did not do it myself, made me go ahead in spite of all the foreseen difficulties.

Irena, despite our great mutual confidence, was sometimes reluctant to open all the doors – perhaps out of modesty – and to expose herself. But finally, she assisted me a lot and most of the data contained in the book come from her diaries and memory. Alina, Irena’s daughter, was also a great help for me in various ways.

Many people assisted me with various contributions. Among them Jack Brauns, Solly Ganor, Arunas Gelunas, Aleksandra Jacovskyte, Caroline Paliulis, Vytautas Toleikis, and others. Ursula Phillips revised my text linguistically.

Leonidas Donskis, the well-known Kaunas philosopher and lecturer as well as the Norwegian architect-journalist Aage Myhre constantly encouraged me, as well of course as my wife Suzanne who participated in all the phases of the project. My warmest thanks go to all of them.

Finally, the prestigious publishing house Rodopi, later merged with Brill, were supportive of the project.

Because Irena’s life itinerary is complex and has constantly been closely associated with her country’s dramatic history, I chose to structure the book in the form of what I call a “contextualized chronology”. Together with information on the family background, this short text (180 pages) covers the period going from the second half of the 19th century to the present days.

To concentrate on Irena’s life, while giving an insight into the Livak culture, for readers who would not be familiar with it, I added a short chapter on the Lithuanian Jewish heritage at the end of the book.

What has particularly interested me in researching data for this manuscript is the constant interaction in Irena’s life between facts and ideas and the exceptional wealth of her multinational culture.

At each period of her life: Smetona’s pre WW2 Lithuania, first Soviet occupation, Nazi years, Soviet Lithuania, the fight for independence, renewed independence, Irena developed a personal position which is indeed often original, interesting, courageous and thus criticized by some.

Confidence in humanity, tolerance, forgiveness and hope, associated with a strong Lithuanian patriotism, are the main messages of this book. No wonder Irena was in the leadership of Soros Lithuanian team from the very start. I hope the readers will find reading this book as stimulating as it was writing it.



 Yves_small Born 1939. Paris, France. Doctor Juris, Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris, CEIPI, Strasbourg. Attorney at Law (1965-1995). Lives in Paris (France), Married, 3 children Former Lecturer in Universities (Bordeaux & Strasbourg-France, Alicante-Spain, Vilnius, Kaunas - Lithuania etc.). Author of numerous articles and books on minorities issues, the questions of identity and the the problem of racism and prejudice. Co-author of two books on the Jews of Lithuania, Lituanie juive (with H. Minczeles), Paris, 1996 Autrement, Les Litvaks (with H. Minczeles & S. Pourchier), La Découverte, Paris, 2008, translated in Lithuanian Lietuvos Zydai 1918-1940, Baltos Lankos, 2000. Chairman: Groupement pour les droits des Minorités (France).

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