On October 25, a doctorate student of Vytautas Magnus University, Egidijus Balandis, successfully defended his Ph.D. thesis “Sport in the Social Fabric of Lithuanian-Americans in the Early 20th Century.”
Using the history of sport, Balandis analyzes the activities of Lithuanian-American
organizations and civic participation of Lithuanians in American life. The main
goal of his thesis is to explore the role of sport in a wider social fabric of
Lithuanian-Americans of the early 20th century. Balandis looks at the attempts
by Lithuanian-Americans to establish contacts and accumulate social capital
through sport organizations, competitions, the non-sport activities of Lithuanian-American
athletics clubs and the celebrities of that time. Using archival sources,
periodicals and historiography, the author analyzes the by-laws of Lithuanian-American
sport clubs, features of self-governance, various forms of activities, social
functions, and their involvement in building social networks and relations with
a broader part of the civil society of Lithuanian diaspora. In doing so, he
tries to answer the question what role did sport play in social networks of
ideologically oriented Lithuanian-American movements, and what attitudes they held
towards sport and sport activities. Balandis also investigates the attempts of
the Lithuanian-American media and more famous athletes and fans to construct
the portraits of sport heroes and their intentions to use these portraits as
both an opportunity to bring Lithuanians together and as a tool of social
control applied on different diaspora layers.
On October 11, Monika Šipelytė, a doctorate student of Vilnius University, defended her Ph.D. thesis on the topic of political and diplomatic activities of Lithuanians in Switzerland in 1915-1919 and their impact on the statehood of Lithuania. The dissertation analyzes in depth the early emigration of Lithuanians to Switzerland and their political aspirations, actions, and achievements during the WWI. More specific activities, such as international and national conferences, development and dissemination of state projects, publishing, and internal and external correspondence are discussed in five chronologically arranged chapters.
On October 24-25, 2019 the Vytautas Magnus University Research Cluster
“Church Relations with State and Society in Lithuania” invited a broad
international group of researchers to the conference on the religious
communities in the age of migration. The goal of the conference was to explore
and discus the religious history and contemporary processes of the Catholic Church,
religious communities (such as Jews, Muslims, Catholics, Lutherans and Orthodox),
migration, and diasporas.
Researchers from various research fields: religion, theology, history, political
science, sociology, cultural science, public communication, and art history
representing different countries (Belarus, Finland, Hungary, Holland, US and
Lithuania) gathered to the conference.
Two researchers from the Adolfas Damušis Democracy Studies Center of National
Library of Lithuania participated in the conference. Dr. Ilona Strumickienė, director of the Center, in her presentation “Returning
Migrants and Their Influence on Lithuania’s Social and Religious Life” talked
about re-emigration processes and the religious influences and expressions brought
back by re-emigrants. In presentation “Listening to ‘the Words of God’ on
Lithuanian-American Radio,” Dr. Ina
Ėmužienė analyzed various forms of religion in the American radio media and
its different expressions and impact on the Lithuanian-American community.
A Lithuanian-Australian writer Kristina Dryža is better known in the world of business and management as one of the most influential futurists, trend forecasters, and business consultants, who worked with companies such as Virgin Group, Microsoft, and British Sky Broadcasting. Kristina says that many still do not know that she is also the author of the novel Grace and the Wind released in 2014. I asked Kristina a few questions about writer’s craft, her first book, and future plans.
– How did you become a writer?
I always loved
to write as a teenager, mainly in my journal, kept from my parents’ prying
eyes. I didn’t really enjoy writing assignments at school or essays at
university. I didn’t like writing to perform, to prove, to justify – for
results. I had more fun crafting messages in Christmas and birthday cards for my
friends, and sharing my overseas travel experiences in postcard form, when
writing postcards was de rigueur in
the pre-internet era.
Why is it important to bring
diaspora authors together? Or perhaps not only diaspora authors but Lithuanian
writers who live in Lithuania and Lithuanian writers who live in diaspora?
The Arts thrive in community. In isolation, an author can push
themselves to create, yes, but to truly realize their full potential they must
be challenged in an inspiring way. The more diverse the ideas that the artists
and writers discuss when they come together, the more intriguing ideas bubble
up – instead of just beer, you get champagne. Writers of the diaspora see
Lithuania from a different perspective, from a bit of distance. Do you know the
fable about the elephant and the blind men? One saw a wall, one saw a rope, one
saw a tree, and one a spear? Only by adding this all together could they
discover an elephant? It is both challenging and inspiring to hear about how
other writers work, where they find peace, how they get through writing blocks,
what themes and ideas matter. There is something about being in a room full of
people who care as much about the perfect word as you do – and then discovering
that person lives across the globe from you – and yet you have similar roots,
you both know the blue of a cornflower, you both remember some adult showing
you as a child how to get to the sharp, bitter scent of a rūta by crushing one
leaf between your thumb and forefinger, you both know the savory taste of dill.
It pulls the world closer, like a drawstring. And what you keep in that secret
sack—that is up to you, but it is nice to know that everyone is carrying some
memories that are all tied together.