The Annual Seminar of the Diaspora Researchers

Dalia Cidzikaitė

For the sixth year in a row, the diaspora researchers and archivists gathered at the National Library of Lithuania. The aim of the seminar is to bring together researchers working in the diaspora field, especially students, to give them the opportunity to share their research, and also to encourage the representatives of archives and museums to introduce the Lithuanian diaspora collections housed at their institutions to the broader audience.

The first seminar, entitled “The Young Diaspora Researchers’ Seminar,” today is known under a slightly different name, “The Interdisciplinary Diaspora Researchers’ Seminar.” Currently, the community unites about 30 researchers working in various Lithuanian universities, institutes, museums, archives, and libraries.

Photo: National Library of Lithuania

Six Perspectives on Diaspora

Six perspectives on diaspora were presented at the sixth event. Ina Ėmužienė, Ph.D., who just recently defended her thesis on Lithuanian radio and TV programs in the US from 1944 to 1990, presented the Lithuanian-American electronic media. In particular she talked about the Lithuanian radio programs that were active in the country in 1944-1990: their frequency, geography, and the circumstances of their establishment. The researcher presented a list of the Lithuanian-American radio programs that ran during that period, stressing that it is not final. She is still discovering new archives, related to the topic she has been researching.

Researching the Language of Lithuanian Diaspora

The two researchers from Vilnius University, Eglė Gudavičienė, Ph.D. and Kristina Jakaitė-Bulbukienė, Ph.D., presented the linguistic research which they have beencarrying since 2011. The project, dedicated to the language of Lithuanian diaspora and its linguistic identity, consists of two stages. During the first stage (2013-2015), the VU researchers studied the language of Lithuanian immigrants; the second stage (2015-2017) focused on the usage and disappearance of the Lithuanian language in diaspora. The researchers managed to cover a number of countries and all three major Lithuanian emigration waves. The second stage concentrated on four cities: Oslo, London, Toronto and Buenos Aires. The material of the first stage has already been summarized and published in a book in Lithuanian, Immigrants: Language and Identity (Vilnius: Vilnius University Press, 2015). The second book will be published at the end of this year. All data collected during the project is stored in VU.

Jakaitė-Bulbukienė talked about the linguistic behavior of the Lithuanians living in London. Most of the interviewees were young Lithuanians of a working-age, the representatives of the most recent emigration wave. The researchers were interested in the ways they communicate on social media, at work, how they read newspapers, and what language(s) ​​prevail(s) in their daily lives. Jakaitė-Bulbukienė noted that the Lithuanian immigrants in London have a more rational approach towards the Lithuanian language. The research has revealed that respondents’ linguistic behavior depends on their social background, goals of emigration, and certain habits. Jakaitė-Bulbukienė also noticed that the Lithuanian language no longer prevails in the homes of immigrants. According to her, the community as such has lost its meaning to the third wave of Lithuanian immigrants. Instead, the social media has replaced it.

The Author of Multiple Literary Identities

Rima Kasperionytė, a doctoral candidate at the Vytautas Magnus University Education Academy, spoke about the problems of researching the Jewish diaspora. To make her point she used the case of Grigory Kanovich (Grigorijus Kanovičius), a Russian writer who lived in Lithuania and currently lives in Israel. In her presentation, Kasperionytė raised an interesting issue of Kanovich’s changing literary identity. Before he started writing novels, the writer was considered a Lithuanian-Russian author. At the beginning of publishing novels, he was a Lithuanian and a Russian author. At the peak of his literary career, Kanovich became the author of a Lithuanian and Jewish origin, and when he was leaving for Israel, he became a Jew. Kanovich himself says that he does not belong to any of the above-mentioned literatures.

Political and Cultural Activities of the Lithuanian Diaspora

Marija Navickaitė, a PhD student at the Vytautas Magnus University History Department, presented the cartography of Lithuanian diaspora’s cultural and political activities in Western Europe and the US during the second half of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries. The final version of Navickaitė’s e-map will contain information about Lithuanian cultural and social centers, such as societies, publishing houses, newspapers, and etc.

Valdonė Budreckaitė, a senior researcher at the National Library of Lithuania, took a closer look at the role of the diaspora in shaping Lithuania’s image in the US in 1990. Although the role of the Lithuanian diaspora in America in the struggle for Lithuanian independence is universally recognized, there hasn’t been systematic approach to it. Budreckaitė briefly reviewed articles and editorials concerning Lithuania and Lithuanian people that appeared in 1990, grounding her analysis on the American daily The New York Times.

Hunting Down the Lithuanian Archives in Australia and South America

Dr. Juozapas Balčiūnas, the director of the Lithuanian Archives of Literature and Art, talked about recent expeditions to Australia and South America. After two trips to Australia, the Lithuanian Archives of Literature and Art has received almost 300 kilograms or over 230 thousand documents from the Lithuanian-Australian Community, including manuscripts, photographs, correspondence, video and audio material.

Another presenter, also from the Lithuanian Archives of Literature and Arts, Vaida Jonušytė, just recently returned from South America. In Argentina and Uruguay, she met with the members of five Lithuanian organizations. During her trip, Jonušytė and her colleagues identified 20 collections and brought 120 kilograms of documents to Lithuania. Balčiūnas says that the Archive is planning another expedition to Australia and New Zealand, which was the first country to start receiving the WWII refugees. The head of the Archive also wants to organize an expedition to Belarus and Russia.

Meeting with the Film Director Rakauskaitė

During the second part of the seminar, the participants had a chance to watch a recent Lithuanian documentary “Kelionės namo” (Back to the Dreamland) directed by Ramunė Rakauskaitė (2019, Studio Nominum). The film shows the late Soviet era, when the Soviet Lithuanian government began accepting more and more Lithuanian-American tourists. The director interviewed Lithuanian-Americans, who recalled first impressions from their trip to Lithuania, the dreamland which they knew only from their childhood or youth days or had never visited before.