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THE VOICE OF INTERNATIONAL LITHUANIA

18 November 2017
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Archive for November, 2015

- Posted by - (9) Comment

My worldviews broadened up and now I was not fitting any longer into the Lithuanian realm. It made me feel lost and confused…

By Rugilė Šablinskaitė
Brussels - Belgium

For many years I have been questioning where my home is. It is quite tricky to define home in this globalized, rapidly moving world where people are so used to traveling and changing their locations within the matter of hours. However, home is this important place where we find security, inner peace and get out of our turtle’s armor. We all unconsciously constantly seek to have home where we could come back after exhausting day at work and feel naked to the deepest corners of our soul. Just be. Ourselves. And say.. I am at home.

I left Lithuania when I turned 18. Inspired by my mother’s stories of her youth years in a new city with new people, I also wanted to experience this time of “golden student years” – shots of her stories were constantly running through my mind, sounding like the best fairytales for kids that inspire one for life full of unknown and exciting discoveries. Being from Vilnius (the dearest city to my heart till this very day), the only option I saw for myself was moving outside of Lithuania (who would change Vilnius for any other city in Lithuania? – I already felt I lived in the heart of it). So, my chosen destination was the UK. There, for the first time in my life I felt homesick. For the first time I realized the weight and the value of the word Motherland (or Fartherland, if you prefer). I learnt about the significant cultural differences, systems of values, traditions, etc. And I started missing something ‘mine’ (and as the great thinker B.Anderson puts it, I fell into the trap of imagined community as nation “is imagined because the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow-members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communion”...). When Skyping with my mother, she first started calling my changing feelings and worldviews nationalistic till it turn into a bit of chauvinistic ones. I impatiently waited for my holidays in Lithuania to come, to unite again with ‘likeminded’ (the idea that was planted and already deeply rooted in my soul by the time passing by) people, my fellow countrymen... However. When I got back to Lithuania, unfortunately, no miracle happened. After spending time in the UK, silently my worldviews broadened up and now I was not fitting any longer into the Lithuanian frameworks. It made me feel lost and confused. This confusion resulted in Bachelors dissertation on the role of national identity in a foreign country. And the research results showed that people feel differently about it. For some it’s more important, for some less, while some are completely unaware of it... And so I continued on searching for my place under the sun.

While living for a year in Mexico, I got to learn how deeply I am able to embrace another distant culture. I fell unconditionally in love with it. And it became a big part of me and my life. The experiences there enriched me, taught me to be open, giving, touchy and enthusiastic about the smallest things in the world. I was fascinated by the simplicity of the people - coming from a privileged environment, I felt most warmly welcomed despite my background or situation. Every time I meet a Mexican nowadays, I feel enthusiastic and it feels like meeting a part of me. I remember my Christmas Eve there... The first time I was not able to be with my family, the first time I saw no sparkling snowflakes falling down around me. Silently apart from all that mattered to me and was so dear to the heart. And I was simply not able to tell aloud anyone about the way I felt. So I figured out, I will just stay home alone, making jams from local fruits and fulfill my time writing letters to beloved ones. Then my Mexican Friend appeared on the doorway. Unexpectedly. She said she came to pick me up and I was going to eat dinner with her family with no excuses. As for me Christmas Eve has always been about this magic unspoken peace you find around once per year and family, I found it hard at that moment. But then we came to her place that was so... First thing I noticed and I could not deny it was Love. When you can actually feel love in the air and you feel touched by it in every possible way. Her family was amazing. It brought tears to my eyes when I saw how they live... The conditions were really tough. Nothing compared to the place I was renting. I felt guilty... People who had so little were willing to share with me every single piece they had (and who were I to them?...). And they were so happy. Curious about me. Giving. When simple is beautiful (and here I find the word ‘beautiful’ just grey because you simply cannot imprison that feeling I got into any possible word created on this planet..). When a hand holding you strongly, makes you feel like home. And I was home.

Different countries, different cities, different people. After years spent in the UK, life in Sweden and Germany was a completely different experience. I stopped focusing on the differences between the cultures, constant search for my place and identity but rather I started fully enjoying the time with people that I could share quality time with not leaving gaps open for the doubts. And despite various differences I could see daily, I absolutely enjoyed living in different environments. Daily discoveries that make Life fascinating and exciting. When we can learn from each other rather than judge and compare. Give than wait to be given. Smile rather than turn the eyes away. Love and embrace.

Very important thing I learnt when travelling. Home is an idea. Home is a feeling. We can live in broken shapes anywhere. But these are our friends and family that create the feeling of home. Flats, houses, same as money, come and go. We can change them even though we get psychologically attached to physical locations. But these are only locations... I feel home under the apple tree in my village, by the river where you have the beautiful view of Lithuanian forests same as I feel home in Brussels running in the park through the autumn leaves.. I have parts of me all over the world – people who are dear and precious to me, with whom I feel home. And while now I live in Brussels, I feel home here – I tamed this place and I have people to whom I want to hold on, people who touched my heart in the most fragile and precious ways. People who are the gifts of Life no money could ever buy. It is one of the many homes I have. I am in love with the city, with its people, with what I do. My nationality is and always will be Lithuanian but today I consider myself a world citizen. And I have come only to one conclusion that... Home is where our heart is.

 



Home is where our heart is J

 

Category : News

- Posted by - (7) Comment

 

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 www.anatanassileika.com

http://www.vdu.lt/lt/rasytojas-antanas-sileika-pristatys-savo-kuryba/ 
https://leu.lt/lt/lf/lf_naujienos/kvieciame-i-rasytojo-59hc.html

Category : News

- Posted by - (0) Comment

Greetings from Texas!


image010When one thinks of Texas, the least expected thing that would come to mind is that there are actually Lithuanians in Texas! It turns out that some of the earliest settlers from Lithuania came to Texas with their Prussian neighbors and established themselves here. Most thought they were German, probably because Texas was highly populated by Germans. Recently, within the past 25 years or so, it has been established that there were Lithuanians among the German population. 

Here is a link to a video about them: 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=66Y0CJqkGKk

There is also a historical marker about the first Lithuanians in Texas: 
http://www.stxmaps.com/go/texas-historical-marker-lithuanians-in-texas.html

There are also two large, active groups of Lithuanians, on in Houston, Lithuanian American Community of Houston and one in San Antonio.

By Bernard Terway, 
Texas, USA 

Category : News

- Posted by - (0) Comment

Greetings from Venezuela!

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By Vytenis Folkmanas,
Architect, Caracas, Venezuela

With great joy and enthusiasm  I have just received the news that Vilnews will be restarted – now in its second stage. I´ve been for many years an avid reader of all items on the web page and on the VilNews Facebook pages.

I am constantly sharing the articles with the Lithuanian Community of Venezuela, from where I'm writing and from where I send Aage and his team my best wishes and success in this new release of VilNews.

Our community is very small, unfortunately, and it has been greatly reduced over the latest years, but we refuse to disappear and have therefore been maintaining the traditions and customs that our grandparents and parents taught us through all the activities organized by our Community.

These are some of our activities:
Commemoration of the Independence celebration of Easter, Christmas, Boy Scout groups, theater, basketball teams, folk dance groups, exchanges with other communities, language training, etc.

VilNews has helped us with Lithuania related articles, to continue to feel proud of having Lithuanian blood in our veins, and keep teaching our youth of its magnificent history, of its people around the world and the mark that it has left in all of us Lithuanians scattered around the world.

Greetings to all Lithuanians around the world:
From Venezuela we send many greetings to all our countrymen around the world and we are sure and confident that through VilNews we will always be connected, joined and updated on all matters relating to our country, so we thank Aage and his team for their wonderful work and we hope you never get tired!

In whatever collaboration you need from us, the Lithuanian Community of Venezuela, within its limits, will always be happy and eager to help and support you ... lots of SUCCESS !!

Kindest regards, wishing you the best!

Vytenis Folkmanas

Category : News

- Posted by - (1) Comment

Have Lithuanian ties across the

Baltic Sea become stronger

in recent years?

 

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By Eitvydas Bajarūnas
Lithuanian 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.

Lithuania took advantage of it very successfully because we soon realized that the assistance and support of the Nordic Countries could help us to play more a significant role in the European and transatlantic space as well as help us solve problems that were urgent for us and the entire region. Nordics, especially – Sweden, became the largest investors in Lithuania, not to mention their financial support for our states’ civil societies, democracy and other important processes which were particularly important to us as developing states that had restored their independence and statehood. And this is quite natural: Nordic and Baltic are united by common values, interests and clear goals. We cherish our freedom but we also care a great deal about everyone’s right to be free.

Several public opinion polls pointed out that Lithuanians believe Lithuania should be associated with the region of Northern Europe, and not with Eastern Europe. Northern orientation dominated in the cases of Estonia and Latvia as well. Orientation towards the North was even proposed by a foreign company that consulted the Government of Lithuania some years ago on image creation issues: in terms of economy Lithuania had rather be associated with the stable, advanced, socially responsible Nordic Countries than the post-soviet space.

Indeed, Lithuania benefits being part of the wider Nordic-Baltic region. Over the last several decades, the Nordic-Baltic region has most probably undergone the greatest transformation. Lithuania developed into a country, associated with economic and fiscal stability, high-level political integration, advanced technologies and high living standards. Extensive and broad cooperation between the countries in the region played a crucial role. The idea that the countries of the region are competitive and economically stable has also been proved by the fact that Nordic Countries have been only slightly affected by the economic and financial crisis that began in 2008, and Baltic States have quite successfully curbed the effects of it. In the past two decades Baltic and Nordic countries have got closer and closer. We are developing an intense political dialogue, mutually beneficial contacts in trade, science and education, and people-to-people contacts.

The Nordic Baltic Eight (NB8, for short) – consisting of Denmark, Estonia, Iceland, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway and Sweden – has become a political institution that mirrors the emerging trans-Baltic regional identity. Under the NB8 umbrella, meetings on the ministerial level are now held on a regular basis. Within the European Union context, Nordic and Baltic leaders often coordinate their positions ahead of key debates and decisions. Nordic-Baltic region is becoming like a family of some of the most politically stable, economically sustainable and competitive countries in the world.  The region is also increasingly known internationally as an area of innovation and information technology, and together our eight countries represent the 5th economy within EU and the 11th largest economy in the world.

Therefore we can talk with a confidence of a “Nordic-Baltic” community, or as the pre-war Lithuanian scientist Kazys Pakštas named it, the “Baltic-Scandic” community. One could only asks - why are the businesses of Nordic Countries so easily and effectively establishing and expanding in the Baltic States? It has solid foundations – the business community finds plenty of common ground and similarities in both the culture of work and the understanding of business. That’s why Nordic business is willingly investing in Lithuania. And Lithuanians are contributing to Norwegian, Swedish, Danish growth by starting companies and joining their labor market. Lithuania and the other Baltic states treated the financial/economic crisis that began in 2008 and lasted in 2009–2010 in a “Nordic” way – they did not rush to keep on borrowing thus attempting to retain economic prosperity and consumption, but were cutting expenses, instead, thus “tightened their belts” and forced the economies to operate again through economic measures (sometimes drastic ones). By this quality Lithuanians demonstrated that we belong to Northern Europe (despite the fact that most Lithuanians are Catholic and are sometimes referred to in jest by Estonians as the “Italians of the Baltic”).

Recently Lithuania was hosting State visit of Swedish Royal couple. It was symbolic that the main theme of Their Majesties’ visit to Lithuania was “The Baltic Sea unites us”. The sea which used to separate Nordic and Baltic people is now uniting us through numerous political, energy, cultural, research, business, and people-to-people ties. Indeed, we Nordics and Baltics are bound by common values, traditions and culture. The Midsummer celebration – known as Joninės in Lithuania – is the best proof of this. It has become a much-awaited community event in Lithuania, just like in other Nordic and Baltic states, highlighting the strong links between our nations.

But we not only remembering our past, but most importantly looking to the future. The Swedish-Lithuanian NordBalt undersea power bridge – scheduled for operation at the end of this year – will become yet another link connecting Nordic and Baltic countries, and will allow Lithuania and other Baltics to have secure and competitive energy supplies, reducing our historic dependence on Russia for our energy needs.

True, the Baltic States still have to emulate Nordic countries, which amaze the world by being at the very top of the “Human Development” index and have not been surpassed in terms of living standard.  Nordic Countries are one of the most successful regions of the world when estimating not only the quality of living but also the social environment and work culture. Nordic Countries are also leading countries in the field of innovation, high sustainability and advanced ecological standards, countries striving to be the most gender-equal and egalitarian in the world, with a cohesive and solidarity-based society. It is inspiring and motivating. Lithuanians are well known for their creativity and diligence, but still a lot to learn from our Nordic partners. We believe that the Nordic socio-economic model is something Lithuania should aspire to, and that much can be borrowed and beneficially transported across the Baltic. Yet there remains a significant lack of cultural and societal awareness between Lithuania and Nordics that must be overcome.

While much remains to be accomplished, the remarkable achievements of the past twenty years are a testament that Nordic-Baltic region moving to the right direction. Wish us good luck.

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Category : News

- Posted by - (3) Comment

Hi, I am 18, I left

Lithuania two years ago 

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By Cassandra Myhre,
Tromsø, Norway

August 2013 was a time full of changes. It was the beginning of a new chapter in my life. I did not know what to expect or look forward to. The only thing I was certain of was the pain and the complete and utter disappointment I felt when I left my friends and everything behind in Lithuania, moving to my father’s home country Norway. My name is Cassandra (18) and this is my story.

I was born grew up in Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania, and I absolutely adored the city. I danced ballet for 13 years in the “National Opera and Ballet Theatre”, I played the piano for 9 years, I had lots of friends at school and I was engaged in various activities. When I think about what I achieved in Lithuania I get a warm and a tender feeling inside. The memories I have are absolutely beautiful and very precious to me.

When I was 6 years old, I started going to a private school. It was hard for me, because I went to a French kindergarten before that. I cannot say that I was bullied, but I do know that many kids said things about me behind my back.  I always felt like I was the outsider, but frankly, I did not mind. I remember once, one of my classmates was bullied so I took her hand and told her that I would be there for her.  However, everything changed in 3rd grade when I became best friends with a new girl in class. It was fantastic. I did not know what friendship was and I could not believe how fun it was to have someone I could talk to and simply spend time with even outside of school! We were best friends until 7th grade when I decided to change school. My friend did not want to leave my side, so she did the same. It was amazing, I mean, we were so close that we even changed schools together. But all good things come to an end. She decided to get some new friends and once again I was left behind. It was horrible. I never felt lonelier. But what I did not know was that my classmate Greta would become one of the most important people in my life (she is my best friend until this day).

When our friendship started, it was completely different. I went to my first sleepover when I was 12. It was weird and exciting. I became a part of her family; I even cured my fear of dogs (since she had 4 at that time). Either way, the time passed by, I kept on dancing and performing and I could not have asked for a better life. However, one day my parents came to me and told me that we have to move away to Norway. I did not react because I thought this was once again something they came up with impulsively and we would forget about it within a month. But when a month passed by and then the second one and the third one, I realized that this was real. Everything became crystal clear. I would be leaving Greta behind, I would never again be surrounded by people from the theatre and I would never again feel the euphoria when I would perform on the stage. The idea of moving away was somewhat repulsive and I simply tried to push it away. For another year, nothing changed and I thought that it was all forgotten, however, one day my parents informed me that we were taking the ferry to Stockholm from Riga and that it is a one-way trip. I think I could feel my heart stop for a few seconds. I remember the extreme amount of thoughts rushing through my mind and my hands started shake. The first thing I did was to write to Greta and Austeja (another very dear friend of mine whom I have known for 15 years).

When we had to leave, Greta and Austeja came to say goodbye and oh how painful it was to say farewell. Greta even brought me a portrait of us two together, which has always been by my side ever since. The journey began and for some time I felt nothing. No pain, no excitement. We finally arrived to a place called Vollen (not so far away from Oslo) and it was then I realized that this was the reality.  The realization hit me hard. For another 6 months nothing seemed to go my way. I went to the International Baccalaureate program but it simply was not as fulfilling if to compare with everything I had in Lithuania.

Time passed by, while I was in a small state of depression. It seemed that nothing would ever change I would have to live in misery forever. However, in May my family decided to move to Oslo. It was amazing. I finally could feel the atmosphere. The ongoing life in the city hit me and it was glorious. I started looking for a job, I started to train, my mom and I would go for our traditional walk to Aker Brygge (one of the most beautiful harbors I have ever encountered) and finally life seemed to be pretty good. In June, I got a job at a restaurant called “The Broker”. I was very excited and for a while, I only concentrated on that. The summer passed by really quickly, and I had to go back to school. 

Life was good. I studied, I worked, I trained – what else could I ask for? At the end of the school year I had 14 exams, which was hectic, but I managed. After that, I travelled to Germany with some of my classmates and then to Paris. I felt really proud, because I was saving money for these two trips the whole year and I finally was able to provide for myself. In Paris, I met up with Greta, who came from Lithuania and we had 5 fantastic days in the city center. I have never felt so relaxed and happy for a long time. After that, we both went to Lithuania where I stayed for 2 months. The problem is that I was very excited for my stay in my home country and I was greatly disappointed when I realized that I actually missed Norway. Of course, it was nice seeing my grandparents, my old friends, my old apartment and my theatre. I cried because the feeling of nostalgia surrounded me, but yet, Lithuania seemed different. People did not recognize me as a Lithuanian anymore. In their eyes, I was a foreigner. I felt sadness inside of me. When I was with my friends, the negative feelings would disappear, but when I would look around, there were many people who lived in misery.  I had completely forgotten that life in Lithuania is much more complicated than in Norway. I had forgotten that I lived in a country filled with opportunities, whilst people in Lithuania had to fight harder to achieve something. I do not know what is better though. I do agree that some of the teenagers here in Norway are greatly spoiled and perhaps they do not deserve those opportunities that they get. But at the same time, they grew up in the Norwegian environment and they do not know that another kind of life is possible.  Don´t get me wrong, I am not defending any of the two countries. Lithuanians, in my eyes, are amazing people, however, some of them lack motivation and I feel that the Lithuanian mentality is captured in a box.

At first I thought it was only me who noticed this, but when I talk to many other people who have left Lithuania, they say the exact same thing. Norway has become very dear to me. Especially now, since I live alone in Tromsø (north of Norway) where I study “Politics, Economics and Philosophy” at the Norwegian Arctic University.  Many people ask me if I have ever considered going back to Lithuania to live or study, and my answer is always “no”. I would love to go back to the time when I was 16 years old and life in Lithuania was amazing, but now my life is build up in Norway and it would be simply too hard to leave everything behind. I am happy that I lived in Lithuania for 16 years, and when I moved to Norway, I opened a new chapter. 

All in all, I am happy that I am half Lithuanian and half Norwegian, because without these two countries, I would not be who I am today. This contributes greatly to my identity and it makes me proud to say that I have both Lithuanian and Norwegian blood.

 

Category : News

- Posted by - (0) Comment

Greetings from Australia!


image010Approximately 10,000 Lithuanians arrived in Australia after World War 2 from refugee camps in Germany. Previously, a small number arrived in the 1800s and then later after World War 1. Lithuanian communities were established in the capital cities of Adelaide, Melbourne, and Sydney. These cities host the bi-annual Lithuanian Days Festival on a rotating basis. Smaller communities were established in Albury, Brisbane, Canberra, Geelong, Hobart, Newcastle, Perth, and Wollongong. The three major centres accounted for about 86% of Lithuanian settlements, with the minor centres for another 10%, with the remainder scattered about the rest of Australia. Lithuanians built their clubs as well as their own houses. In South Australia, Lithuanians built a museum as well as their own church and had Lithuanian priests appointed. Dancing groups, choirs, scouts, sports teams and theatrical troupes were formed. Saturday language schools, staffed by volunteers, flourished. Committees organized concerts to mark special Lithuanian cultural events

Most Lithuanian refugees who came to Australia between 1947- 1953 were single men and women or young families. The Australian government needed manpower after the war to replace the men killed in battle. Often young men migrated first and then sponsored their parents and younger siblings. They were housed in disused army barracks like those in Bonegilla near the border of Victoria and New South Wales. These corrugated iron structures were freezing in winter and hot in summer Irrespective of their professions. Lithuanians together with Latvian and Estonian migrants, had to work for two years wherever the Australian government sent them to pay back the cost of their journey and for their food and lodging. Men were usually were sent to farms or to  cut sugar cane in the tropical state of Queensland, others to the Hydroelectric Snowy Mountain Scheme in  New South Wales. Women mainly worked as domestic servants, or as factory hands or in hospitals as cleaners or cooks. The majority of Lithuanians were eventually granted Australian citizenship.
Known for their generosity, Australian Lithuanians have and continue to host and billet Lithuanian basketballers from America and Lithuania, also politicians and entertainers from Lithuania. Huge numbers of people turned out to meet and greet President Valdas Adamkus whenever he visited Australia.

Nowadays, Lithuanian communities have their own Facebook pages, for example Lithuanians in Australia, Lithuanians in Western Australia, Lithuanians in South Australia, Lithuanians in Brisbane,  Sydney Lithuanian Club and  Melbourne Lithuanian Club. Many also belong to Facebook groups like “Baltics in Australia’’ and “Baltica”. For more information about Lithuanians in Australia, you can read Luda Popenhagen’s book, “Australian Lithuanians”: https://www.newsouthbooks.com.au/books/australian-lithuanians/

This year a blog was started to collate material about the history of Lithuanians in Australia by Jonas Mockunas: http://earlylithuaniansinaustralia.blogspot.com.au/2015_02_01_archive.html

Jura Reilly’
Victoria, Australia.
Founder of FB group Baltica
Author of “A Wolf at Our Door”Australian Lithuanians

 

 

 

Category : News

- Posted by - (5) Comment

Have you heard about the

South African “Pencil Test”? 

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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.

Read more...
Category : Lithuania in the world

OPINIONS

Have your say. Send to:
editor@VilNews.com


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?

Read more...
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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.

Read more...
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VilNews
Christmas greetings
from Vilnius


* * *
Ukraine won the historic
and epic battle for the
future
By Leonidas Donskis
Kaunas
Philosopher, political theorist, historian of
ideas, social analyst, and political
commentator

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.

Read more...
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Watch this video if you
want to learn about the
new, scary propaganda
war between Russia,
The West and the
Baltic States!


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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.

Read more...
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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.

Read more...
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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.

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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.
MADE IN WALES -
ENGLISH VERSION OF THE
AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF
VYTAUTAS LANDSBERGIS.

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IS IT POSSIBLE TO
COMMENT ON OUR
ARTICLES? :-)
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
www.anatanassileika.com

http://www.vdu.lt/lt/rasytojas-antanas-sileika-pristatys-savo-kuryba/
https://leu.lt/lt/lf/lf_naujienos/kvieciame-i-rasytojo-59hc.html
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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
HERE.
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EU-Russia:
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.

Read more...
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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.

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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.

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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.

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It's the economy, stupid *
By Valdas (Val) Samonis,
PhD, CPC

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.

Read more...
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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.

Read more...
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Click HERE to read previous opinion letters >



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