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.
For the second year in a row, the Lituanica Department invited diaspora researchers to the seminar. During the one-day event, the participants heard three presentations about Lithuanian diaspora. Dr Ramūnas Čičelis, the lecturer at Vytautas Magnus University (VMU), talked about the philotopic aspect in Jonas Mekas, an American Lithuanian artist; Akvilė Šimėnienė, who studies in the doctorate program at the Institute of Lithuanian Literature and Folklore, shared her findings about Dr Birutė Ciplijauskaitė’s literary criticism; and the doctorate student at the Lithuanian Academy of Arts, Jolanta Bernotaitytė, discussed the representations of the Lithuanian American art in the 20th century during the sixties and nineties. Vilnius University historian Dr Tomas Balkelis, who spoke about the international aspect of diaspora and migration studies, urged the seminar’s participants to write theirarticles and books not only to a Lithuanian, but a foreign reader as well and their research to look for Lithuanian connections with other nations and communities.
The Head of the Lithuanian Literature Department at VMU, Assoc. Dr Dalia Kuizinienė, noticed that a lot of important research in the field of the Lithuanian diaspora had been carried out over the past 25 years. However, she noted that there are still quite a few holes and gaps remaining. She agreed with Assoc. Dr Žydronė Kolevinskienė, dean of Lithuanian Philology Faculty at the University of Educational Sciences that not a lot has been done to research the most recent Lithuanian emigrant literature, Lithuanian foreign press, as well as theatre and visual arts.
At the end of the seminar, a book presentation, The nostalgia and mimicry: Lithuanian and Latvian post-war diaspora novels by Laura Laurušaitė (Vilnius: Institute of Lithuanian Literature and Folklore), took place. Guests, Dr Manfredas Žvirgždas, Assoc. Dr Kuizinienė and Dr Čičelis, stressed the novelty of the book, especially the methodological tools, comparative and postcolonial perspectives, and their successful adaptation for Lithuanian and Latvian emigrant novels. The author of the monograph noted that one of her main objectives while writing the book was to introduce Lithuanian readers to a rich Latvian diaspora prose, especially bearing in mind that not a single work from more than 400 Latvian diaspora novels published in post-war is available in Lithuanian language.
The exhibition is dedicated to the 25th anniversary of Lithuania’s independence. The title was inspired by the essay “No, my friends, we won’t go slow” written by émigré artist Jonas Mekas, published at the end of March 1990 in the New York Times, one of the largest circulation newspapers in the US.
The exhibition offers various articles by famous journalists and authors, as well as editorials in the regional press of 14 countries. The clippings were carefully collected and sent to the Library by Lithuanian émigrés and friends of Lithuania living abroad.
The project’s partner – The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Lithuania. We kindly thank prof. Dr. Nijolė Kašelionienė, Assoc. Dr. Carmen Caro Dugo, Rimantas Morkvėnas, Danutė Janutienė, Vitalija Gylikienė, Jonas Rimka, Vaclava Filipovič, Žana Tarasevič, Laura Tupe, Gabrielė Klimaitė-Želvienė, Vaidas Radavičius ir Gytis Marcinkevičius for their assistance in translating.