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22 August 2017
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Litvak forum

Kaunas was an important centre of Jewish life

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File:Lithuania Kaunas Synagogue.jpg
Kaunas Synagogue is one of two operating choral synagogues in Lithuania.

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.

When Vilnius was annexed by Poland during the interwar years, Kaunas became the provisional capital of Lithuania. In 1928, there were 1,000 Jewish students at the Vytautas Magnus University. There was even a Semitic studies program.

In 1931, the Jewish Ethnographic Museum was opened. Within only a few years, it had collected some 3,000 Jewish art works and artifacts. By the mid-1930s there were successful Jewish writers, poets, and artists residing in the city. By 1938, the Jewish population was nearly 40,000 and the area was a booming hub for Jewish businessmen, entrepreneurs, artisans, doctors, and lawyers. Five Jewish newspapers were published daily. There were schools for all ages, adult training centers, theatres, libraries, sports clubs, and political groups. Even the Central Jewish Bank of Lithuania was centered in Kaunas.

Kaunas Synagogue is one of two operating choral synagogues in Lithuania. It is located in Centras eldership, Kaunas. The Neo-Baroque synagogue was built in 1872. In 1902, before the Holocaust in Lithuania, the city had some 25 synagogues and prayer houses.

Dating from 1871, this radically designed synagogue, once one of over 35 synagogues and Jewish prayer houses in the city, claims to have one of the most beautiful altars in the entire Jewish world. A memorial to the estimated 50,000 Lithuanian Jewish children killed during the Holocaust can be found at the rear of the building, complete with 37 stone tablets showing in which towns and cities they lost their lives and just how many of them died in each one.

Kovno video:

Jewish bank in Kaunas
See also: http://vilnews.com/?p=12028

In pre-war Lithuania, many members of the Jewish middle class, especially the educated strata, who had already experienced to some extent the establishing of Jewish autonomy, mobilized their resources for the strengthening of the social economic basis of the Jewish masses and their livelihood. With the blessing and initiation of the Economics Committee at the Ministry for Jewish Affairs and with the assistance of the “Foundation”, a national financial system was established of co-operative credit societies. By the end of 1920, these were already active in 44 cities and towns and were named “Peoples Bank” (in Yiddish Folksbank). In addition to the positive local economic activity (extending loans etc) they were also of importance in the social and cultural sphere. In a number of places, the community organs and other organizations also used the bank building. There were also cases of the bank granting study scholarships and prizes for cultural activities.

In order to co-ordinate and regulate the activities of the Peoples Banks in time of need and crises and other difficulties, a central institution was established in 1921, formally called the “Central Jewish Bank for the Encouragement of Co-operation.” 71 Peoples Banks throughout the country linked to it, and the number of (dues paying) members reached 11,000. Over the years, the capital assets of the institutions increased, as did also the amount of deposits and savings. Thanks to that, the conditions were eased under which the loans were granted to members and public institutions. In 1930, 85 Peoples Banks existed in Lithuania with 22,262 members. In that year, 11,953 loans were granted to them and to others in a total amount of 10,249,159 Lit (approximately one million Dollars).

Although the Peoples Bank was open to non-Jews as well, this figure was no more than 5%. The work in the offices, the correspondence and the daily work routine was conducted in Yiddish, and this was also true of the national conventions and conferences, which took place every few years. This was therefore, a Jewish banking system spread throughout the cities and towns of Lithuania. At that time, the total deposits amounted to 14,113,413 Lit (approximately $1.4 million), of which 46% came from the members, 16% from institutions and 48% from non-members. If we take into consideration the members families and all others requiring the Peoples Banks' services, and that of its associates, then we can conclude that they served about two thirds of the Jewish population. Unlike the similar Lithuanian banks, which enjoyed cheap governmental credit, the Peoples Banks had to depend on deposits only. In 1933, a special bank was established to assist Jewish farmers (Yiddisher Landwirten Bank).

The central office was in Kaunas with 31 branches spread out in towns through the land.

Description: http://www.jewishgen.org/yizkor/pinkas_lita/images/lit052.jpg
The Central Jewish Bank. Kaunas 1923.

Read more:
http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/9490-kovno
http://kehilalinks.jewishgen.org/kovno/kovno.html
http://www.northernjerusalem.com/objektai/locations/the-schwabe-hebrew-gymnasium-in-kaunas

 

Hebrew Real ("Reali") Gymnasium in Kovno/Kaunas, Lithuania before WWII
From  http://aaronrachovich.blogspot.com/2012/01/hebrew-real-gymnasium-in-kovnokaunas.html#.UNq2L-Ssh8E

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-9FLzXVErWww/TwwHXCBCsuI/AAAAAAAAAQo/VBR2CDcskNY/s320/BWWII-Kaunas-Dad%2527s+school.jpghttp://1.bp.blogspot.com/-Yb8zpPH-HAk/UENBOeLTJ_I/AAAAAAAAAf0/tXg9md3B014/s320/BWWII-Kaunas-Hebrew+Real+Gymnasium++-+Prof+Stoupel+collec.jpg

http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-YJCcVhsiofI/UEYgGhNVRFI/AAAAAAAAAgQ/_t8SIBkNT6U/s320/zydu_gimnaz_kestucio-.jpg

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-oJ3y_tstY0Q/TwwH1kOXjHI/AAAAAAAAAQ4/JkcLoiX-hYA/s320/BWWII-Kaunas+Dad%2527s+sclool+real.jpg

My father Aaron Rachowitz attended the Hebrew Real/Reali Gymnasium (Kauno žydų realinė gimnazija, today Kęstučio g. 85 [1] formerly  Kęstučio g. 59, in front of the theater/Valstybės teatras בית הריאל-גימנסיון העברי בקאונסin Kovno/Kaunas for four years, i.e., completed four grades/classes: from 1936 to 1940 (the above pictures [2]show the gymnasium building then and today). His younger brother, Nathan Rachowitz, also attended this school. My father's good friend Eliyahu Stoupel (later to become a well known cardiologist in the world -- Professor Eliyahu Stoupel[3]), was his classmate. Most of their friends and classmates were killed during World War II in Kaunas, at Dachau and other locations. Hadassah Gorbulski (the sister of the famous Lithuanian composer Benjaminas Gorbulskis), Shura Katz, David Shein (former EL AL director in New York), Shlomo Yarmovski and Nissim Krakinovski were among those who survived the Holocaust. [4] The school's principal language of instruction was Hebrew but students communicated among themselves in Yiddish. They also studied Latin and Lithuanian. All courses -- except for Lithuanian language, literature and history -- were taught in Hebrew. According to my Dad, the gymnasium was a private institution. If parents do not pay their tuition fee on time (by the due date), the students will be reminded, in front of the whole class, to settle the debt. The gymnasium was on the name of Edward Azriel Chase (Eduardas Čais or Čaisas in Lithuanian), the famous Jewish philanthropist who was born (1874), grew up and spent the greater part of his youth in Tsarist Alytus/Alite (between the two World Wars and since the end of World War II, the town has been a part of Lithuania), but later immigrated to the United States and lived in Manchester, New Hampshire. With his financial help, a new building was erected for the Hebrew Real Gymnasium in 1930 (pictures above) in Kaunas (a formal inauguration dates from August 30, 1931, in the presence of the Lithuanian Minister of Education Konstantinas Šakenis, the mayor/burmistras of Kaunas, Juozas Vokietaitis, as well as Edward Chase and his wife, and many others---250 guests took part in the event), where thousands of Jewish children received their education and Jewish upbringing. The Hebrew Real/Reali Gymnasium had a good academic reputation all over the country (The roots of this gymnasium go back to 1915, i.e., the period of German occupation of Lithuania. Jüdische Realgymnasium was founded by Jewish-German Rabbi Dr. Joseph Hirsch Carlebach, who was charged by the German Occupation Authority in Lithuania with organizing a secondary school system. By the late 1920s, the gymnasium had earned good name but lacked adequate premises, i.e., had been housed in various locations/rented buildings). The total cost of the project, including Chase funding, was estimated in 1931 at 700,000 LT (approximately $70,000). The new gymnasium building (nauji žydų realinės gimnazijos rūmai)accommodated both girls' classes and boys' classes. It had two big halls: the gymnastics hall and the celebration hall; 19 classes; physics cabinet; a technical drawing hall; buffet; 4 wardrobes; 4 rooms with showers. Every floor had twocorridors and etc. [5] The Hebrew Real Gymnasium was designed by Baruch Kling who also supervised the construction. From an architectural point of view, the gymnasium has features derived from the German Bauhaus style or Dutch De Stijl style. [6] Edward Chase also established the Chase Fund that gave dozens of Jewish students the possibility of studying abroad or in Lithuanian universities. In addition, Chase established a scholarship fund to help outstanding students from different religious backgrounds. He contributed much for the development of his native town of Alytus (built houses, awarded scholarships to local students, etc). And his last dream during his visit to Lithuania in 1938 was to turn his former house in Alytus into a Jewish cultural center for Lithuanian youth. At its peak, the Hebrew Real Gymnasium had 40 teachers and 1,000 students. Dr. Zemach Feldstein had been the director of the gymnasium during 1922-1940. By the way, My Dad served as a goalkeeper on the school's football team, defended staunchly the goal and had been called (in Yiddish): "ארקה די הינדשה פלייש" ("Arke die hundische fleisch").

The Jews had enjoyed full cultural autonomy in prewar Kaunas, according to my Dad. In addition to the Hebrew Real/Reali Gymnasium, my Dad also mentioned frequently other Jewish gymnasia and schools that were established in the city: a "Yavne" Hebrew Gymnasium for girls; a "Yavne" Hebrew Gymnasium for boys. Yavne schools were well known for their strong religious education and were partially supported by religious-Zionist Mizrachi organization; a leftist "Commerce" Yiddish Gymnasium (named later after Shalom Aleichem); the Hebrew Gymnasium headed by Dr. Moshe Schwabe and thus called the "Schwabe" Gymnasium (In 1924, Dr. Schwabe immigrated to Eretz-Israel where he was a lecturer in the newly created Hebrew University of Jerusalem and later became its rector. A prolific Hebrew language poet, Leah Goldberg, studied at "Schwabe" Hebrew Gymnasium from 1920 to 1928---please see a commemorative plaque below. By the way, students of the "Schwabe" Gymnasium were sometimes called in Yiddish: "שוואבה די גרינע זשאבע" according to my Dad/"schwabe die grüne zhabe" which means: schwabe the green toad). The Schwabe Gymnasium (the picture of a new building inaugurated in 1927, below) had Revisionist Zionist orientatation; the Hebrew Tarbut Gymnasium affiliated with the Socialist Zionist party Mapai (my Dad's best friend, Dr. Semen Yakobson, at first studied at the Tarbut Gymnasium until 1940, but with the advent of Soviet rule moved to the Shalom Aleichem Gymnasium/previously known as "Commerce" Gymnasium, occupying since the Soviet era the former building of the Schwabe Gymnasium, located on the banks of the Nemunas River
 [7]---please see the building of the Schwabe Gymnasium, below); Hebrew "Tarbut" schools with strong secular nationalist Zionist orientation. There was also one Jewish gymnasium where students were taught in Lithuanian language. Hundreds of Jewish youth from all over country continued their education in the Lithuanian University of Kaunas (in 1930 the university was renamed to Vytautas Magnus University/Vytauto Didžiojo universitetas). Kaunas had many Jewish associations, organizations, student unions and sports unions, like Maccabi and Hapoel. The Jewish youth joined the Zionist movements like Hashomer Hatzair and Beitar---the Hebrew Real Gymnasium, where my Dad studied, was well known for its support for the Beitar movement, according to my Dad. The young Jews were trained for immigration to and life in Eretz Israel. "Kibbutz Hachshara" (Training Kibbutz) on behalf of "HeChalutz" Zionist youth movement acted in Kaunas. Many of these "Chalutzim" made "Aliyah" to Eretz Israel. The "Tarbut" association initiated public lectures in Hebrew. Throughout the interwar period a Yiddish theater operated in Kaunas. Also, the Jews of Kaunas were privileged to have had theater shows from Poland, the United States and Eretz Israel (the “Habima” theater, "Haohel" theater, etc. Ida Kaminska, for example, performed in Kaunas). A drama studio was run in Hebrew. In the interwar period, more than 100 books in Hebrew were published in Kaunas and etc. Professor Dov Levin wrote that Lithuania's Hebrew educational institutions in the interwar period "not only gave their pupils a solid education in Judaism and Hebrew culture, as well as in the sciences and the arts, but also encouraged them to be active in youth movements, sporting associations, student groups, and training groups preparing to emigrate to Palestine. In fact, Lithuania came to be known as the 'Second Eretz Israel,' in no small measure thanks to the varied and wide-ranging network of Hebrew schools, which was quite unparalled throughout the Jewish world." [8] On a visit to Kovno/Kaunas in the 1930s, the foremost Hebrew poet of modern time, Hayim Nahman Bialik said: "if Vilna is known as the Yerushalayim DeLita [Jerusalem of Lithuania], then Jewish Lithuania should be known as the Eretz-Israel deGaluta [The Land of Israel of the Exile]. 
____________________________
[1]
 The Hebrew Real/Reali Gymnasium building now serves as a music school (Kauno apskrities Juozo Naujalio muzikos gimnazija).Dr. Semen Yakobson drew my attention to the fact. 

[2]
 The second photo, by courtesy of Prof. Eli Stoupel. The third photo was found on the web: KVB, Kaunas: Datos ir Faktai. Fotogr. R. Vaitilavičienė (2009 m.).

[3] Please see Prof Stoupel's new book:
 Space Weather and Timing of Cardiovascular Events, LAP Lambert Academic Publishing, 2012 

[4]
 Information provided by Prof Eliyahu Stoupel.

[5] For further details, please see
 "Nauja Žydų Kultūrinė Įstaiga: Jos labdarys p. Čais," Rytas, Sept 7, 1931, p 2 viahttp://www.epaveldas.lt/vbspi/biRecord.do?biExemplarId=122209

[6]
 Northern Jerusalem website

[7]
 Information provided by Dr Semen Yakobson.

[8] Dov Levin, The Litvaks:  A Short History of the Jews in Lithuania, Yad Vashem Publications, 2000 

http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-cZqjyxLRRdg/UFSAqiFVdlI/AAAAAAAAAgs/m8ZfuYKwRl0/s320/zydu_gimnaz_karaliaus-.jpg

Description: In 1927-1940, this building housed Schwabe (Švabės) Hebrew Gymnasium 
(present Karaliaus Mindaugo Ave. 11). 2009.
 Photo by R. Vaitilavičienė Source: KVB, Kaunas: Datos ir Faktai. Fotogr. R. Vaitilavičienė (2009 m.) Holocaust: Most of its students were murdered during the Holocaust---please see the commemorative plaque below -- D.R.

http://3.bp.blogspot.com/-kh-KIIxJDVs/UMYucQu_utI/AAAAAAAAAlo/mca61tNC8OQ/s400/school1.jpg
Source: LitaLita.com

http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-n9e-xD1vQ4s/UMYpW8E7q2I/AAAAAAAAAlM/wOUoB4d_3rc/s400/goldberg_lenta_d.jpg
Source: http://atminimas.kvb.lt/iliustracija.php?img=iliustracijos/goldberg_lenta_d

Category : Litvak forum

- Posted by - (2) Comment

“My writing is about Vilna,” says Abraham Karpinovitch in a new film

Thieves, whores, and gangsters
who supplied color to our lives

By Ellen Cassedy

“My writing is about Vilna,” says Abraham Karpinovitch in a new film – “not about the Vilna Gaon [the renowned rabbi of 18th-century Vilnius] or about the clergy or the intelligentsia, but about the thieves, whores, racketeers, and gangsters who supplied color to our lives.”

The film is the latest in a series about Jewish writers directed by Boris Sandler, the editor of the New York-based Yiddish newspaper ForvertsSandler presented the film, in Yiddish with English subtitles, at the Lithuanian Embassy in Washington, D.C., on October 18, under the auspices of Yiddish of Greater Washington

Before World War II, Vilnius was home to 60,000 Jews.  Among them were not only scholars, writers, merchants, and political activists – but also a vibrant underclass. 

The Vilnius-born Karpinovitch (1913-2004) set about recording and memorializing this multi-colored underworld.  To his chosen task, he brought a finely tuned ear for slang, an eye for evocative detail, a talent for blending fact and fiction, and an abiding affection.

As the son of a Jewish theatre director, Karpinovitch was exposed early to the treasures of stage culture.  “I feasted on a rich stew of folk cuisine,” he says, “and that’s how I became a writer.”

Before the outbreak of World War II, Karpinovitch immigrated to the Soviet Union, where he was arrested and sent to Siberia.  After the war, he settled in Israel.  For more than 30 years he managed the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra.  “I wore a suit and tie all day,” he says, “then sat down and wrote about the Vilna underground.”

Sandler interviewed and taped Karpinovitch and 20 other Yiddish writers in Israel in 1995. 

“Tall Tamare,” a story translated into English by Helen Mintz, tells the tale of a Vilna streetwalker who helps to organize a union for her fellow brothel employees, then behaves with striking dignity at the killing field of Ponar (Paneriai) in 1941. The writer’s work has been translated from Yiddish into Hebrew, Polish, Russian, German, and Lithuanian. 

As the chronicler of a bygone world, Sandler said, Karpinovitch “was able to invoke in his own way the mourner’s prayer for his beloved compatriots.  He brought his fellow Jews to life so that we, their surviving descendants, could see ourselves in them and remember them.” 

Sandler’s film invites viewers to stroll through the old Jewish quarter in present-day Vilnius, where, the director says, “in the streets and alleys and walls and buildings, shadows are looking at us.”

 



Ellen Cassedy traces her Jewish family roots to Rokiskis and Siauliai.

Her book, We Are Here: Memories of the Lithuanian Holocaust, will appear in Lithuanian in 2013 under the title Mes esame čia: Atsiminimai apie holokaustą Lietuvoje.

Category : Litvak forum

- Posted by - (0) Comment

“Ikh bin a vilner,” Samuel
Bak declared, in Yiddish

Ellen Cassedy reporting from Washington D.C.

“Ikh bin a vilner,” Samuel Bak declared, in Yiddish, to an audience at the Lithuanian Embassy in Washington, D.C., October 15.

Echoing President John F. Kennedy’s famous statement in Berlin, the artist meant that he is from Vilna, of Vilna – and so is his abundant body of work.  

Bak was at the Embassy for the opening of an exhibition of his paintings, which powerfully evoke the city of his childhood – and its destruction during the Nazi era.

Bak was born in Vilnius (then the Polish city of Wilno) in 1933.  As a child, he was a part of the city’s vibrant Jewish community of 60,000.

“I grew up as a very conscious Litvak,” he said, “knowing that I was very privileged to be a part of the incredible riches of religious and secular Judaism in this place.”

In 1941, Bak was forced into the Vilna ghetto.  There he endured years of hardship, terror, and loss – and was recognized inside the ghetto as an artistic prodigy.  His sketches from that period survive. 

Of Bak’s family, only he and his mother survived the war.  His father and the rest of his relatives perished.  

Many of Bak’s paintings evoke the ruins of the old Jewish quarter.  Other repeated images, which depict the forces of destruction and repair, are colossal chess boards and giant damaged pears.

Bak left Vilnius after the war to study and paint in Germany, Israel, France, and Switzerland.  He lives now in the United States. 

In 2001, after more than half a century, the artist visited Vilnius.  In his memoir, Painted in Words, he writes that he feared being overwhelmed by past horrors.  Instead “a pleasant sensation settled in my soul: the Vilnius of today felt very familiar.”  As he walked through the streets, “the ancient city with its winding streets, old buildings, and many restored churches, was more beautiful than I had dared to hope.”  

Under the title “The Stations in Life,” or “Gyvenimo stotys,” Bak’s work was exhibited at the Tolerance Center of the Jewish museum in Vilnius earlier this year.  Now, the museum has announced plans to create a new Center of Litvak Culture and Art within the Jewish Community building on Pylimo Street.  A special gallery will be devoted to Bak’s work.  A movie theatre, conference center, and restaurant are also planned. 

Speaking of the new center, museum director Markas Zingeris said, “We need to reestablish the Jewish narrative in Lithuania, but we also need to reestablish our common humanity.  Art is a way to do that – and Bak is universal.”   



Ellen Cassedy

Ellen Cassedy traces her Jewish family roots to Rokiskis and Siauliai.

Her book, We Are Here: Memories of the Lithuanian Holocaust, will appear in Lithuanian in 2013 under the title Mes esame čia: Atsiminimai apie holokaustą Lietuvoje.   

 

 

 


Samuel Bak 

File:Bak-portrait 450.jpg 

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Samuel Bak (born 12 August 1933) is a Lithuanian-born Jewish painter and writer who survived the Holocaust.

 

Childhood

Born on August 12, 1933 in Vilna - Vilnius, Lithuania, Bak was recognized from an early age as possessing extraordinary artistic talent. He describes his family as "secular, but proud of their Jewishidentity." Immediately following the German invasion of Poland in September 1939, Vilna and the whole East of Poland was attacked by the USSR. After one month though, the Soviets retreated, giving back the city to the Republic of Lithuania. An estimated 30,000 Jews found refuge in the city.

As Vilna came under German occupation on June 24, 1941, Bak and his family had to move into the Vilna Ghetto. At the age of nine, he had his first exhibition inside the ghetto, even as massive executions and murders perpetrated by the Nazis and their Lithuanian collaborators took place almost every day. Bak and his mother escaped the destruction of the Vilna Ghetto by seeking refuge in aBenedictine convent. They were helped by a Catholic nun named Maria Mikulska, and spent most of their time there in an attic.

By the end of the war, Samuel and his mother were the only members of his extensive family to survive. His father, Jonas, was shot by the Germans in July 1944, only a few days before Samuel's own liberation. As Bak described the situation, "when in 1944 the Soviets liberated us, we were two among two hundred of Vilna's survivors--from a community that had counted 70 or 80 thousand." Bak and his mother as pre-war Polish citizens were allowed to leave Soviet-occupied Vilna and travel to central Poland, at first settling briefly in Łódź. They soon left Poland for good and traveled into the American occupied zone of Germany. From 1945 to 1948, he and his mother lived in Displaced Persons camps in Germany. He spent most of this period at the Landsberg am Lech DP camp in Germany. It was there he painted a self-portrait shortly before repudiating his Bar Mitzvah ceremony. Bak also studied painting in Munich during this period, and painted "A Mother and Son", 1947, which evokes some of his dark memories of the Holocaust and escape from Soviet-occupied Poland.

In 1948, he and his mother immigrated to Israel, and four years later he studied art at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem. Bak spent most of his time in Israel studying and living in a modest flat in Tel Aviv and did not paint very much during that period.[1]

 

Biography

The Family, oil on canvas, 1974

§     1933 On 12 August, Samuel Bak is born to an educated, cultured middle-class family in Vilna.

§     1941 On 24 June, the Germans occupy Vilna and order the Jews to wear the yellow Jewish Badge. Bak, aged eight, is charged with preparing badges for his parents and extended family.

§     1941 On 6 September, the deportation of Jews to the Vilna Ghetto is initiated. Samuel’s father is sent to a labor camp while the child and his mother flee the ghetto to the home of Janina Rushkevich, his grandfather’s sister who had been baptized in her youth. Janina finds shelter for the family in the city’s Benedictine convent, where the nun Marija Mikulska takes the child under her wing and supplies him with paint and paper.

§     1941 When the Germans suspect the convent of collaborating with Soviet forces, they place it under military jurisdiction. The Bak family is forced to flee again, returning to the Vilna Ghetto.

§     1943 In March, the poets Avrom Sutzkever and Szmerke Kaczerginski invite the nine-year-old Bak to participate in an exhibition organized in the ghetto. Sensing that their end is near, the poets decide to deposit the Pinkas, the official record of the Jewish community, into the hands of Bak in the hope that they both survive. Paper is a precious commodity and the white pages of the Pinkasbeckon the young artist: he uses them to satisfy his craving to draw. Over the next two years, Samuel fills the page margins and empty pages of the Pinkas.

§     1943 Bak’s father is sent to the forced labor camp HKP 526, named after a unit of the Wehrmacht’s Engineering Corps (Heeres Kraftfahr Park). Samuel and his mother are sent to the camp later, upon the liquidation of the ghetto, on 24 September.

§     1944 On 27 March, a children’s Aktion takes place in the camp in which 250 children are sent to their death. Bak’s mother takes advantage of the confusion in the camp to flee while Samuel hides under a bed in the living quarters of one of the camp buildings. A few days later, his father smuggles him out of the camp in a sack of sawdust. Outside, by a pre-arranged signal, he links up with a woman waving his mother’s scarf. Janina Rushkevitch saved the family again, sending her maid with the mother’s scarf to fetch the child. Samuel and his mother are forced to look for shelter. Again, they make their way to the Benedictine convent, where they find shelter for 11 months, until liberation.

§     1944 On 2-3 July, forced laborers rounded up at the city’s camps, among them his father, are shot to death in Ponary, ten days before Vilna’s liberation.

§     1944 After liberation, Bak takes art lessons with academician Professor Serafinovicz, who cultivated the boy’s natural draftsmanship by having him draw from broken plaster casts. As pre-war Polish citizens, the family has the right to return to Poland and so move to Lodz. Bak continues his art studies with Professor Richtarski, an impressionist artist.

§     1945 After a short time in Berlin, Samuel and his mother arrive at the Landsberg Displaced Persons Camp. They are greeted by survivor Natan Markowsky, who holds a senior position in the camp’s administration, and will later become Samuel’s stepfather.

§     1945 Bak is sent to Munich to study with Professor Blocherer. He frequents the city’s museums and becomes familiar with German expressionism.

§     1947 David Ben-Gurion visits Bad Reichenhall, where an exhibition of the art of the child prodigy, Samuel Bak, is organized in his honor. Bak’s art is published in the Hebrew newspaper, Davar HaShavuah, and the Yiddish Forverts in New York.

§     1948 Aged fifteen, Samuel arrives in Israel aboard the “Pan York”, carrying with him many artworks from the Landsberg DP camp.

§     1952 Prior to military service, he studies for one year at the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem.

§     1953–1956 Military service in the Israel Defense Forces.

§     1955 Meets Peter Frye, then one of Israel’s most prominent theater directors, who prompts him to design backdrops and costumes.

§     1956 Moves to Paris and enrolls at the École Nationale des Beaux-Arts. Receives the first prize of the American-Israeli Cultural Foundation.

§     1959 Moves to Rome. That summer has a solo exhibition at the Robert Schneider Gallery in Rome and exhibits at the Carnegie International in Pittsburgh.

§     1964 Exhibits at the Venice Biennale.

§     1966–1974 Returns to Israel.

§     1974–1977 Lives and works in New York.

§     1977–1980 Lives and works in Israel.

§     1980–1984 Lives and works in Paris.

§     1984–1993 Lives and works in Lausanne, Switzerland.

§     1993 Settles in Boston, Massachusetts and is represented by Pucker Gallery.

§     2001 Bak returns to Vilna for the first time. During the following years he often visits his hometown.[2]

§     2001 Publication of his book Painted in Words: A Memoir, ISBN 0-253-34048-9, which has been printed in four languages.

§     2002 Receives the Herkomer Cultural Prize in Landsberg, Germany.

 

Artistic style and influences

While Bak's work is complex and difficult to characterize, a few themes stand out:

§     In Childhood Memories, 1975, the pear, possibly the fruit of knowledge, evokes the loss of paradise and discovery of war. Pear trees are also ubiquitous in many areas of Europe, especially Vilna, where Bak grew up.

§     The possibility of repair, the repair of a broken world, tikkun olam, is an important meaning contained in many of his still life works.

§     Bak's childhood frustration with the story of Genesis, and his admiration for the genius of Michelangelo, blend in his post-Holocaust visiting of this theme.

§     Another artist whose influence is readily seen in Bak's works, such as Angel of the Travelers, 1987, is Albrecht Dürer.

§     Still lifes—in times when life is never still, never sufficiently protected, nor granted to everyone—attracted him as a metaphor full of symbolic implications.

§     Chess as a theme of life has always fascinated Bak. In the DP camps and in Israel, he often played chess with his stepfather Markusha. Underground II, 1997, portrays chess pieces in a sunken, subterranean evocation of the Vilna ghetto.

§     A solitary boy can also be seen in his works. The boy represents his murdered childhood friend, Samek Epstein, and the memory of himself as a child during the Shoah.

§     In Bak’s 2011 series featuring Adam and Eve (which comprised 125 paintings, drawings and mixed media works), the artist casts the first couple as lone survivors of a biblical narrative of a God who birthed humanity and promised never to destroy it. Unable to make good on the greatest of all literary promises, God becomes another one of the relics that displaced persons carry around with them in the disorienting aftermath of world war. Viewers often describe Bak as a tragedian, but if classical tragedy describes the fall of royal families, Bak narrates the disintegration and disillusion of the chosen people. Bak draws upon the biblical heroes of the Genesis story, yet he is more preoccupied with the visual legacy of the creation story as immortalized by Italian and North Renaissance artists.[3]A a collection of images from the Adam and Eve series can be viewed here.

 

Present

Now 77, the artist continues to deal with the artistic expression of the destruction and dehumanization which make up his childhood memories. He speaks about what are deemed to be the unspeakable atrocities of the Holocaust, though he hesitates to limit the boundaries of his art to the post-Holocaust genre. He creates a visual language to remind the world of its most desperate moments. A collection of Samuel Bak's works are on permanent display at Pucker Gallery in Boston, Massachusetts and many exhibitions of his artwork are held in leading international museums and galleries.

 

Selected publications

§     Samuel Bak, Paintings of the Last Decade, A. Kaufman and Paul T. Nagano. Aberbach, New York, 1974.

§     Samuel Bak, Monuments to Our Dreams, Rolf Kallenbach. Limes Verlag, Weisbaden & Munich, 1977.

§     Samuel Bak, The Past Continues, Samuel Bak and Paul T. Nagano. David R. Godine, Boston, 1988.

§     Chess as Metaphor in the Art of Samuel Bak, Jean Louis Cornuz. Pucker Art Publications, Boston & C.A. Olsommer, Montreux, 1991.

§     Ewiges Licht (Landsberg: A Memoir 1944-1948), Samuel Bak. Jewish Museum, Frankfurt, Germany, 1996.

§     Landscapes of Jewish Experience, Lawrence Langer. Pucker Art Publications, Boston & University Press of New England, Hanover, 1997.

§     Samuel Bak – Retrospective, Bad Frankenhausen Museum, Bad Frankenhausen, Germany, 1998.

§     The Game Continues: Chess in the Art of Samuel Bak, Pucker Art Publications, Boston & Indiana University Press, Bloomington, 2000.

§     In A Different Light: The Book of Genesis in the Art of Samuel Bak, Lawrence Langer. Pucker Art Publications, Boston & University of Washington Press, Seattle, 2001.

§     The Art of Speaking About the Unspeakable, TV Film by Rob Cooper. Pucker Art Publications, Boston, 2001.

§     Between Worlds: Paintings and Drawings by Samuel Bak from 1946-2001, Pucker Art Publications, Boston, 2002.

§     Painted in Words: A Memoir, Samuel Bak. Pucker Art Publications, Boston & Indiana University Press, Bloomington, 2002.

§     Samuel Bak: Painter of Questions, TV Film by Christa Singer. Toronto, Canada, 2003.

§     New Perceptions of Old Appearances in the Art of Samuel Bak, Lawrence Langer. Pucker Art Publications, Boston & Syracuse University Press, Syracuse, 2005.

§     Samuel Bak: Life Thereafter, Eva Atlan and Peter Junk. Felix Nussbaum Haus & Rasch, Verlag, Bramsche, Osnabrueck, Germany, 2006.

§     Return to Vilna in the Art of Samuel Bak, Lawrence Langer. Pucker Art Publications, Boston & Syracuse University Press, Syracuse, 2007.

§     Representing the Irreparable: The Shoah, the Bible, and the Art of Samuel Bak, Danna Nolan Fewell, Gary A. Phillips and Yvonne Sherwood, Eds. Pucker Art Publications, Boston, and Syracuse University Press, Syracuse, 2008.

§     Icon of Loss: The Haunting Child of Samuel Bak, Danna Nolan Fewell and Gary A. Phillips. Pucker Art Publications, Boston, and Syracuse University Press, Syracuse, 2009.

 

Selected museum exhibitions

§     Bezalel Museum, Jerusalem, Israel – 1963

§     Tel Aviv Museum, Tel Aviv, Israel – 1963

§     Rose Museum, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA – 1976

§     Germanisches National Museum, Nuremberg, Germany – 1977

§     Heidelberg Museum, Heidelberg, Germany – 1977

§     Haifa University, Haifa, Israel – 1978

§     Kunstmuseum, Düsseldorf, Germany – 1978

§     Rheinisches Landesmuseum, Bonn, Germany – 1978

§     Kunstmuseum, Wiesbaden, Germany – 1979

§     Stadtgalerie Bamberg, Villa Dessauer, Germany – 1988

§     Koffler Center for the Arts, Toronto, Canada – 1990

§     Dürer Museum, Nuremberg, Germany – 1991

§     Temple Judea Museum, Philadelphia, PA – 1991

§     Jüdisches Museum, Stadt Frankfurt am Main, Germany – 1993

§     Hebrew Union College, Jewish Institute of Religion, New York, NY – 1994

§     Janice Charach Epstein Museum and Gallery, West Bloomfield, MI – 1994

§     National Catholic Center for Holocaust Education, Seton Hall College, Greensburg, PA – 1995

§     Spertus Museum, Chicago, IL – 1995

§     B’Nai B’Rith Klutznick National Jewish Museum, Washington, DC – 1997

§     Holocaust Museum Houston, Houston, TX – 1997

§     Panorama Museum, Bad Frankenhausen, Germany – 1998

§     National Museum of Lithuania, Vilnius, Lithuania – 2001

§     Snite Museum of Art, Notre Dame University, Notre Dame, IN – 2001

§     Florida Holocaust Museum, Saint Petersburg, FL – 2001, 2007, 2009

§     Canton Museum of Art, Canton, OH – 2002

§     Clark University, Worcester, MA – 2002

§     Neues Stadtmuseum, Landsberg am Lech, Germany – 2002

§     University of Scranton, Scranton, PA – 2003

§     City Hall Gallery, Orlando, FL – 2004

§     Texas Tech University, Lubbock, TX – 2004

§     Tweed Museum of Art, University of Minnesota, Duluth, MN – 2004

§     Felix Nussbaum Haus, Osnabrueck, Germany – 2006

§     University of New Hampshire, Durham, NH – 2006

§     Yad Vashem Museum, Jerusalem, Israel – 2006

§     Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL – 2008

§     Sherwin Miller Museum of Jewish Art, Tulsa, OK – 2008

§     Keene State College, Cohen Holocaust Center, Keene, NH – 2008

§     Brown University, John Hay Library, Providence, RI – 2009

§     Wabash College, Eric Dean Gallery, Crawfordsville, IN – 2009

§     DePauw University, The Janet Prindle Institute for Ethics, Greencastle, IN – 2009

§     Drew University, Korn Gallery and University Library, Madison, NJ – 2009

§     Queensborough Community College, Holocaust Resource Center, Bayside, NY – 2009, 2010

§     Holocaust Memorial Center, Zekelman Family Campus, Farmington Hills, MI – 2010

§     Holocaust Museum Houston, Houston, TX - 2012

 

External links

§     Pucker Gallery

§     Boca Raton Museum of Art

§     Facing History and Ourselves

§     Syracuse University Press

§     University of Minnesota, Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies

§     Yad Vashem, The Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority

 

References

1.    ^ Painted in Words: A Memoir, Samuel Bak. Indiana University Press, Bloomington, Indiana, 2002. ISBN 0-253-34048-9.

2.    ^ Samuel Bak: Life Thereafter, Eva Atlan and Peter Junk. Felix Nussbaum Haus & Rasch, Verlag, Bramsche, Osnabrueck, Germany, 2006, p. 84. ISBN 3-926235-26-8.

3.    ^ Samuel Bak’s Adam and Eve: On Holocaust and Beauty, Maya Balakirsky Katz. Pucker Art Publications, Boston, 2011, p. 2.

Category : Litvak forum

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Irene Veisaite is this
year’s recipient of the
Goethe Medal

Chairwoman of out VilNews Honorary Council,  literature professor and critic Irena Veisaite is a recipient of this year's Goethe Medal.

Once a year, the Goethe-Institut awards the Goethe Medal, an official decoration of the Federal Republic of Germany. This medal honours foreign personalities who have performed outstanding service for the German language and international cultural relations. The Goethe Medal was established by the executive committee of the Goethe-Institut in 1954 and acknowledged as an official decoration by the Federal Republic of Germany in 1975. 

Since it was first awarded in 1955, a total of 326 personalities from 58 countries have been honoured.

Read more about the award and Professor Irene Veisaite:
Deutsche Welle      Jüdische Allgemeine     Goethe Institut   
VilNews (Ellen Cassedy)     VilNews (Aage Myhre)

Category : Front page / Litvak forum

The first time I heard the name of Žagarė

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Žilvinas Beliauskas

By Žilvinas Beliauskas
Manager of Cultural Projects
Vilnius Jewish Public Library 

The first time I heard the name of Zhagare (Žagarė) it was probably like for many Lithuanian kids related to cherries – Zhagre cherrys. Big and juicy ones. There were some of such trees in my parents’ orchard. Zhagare liqeuer came later. Maybe even later than mom‘s notice about St. Barbara of Zhagare (Barbora Žagarietė) from 17th century, though not beatified yet but very revered in Samogitia (Žemaitija) as a real saint in charge of many miraculous healings. And that was it for many years until it turned out that the family of my wife comes from Zhagare. During the first walking tour with her I enjoyed marvelous streets of wooden houses along river Shvete, radiating strange and sadly atractive kind of romantic atmosphere of brick houses around the Central Square. The architecture prompted straightforwardly that they used to belong to Jews and association with the direction sign by the road at the entrance to Zhagre showing the way to the Graveyard of the Jewish Genocide Victims made this atmosphere still blurry ghostly, not quite tangibly yet but bringing a distant smell of its “echos and absences” to use Roger Cohen phrase in his letter to the forthcoming event this Friday.

Read more…

Category : Front page / Litvak forum

Echos and absences

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Roger Cohen

By Roger Cohen,
Columnist, International Herald Tribune and New York Times

I look forward with considerable emotion to returning to Zagare for the unveiling of a plaque that will commemorate the slaughter of more than 2,250 Jews in the town on October 2, 1941. More than three score years and ten have gone by since that mass murder without full acknowledgment of its scope. The men, women and children taken from the main square into the woods to be killed have remained anonymous, mere shadows, their fates at first concealed by Soviet political calculation and taboos, and then only falteringly recognized after Lithuania gained independence in 1990. I do not know the Jews who were killed but I know that each of them valued life and its joys as we do, and I know that my grandmother, Pauline (“Polly”) Soloveychik would have been among them had she not left Zagare for South Africa in the early 20th Century. For me, the fate of the Zagare Jews is personal.

Read more…

Category : Front page / Litvak forum

“Why do you love Jews so much?”

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Vilnius, the old Jewish Synagogue.

By Aage Myhre, Editor-in-Chief
aage.myhre@VilNews.com

I have repeatedly been asked, by Lithuanians and others why VilNews, and I as a Norwegian without a single drop of Jewish blood, love Jews so much? Recently I met a Lithuanian-American, well educated and well read, who yet bombastically trumpeted. "You lick the asses of the Jews, Aage."

During my meetings with Jews in South Africa, where 90% of the Jewish population of almost 100 000 are of Lithuanian descent, I have also been asked why I have such great interest in Litvaks.

My answer to all these, has been that I do not love Jews more than other peoples.

But I also tend to add that I am always impressed by people who achieve more than the common herd. Intelligence and wisdom are to me among the most important qualities a person can have, and I have no problem admitting that these are qualities I've seen a lot of among the Jews I have known through life.

As to the Litvaks, they were subjected to an almost total extinction here in Lithuania during the Holocaust. It was an assault and a genocide of an unimaginable scale that we must never forget, and which memory must find its fair balance in the mental as well as in the practical.

On 4 April, the United States and many other countries welcomed the decision of the Government of Lithuania to appoint a fund for Jewish property compensation, calling it an important historical step toward justice.

“This law is an important step towards the restoration of historical justice and reconciliation. We welcome these and other Lithuanian Government’s steps evaluating the legacy of the Holocaust”, the U.S. ambassador to Lithuania, Anne E. Derse, said in a statement.

The Cabinet of Minister’s decision was also praised by the special U.S. envoy on issues of anti-Semitism, Hannah Rosenthal, who said that the United States supports Lithuania’s efforts to “evaluate the complex history of the period, and the commitment to fully implement the legal framework on compensation.”

I agree with both ladies. This was a step in the right direction in terms of the relationship between the Lithuanian Jews, and what once was their beloved homeland.

Then there are Litvaks who seem to blame Lithuania and Lithuanians for everything that happened here during the Holocaust. In the Baltimore Sun this week, as an example, Olga Zabludoff writes that “Lithuania tries to whitewash its role in the Holocaust.” This in response to the Lithuanian government’s decision to establish the mentioned fund.

Usually I tend to have great respect for Olga Zabludoff’s opinions, but in this case, she goes too far. There must be limits to how much one should scorn and distrust a country and its leaders for everything they do.

Fortunately, there are also many moderate Litvaks. Ellen Cassedy in Washington and Irena Veisaite here in Vilnius are good models in this respect. Feel free to read my interview with Dr. Veisaite, here http://vilnews.com/?p=2595

The problem I see is that there is still a considerable gap between Litvaks and many of today's ethnic Lithuanians, as I have described above. It seems that many on both sides do not want peace and reconciliation. They do not like each other, simply, and seems to be more interested in finding errors than points of light. Such behaviours do not build bridges or enhance reconciliation. Perhaps it’s now time for both sides to become more friendly and forgiving towards each other?

Unfortunately, Lithuania is today a poor country, and to pay $ 50M is a tremendous burden on a people who are struggling more than most in Europe, but fortunately this is balanced to a very large extent by the huge, annual support
payments from the EU, Switzerland and Norway.

Germany still pays, even today, more than 60 years after WWII, in an exemplary manner for the Nazi atrocities against Lithuania and the Jewish population here. Unfortunately, there is no sign that Russia will ever do the same, for the colossal atrocities they committed against Lithuanians during and after the war. Those who lost loved ones in Siberia or in the huge bloody guerrilla warfare that went on here for 10 years after the war, will never get any compensation, I'm afraid.

My first encounter with a Jew, in the spring of 1959, took place far north in Norway

The small farm I grew up on is located on the island Senja, far north in Norway. It was by far the smallest in my native village. But my father had always collected books. Lots of books. Good books. So our little house had shelves with books from cellar to attic. And I had early thrown myself into the reading of them all, so even though we were poor materially, I felt that we were rich in many other ways.

My first trip out from the island occurred in 1959, when I was six years old, and my father and I went to the nearest small town, Harstad, with the local boat an early spring morning. What an experience! We did our first stroll around in the town so my father could do his errands. Then he took me to a cafe. What a fantastic experience! Meatballs and mushy peas as main course and blueberry porridge with cream for dessert!

In the afternoon we came to a green house in the middle of the town. "Men Outfits" was written on a large sign above the entrance door to the shop which formed the ground floor. But it was not there my father steered us. He took me up a small outdoor concrete staircase to a door on the side of the green building. There, he pressed a button.

I had obviously never seen or used a bell, so in my curious enthusiasm, I did as my father had done: - I pressed the button next to the door so fast that my father did not manage to stop me in time. He took my hand brusquely away from the call button. Then we heard steps. Heavy steps coming slowly down the internal stairs, a staircase we still could not see.

The door opened, and two good friends embraced each other. My strict Christian father and Polish-Jewish Meyer Sokolsky very much enjoyed the reunion and meeting there at the doorway to this green house in the middle of Harstad.

It smelled smoke all the way down to the entrance. The room we soon come up to was heavily fogged by smoke from pipe and cigarettes.

But what a dream of a room! Filled with books from floor to ceiling. Books on tables and chairs. Books everywhere.

I thought I had come to paradise. My first encounter with a Jew had become a reality...


The farm I grew up on is located on the island Senja, far north in Norway. It was by far the smallest in my native village.
But my father had always collected books. Lots of books. Good books. So our little house had shelves with books
from cellar to attic. And I had early thrown myself into the reading of them all, so even though we were poor
materially, I felt that we were rich in many other ways.

Photo, by Hugo Løhre, of my tiny home village, Olaheim.

Category : Lithuania in the world / Litvak forum

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Ona Šimaitė:
Righteous – and Human


Julija Šukys,
Author of
Epistolophilia: Writing the Life of Ona Šimaitė

Julija Šukys interviewed by Ellen Cassedy

In her new book, Epistolophilia, Julija Šukys follows the letters and journals—the “life-writing”—of Ona Šimaitė (1894–1970), a Lithuanian librarian who again and again slipped into the Jewish ghetto of German-occupied Vilnius carrying food, clothes, medicine, money, and counterfeit documents.  Often she left with letters to deliver, manuscripts to hide, and even sedated children swathed in sacks. In 1944 she was captured by the Gestapo, tortured for twelve days, and deported to Dachau.

Šukys beckons back to life this quiet and worldly heroine.  Ona Šimaitė is a giant of Holocaust history – one of the “Righteous among the Nations” honored at the Yad Vashem memorial in Israel – and yet little known. 

Julija Šukys lives in Montreal, Canada. In addition to Epistolophilia, she is also the author of Silence Is Death; The Life and Work of Tahar Djaout.  Visit her website at http://julijasukys.com.

What led Šimaitė to become a rescuer?
This is perhaps one of the most difficult questions to answer. What leads some people to behave in one way, and others differently? Where do such convictions and courage come from?
Šimaitė rarely addressed the question of why she did what she did, perhaps because she couldn’t imagine behaving otherwise, so to her mind there was nothing to explain.  She once wrote that she simply acted out of a “feeling of humanity and comradery.”
Initially, her motivations were perhaps personal: after saying tearful goodbyes to friends as they prepared to leave for the ghetto, she searched for a way to penetrate its security to visit them. Once she started to visit the ghetto regularly, her mission broadened, and she began to undertake helping anyone she could.
Šimaitė lived according to a strict moral code – she never lied, she abhorred the feeling of indebtedness or dependence, and she absolutely rejected the pursuit of wealth or material gain. This code and a strong individualism are what defined the choices she made in her life.

Šimaitė is hailed as a heroine, yet you present her as a flawed human being. 
I set out to create a nuanced portrait of a woman who acted with astounding courage, but who was nevertheless human. Early in my research, I came across a letter that Šimaitė concluded by writing, “love me with all my faults.” “What faults?” I wondered, “What is she referring to?” But, of course, we all have faults. They are what make us human. Šimaitė’s deep sense of compassion and capacity for forgiveness came from her understanding of this fact.

Some say the rescuers were saints, yet we learn from your book that Šimaitė would have hated being beatified.  Why?
I imagine Šimaitė found it difficult to take pride in saving those she did since so many others perished, including some people very close to her. Perhaps her acts of resistance seemed to be drops that just disappeared into a vast ocean of tragedy and cruelty.

Šimaitė was tortured and confined in the camp at Dachau, yet didn’t want to talk or write about that.  Can you share your thoughts on how a person – or a nation – engages with painful memories?
Šimaitė’s experience at Dachau constitutes the great silence in her writing and life. With the exception of a handful of passing references in her letters and diaries, she breathed nothing of her time there. Though I’m no psychologist, I believe this silence is indicative of a very deep trauma. For her, Dachau marked the limit of what was sayable and writeable.
In the end I decided not to try to fill Šimaitė’s silence, but to write around it, and give an image of how her camp experiences echoed throughout the rest of her life. I suppose you could say I tried to create a kind of chalk outline of her camp experience. The book traces the limits of that experience, but doesn’t try to fill in the void. I chose to respect her right to silence, and to consider silence itself as a subject worthy of contemplation.

In your book, you say you’re engaged in a conversation with Šimaitė.  Can you tell us more?
I went to the archives looking for answers to questions about the Holocaust in Lithuania – the country of my parents and grandparents – and came across an incredible and largely untouched collection of Šimaitė’s papers. I was a person with a curious skill set (knowledge of Lithuanian, French, German, Russian; training in literary criticism) that seemed perfectly matched to writing Šimaitė’s life story.
I felt as if Šimaitė had foreseen my arrival, and that she’d prepared for it by saving and archiving her papers. In undertaking the project, we entered into an agreement: in return for my telling her story, Šimaitė would answer some of the questions that had been nagging at me.

Finally, can you describe for us your connection to Lithuania?
Lithuanian was the language of my childhood. I grew up speaking the language at home in Toronto, and I learned to read and write it by attending Saturday schools. Beyond life itself, a knowledge of their language is perhaps the greatest gift my parents gave me.
I’ve been to Lithuania many times, and my relationship to that place is simultaneously one of belonging and alienation. Though I get great pleasure from speaking Lithuanian in shops and restaurants, and though I experience a sense a connection to my ancestors when I walk through the fields they once worked, I nevertheless feel that I don’t really belong there. It may be that writing about Lithuania is a way for me to work through these conflicting sensations.
Now, my relationship to Lithuania and its language is increasingly textual. Like Šimaitė, I spend much of my time alone, with books, and conversing with the dead through their writings and in my imagination.

Ellen Cassedy
Ellen Cassedy traces her Jewish family roots back to Rokiskis and Siauliai in Lithuania.  Her new book is We Are Here: Memories of the Lithuanian Holocaust.  She lives near Washington, D.C.  Visit her website at www.ellencassedy.com.

Category : Lithuania in the world / Litvak forum

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Lithuanian Jewish History –
can we stop the sand clock?


Sergejus Kanovičius

Interviewer Andrius Navickas
Authorized translation by Judita Gliauberzonaite and Kerry Shawn Keys

We offer you an interview with the poet, public figure, co-founder of NGO Maceva www.litvak-cemetery.info and the Lithuanian Jewish Community’s public relations advisor, Sergejus Kanovičius, about the current situation of Jews in Lithuania and what is today the most inciting factor of anti-Semitic manifestations in Lithuania.

 

Are there any statistics of how many Jewish people are left in Lithuania today, and whether this group is increasing or decreasing in number?

In 1988, there was an inaugural congress of the Lithuanian Jewish community and five hundred of the delegates barely fit into the Trade Union Hall on Tauras hill. About 20 thousand Jews were still living in Lithuania at that time. Today, according to unofficial estimates, the Jewish population of Lithuania consists only of 3.500 Jews. Thus, the dynamics are sad. More Jews die in Lithuania than are born, and we can say that we are witnesses of the extinction of the Jewish community in Lithuania, or, at least, its last century.

True, the remaining Lithuanian Jews live a full life. The community’s updated web page (www.lzb.lt) has recently been launched, children attend Jewish schools, and the Maccabi Sports Club is active, as well as a number of cultural organizations. Life in the Jewish community is in full swing, something is always happening there, and it does not seem that we are seeing a sad period of the life of the Lithuanian Jewry. Unfortunately, over the past few decades, the last Jewish watchmakers, carpenters, furniture makers, tailors, shoemakers, and barbers have disappeared.

At the conference on tolerance and totalitarianism, which took place in Vilnius on November 16, Professor Irena Veisaitė noted that since the restoration of Independence, a lot has been accomplished in the raising of Holocaust awareness. A couple of decades ago, after the liberation from the Soviet empire, Lithuanian historians or politicians did not dare to even touch upon the subject of this tragedy, though now new research is being carried out and studies written. The Kaunas Chamber Theatre has even produced a play on the subject.

How do you rate the accomplishments in the sphere in question over the past two decades? What now? What are the biggest challenges to be overcome today; what are the biggest hurdles for a more comprehensive understanding of the Jewish component of our state’s identity?

I welcome the fact that there are numerous studies, government-initiated commissions and conferences. However, I still doubt whether that much has been done in raising awareness of the Holocaust. I think it is more important to answer the question what has been done and how? It is enough to mention the fact that this year (interview was taken at the end of 2011 – Vilnews.com) the number of anti-Semitic attacks has increased. Are you sure they have received a proper response? Are you sure everything is done to keep the haters from poisoning the public space?

Unfortunately, the material of conferences and commemorations usually gets noticed by a very small group of people and does not reach the schools and universities. In my opinion, Lithuania lacks real educational activities not just designed to earn a credit, drink a glass of champagne at the end, or to please esteemed foreign guests. There’s a lack of in-depth lessons, lectures and excursions for young people, presented in a lucid manner. True, there are pleasant exceptions – usually in places where teachers act on their own initiative, rather than urged by someone else. Thank God, these teachers still exist and it is a small but significant counterbalance to the hostility that occurs every time whenever the Lithuanian media starts discussing any kind of topic related to the Jews – whether concerning the Jews living in Lithuania, or Israel.

Today, it is very important to achieve real changes in the information field in which our younger generation is spending most of their time. Unfortunately, hostility and negative information prevail there, and there’s a lack of good news that would make one think, and clarify the minds and hearts. Such good news do exist. . For example, the constructive co-operation between the LJC and the Government of Lithuania or the tremendous work done by the Lithuanian Embassy in Israel led by H.E. Ambassador D. Degutis. Why do they keep the good news from us? Without it, we remain in the field of negativity.

One more thing – when there is a seriously ill patient at home, they need constant care. Such care should be provided for Jewish history education in Lithuania as well, not merely Holocaust education. After all, we don’t get angry with the patient because he is sick, but we try to help him in any way we can. Similarly, the Holocaust should not be perceived as going back to accusations. Who of those living today may be guilty of a crime he or she did not personally commit?

We should carry out Holocaust education in a way that wouldn’t be annoying or causing anger, but, to the contrary, in a way that would inspire ​​compassion and make us feel obliged to make sure that this will never happen again. Unfortunately, this cannot be achieved only by means of conferences and scientific studies. Of course, they are necessary and important, but they cannot substitute a lesson. We should be paying a lot more attention to schools. As long as Lithuanian Jewish history is kept out of the school curriculum and not studied in detail, the Holocaust in Lithuania will not be perceived as our common tragedy, and not some kind of phenomenon that took place somewhere, and has nothing to do with our country.

What we need is not a few lines in the textbooks about the fact that for almost 700 years in Lithuania, Jews and Lithuanians lived in peace... History textbooks should show how the Jews lived and what they did. The Holocaust was not only a great tragedy and a crime, but also an enormous loss. We have to explain this through education, to tell what we have actually lost. I believe that the Ministry of Education must think about who and how could tell in children’s textbooks about what is Judaism, Vytautas Magnus’ privileges to the Jews, their importance and uniqueness in the historical context of the time, the teachings of the Vilna Gaon, Jewish craftsmen’s contribution to the small Lithuanian manufacturing, and of the most famous Lithuanian Jewish artists, scientists, and how the Lithuanian Jews and their number changed from the times of Vytautas Magnus until now. Someone should tell the children the history of the Lithuanian Jews. After all, it neither started nor ended with the Holocaust. Someone should tell the story of Jewish life in Lithuania, not only death. And as long as this story of life remains largely untold the story of Holocaust will be missing its true meaning.

You mentioned that the Lithuanian Jewish community seems to cooperate well with the Lithuanian government. Finally, the law regarding the goodwill compensation for the Jewish religious communities’ real estate has been passed, but again, some Lithuanian politicians rushed to criticize it. How do you rate this law and maybe you could explain its essence to the “Bernardinai.lt” readers?

I would like to stress that the cooperation is constructive. This means that mutually acceptable solutions to problems are found. They are oftentimes a compromise that both parties aren’t completely satisfied with, but what satisfies both sides is the fact that a certain result has been achieved. But that does not mean that problems don’t exist or all of them are solved. There are tangible results of that cooperation. In our opinion, the most important are two aspects – good will and competence. The law that you’ve mentioned is just one example. This is the way of competent, benevolent, and compromise solutions. There is no better way to explain the essence of the law than Seimas’ Public Relations Department did.

Now, the government is working on the activities of the Fund provided by the law, and it would be unethical to comment on things that have not yet happened.
LJC, in turn, expressed its position in the statement it prepared on the same day (http://www.lzb.lt/lt/titulinis/16-lzb-naujienos/283-lzb-padeka-del-priimto-geros-valios-kompensacijos-uz-zydu-religiniu-bendruomeniu-nekilnojamaji-turta-istatymo.html).

Now we should hope that the word becomes flesh. As to some politicians’ former criticism of the law, I think it’s no longer relevant, just as LJC’s former criticism of this law is irrelevant too. To those who doubt whether the Jews will take Lithuanian budget money out of the country, I can only say – first of all, read the law, secondly, we hope that when we are forever gone, everything we would like to do with that money together with you will stay where it belongs – in Lithuania. When the last synagogue in Lithuania is going to be closed forever, the key to its door will stay with the neighbors.

We have always communicated with all Lithuanian governments and intend to do so in the future.

I would like to wish future governments the benevolence similar to that demonstrated by Andrius Kubilius’ Government. I think that with this government we have succeeded to move from the mode of communicating through public statements and mutual reproaches to real problem solutions. Of course, hurdles still exist, but that’s life. Certainly, there are disagreements on certain issues, but we understand that there are problems, which, in order to be solved, require a more favorable political and social situation. Especially bearing in mind the field of animosity and negative information sustained in our media by certain people and social organizations that are not numerous but quite enthusiastic..

There are things for which we have no moral right to negotiate. This applies to the memory of Jews killed in Lithuania. We believe that only political will is needed for the name of the Victims of Genocide Museum to be changed. It does not reflect the Genocide of Lithuanian Jews, and no exhibition room in it dedicated to the Holocaust – no matter how big or small – is going to change the situation. And no new building no matter where it may be built – in Paneriai or the 9th Fort in Kaunas – and no matter how it might be called, will compensate for this. The name demeans the memory of those murdered Jews as well as those Lithuanians who saved Jews – there was no other genocide on Lithuanian soil. We could follow the example of our Latvian neighbors who called such a museum the Museum of Latvian Occupation. There can be no compromise with the memory of the murdered, because it is immoral. I would like to hope this is resolved as soon as possible. I think that the resolution of our Parliament to separate the Year of the Holocaust from the Year of Great Losses did not contribute to the rapprochement or common memory– such confrontation of the memory does not serve to depolarization. And no conferences can help in removing newly installed memory hurdles.

Lithuanian media likes to emphasize the differences in opinion among the Lithuanian Jews – how much the Jews living in Lithuania are actually united?

I do not know how Lithuanian Jews are different from Lithuanians, Poles or Lithuanian Tartars – of course, there are disagreements. But the media never really cared about the core of those disagreements; all it’s interested in is to celebrate the very fact that there are disagreements. It is no secret there is a small group of people in Lithuania that seems to be trying to steal the Lithuanian Jewish identity, as if they represented all the Jews of Lithuania, trying to present themselves as the sole representatives of that identity. Yet no one has given them such a mandate. The Lithuanian Jewish community is the largest organization representing Jews in Lithuania. Its leaders are elected through democratic elections. There is a small minority that does not wish to conform to such facts of life. It is a shame that the media, which writes on the topics of the Lithuanian Jewish community life, does not care to get any kind of insight into the problems. Very often these writings are as incompetent as they are unkind. But they reach their goals and contribute to creating the field of hostility, suspicion, and distrust. The only way to break out of it is to speak in terms of facts and good news.

On the other hand, I do not know why, but the good news are concealed or, at best, put as far from the reader’s eye as possible, because the news portals would be ashamed to show the small number of comments visitors to their advertising clients. The topics related to Jews or Israel, and the Lithuanian media is a separate issue that requires a whole lot of attention and a more serious analysis. The positive results of the hard work of the Lithuanian Embassy in Israel – state delegations, student and teacher group exchanges, signed cooperation agreements – is too good news to squeeze into the hostile field of information. But if Lithuania voted against the Palestinian UNESCO membership, it gets twisted into the joy of Satan, and Walpurgis Night, and becomes a great opportunity to show your hatred not only for Israel in particular, but the Jews in general... And what about the good and positive achievements?

I have already mentioned the negative information field, which is not counterbalanced in any way. It is hard to understand why a Lithuanian politician, who goes abroad to, for example, a conference on the Holocaust, talks about the past openly and honestly, but readers in Lithuania never get to read his speech in native language. It is a bad practice of double standards to speak of certain things only when abroad, and when at home to be as quiet as a mouse.

Ideally, politicians should make those open speeches not only on festive and commemorative occasions and not only in Paneriai, but in university auditoriums and classrooms as well. The teachers should not be afraid of their students. Silent teachers will produce mute students. And who knows what they will be capable of? Holocaust education of Lithuanians should take place not in London or Washington – it should take place in the classrooms of Lithuanian cities and towns. The Genocide (I am purposely using this term) of the Lithuanian Jewry is a Great Loss. If it is not understood in this way, we should do something about it. And, again, we can only realize this if many more than two to three pages in our history textbooks are dedicated to the Jewish-Lithuanian coexistence that lasted over 700 years. You can not “jump over” 700 years of history and lead your students directly to the pits in Paneriai. It is time that is buried in those pits, and we should make our younger generations understand and memorize this – not just as tens of thousands killed, but as murdered Lithuanian time. It does not belong only to the Jews. The time belongs to Lithuania. And we can not fill it with commemorative plaques – a plaque makes sense only if it appeals to real, living memory, which is the only one able to give it any kind of meaning. Otherwise it becomes another mute decoration of the city. Commemorations should happen naturally – in our memory on a daily basis. Like a prayer. And remembrance should be promoted not only by conferences – we need a good education concept. It is time to realize that we do not owe Holocaust education to Israel or the U.S. – we owe it to our children. We are their teachers. And, first and foremost, we need to teach them. Not only by conferences. I am sure that once they have learned this lesson, our children will be grateful for it. We’ve already had warning signs – in the Lithuanian land scorched by the Holocaust it would be extremely irresponsible to raise generations which wouldn’t realize the extent of the tragedy, and began to count the history of Lithuania only from the time of construction of shopping centers. To understand the scope of the tragedy of Lithuanian Jews as a tragedy and loss of Lithuania, we need to realize that only as few as 70 years ago, tens of thousands of Jews were walking the sidewalks of Vilnius. Their path ended in a tragic way. History textbooks should reflect it. If it is virtually impossible to get to know a living Lithuanian Jew, we still can, if we want, to know their history – the story of their life. From the beginning. And only then talk about their end. We won’t learn much talking only about the endings. We should speak of the path. And we should try to walk our students through it. And, thank God, we still have pupils. Yet, they will not find a teacher on their own. We all need to help them.

Interviewer Andrius Navickas

Authorized translation by Judita Gliauberzonaite and Kerry Shawn Keys

http://www.bernardinai.lt/straipsnis/2011-11-23-sergejus-kanovicius-lietuvos-zydu-istorija-ar-pajegsime-sustabdyti-smelio-laikrodi/72510

Category : Litvak forum

- Posted by - (0) Comment

Michel Hazanavicius,
5 Oscar Prize winner,
is a French Litvak

The French film maker and Director Michel HAZANAVICIUS (born in Paris, 1967), who won 5 Oscars in Los Angeles recently for his black and white sillent movie, The Artist, starring Jean Desjardins and Bérénice Bejo, is of Litvak descent.
His grand-parents emigrated from Lithuania to France in the 1920s.

Category : Litvak forum

OPINIONS

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


By Dr. Boris Vytautas Bakunas,
Ph. D., Chicago

A wave of unity sweeps the international Lithuanian community on March 11th every year as Lithuanians celebrated the anniversary of the Lithuanian Parliament's declaration of independence from the Soviet Union in 1990. However, the sense of national unity engendered by the celebration could be short-lived.

Human beings have a strong tendency to overgeneralize and succumb to stereotypical us-them distinctions that can shatter even the strongest bonds. We need only search the internet to find examples of divisive thinking at work:

- "50 years of Soviet rule has ruined an entire generation of Lithuanian.

- "Those who fled Lithuania during World II were cowards -- and now they come back, flaunt their wealth, and tell us 'true Lithuanians' how to live."

- "Lithuanians who work abroad have abandoned their homeland and should be deprived of their Lithuanian citizenship."

Could such stereotypical, emotionally-charged accusations be one of the main reasons why relations between Lithuania's diaspora groups and their countrymen back home have become strained?

Read more...
* * *


Text: Saulene Valskyte

In Lithuania Christmas Eve is a family event and the New Year's Eve a great party with friends!
Lithuanian say "Kaip sutiksi naujus metus, taip juos ir praleisi" (the way you'll meet the new year is the way you will spend it). So everyone is trying to spend New Year's Eve with friend and have as much fun as possible.

Lithuanian New Year's traditions are very similar to those in other countries, and actually were similar since many years ago. Also, the traditional Lithuanian New Years Eve party was very similar to other big celebrations throughout the year.

The New Year's Eve table is quite similar to the Christmas Eve table, but without straws under the tablecloth, and now including meat dishes. A tradition that definitely hasn't changes is that everybody is trying not to fell asleep before midnight. It was said that if you oversleep the midnight point you will be lazy all the upcoming year. People were also trying to get up early on the first day of the new year, because waking up late also meant a very lazy and unfortunate year.

During the New Year celebration people were dancing, singing, playing games and doing magic to guess the future. People didn't drink much of alcohol, especially was that the case for women.

Here are some advices from elders:
- During the New Year, be very nice and listen to relatives - what you are during New Year Eve, you will be throughout the year.

- During to the New Year Eve, try not to fall, because if this happens, next year you will be unhappy.

- If in the start of the New Year, the first news are good - then the year will be successful. If not - the year will be problematic.

New year predictions
* If during New Year eve it's snowing - then it will be bad weather all year round. If the day is fine - one can expect good harvest.
* If New Year's night is cold and starry - look forward to a good summer!
* If the during New Year Eve trees are covered with frost - then it will be a good year. If it is wet weather on New Year's Eve, one can expect a year where many will die and dangerous epidemics occur.
* If the first day of the new year is snowy - the upcoming year will see many young people die. If the night is snowy - mostly old people will die.
* If the New Year time is cold - then Easter will be warm.
* If during New Year there are a lot of birds in your homestead - then all year around there will be many guests and the year will be fun.

Read more...
* * *

* * *
VilNews
Christmas greetings
from Vilnius


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

Immediately after Russia stepped in Syria, we understood that it is time to sum up the convoluted and long story about Ukraine and the EU - a story of pride and prejudice which has a chance to become a story of a new vision regained after self-inflicted blindness.

Ukraine was and continues to be perceived by the EU political class as a sort of grey zone with its immense potential and possibilities for the future, yet deeply embedded and trapped in No Man's Land with all of its troubled past, post-Soviet traumas, ambiguities, insecurities, corruption, social divisions, and despair. Why worry for what has yet to emerge as a new actor of world history in terms of nation-building, European identity, and deeper commitments to transparency and free market economy?

Right? Wrong. No matter how troubled Ukraine's economic and political reality could be, the country has already passed the point of no return. Even if Vladimir Putin retains his leverage of power to blackmail Ukraine and the West in terms of Ukraine's zero chances to accede to NATO due to the problems of territorial integrity, occupation and annexation of Crimea, and mayhem or a frozen conflict in the Donbas region, Ukraine will never return to Russia's zone of influence. It could be deprived of the chances to join NATO or the EU in the coming years or decades, yet there are no forces on earth to make present Ukraine part of the Eurasia project fostered by Putin.

Read more...
* * *
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.

Read more...
* * *
Lithuanian medical
students say no to
bribes for doctors

On International Anticorruption Day, the Special Investigation Service shifted their attention to medical institutions, where citizens encounter bribery most often. Doctors blame citizens for giving bribes while patients complain that, without bribes, they won't receive proper medical attention. Campaigners against corruption say that bribery would disappear if medical institutions themselves were to take resolute actions against corruption and made an effort to take care of their patients.

Read more...
* * *
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.

Read more...
* * *
Greetings from Wales!
By Anita Šovaitė-Woronycz
Chepstow, Wales

Think of a nation in northern Europe whose population is around the 3 million mark a land of song, of rivers, lakes, forests, rolling green hills, beautiful coastline a land where mushrooms grow ready for the picking, a land with a passion for preserving its ancient language and culture.

Doesn't that sound suspiciously like Lithuania? Ah, but I didn't mention the mountains of Snowdonia, which would give the game away.

I'm talking about Wales, that part of the UK which Lithuanians used to call "Valija", but later named "Velsas" (why?). Wales, the nation which has welcomed two Lithuanian heads of state to its shores - firstly Professor Vytautas Landsbergis, who has paid several visits and, more recently, President Dalia Grybauskaitė who attended the 2014 NATO summit which was held in Newport, South Wales.
MADE IN WALES -
ENGLISH VERSION OF THE
AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF
VYTAUTAS LANDSBERGIS.

Read more...
* * *
IS IT POSSIBLE TO
COMMENT ON OUR
ARTICLES? :-)
Read Cassandra's article HERE

Read Rugile's article HERE

Did you know there is a comment field right after every article we publish? If you read the two above posts, you will see that they both have received many comments. Also YOU are welcome with your comments. To all our articles!
* * *

Greetings from Toronto
By Antanas Sileika,
Toronto, Canada

Toronto was a major postwar settlement centre for Lithuanian Displaced Persons, and to this day there are two Catholic parishes and one Lutheran one, as well as a Lithuanian House, retirement home, and nursing home. A new wave of immigrants has showed interest in sports.

Although Lithuanian activities have thinned over the decades as that postwar generation died out, the Lithuanian Martyrs' parish hall is crowded with many, many hundreds of visitors who come to the Lithuanian cemetery for All Souls' Day. Similarly, the Franciscan parish has standing room only for Christmas Eve mass.

Although I am firmly embedded in the literary culture of Canada, my themes are usually Lithuanian, and I'll be in Kaunas and Vilnius in mid-November 2015 to give talks about the Lithuanian translations of my novels and short stories, which I write in English.

If you have the Lithuanian language, come by to one of the talks listed in the links below. And if you don't, you can read more about my work at
www.anatanassileika.com

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

As long as VilNews exists,
there is hope for the future
Professor Irena Veisaite, Chairwoman of our Honorary Council, asked us to convey her heartfelt greetings to the other Council Members and to all readers of VilNews.

"My love and best wishes to all. As long as VilNews exists, there is hope for the future,"" she writes.

Irena Veisaite means very much for our publication, and we do hereby thank her for the support and wise commitment she always shows.

You can read our interview with her
HERE.
* * *
EU-Russia:
Facing a new reality

By Vygaudas Ušackas
EU Ambassador to the Russian Federation

Dear readers of VilNews,

It's great to see this online resource for people interested in Baltic affairs. I congratulate the editors. From my position as EU Ambassador to Russia, allow me to share some observations.

For a number of years, the EU and Russia had assumed the existence of a strategic partnership, based on the convergence of values, economic integration and increasingly open markets and a modernisation agenda for society.

Our agenda was positive and ambitious. We looked at Russia as a country ready to converge with "European values", a country likely to embrace both the basic principles of democratic government and a liberal concept of the world order. It was believed this would bring our relations to a new level, covering the whole spectrum of the EU's strategic relationship with Russia.

Read more...
* * *

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.

Read more...
* * *

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.

Read more...
* * *

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.

Read more...
* * *

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

n his article, Val Samonis takes a comparative policy look at the Lithuanian economy during the period 2000-2015. He argues that the LT policy response (a radical and classical austerity) was wrong and unenlightened because it coincided with strong and continuing deflationary forces in the EU and the global economy which forces were predictable, given the right policy guidance. Also, he makes a point that LT austerity, and the resulting sharp drop in GDP and employment in LT, stimulated emigration of young people (and the related worsening of other demographics) which processes took huge dimensions thereby undercutting even the future enlightened efforts to get out of the middle-income growth trap by LT. Consequently, the country is now on the trajectory (development path) similar to that of a dog that chases its own tail. A strong effort by new generation of policymakers is badly needed to jolt the country out of that wrong trajectory and to offer the chance of escaping the middle-income growth trap via innovations.

Read more...
* * *

Have you heard about the
South African "Pencil Test"?
By Karina Simonson

If you are not South African, then, probably, you haven't. It is a test performed in South Africa during the apartheid regime and was used, together with the other ways, to determine racial identity, distinguishing whites from coloureds and blacks. That repressive test was very close to Nazi implemented ways to separate Jews from Aryans. Could you now imagine a Lithuanian mother, performing it on her own child?

But that is exactly what happened to me when I came back from South Africa. I will tell you how.

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



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