VilNews section 13: THE WORLD IN LITHUANIA
Vilnius through an Italian camera lens
Photo: Erica from Bologna, northern Italy
THE VOICE OF INTERNATIONAL LITHUANIA
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My first meeting with my family in Lithuania
- we had been searching for 90 years
By KR Slade
It’s Saturday, 28 May 2005, 6pm, in Lithuania. I’ve just returned to my room in the capital city, Vilnius, from my nine-hour day-trip to Kaunas, Lithuania’s second-largest city. Kaunas had been the capital of the first Republic of Lithuania, during the inter-world-wars period, and is 90+ percent ethnic-Lithuanian — compared to 60 percent in Vilnius. Lithuania is, now and since 1990, in its ‘third’ republic, again free, after its second — and fake –‘Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic’, when it was occupied and annexed by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Kaunas is called ‘the heart of Lithuania’, especially by the people of Kaunas. Today is a very special day for my family in Lithuania: the fifth anniversary of the death of our family’s Cardinal Vincentas Sladkevicius.
VilNews is from time to time brining articles under the heading ‘The Village Voice’. The articles are written by a retired Englishman, David Holliday, who for the past sixteen years has lived with his wife Migle in the village Lapiai 30 km from Klaipeda. We believe that you, dear reader, appreciate David’s subtle tales and stories from his life out there – so far off the beaten track…
By Barbara Isherwood
I thought I would share this with you all. What an exciting country Lithuania is!!
Yesterday evening, as I looked out of my dining room window, I noticed a lot of smoke. It was very close to a new house being built by one of the Iki brothers but behind a huge lilac tree so I could not properly see what the cause was.
I watched for a while and realised that the smoke was actually moving position. I knew I would not be happy until I had found out what was going on.
How I came to Lithuania 21 years ago
Some private memories by Aage Myhre, VilNews Editor-in-Chief
Clifford Lont (47), Chairman of Klaipeda International Business Club, has moved the long way from Suriname in South America to a much colder climate here at the Lithuanian coast.
Suriname, Suriname… I search my brain frantically for ancient geography skills … Clifford Lont sits in front of me at a café table on the left bank of River Dane in the heart of Klaipeda. He has just told me that his native country is called Suriname, located in South America. But where? I have heard the name before, but can not visualize the location on my imaginary map and see finally no other option but to ask him…
And Clifford tells willingly about the country and city he originates from. He tells me that Suriname is a small country of less than 500.000 inhabitants, located near equator in the northeast of the South American continent, bounded by Guyana on the west, French Guyane on the east and Brazil to the south. He tells that Suriname is set in a natural tropical wilderness, a splendid combination of the Caribbean and South America, with fascinating reminders of a sometimes turbulent past Influenced by numerous cultures – African, Amerindian, Asian, Jewish and Dutch. The country was earlier a Dutch colony.
He tells me that his former homeland is dominated by mighty rivers which provide essential highways into the rainforest and jungles of the interior, which remain virtually untouched by man.
Clifford was born and grew up in Suriname’s bustling capital and port city, Paramaribo, at the Suriname River estuaries.
Norwegian Gunnvald Laukhammer, the main person behind the success of Lido Marine,
is not exactly thrilled with the way the Lithuanian authorities often are acting.
LIDO Marine is a Norwegian owned Lithuanian company, established originally under the name Lauremija in 2002, with roots in the maritime business back to 1977 and as own firms since 1986. The company’s founder and general director, Gunnvald Laukhammer, has long experience in building and contracting, ship interior outfitting, industrial insulation and ventilation systems in the Norwegian onshore and offshore industry.
By basing the company in the port city of Klaipeda, LIDO Marine has been able to take advantage of the wealth of experience in the ship building industry of the city. During post-war soviet times, Klaipeda was one of the major centres of ship repair and ship building for the Soviet shipping industry. Four major ship building yards and numerous related businesses operated in the city; even today Klaipeda is host to 43 ship-repair, building and technical services companies.
In 2006 the company also bought facilities in Kretinga, a town not far from Klaipeda, and established Baltic Marine Furniture to produce furniture and interiors to supply the mother company’s ship and offshore fitting operations.
LIDO Marine currently has a staff of around 75, mostly Lithuanians divided into teams of 5 to 30 people, who travel all over Europe (sometimes also in other parts of the world) to furnish ships and offshore platforms. Baltic Marine Furniture employs twelve persons at the factory in Kretinga.
The authorities do nothing to facilitate or help us
Gunnvald Laukhammer is not exactly thrilled with the way the Lithuanian authorities often are acting. ”Sometimes I feel they are more eager to create problems than to help out,” he says. ”Take as an example that our company Baltic Marine Furniture now for a long period of time has tried to get permission to extend the furniture workshop building in Kretinga. But instead of welcoming new jobs and investments with open arms, the local authorities seem to do what they can to thwart us, and we still have not received a building permit for a rather simple building extension, on our own land, after about two years of waiting. Now another winter may come before we can start building,” he says.
Gunnvald is not overexcited when he talks about the many bureaucrats and politicians he thinks Lithuania has too many of.
“I simply no longer allow myself to get annoyed at how poorly the systems in this country often works,” he says in his laconic, Western-Norwegian, manner.
“It is, however, strange to see,” he says, “that an investor and export company like ours is getting no support or help from the local Lithuanian authorities. I feel, on the contrary, that they sometimes are attempting to cheat and take unfair advantage of us and other foreign companies here.“
James A. Clarke (34) with wife Marina (27) and son Daniel (2).
It is a very likeable couple sitting in the sofa in front of me here in the Radisson Blu Klaipeda this Saturday morning. Young, smart, successful people who have chosen Klaipeda as their hometown and base for the business activities, James has built up here over the last few years. Their two-year-old son Daniel is running around, full of energy. Luckily I manage to snap a quick family photo the one second he sits quietly with his parents.
James was only 21 years old when he came to Klaipeda and Lithuania for the first time. The building engineer who had grown up in an Irish family farm had come here to buy horses on behalf of his uncle, Ireland’s largest horse-farmer.
Something out here at the Lithuanian coast must have caught James’ interest and curiosity even then, so after having travelled around and seen more of the world, he came back here in 2003. And now the business got serious.
That very same year, BNTP (Baltic Real-Estate Developments) was established in Klaipeda, where it successfully developed the first modern business park in Lithuania – Klaipeda Business Park. Since then BNTP has expanded its portfolio through developments and acquisitions to include commercial centres and land plots in Lithuania and Latvia.
James has been very active and successful in his real estate endeavours since the start-up eight years ago.
VilNews e-magazine is published in Vilnius, Lithuania. Editor-in-Chief: Mr. Aage Myhre. Inquires to the editors: editor@VilNews.com.
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