22 February 2018
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Culture & events

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A Lithuanian-American

librarians’s views of Lietuva


By Jurate Kutkute Burns
Florida, USA

My most recent visit to Lietuva concluded on September 24th of this year. It was my fifth visit since I first saw my parents’ homeland in 1998 and I can honestly say that each time I come, my appreciation and love for this country grows.  Several of my  friends in Lietuva have asked me what I think of their country, or city,  as they wish to compare their vista with that seen by an  outsider. These are my impressions, colored in part by my own parents’ views of what Lietuva meant to them.

First, Lietuva, while geographically small, has an enormous investment in artistic and intellectual capital. Artists, musicians, poets, writers and teachers are appreciated for their talents.   Vilniaus Senamiestis is truly an architectural treasure, and each year more of the decayed buildings are being refurbished. Valdovu Rumai is a state-of-the-art museum which ranks with the world’s finest in quality of displays. Even small museums such as that of Anaztazija and Antanas Tamosaitis, present their treasures proudly, with honor. I was privileged to be given an after hours tour of Liongino Sepkos wood carvings at the Rokiskio Museum by a most enthusiastic guide, V. Kazlauskas. I was  in Rokiskis with my childhood friend, Vijole Arbas, to gather information for her mother’s  (Ale Ruta) 100 year jubilee.

Category : Culture & events / Front page

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Berta upe Tilmantaite

is among the world's

top photographers



By Aage Myhre

 When I spoke with Berta upe Tilmantaite a few days ago, she was on a photo assignment somewhere in Kenya's wilderness. Internet connection was very poor, but she managed at least to tell me that she would soon be back in Nairobi and that we then could talk more and her exploits as a photojournalist with absolutely the whole world as her geographical area.

Berta upe Tilmantaite is a Lithuanian multimedia journalist, photographer and story teller, currently based in Vilnius. She obtained her MA in International Multimedia Journalism from the University of Bolton / Beijing Foreign Studies University (Beijing) after graduating from Vilnius University.

Recently the Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF) organized an international photography competition "On the Go", and Berta up Tilmantaitė won first place with her photo “On the boat”

B.Tilmantaitės winning photograph will be exhibited in Luxembourg during the 12th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) Foreign Ministers 'Meeting (12th ASEM Foreign Ministers' Meeting).

Category : Culture & events / Front page

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By Daiva Markelis, Charleston, Illinois
Professor of English at Eastern Illinois University

When I was growing up, my mother was always going on about her aristocratic roots. Her great-grandfather had been a Prussian plikbajoris. Bajoris comes from the word bajoras, meaning nobleman, while plik is a shortened form of plikas, or naked. A naked nobleman was one whose wealth had dissipated, usually through fiscal mismanagement augmented by an excessive fondness for liquor.

Not to be outdone, my father would counter with the claim that his surname—Markelis—was one of a kind. “Except for my siblings, no other Markelises roam the face of earth,” he’d add, as if we were dinosaurs.

I felt doubly blessed. Having a singular last name was just as special as being the great great-granddaughter of Prussian plikbajoriai.

As an adult, I never really questioned my father’s claim. In all of my formal and informal studies of Lithuanian history, literature, and linguistics, I never came upon the name Markelis. Decades of involvement in Lithuanian-American life and multiple visits to the homeland did nothing to dispel this notion of familial exclusivity—I never met another person bearing my last name.

Then, one morning, about a year ago, I logged onto Facebook to find the following message:

Hello Daiva Markelis, my apologies for not good english speach. But I just wanted to say, that its gratifieing to see people with same surnames. I have read some articles that you have wrote about Lithuania. It is great. Sorry, if I wasted some of your time.

The message was signed by a Rimantas Markelis. His Facebook photograph revealed a very fit, good-looking young man with the same dark eyes and intense expression of my father.

I thought I’d be disappointed to lose my unique Markelis status, but all I felt was curiosity and a tinge of existential relief.

We quickly friended each other and exchanged a few messages.  I wrote in grammatically questionable Lithuanian, Rimantas in charmingly imperfect English:

I have never been in America but I think its much easier life, than in Lithuania. Its hard to find a job in these days, even if you have some graduates, everything depends how many friends you have in any institution.

I felt like writing back: “That’s pretty much the way it is in Chicago,” but held back.  

Soon another Markelis popped up on Facebook. I assumed that Tomas was Rimantas’ brother. The idea that there might be more than two Markelis clans did not cross my mind until several weeks ago when I examined the FB pages of both and realized that not only do the two look nothing alike, but they also hail from different cities; Rimantas, who reminds me of my father, was born and raised in Alytus, halfway across the country from Dusetos, my father’s birthplace. Tomas, who looks nothing like my dad, lives in Rokiskis, a mere seventeen miles away from Dusetos.

My curiosity piqued, I decided to see what other Markelises had put down roots on Facebook. I thought there might be another two or three, and was shocked to discover thirty-one in all, the majority of them men. There were several Greeks—an Iraklis and Spiros and Grigoris.  There was a Pablo Markelis, a lawyer who’d graduated from the University of Michigan and had gone to USC film school. Of course, there were plenty of  Lithuanian names on the list: Mindaugas, Mintartas, Marius, Algedas, Rimgaudas, Darius, Egidijus, Arunas.

As for women, there was a Rosanna with rigid FB settings, an Alesia who was clearly Greek, and a woman I’ll call Elena.  I thought Elena might be Lithuanian, but then discovered she’s from Buenos Aires and now lives in Florida. Her Facebook wall reveals that she is strongly pro-Israel and has a daughter who’s a member of the Board of Temple B’nai Brith.  Elena may be related to Pablo. Although they are not FB friends, they have several Silvermans in common.

My searches on Facebook just whetted my appetite for finding more Markelises. The next step was, because “you never know what you might learn about the past.” I have friends who love Ancestry—I’d always thought of them as individuals with too much time on their hands. I signed up for the free one-month trial and was hooked immediately. Ancestry revealed that one family of Markelises had immigrated to the U.S. from Lithuania in the early 1900s and settled in Massachusetts; another, in Pennsylvania.  The Markelises on the first two pages of the Ancestry listing have Christian first names: Mary, Veronica, George, John, etc.

Further down the listing, I discovered a Yenca Markelis and Googled it only to learn on that “ZERO people in the United States have this name.” Soon after Yenca came a Yetta Markelis, then a Tavel and a Herschel and a Meyer, all from Lithuania. An entry simply labeled Markelis stated that the name appears on the Jewish Surnames List for the area of Minsk, Lithuania’s neighbor to the east.  Khaim and Bassia Markelis had the following note appended to their names: Holocaust Refugees Relocated to Tashkent.  And Boruchas Markelis, who died in 1920, was born and raised in Rokiskis, the same place as Tomas.

I’ve since learned that a variation of Markelis is Margelis.  The letter k, when in the middle of a Lithuanian word, sounds almost like a g.  Margelis would be a descriptive surname—margas in Lithuanian means colorful. Marge is also a very popular cow’s name, the Lithuanian equivalent of the American Elsie.  So, maybe my father’s ancestors were a colorful lot.  Or maybe they just owned a lot of cows.

Speaking of descriptive Lithuanian surnames—they are the most fascinating in the world, in my completely non-biased opinion. Among my favorites are Baltakis (white-eyed one); Baltaragis (white-horned one); Kairys (left-handed one); Repecka (one who crawls on all fours.) The name of tennis ace Ricardas Berankis presents an interesting nominal conundrum, since berankis means one without hands. And I imagine a forefather of the great basketball player Zydrunas Ilgauskas stretched out on the grass, relaxing. “Wow. You sure are long,” a passing villager exclaims, and thus a name is born.

Back to Markelis, or Margelis, which sounds a lot like Margolis, one of the most common Jewish surnames from Belarus, Lithuania, and northeastern Poland.  When I researched the meaning of Margolis, I discovered that the name means ‘pearl’ in Hebrew. qualifies this by stating that “the Hebrew word is ultimately of Greek origin, as in Greek margaron, margarites [for] ‘pearl’.”

When I told a Chicago friend with Eastern European Jewish roots about my possibly Jewish surname, I expected a modicum of surprise, perhaps even guarded approval. She just shrugged her shoulders and said something like “Oh, we’re all interconnected.”  

Another friend, the writer Ellen Cassedy, whose wonderful We Are Here: Memories of the Lithuanian Holocaust serves as a model of genealogical research, wasn’t surprised when I told her what I had discovered about my name. “That's what occurred to me when you said you were searching,” she wrote in an email. “That the name could be Jewish.  Or maybe German?”

I hadn’t even thought of German. Another avenue of research to pursue. Dusetos, my father’s birthplace, is not far from the Latvian border.  Pockets of the country once had significant German populations. My father’s first name was Adolfas, the Lithuanian version of the very German Adolph, a popular name in the 1910s.  And Markelis sounds like Merkel, as in Angela Merkel, the current German chancellor. I did a Google search of Merkel, which lead me to Markel.  According to, Markel comes from the Germanic marah, or horse (mare); it’s probable that early Markels were servants who looked after horses.

Later in the same entry, however, the writer claims that the very first Markels lived in Prussia and were “one of the most notable families in the region” (emphasis mine.)  The site sells a large number of Markel-related items, including a large, hand-painted plaque “proudly displaying the Markel crest” for $201.95. Those unwilling to shell out that kind of money can buy a mouse pad with the Markel coat-of-arms for  $16.95 or a coffee mug for $13.95.  I thought of buying the mouse pad, carefully inking in IS after the MARKEL, and showing off my coat-of-arms to envious friends.

What sweet irony it would be if my father had descended from the noble Prussian Markels—though that’s a pretty big if.  The class differences between my aristocratic mother and more humble father were an occasional source of contention. “You Valaityte, you!” my father would spew as if it were an expletive when my mother criticized his rambunctious manner when he had too much to drink.  My mother’s life of piano lessons and trips to Sweden and Traviata on New Year’s Eve stood in marked contrast to my father’s depressing childhood. He rarely talked about his past, except to say that his family was poor and his father drank and his mother was illiterate. Both were shipped off to Siberia despite their abject poverty and my grandfather’s collectivist politics. There was never any talk of my father’s grandparents. They were nameless individuals, probably deceased by the time my father was a boy.

What else I discovered about Markels from the internet: there are quite a few Jewish Markels, many of them living in Argentina.  And Markel has over one hundred spelling variations, including Mark, Marcos, Marek, and Markowitz. The Internet Surname Database only lists a few, and Markelis isn’t one of them.

I often ask my college students what they’ve learned in the process of researching a paper topic: What do you know about your subject that you didn’t know before? What have you learned from this experience?

I ask myself the same questions.

I discovered that more Markelises roam the earth than were dreamt of in my philosophy.

I found I can spend hours on, forgoing sleep and paper grading.

The existence of the Jewish Markelises confirmed my belief that although Lithuanian Christian and Lithuanian Jewish communities lived in highly segregated communities, there must have been points of intersection when more than a love of herring was shared.

I learned I might be of noble heritage on both sides of the family, which should give me some special privileges, such as discounts at Lithuanian restaurants.

More probably, however, I’m the descendent of people who looked after horses or raised cows.  The percentage of commoners is much smaller than that of nobles, even in aristocrat-laden Lithuania.

Category : Culture & events

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An American growing

NEW BOOK: "How I Became A Comrade:
An American Growing Up In Siberian Exile" by John E. Armonas
as told to Algis Ruksenas, is NOW AVAILABLE thru

An American child deported with his mother to Siberia, torn from her when she is given additional punishment at hard labor in the notorious GULAG, is raised as a Soviet in order to survive.

John Armonas was a U.S. citizen, but had been left behind when his American-born father and five-year old sister, Donna, were urged to leave Lithuania back for the United States, after the Soviets first occupied Lithuania in 1940. His mother Barbara, a native Lithuanian, was assured by American officials she could soon follow with nine-month old John, as soon as her immigration papers were expedited. Instead, they ended up in Siberia in one of the massive waves of deportation from Lithuania and other Soviet occupied countries after World War II. John became Ivan, an "orphan", with his past hidden, because his mother's alleged political offenses would have cut off all chances for his survival, let alone any opportunity for success within the Stalinist system. A dramatic public encounter by his sister, Donna, with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev during his visit to America in 1959, elicited from him a promise to let her mother and brother leave the Soviet Union and be reunited, ending a separation of 20 years, but not without additional bureaucratic harassment. This is a true story of survival, adaptation, and ultimate triumph over injustice.

Facebook page:

„How I Became A Comrade: An American Growing Up In Siberian Exile“ is available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble

John E, Armonas (right) at age 13 and his friend standing in front of a statue of
Lenin and Stalin at Lake Shira in Kazakhstan in 1953.

Category : Culture & events

The strange phenomenon of Eurovision

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By Saulene Valskyte

Eurovision for Lithuanians is like one more religion after basketball. Everybody has their opinion on everything: how the artist should look, how they should move on the stage, what the song should be, how it should be performed. The strangest thing is that with such a big group of experts, somehow we pick the wrong person every year.

Every year lots and lots of groups and single artists fills out applications to participate in the Eurovision song competition. Every year thousands of people are watching the National Finals to vote for the best song and finally win. And every year right after the results of the National Final the weirdness begins.

After announcing the results of the National Final in one night the chosen one becomes the worst one. After getting the majority of the votes from the TV viewers, the chosen artist becomes the most criticized person in whole country. It’s seems that overnight everybody changes their opinions or that during the voting process everybody was in some kind of trance. There has never been a person that would win the National Contest and would still remain the favorite.

The reverse process is happening in Eurovision’s semi-finals. If our representative, that no one believed in, gets through to the finals the whole country becomes believers. After the semis people regain hope and after promising last place jumps to the top 10 or says „Didn‘t I say so?“. And that lasts for two days. After that, back to believing in last place.

Eurovision brings that strange emotion in peoples lifes when we are able to be the bigest optimists and pesimist at the same time. We wish and hope for the best places, we vote for the best national song, and at the same time we are so afraid to confes that we are believers that we start to declare our pessimism instead. It‘s easyer to say that we will loose and enjoy the winning then hope for the best and cry in the end.

This year everything was as usual. No one liked Andrius Pojavis, but somehow he was elected. No one believed in him, but after wining in the semi-final everyone was saying that this is how it should be. In two days everybody was promising him the last place again. After attention from journalist from abroad, Lithuanians also started to believe in top 10. The bigest shocker this year though, was not being close to last, but not geting votes from the UK and Latvia. Lats are our neighbors and we were always generous to one another in a matter of points. In the UK, the biggest number of emigrants from lithuania are in the UK, and if we are expecting any votes it‘s from countries that lithuanians lives in.

I think what I‘m trying to say is that we should not be afraid to say loud and clear that we are believers and actually belive and suport those who are representing us. Because if even we won‘t belive in them, then who will?

Category : Culture & events

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Lithuanian genius artist
Marija T. Rožanskaitė

By Daiva Repečkaitė

I attended an amazing gallery tour by Laima Kreivytė, the curator of the exhibition of Marija Teresė Rožanskaitė’s work. I had seen some works by Rožanskaitė at the National Gallery of Art earlier, and I thought that she was among the most interesting Lithuanian artists of all times, but the current exhibition gives a full picture of her genius. Rožanskaitė (1933-2007) started her career under Soviet censorship, when artistic expression was carefully monitored and abstract art was treated unfavorably. However, her ‘progressive’ topics (modern medicine, space exploration and industrial cities) allowed her to get through the censorship. However, being a child of political prisoners and a progressive artist, she was largely ignored in the USSR. When Lithuania became independent, the artist continued producing innovative art, creating spatial assemblages and installations, addressing ecological and political topics, adored by the young generation. And yet I never studied about her work at art history lessons, and I heard nothing about her death in 2007 from the mainstream press. It’s a typical way to treat women artists.

Read more…

Category : Culture & events / Front page

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The land I lead you to
is Lithuania

But great is its truths. To be. To survive. To testify by itself to the abundance and variety of the world’s nations, to the value of man’s life in freedom in his homeland.

Each blade of grass here sprouts from a drop of blood or a tear.

In the sandy soil of a hillock it grows both grain and graves marked with crosses.

It went from uprising to uprising, from exile to exile, from deportation to deportation. A great number of its people were laid to rest in the permafrost of Siberia, some of their bones were flown back to their native soil, the survivors lost their health in slave labour, but returned home.

Over each hillock, over each forest and over each lake it looks the same and different. It is just like our folk song: Though over the Nemunas river it seems to be sung in a different manner, it is nevertheless filled with the same longing and poignant emotion.

Justinas Marcinkevičius

Category : Culture & events / Front page

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Justinas Marcinkevičius

Justin Marcinkevičius Važatkiemio in his native village in 1986.
Photo: Romuald Rakausko.

Marcinkevičius was born in 1930 in Važatkiemis, Prienai district. In 1954 he graduated from Vilnius University History and Philology faculty with a degree in Lithuanian language and Literature. He joined the Communist party in 1957. He worked for a number of years as vice-chairman of the board of the official Union of Lithuanian Writers. He died in Vilnius on the 16th of February 2011.

Having grown up during the post-war period, Marcinkevičius evokes in his poetry a romanticized version of childhood spent in the Lithuanian countryside, of first love, of man's relationship with nature. In his poetry specific and solid peasant thinking is combined with a mind seeking to draw broad general conclusions, and the tradition of Lithuanian poetry singing the Earth's praises with contemporary modes of poetic thought. As a poet, he has sought to grasp the essence of national experience and give it fresh artistic expression. In his lyrical verse Marcinkevičius strives to comprehend the real meaning of what is going on inside man and society and moves the reader with his ardent lyrical confessions.

For most his life Justinas Marcinkevičius lived and wrote during the complex times of Soviet totalitarianism. He defended the cultural self-awareness of his nation. The poet brought back humanistic idea in describing a man, continued on the romantic and lyric poetry tradition, valued the aesthetic side of literature, as opposed to the heroic and propagandistic style of socialist realism. Marcinkevičius wrote poems in a romantic and modern style. Justinas Marcinkevičius is regarded as one of the most prominent members of Sąjūdis.

Category : Culture & events / Front page

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Rescuing a Photo Prince
From Obscurity


Tanya Aldag slips into a closet-size room in her home in suburban Maryland. The door clicks shut. Here, surrounded by thousands of black and white prints, she goes tumbling back to Soviet-era Lithuania.

“It’s like you’re going deep into the water,” she said. “It can be hard to go there.”

Ms. Aldag, 64, is the widow of Vitas Luckus, once a prince — perhaps even a king — of the Soviet photography scene. From the 1960s to the mid-1980s, he traveled throughout the Soviet bloc, capturing peasants, performers, partiers and policemen, as well as a generation of grippingly attractive young artists. He scurried across sloping rooftops (Slide 15), camera swinging from his neck. He worked obsessively, with little care for what others thought. The secret police were a constant presence in his life, burgling his home and beating him in bathrooms and cafes.

Read more…

Category : Culture & events / Front page

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Clara Nathanson

I have a collection of works by Clara Nathanson. I was wondering if you could include them in your web site. Photographed by Brennan O'Brien.

Clara (Nathanson) Sachar was born 1/1/1887 in Lituva, Lithuania, and died 1/23/1968 in St. Louis, MO. She married Charles R. Sachar on 8/18/1914 in St. Louis ...

Patrick Weil Bertrand

Category : Culture & events

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A poem about the witches among us

Lent is imminent, and writer KR Slade wants to remind us of what it
represented in pagan Lithuania. In his poem "My Dream of When the
Witch is Found ..." he deals with today's witches and devils in Lithuania,
the many who are still engaging in anti-Semitism and racism.

By KR Slade

This year, Lent begins on 13 February (i.e., Ash Wednesday). Therefore, 12 February is ‘Shrove Tuesday’:which in Lithuania is called ‘Užgavėnės’ (i.e., “time before lent”) … that is an ancient pagan-festival -- “to chase away winter” -- and: celebrated by fire, and the wearing of masks -- notably representing witches and devils.

Such ancient witches/devils mask-representations, and their symbolism: are more-recently found in the first-half of the 20th century (i.e., in anti-Semitic Nazi, fascist, Soviet, et als. propaganda). Indeed, some people consider such past and current representation(s) to be anti-Semitic.

Moreover, I have found in Lithuania a degree of anti-Semitism that I did not find in the USA LT community; indeed, I find such anti-Semitism here in LT in my own family (here), and with my LT friends, colleagues and associates . . .  I find the devil/witch concept still with us, in LT . . .

That is why I wrote this poem; “My dream of when the witch is found.”

Category : Culture & events


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.

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