24 February 2018
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Author Archive

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Lost Birds by Birute Putrius
Published by Birchwood Press

Lost Birds tells the stories of the generation of Lithuanians who, like lost birds, flee the advancing Soviet Army at the end of World War II. They land in displaced persons camps in Germany and later are given refuge in America.

It’s the story of their children, Irene Matas and her friends who struggle to become American and yet not lose their identity in their tight-knit Lithuanian Communities. But as they grow and spread their wings, they begin to rebel in their search for a wider world.

These stories are in turn tragic, funny, magical and elegiac. In the last story, when Lithuania regains its freedom, a group returns to visit relatives, only to find the country sadly changed by the many years of Soviet occupation. And Irene finds something surprising there.

The paperback book is $16.00, while the Kindle and Nook version is $9.99. Both can be found on Amazon and Barnes and Noble online, and Booktopia in Australia.

Category : Lithuania in the world

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By Aage Myhre, Editor-in-Chief

Close to 50% of all Lithuanians live outside their home country as there through nearly 200 years has been wave after wave of emigration from Lithuania.

In the 1800s there were many who emigrated because of poor conditions in the home country, as well as repression and persecution of Tsar Russia that occupied Lithuania over the period 1795 - 1915. When Lithuania again was a free country in the period 1918-1940, there was a small number, often intellectuals, who returned to their homeland.

Towards the end of WWII, when Stalin's Red Army was ab of the out to push Hitler Germany's troops back, there were hundreds of thousands who fled westward to avoid deportation to Siberia and similar abuse. Many of those who remained in Lithuania when the Iron Curtain fell, were deported to the cold hell far east. Tens of thousands were killed during the guerrilla warfare that raged in the Baltic region in the years 1944-1953 and later.

During the 46 years when Lithuania was occupied by the Soviet Union from 1944 to 1990 there was only sporadic contact between the inhabitants and the large diaspora in western countries, particularly the US and Australia, but Lithuanians never gave up the hope that their homeland would again be free and independent.

In 1990-1991, this happened after underground forces for many years had worked for such a detachment from the Soviet yoke.

In 1991 Lithuania's population about 4.7 million, but today's emigration to Western Europe and the United States has resulted in dramatic decrease in population, and there now lives only about 2.9 million in the very country.

Lithuania is thus today a nation spread over many countries around the world, and it requires a lot of prudence and good communication to keep this nation together and to keep Lithuanian language and culture alive all over the world.

Below we present some stories from past and present describing how Lithuanians have emigrated or fled from their home country, and how they over the years have established themselves in various countries and cultures.

How Chicago became
Lithuania’s second

Read more…

Lithuanian DPs
in Australia after WW2

Read more…

90% of all Jews in
South Africa are
from Lithuania

Read more…

Hi, I am 18, I left
Lithuania 2 years ago

Read more…

No LT leaders called
to say they love me

Read more…

From Vilnius
University to
modeling in Milan

Read more…

Greetings from

Read more…

We shall become a
force, one to be
desired and respected
as an ally on behalf of

Read more…

We need to unite our
hearts and minds for
the sake of a new

Read more…

Go to our SECTION 7 to read many more stories about Lithuanians in the world …

Category : Front page

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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?

As psychiatrist Dr, Aaron T. Beck and others have noted, accusatory remarks are often perceived as threats by those targeted for verbal attack. Recriminations follow and escalate into verbal shooting matches that solidify hostilities between individuals and groups that previously enjoyed friendly relations.

Although debate is an inevitable and even desirable characteristic of free democratic societies, inflammatory finger-pointing can undermine a country’s national cohesion, political stability, and economic development. As individuals, what can we do to curb the spiral of anger-promoting speech that has surfaced within the world-wide Lithuanian community?

Learn and Teach Tolerance

Anger short-circuits our rational faculties, undermines problem-solving, alienates us from our fellow human beings, and puts us at increased risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, and a host of other illnesses. By learning to adopt a tolerant attitude towards what others say or do, we not only help ourselves, but we help others. As Albert Einstein said, "Example isn't another way to teach, it is the only way to teach."

The next time you feel the impulse to respond angrily to inflammatory accusations, remember that those making them are in the throes of anger themselves. Or they are venting their rage by trying to provoke you. In either case, what they say or write does not merit being taken seriously.

We can disengage from inflammatory rhetoric by using our reason to identify the logical fallacies of their statements. To say that Soviet rule has “ruined an entire generation of Lithuanians” is a gross overgeneralization. As Vilnius-born poet Sergey Kanovich, son of the prominent novelist Grigorijus Kanovicius, has pointed out, “Life is not all black and white…Good people were sometimes brought up in Soviet Lithuania and even led Sajudis.” Similarly, to characterize all Lithuanian Americans as wealthy cowards is to stereotype a mass of individual human beings -- most of whom are hard-working and far from rich -- with a highly pejorative label.

Instead of responding to slurs, we can simply ignore them. Eleanor Roosevelt said that “nobody can make you inferior without your permission.” If you do choose to respond, it’s best to state your position objectively, focusing on facts and offering productive solutions.

Judgmental references to Lithuanians, Lithuanian-Americans, or any other group of people are virtually meaningless unless accompanied by qualifying words like some, many, often, or occasionally. In the absence of qualifiers, people tend to interpret group labels in absolute terms that fail to capture the individuality of others. By avoiding overgeneralizations and stereotypes, we can curb our human inclination towards impulsive irrational thinking and set an example for others to follow.

Strengthen Cultural Bonds

Another way we can help reduce divisiveness in the world-wide Lithuanian community is by participating in cultural events and organizations that emphasize what Lithuanians have in common. While political activities often divide people, cultural activities strengthen the bonds that tie them together.

During an interview at the March 11th Lithuanian independence celebration, Agne Vertelkaite, Cultural and Economic Affairs Officer at Consulate General of the Republic of Lithuania in Chicago, said that “Cultural events and activities provide Lithuanians abroad and at home with a particularly effective way to preserve their sense of national identity.” As an example, she cited the Lithuanian youth folk dance group Ugnele from Vilnius which performed in St. Louis on March 9th and in Chicago on March 11th, 2012 under the sponsorship of the Lithuanian government.  

Folk song and dance group ‘Ugnele’, where the present artistic director and conductor of the choir started to work in 1999. Since 2010, the choir is a part of the Department of Informal Education in Vilnius J. Tallat-Kelpsa music conservatoire. See

Cultural activities have long been one of the mainstays of preserving national identity in the Lithuanian Diaspora. The Viltis Theater troupe established under the leadership of Lithuanian actor Petras Steponavičius, who sadly passed away in 2015, includes members spanning three generations of Lithuanian emigration.

Just as the internet can spread divisiveness and hate, so it can serve as a tool for opening channels of communication and strengthening national cohesion. . E-magazines like VilNews as well as Facebook pages like “We Love Lithuania,” “Our Mom’s Lithuanian Recipes,” and “The National Lithuanian American Hall of Fame” are just a few of the of internet sites where Lithuanian cultural achievements, traditions, and customs are gaining widespread appreciation.

By taking part in Lithuanian cultural activities, we can refuse to submit to the stereotypical thinking that divides us. Instead of forming in-groups and out-groups, we can transcend negligible and temporary differences and help cultivate a sense of national unity and mutual understanding. As internationally-renowned American-Lithuanian film-maker Jonas Mekas has pointed out, a small country like Lithuania cannot allow itself to give away her children.


Beck, A. T. (1999). The cognitive basis of anger, hostility, and violence. New York: Harper Collins.

Dozier, R. W. (2002). Why we hate: Understanding, curbing, and eliminating hate in ourselves and our World. New York: McGraw-Hill. 

I’m an educational psychologist and independent consultant whose major goal is to share the learning, thinking, and emotional self-help skills that will help people of all ages achieve the things they want out of life – in school, on the job, and in daily life. I’m also a teacher with over 29 years experience at the junior high, high-school, and college levels. Currently I teach graduate professional development courses for educators at St. Xavier University/International Renewal Institute, where my students say I’m “a knowledgeable, down-to-earth instructor with a great sense of humor.” I say, “If you love what you do, a sense of humor comes naturally.” My formal educational background includes Master's degrees in English and Special Education, and a PhD in Educational Psychology from the University of Illinois at Chicago. My research and articles have appeared in Applied Psycholinguistics, Learning, Principal, The Clearinghouse, and Education Digest. I’ve been a full member of the American Psychological Association since 1994.


Comments from 2012

Jon Platakis·
A poignant article that touches on the root causes of bias and discrimination. Throughout Lithuanian history, the Lithuanian people showed unity, determination and resiliency to overcome 200 years of foreign occupations that, once again, resulted in a free and sovereign nation. Today, it is only through unity, determination and resiliency by Lithuanians, in Lithuania and abroad, that Lithuania can move forward and reclaim her place on the world stage.

Although, physically, Lithuanians may live oceans apart, pushing each other further away only hinders the progress of the Lithuanian nation. As this article points out, cultural promotion and exchange between all Lithuanians can solidify and preserve our national identity. Organizations, such as, the National Lithuanian Hall of Fame, and the newly established Lithuanian-American Theater "Viltis" seek to promote Lithuanian culture in America, and at the same time, reach out and recognize achievements of Lithuanians in Lithuania.

One only has to look at history to learn that peoples united for a purpose or cause will always achieve their goals.

Mary Ellen Lloyd·
Why would there be ANY political differences among Lithuanian-Americans, at least for those over age 40 who are fully Lithuanian?? Do actual Lithuanians who lived under communism support any party which proposes to do the same thing to America that Russia did to Lithuania?? HOW can there be political divisiveness among Lithuanians who were old enough to witness the terrors and the gulags?
Boris Bakunas·
One of the outstanding features of VilNews is how it publishes articles highlighting the achievements of Lithuanians around the world as well as the harsh realities of the past.

In 2011, two highly-acclaimed novels about the horrors of Soviet oppression were published. "Between Shades of Gray" by Ruta Sepetys told the story of a fifteen-year-old girl who along with her family was exiled to Siberia. Both hard-cover and paperback editions of "Between Shades of Gray" hit the New York Times best-seller list..

Antanas Sileika's novel "Underground" depicts the armed resistance of the Lithuanian partisans against the Soviet invaders and their collaborators. "Underground's" Lukas, is based on Lithuania's most famous partisan, Juozas Luksa--Daumantas. :"Underground" was picked as on of the best novels in English published in 2011 by The Globe and Mail. I have heard that the United States edition of Sileika's novel will be published within a few weeks.

2011 also saw the publication of Ellen Cassedy's book "We Are Here," which recounts the author's personal quest to understand how the people of Lithuania -- Jews and non-Jews -- are dealing with the horrors of the Nazi and Soviet past in order to build a new and better future. Ellen was inspired to write her book when her uncle, a Holocaust survivor, gave her a slip of paper and said, "Read this."

All three books, written by children of Lithuanians who escaped execution or exile, are helping to acquaint English-speaking public with one of the most tragic and heroic periods of Lithuanian history. They will also help educate a new generation of Lithuanians about the long suppressed history of Lithuania during and after World War II.

I am very happy that The National Lithuanian Hall of Fame is playing such an active role in helping to publicize all three books. This new organization has already donated more than five thousand dollars to help Lithuanian film director Tomas Donela secure the film right to "Underground." It is also making great progress in getting "Between Shades of Gray" on the reading lists of American schools and doing all it can to promote "We Are Here."

How can there be any divisiveness among Lithuanians in regards the terrors of the Gulag and the Holocaust? I don't have an answer to that question. I only know that during my own long life I have encountered several. I've spoken to and interviewed Lithuanians who collaborated with Nazis and with Soviet Communists. I've heard expressions of anti-Semitism, and I've heard several Lithuanians express nostalgia for the "good old days" under Communism. Probably, I'll never fully understand the dark side of human nature. But I also spoke to former partisans, political prisoners, and those who endured Siberian exile. My hope is that as individuals we do all we can to overcome hatred in word and in deed and help each other when we can.

In this endeavor, perhaps we can learn from the example set by South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission. As Archbishop Desmond Tutu has said, "“Forgiving is not forgetting; its actually remembering--remembering and not using your right to hit back. Its a second chance for a new beginning. And the remembering part is particularly important. Especially if you dont want to repeat what happened.”

Boris Vytautas Bakunas

Afriani· 187 weeks ago
I would be torn too. I'm 2nd generation Lithuanian, went to Lithuanian shocol (and hated it at the time), Lithuanian scout camp and Neringa until I was 13 and my first visit to Lietuva was at 13. I was actually in Lietuva the summer when 7 border guards were killed and visited the graves of the fallen. The whole trip was an intense experience that I don't think I would have appreciated had I been younger. I say, save up for Letuva for when your kids can really understand the importance of the trip, and go for Disney. I went there for the first time when I was about 7 or 8 and there is definately a magic about it at that age (but I think that magic is there at any age).

Category : News

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So my question is simple
– why don’t we try harder to be better
every day? Why cannot we create
Christmas miracles
all year long?

By Rugilė Šablinskaitė
Brussels – Belgium

...It's a time for giving, a time for getting,
A time for forgiving and for forgetting.
Christmas is love, Christmas is peace,
A time for hating and fighting to cease’…

sings Cliff Richard.

I guess everyone knows this cliché Christmas song as well as many more others that talk about this special time of the year when everyone becomes just a little bit better, a little bit more understanding, more giving, less angry. Oh, and we shouldn’t forget about the so called Christmas miracle. So many ads and campaigns shouting: ‘Help someone have their Christmas miracle’.

Category : Lithuania today / Front page

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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!

Category : Lithuania today

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Six Lithuanian Christmas stories

By Aage Myhre. Editor-in-Chief
Go to our SECTION 4 to read more stories from Lithuania‘s proud history ...
From Palanga, West Lithuania
Lithuania's happy interwar period approaches its end. But Christmas is still celebrated in joy and harmony.
From the Lena river delta, Arctic Siberia
Lithuania was occupied in 1940. The massive, cruel deportations to bitterly cold Siberia began in 1941.
From Šilagalis, North Lithuania
A sad Christmas story of a mother witnessing her partisan son being tortured and killed by Soviet soldiers.
From a German refugee camp
Hundreds of thousands managed to flee to the West in 1944, before Stalin's Red Army began its horrible abuses.
From Soviet Lithuania
35 years of 'the war after the war', of cruel occupation – Soviet systems permeate everything. Is there any hope?
From around the world
The most wonderful time of the year – with old traditions, cuisine and spirit – for Lithuanians all over the world.
Category : Front page

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Christmas 1936:
Days of juvenescence
in Palanga, West Lithuania
--Front row: Me – Vytautas Jonas Šliūpas
--Second row: - Zosė Ragauskaitė; Petrusė Bitkevičienė
--Third row: my father – Dr. Jonas Šliūpas
--Fourth row: –Pranas Ragauskas; Stasė Ragauskaitė;
my mother Grasilda Šliūpienė; Antanas Ragauskas
--Fifth row: – unknown person; Antanas Bitkevičius; Ričardas Estka.
By Vytautas Sliupas
Burlingame, California
I was born in Palanga in 1930. I lived with my parents – Dr. Jonas and Grasilda Grauslte Sliupas. The memories I have from my juvenescence start from the year 1933 when I was a 3-year old “man”. Read more...
Category : Historical Lithuania

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A true story about a Lithuanian family that was deported
to the Lena River delta, North Siberia, year 1942
Text: Leona T. Gustaff

“The tents were freezing cold, harsh, and distressing; so, the adults decided to build better living conditions. "We can build barracks," said one Lithuanian, "We can catch the logs in the Lena River." The men waded barefoot into the icy water, caught floating logs, brought them to shore, and built the barracks. They covered the outside walls with snow and ice which they learned would help keep out the frigid temperature. They also found a large iron stove, which they placed in the middle of the building.” Read more...
Category : Historical Lithuania

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A Christmas story from Šilagalis,
North Lithuania, year 1945
By Aage Myhre

Christmas of 1945 is approaching a small farm on the outskirts of the village Šilagalis in northern Lithuania. It is the 22nd of December, and the mother in the house feels very happy that her 21-year-old son Povilas has finally come home for a visit, after being away for many months.

Category : Historical Lithuania

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Lithuanian refugee camp in Germany, Christmas 1945
A Christmas gift for father
By Felicia Prekeris Brown
Author of her family's memoir, "God, Give Us Wings" (Amazon)
December 1945, found our small family beginning to settle into our fourth Displaced Person Camp since the end of World War II in May. We were now in Blomberg, a small town located about 50 miles southwest of Hannover, Germany, in a rural area left unscathed during the conflict. The British Zone administrators had commandeered private houses from resident Germans; each refugee family was allocated a room of its own. After months spent in barrack-type accommodations at three former camps, we felt elated to finally have a little privacy. Read more...
Category : Historical Lithuania

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Christmas during Soviet years

By Aage Myhre
Much of the traditional Christmas celebrations were forbidden during Lithuania's Soviet years. The Soviet Union tried instead to introduce New Year as the annual winter celebration.

But privately, in the homes Lithuanians were sticking to the proud traditions of Christmas from centuries back in time. Christmas Worship in churches was banned, so also the religious ceremonies took place at home in the families.

Category : Historical Lithuania

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It's the most wonderful
time of the year...
Twelve different dishes are served on the table because Jesus had twelve apostles. All the dishes are strictly meatless: fish, herring, sližikai with poppy seed milk, kisielius (cranberry pudding), a dried fruit soup or compote, a salad of winter and dried vegetables, mushrooms, boiled or baked potatoes, sauerkraut (cooked, of course, without meat) and bread. Gero apetito! Skanaus!
Photo from:
By: Saulene Valskyte
Christmas is probably the most important celebration in the whole Christian world, but Lithuanian Christmas traditions are outstanding, even in this context. Lithuania has a very rich history and many historical events have influenced our traditions, starting with hints of paganism, followed by remainders from the Soviet occupation, and finishing up with the intrusion of the modern world. In this article I will tell you a little bit about our Christmas traditions—how they should be and how they are still celebrated today. Gero apetito! Skanaus! Linksmų Kalėdų!
Category : Historical Lithuania

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The Genocide and Resistance
Research Centre of Lithuania
(GRRCL) insults all Jews and
decent citizens here

Photo R. Dačkaus

By Dovaidas PABIRŽIS
Journal “Veidas”
Poet and social activist Sergey Kanovich, who lives between Vilnius and Brussels, as he says, is currently implementing the project of his life, “Lost Shtetl”. The restored cemetery of Šeduva and completely redone memorials at the mass killing places in the vicinity of the town, were presented to the public some time ago, an exceptionally beautiful and touching monument by Romas Kvintas was unveiled in the town’s center in October, and the cultural center of Šeduva has been restored. However, there’s still much to be done – among the plans, the “Lost Shtetl” museum which will focus on the history of Lithuanian Jewry. Read more...
Category : Front page / Litvak forum

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The Litvaks (Lithuanian Jews)
and their formidable position
in world history
By Aage Myhre

I have on various occasions, in several countries, asked people if they know of the Litvaks (Lithuanian Jews) and their special place in world history and in many of today's countries and societies around the world. The answer is usually negative, which has puzzled me – in view of the unprecedented and exceptional role the Litvaks have had within a very wide range of fields, in politics, economics, business and science, to prominent roles in music, movies and many other cultural fields.

Go to our SECTION 9 to read more Litvak stories ...
Litvak fiddler in
Vilnius Old Town
The Litvaks
Jews trace their origins in Lithuania back to the days of Grand Duke Gediminas in the early 14th century, and by the late 15th century there were already thriving Jewish communities here. In time, Vilnius became known as the "Jerusalem of the North," a centre of Jewish religious learning. The Jews of Lithuania lived an intense Jewish life, and their role and influence in the major Jewish political and cultural movements were far greater than their numbers would have suggested. Vilnius became a prominent international, intellectual centre. Here there were once as many synagogues (totally 96) as churches—including the Great Synagogue, built in 1573, a vast complex of prayer spaces and schools.
Vilnius was like
a Mediterranean city
EMMANUEL ZINGERIS: “Vilnius was like a Mediterranean city. Lithuania before Holocaust was a society of love, full of colourful life and warm interaction between people. Imagine that here, in the street we are sitting, the windows would now be open, the mothers would be shouting to their children, and the street would be filled with joyful people discussing, singing, reading and mingling in a happy crowd of friends, colleagues and visitors.”
THE GAON (Wisest Rabbi) of Vilna.
Rabbi Eliyahu of Vilna was born in Vilnius in 1720 and died in 1797.
“If you seek wisdom,
Vilnius is the place to go”
Before WWII there was a saying among European Jews: if you are keen on earning money, go to Lodz; if you seek wisdom, Vilnius is the place to go. “I live in this city with a feeling that it does not belong to me and that I have only come here for a visit – as a human being, a poet and a Lithuanian. In this respect Vilnius could be compared only to Jerusalem. Only Jerusalem is the city of God, whereas Vilnius is the city of a dream. Trivial as it might seem, it was founded after Gediminas has a dream. It’s as if Vilnius was not created by man – you have the feeling that Vilnius has risen from the ground, from the confluence of the rivers, from the landscape – it rises on its own, possibly with some support by man. It is also in the details that the beauty of Vilnius lies. On the one hand, the Vilnius of the dream lets its citizens merely touch it; on the other hand, Vilnius sucks them in and swallows them”
Kovno Chief Rabbi Yitzchak
Elchanan Spector (1817-1896),
served as chief rabbi of Kovno, the
most prominent rabbinical position
at the height of 19th century
Lithuanian Jewry.
Kaunas was an
important centre of Jewish life
Jews are first known to have lived in Kaunas (Kovno) as early as 1410 when they were brought forcibly as prisoners of war by the Grand Duke Vytautas. Many of those Jews were later active as traders between Kovno and Danzig (today's Gdansk, Poland). Living conditions for many Jews were squalid. In 1858, archaic living restrictions were relaxed and all but 6,000 of the city's 35,000 Jews flocked to the Old Town in search of something better. In July 1941, however, the Nazis expelled all the Jews from the town and sent them back to Slobodka. The Kovno Ghetto was thus established. Kaunas became an important center of Jewish cultural life in the latter half of the 19th century. Distinguished Jewish leaders moved here from Vilnius, the capital, to establish yeshivas. Influential thinkers also moved to Kaunas.
The Jewish Museum in Cape Town
is more Lithuanian than
Lithuania itself.
90% of all Jews in
South Africa are Litvaks
It is considered that around 90% of the approximately 80,000 Jews living in South Africa are of Lithuanian descent (the so-called Litvaks), which thus constitutes the largest pocket of Litvaks in the world! You are hereby invited to learn more about this unique Jewish community that still holds Lithuania alive in their hearts, museums and synagogues. The Jewish Museum in Cape Town offers visitors a journey back in time. Most museums do. The striking feature of this museum, however, is that the journey to the past also brings us to a completely different part of our world, from Africa's southern tip to a seemingly modest little country far to the north.
Two children in the Kaunas
(Kovno) Ghetto, Lithuania.
Yad Vashem Photo Archive, 4789
Kaunas Ghetto (1941-1944):
An entire urban district
turned into a merciless death camp
What happened to the Jews in Lithuania during World War II is a matter of grim record. Of the 250.000 Jews in 1939, only between 12.500 and 17.500 survived; of those, only about 200 remain today. It has been estimated that of the 265.000 Jews living in Lithuania in June 1941, 254.000 or 95% were murdered during the German occupation. No other Jewish community in Nazi-occupied Europe was so comprehensively destroyed.
Professor Irena Veisaite,
a Holcaust survivor. .
“I do not remember the faces of
any evil people from my past,
but I do very well remember the
faces of those that expressed
goodness. We have to learn
to love and to understand.”
Litvaks of today
During the 19th and 20th century, tens of thousands of Lithuanian Jews emigrated to the United States of America. Many Lithuanian Jews also emigrated to South Africa which became famous as a haven for its 100.000 Jews who were spared the Holocaust. A small number also emigrated to the British Mandate of Palestine. The rise of the Nazis in Germany and the ensuing Holocaust destroyed the vast majority of Jews who had not managed to leave Lithuania and its environs.
Jews of Lithuanian origin are today in leading roles and positions around the world – some of our nowadays most famous politicians, scientists, businessmen, economists, actors, writers and singers have Litvak background.
Category : Front page / Litvak forum

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Exhibition at the Tolerance Center of the Vilna Gaon
State Jewish Museum, Naugarduko street 19/2, Vilnius.
16 December 2015 – 13 March 2016.
Category : Front page / Litvak forum

- Posted by - (7) Comment

Memory of the Vilnius
sound that once was

"The Eternal Question” / “DI ALTE KASHE”
FRAIDY KATZ sings in Yiddish

Category : Front page / Litvak forum


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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