Several dozen books on Lithuanian and Judaica subjects were added to the National Library of Lithuania collections. All of them were donated by Donatas Januta, a Lithuanian-American lawyer, who visited the Library at the end of this summer.
This is not the first gift from Januta to Lithuanian readers. Almost thirty years ago, he donated to the Lithuanian libraries, including secondary schools, fifty sets of the Encyclopedia published in the USA and more than one hundred sets of the six-volume Encyclopedia Lituanica. Januta also supported the publication of the book “Draustosios spaudos pėdsakais” (Following the Traces of the Banned Press; 2011) by Silvija Vėlavičienė, the long-time head of the Lituanica Department of the National Library of Lithuania.
Although Januta’s gift is more modest this time, it is no less significant. Over half of the books donated to the Library this time are on Judaica, a topic of interest to the Lithuanian American himself. According to Dr. Larisa Lempertienė, the head of the National Library’s Center for Judaica Studies, all books are very much needed by the Center’s Reading Room and will find a place on its bookshelves.
Januta is well known in the field of movable cultural heritage as well. In 2018, he presented the Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania with a special gift—a portrait of Prince John Casimir Vasa (1609-1672), the future King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania, painted by the Dutch Baroque painter Pieter Danckerts and bought at Sotheby’s, followed a year later by a table clock made in Vilnius by the famous watchmaker Johannes (Hans) Klassen in 1638.
This summer, the National Library of Lithuania hosted a talk on how to search for Lithuanian data in US archives and genealogical websites presented by Karilė Vaitkutė, head of the Genealogy Department at the Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture in Chicago (USA).
Vaitkutė shared her experience with how to search for Lithuanian material in various US archives, as well as paid and free-of-charge genealogical websites, how to decipher the documents found, how to determine whether they belong to a family member under consideration, and how to overcome the obstacles that occur during the research. In her talk, she also answered more specific questions concerning the search for Lithuanian relatives in the USA and gave an overview of the different sources available.
For the past ten years, Vaitkutė has been working in the field of genealogy, helping Lithuanian Americans whose grandparents and great-grandparents came to the USA before World War I or after World War II to find their roots in Lithuania and Lithuanians who are looking for their relatives in the USA.
This year, Lithuanian American Nijolė Bražėnaitė-Lukšienė-Paronetto turned a hundred years old. On this occasion, the National Library of Lithuania invited Nijolė’s friends and all those interested to an evening to commemorate this anniversary. The event featured a presentation of the book “Apie anuos nepamirštamus laikus: Juozo Lukšos-Daumanto ir Nijolės Bražėnaitės susirašinėjimas” (About Those Unforgettable Times: The Correspondence between Juozas Lukša- Daumantas and Nijolė Bražėnaitė) compiled by Laima Vincė.
During the event, the author of the book handed over a valuable gift to the Library—letters written by Bražėnaitė to Juozas Lukša-Daumantas, which testify not only to the romantic love story of the two young people but also to the great sacrifice they made in the name of their homeland, Lithuania.
On July 18, the formal handing over of the letters and the signing of the documents occurred. The document was signed by the donor, Laima Vincė Sruoginis, and Aidas Sinkevičius, Deputy Director General of the National Library of Lithuania.
The exhibition “The Sign of Tomas Venclova”, exhibited at the National Library of Lithuania from September 13 to November 6, invited to take a fresh look at Tomas Venclova (b. 1937), a well-known poet, translator, literary researcher, professor, dissident and public figure.
The exhibition opened up different stages of Venclova’s life, spheres of activity, hobbies, friendships, and works. Looking back to the very origins of poet’s rich and meaningful life, the exhibition presented poems and a manuscript written by Venclova in his childhood, photographs testifying to his close relationship with the world of books from his early days, and his first books.
The exhibition included Venclova’s collection of poems Kalbos ženklas [The Sign of Language, 1972] published fifty years ago, which was the poet’s remarkable public debut and left a deep imprint on Lithuanian poetry of that time. This book also inspired the title of the exhibition. Other books of Venclova’s poetry and their translations into various languages were also on display.
On October 19, Vytautas Gedgaudas‘s book, Pirmyn arba mirk (Forward, or Die), was presented at the National Library of Lithuania.
Jolanta Mažylė, Associate Professor of the Centre for Journalism and Media Studies at Vilnius University and the winner of the Gedgaudas Prize, is to blame that the articles written by a long-time editor-in-chief of the Lithuanian-American newspaper, Dirva, the only Lithuanian accredited to the Paris Peace Conference and the only Lithuanian journalist who wrote about the Nuremberg Trials for the Lithuanian American press, finally made into a book. The author of the book has managed to preserve an exceptional testimony of WWII, which will find its place among the memoirs of Lithuanian soldiers who served in foreign armies.
The book consists of three parts. The first and second parts contain Gedgaudas’s texts about the Foreign Legion in which he served during WWII. Mažylė believes that the third part of the book, which contains Gedgaudas’s articles published in Lithuanian American press after he immigrated to the United States of America, will be a revelation not only for readers but also for scholars of journalism and cultural history. The book is illustrated with photographs taken by Gedgaudas himself.
The Lithuanian National Broadcaster, the Lithuanian National Radio and Television, has created a series of documentaries “Viltis abipus Atlanto” (Hope on Both Sides of the Atlantic) which narrate stories of famous American-Lithuanians and Lithuanian cultural phenomena in the US. Three films are dedicated to the first wave of economic emigrants from Lithuania and its three descendants, doctor Aldona Šliūpaitė, collector and journalist Aleksandras Mykolas Račkus, and Stanley Balzekas Jr., the founder of the Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture in Chicago. Other series present the second wave of political refugees, American-Lithuanian poet Kazys Bradūnas and the American-Lithuanian activist Juozas Polikaitis. The other two documentaries are dedicated to the oldest and longest-running Lithuanian newspaper Draugas and the Lithuanian neighborhood in Chicago, Marquette Park.