Discussion on the Preservation of Lithuanian Identity Abroad

The debate about emigration, the Lithuanian identity crisis and global Lithuania is still ongoing in Lithuania. On August 14, 2018, the National Library of Lithuania hosted a discussion about how to preserve Lithuanian identity in the world organized by the Center of Lithuanian Language and Culture.

Every summer in August, the Center organizes a month-long Lithuanian language and culture course. Almost 100 students – from China to Argentina – participate in this summer’s course. Some students are of Lithuanian descent, while others, and there are many of them, want to study Lithuanian language because of their deep interest in Lithuanian culture. Vilma Leonavičienė, the director of the Center, noted that every participant has an exciting story about his relation to Lithuania to tell. For some students the summer language course is the first chance to get acquainted with Lithuania and its people, since they have only heard about this country from their grandparents or great-grandparents. However, there is a substantial group of students who have been returning to the summer language course in Vilnius.

Lithuanian Heritage Abroad: Challenges and Achievements

The participants of the discussion. Photo: National Library of Lithuania

A round table discussion about Lithuanian heritage outside Lithuania organized by the Martynas Mažvydas National Library of Lithuania on January 26, 2018, was a good opportunity to assess not only the situation of the Lithuanian heritage abroad and to identify the challenges and problems, but also to talk about the achievements and the future work.

Augustinas Žemaitis, the leader of the project “Destination – America,” ​​started the event. He told about a 16-day trip to the United States that he took last fall visiting Lithuanian places, recording material heritage and listening to the stories of local people of Lithuanian descent. Žemaitis, who has been interested in Lithuanian heritage outside Lithuania for five years, is convinced that his project is important not only to Lithuanians in the US, but also Lithuania. In his opinion, it is necessary to find new ways of preserving the Lithuanian heritage abroad. He suggested volunteering or tourism as good tools to do it.

Ramojus Kraujelis, the Chief Archivist of Lithuania, noted that today, unfortunately, there are no resources to describe Lithuanian heritage abroad. He commended the private initiative “Destination – America” and proposed to continue this project covering not only US but other countries which also have many objects of Lithuanian material culture. Continue reading “Lithuanian Heritage Abroad: Challenges and Achievements”

The Presentation of “The Red Flood”

The book cover of “The Red Flood.”

The Martynas Mažvydas National Library of Lithuania together with the publishing house “Briedis” presented a book “The Red Flood” by Ignas Šeinius (1889-1959), a Lithuanian diplomat to Sweden and other Scandinavian countries, on January 25, 2018. The book “Den röda floden” first published in Stockholm, Sweden in 1940 is author’s authentic account about the events that took place in Lithuania in 1940. Continue reading “The Presentation of “The Red Flood””

Exhibition “Diplomacy of Lithuanian Exiles in the Fight for Freedom”

Arūnas Antanaitis, the director of the Valdas Adamkus Presidential Library-Museum. Photo: National Library of Lithuania.

On January 9, 2018 the traveling exhibition “Diplomacy of Lithuanian Exiles in the Fight for Freedom” by Vytautas Magnus University Lithuanian Emigration Institute and the Valdas Adamkus Presidential Library-Museum was opened in the Martynas Mažvydas National Library of Lithuania.

According to Arūnas Antanaitis, the director of the Valdas Adamkus Presidential Library-Museum, when creating the exhibition, the most difficult task was to decide what to include and what to leave out – so vast is the archival material about Lithuanian political, lobbying and other activities in exile spanning for over a hundred years.

The exhibition is aimed at highlighting the most important activities of émigrés in the fight for freedom in the US, Australia, Canada, Brazil, Great Britain, France, and other countries. The creators of the exhibition wanted to show not the official efforts of the émigrés, but the so-called citizen diplomacy, i.e. the contribution of ordinary people to Lithuanian statehood. Alongside material, moral and political support, they helped to establish Lithuania’s name in the world and used all possible means to support Lithuania’s independence abroad.

Venclova’s Evening and the Exhibition

Tomas Venclova. Photo: National Library of Lithuania

In commemoration of the eightieth anniversary of Tomas Venclova, a Lithuanian-American poet, scholar, philologist, translator and a dissident, the discussion was organized in the National Library in Lithuania on September 11. The event called to reflect on Venclova’s contribution to the culture and the continuity of his works and thought in contemporary Lithuania.

On this occasion, the exhibition of photographs and books, “Tomas Venclova: That Is How the Word Approaches,” was opened in Vilnius Town Hall. One of the partners, the National Library of Lithuania, prepared a collection of Venclova’s poetry books. The exhibition invited acquaintance with poet’s poems in their original language and in their translations into twenty-three languages. Despite the rather complex strophic and rhythmic patterns of his poems—or perhaps because of them—Venclova’s poems have been translated not only into English, Russian, Polish, and German, but also into Albanian, Macedonian, Dutch, Danish, Finnish, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, and even Esperanto, among other languages.

Most of the publications were drawn from the Tomas Venclova Collection housed at the National Library of Lithuania.

Venclova’s Evening drew huge crowds. Photo: National Library of Lithuania

Focus on Jewish Diaspora and Its Heritage

A poster of European Day of Jewish Culture

For the first time the Judaica Research Center of the National Library of Lithuania participated in the annual program of the European Day of Jewish Culture. This year’s focus was on Jewish diaspora and its heritage. On September 4-5, an international conference “How to Commemorate the Great Synagogue of Vilna Site?” was organized by the NGO “Jerusalem of the North” in cooperation with the National Library of Lithuania. On September 4, the Judaica Research Center invited to a concert “History of Jewish Music” performed by the “Klezmer Klangen” ensemble. Lithuania and Vilnius in particular, have been one of the most historically important Jewish diaspora centers.