For many, the final list of the contestants (in the category Adult Literature) to win the best Lithuanian book of 2015 came as no surprise. Three out of five finalists were Lithuanian authors living abroad.
The novel Odilė, arba Oro uostų vienatvė (Odile or the Loneliness of Airports) is written by Valdas Papievis, who has been living between Paris and Vilnius for more than a decade. His newest book tells a story about the loneliness of an independent human being and the everyday life of a French aristocrat in Paris.
The second finalist, Buying on Time, by Canadian-Lithuanian author, Antanas Šileika, consists of thirteen interrelated short stories about Lithuanian emigrant family life in Canada told with plenty of humour and gentle irony. Although it seems that the author tells his own story, in fact, this book is not autobiographical. Šileika’s book has received considerable attention in Canada and has won several awards.
The author of the third contestant and the winner of the Best Lithuanian Book-2015, Iš dviejų renkuosi trečią: mano mažoji odisėja (Out of the Two I Prefer the Third: My Little Odyssey), Dalia Staponkutė, is a Lithuanian writer, philosopher and translator currently living in Cyprus. In her second book, Staponkutė continues to tell the story about her journey as a Lithuanian, a woman and a mother abroad, only this time, from cultural and philosophical reflections she turns toward intimacy. The book also won the prize for the most creative book of the year in Lithuania.
After the successful presentations in Norway, Switzerland, and Italy, the travelling exhibition “Lithuanian Publishing in Post-WWII Europe” is back in Lithuania. On 27 January 2016 it was opened at Pasvalys Marius Katiliškis Public Library as part of a day-long event “The Library and the 21st Century Society”. Opening remarks were delivered by Jolanta Budriūnienė, head of the Lithuanian Studies Research Department (former Lituanica Department) of the National Library of Lithuania, who noted that the collection of Lithuanian DP publishing, 1945-1952, housed at the National Library of Lithuania, is of particular value for its unique content, produced under extremely difficult conditions. In 2011, it was recognized by UNESCO — the collection was included in UNESCO’s “World Memory” programme for the Lithuanian National Register. Pasvalys M. Katiliškis Public Library is only the first stop for this exhibition. Its organizer, the National Library of Lithuania, is planning to take it to all major public libraries in the country.
On 4 November, the National Library of Lithuania hosted a discussion about Lithuania in the pages of Western media in 1990s and today; Vilnius Santara-Sviesa Club and Lituanica Department organized it.
Valdonė Budreckaitė, senior researcher at Lituanica Department, began with a virtual exhibition “No, my friends, we won‘t go slow,” dedicated to the time in history when Lithuania was fighting for its independence and its depiction in Western press. The exhibition was prepared by the Lituanica Department in cooperation with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Lithuania. Gintė Damušis, a Lithuanian diplomat, who in 1979-1991 led the Lithuanian Information Centre with its offices in New York and Washington, D.C., shared memories about the dissemination of information and an important role played by the LIC in promoting Lithuania’s independence in the US and other Western countries. Vykintas Pugačiauskas, foreign news editor at the Lithuanian National Radio and Television, discussed Lithuania’s image in contemporary media. Georgia Gwinnett College professor, Dr. Dovilė Budrytė, who also currently teaches at the Institute of International Relations and Political Science at Vilnius University, moderated the event.
On 3 November 2015 the Martynas Mažvydas National Library of Lithuania hosted the annual international Baltic Heritage Network diaspora seminar. It was the 22nd event in the last six years and the second to be held in Vilnius. It brought together researchers, librarians and archivists from all three Baltic countries working in the field of diaspora studies. In this international forum, eight papers were presented. Topics for three paper sessions ranged from collecting, exploring and digitizing archival data to making field research of diaspora communities, and analysing exile literature.
Diaspora seminars, covering a wide range of interests and topics, are designed to help to exchange information and encourage sustained critical dialogue without dividing attendees into their disciplinary camps. New people and presenters join the BHN seminars every year. This time the event offered a good balance between three Baltic countries and a good distribution of participants from Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. The small-scale setting of the conference allowed for an intimate exchange of ideas. Opportunity to place one’s own research in a wider cultural context and learn about the skills and techniques used by other scholars was a significant advantage of this seminar.
At the age of five, Tony Mankus along with his family was forced to leave Lithuania during World War II. The feeling and even pain of being exiled has never left him, neither in his young days spent in the DP camp in Germany, nor in old age living in the United States. “Where do I belong? Where is my place?” are key questions that Mankus tries to answer in his book “Where Do I Belong To?: An Immigrant’s Quest for Identity”(2013). This frank and unsentimental story will be of a special interest to those readers who want to learn more about authentic experiences of immigrants.
On July 15-17, 2015 about 150 delegates from 33 countries gathered at the 25th Lithuanian World Community (LWC) Seimas in Vilnius. During the three-day event, the participants discussed the present and the future of the LWC, paying special attention to Lithuanian education and cooperation with the Lithuanian authorities.
On the first day of Seimas, Lituanica Department of Martynas Mažvydas National Library of Lithuania in Parliament of the Republic of Lithuania invited the delegates to the opening of a new exhibition “Lithuanian Publishing in Post-WWII Europe”.
In the opening speech, the head of the Department, Jolanta Budriūnienė, talked about the idea of the exhibition – using the rich collection of Lithuanian DP Publishing, 1945-1952, housed at the National Library of Lithuania to commemorate 70 years since the mass westward flight of the Baltic Displaced Persons, refugees from war-torn Lithuania. It should be noted that in 2011, the collection was recognised as part of Lithuania’s documentary heritage and included in the UNESCO’s program “World Memory” for the Lithuanian National Register.
The Deputy Speaker of Lithuanian Parliament and the hostess of the exhibition, Irena Degutienė, stressed that at the end of WWII, while Europe was freeing itself, in Lithuania, guerrilla fighting had only intensified and the mass deportations were taking place. Thus, it is not surprising that Lithuanian publishing, exiled from the homeland, had to establish itself in the West. “Our language was alive and will be alive, because everything depends on our willingness to speak the language, regardless of where one lives,” Degutienė concluded her speech.
Dr. Vincas Bartusevičius, the director of Lithuanian Institute of Culture in Germany and the author of a monograph “The DP Camps in Germany, 1945-1951”, gave an overview of the historical context and the conditions under which Lithuanian publishing evolved in post-war Germany and other Western European countries.
The chair of the LWC Culture Commission, Jūratė Caspersen, invited Lithuanian diaspora communities to remember their historical origins by seizing the opportunity to exhibit the travelling exhibition “Lithuanian Publishing in Post-WW II Europe” in their host countries.
The exhibition was prepared by the Lituanica Department of the National Library of Lithuania in partnership with Lithuanian Institute of Culture in Germany. Support came from the Ministry of Culture of the Republic of Lithuania on the recommendation of Lithuanian Traditions and Heritage Commission.