Ar Jono Noreikos įkūnyti Lietuvos gerovės kūrimo veiksmai, mintys, idealai atspindi pačius geriausius bendravimo, pagarbos, dėkingumo pavyzdžius, istorinę tiesą? Ar norime, kad mūsų vaikai ir vaikaičiai augdami, bręsdami siektų tokių idealų?
Keistas požiūris i mūsų, lietuvių, didvyriškumo, žmogiškumo suvokimą, istorinį supratimą, perduodamą iš kartos į kartą, kai pavyzdiniu išskirtiniu istoriniu asmeniu pristatomas žmogus, į kurio įsitikinimus, veikimus, esybę pilnutinai neįsigilinta… Kad ir kokie istoriniai faktai, dokumentai atskleidžiami, kai kurie tai nepaiso, laikosi savų įsitikinimų, nepagrįstų tikrovės įrodymais.
Kodėl mes nesiekiame kultūros, dvasingumo kad augtume ir tobulėtume?
Daug laiko praleidžiu skaitydama FB ir domėdamasi įvairiais Lietuvių forumais, kur, tik paminėjus Jono Noreikos vardą, išreiškiant savo asmeninę nepritariamą nuomonę, iškart esu įvardinama komuniste ir pan., o jei priešingai – tikra patriote. Iš tiesų, kas mes – tie, kurie įsigiliname į istorinius faktus ir išreiškiame savo nuomonę?
Nekenčiu sovietinio režimo, gerbiu ir myliu savo tautos kultūrą, savo didžiąją laiko ir energijos dalį skiriu lietuvybės išsaugojimui ir dalinimuisi. Nuo mažumės buvau stipriai įtakojama savo tėvų, kurie atkakliai siekė Lietuvos laisvės. Kai antrą kartą buvo atgauta Lietuvos Nepriklausomybė, tėvų paskatinta, įsitraukiau į Lietuvos organizacijas prasmingai save realizuoti. Keletą metų teko dirbti istorijos ir lietuvių kalbos pagrindų mokytoja lietuviškoje Orange County mokykloje. Ketverius metus rašiau straipsnius laikraščiams “Draugas” ir “Dirva”. Dirbu Baltijos Amerikos Laisvės Lygos (BAFL) sekretore.
Baisiuosi sovietine sistema, sovietine mąstysena, myliu Lietuvą ir mūsų lietuvišką kultūrą. Kiekvieną kartą sugrįžtant Lietuvon, išvydus miškus, laukus, žaliasias pievas…, iš meilės suspurda širdis, pajaučiu savo krašto gyvastį…
Myliu ir gerbiu savo krašto didvyrius. Ju daug – puikių, drąsių, įkūnijančių vertybes, tik ne tokias, kokiomis vadovaujasi įvardinamas Jonas Noreika. Jis nėra Lietuvos didvyris. Mano nuomone, jo išreikštos mintys, veiksmai, darbai, pasiekimai neatspindi žmogaus – didvyrio, nors ir buvo kovotoju prieš Lietuvos sovietų okupaciją, kaip ir daugelis mūsų. Ir kurie paliko savo gimtąjį kraštą dėl karo, emigravo į užsienio šalis, aktyviai įsijungė į veiklą puoselėjant lietuvybę, kalbą, kultūrą: kūrė mokyklas, šokių grupes, socialines organizacijas, žiniasklaidą, kovojo už Lietuvos laisvės sugrąžinimą. Ir gyvenantys Lietuvoje, iškentę sovietinį režimą, Sibiro tremtis, kankinimus, badą, skurdą, kitas kančias ir vargus, sugebėjo išsaugoti ir puoselėti mūsų tautinę kultūrą, kalbą, tikėjimą, papročius. tradicijas, atkakliai kovojo, gynė savo kraštą, aukojosi. Didvyriškumo pavyzdžių tikrai yra daug ir įvairių.
Jei visuomenei viešai pateikiamas asmens įvardinimas didvyriu, didžiu kovotoju, tai jau neturėtų kilti abejonių dėl jo žmogiškųjų vertybių, veiksmų, elgesio, garbumo. Jonas Noreika veikė ir kovojo prieš sovietų okupaciją, bet kaip ir daugelis to meto lietuvių. Žinoma, būnant generolu turėjo didesnių galimybių priimant įvairius sprendimus, tvirtinant nutarimus. Tokia jo veikimų galia pasireiškė ir įkuriant getą, o tai lėmė tūkstančių Lietuvos piliečių nužudymą. Jo įsakymu buvo suimami nekalti žmonės, užpuolami netikėtai, jiems dirbant įprastinius kasdienius darbus, nepateikus jokių kaltinimo ir suėmimo įrodymų, apiplėšiant, pasisavinant jų turtą, grąsinant, kankinant… Stalinas veikė panašiai… Argi galima pateisinti tokius žiaurumus bei gerbti tuos, kurie žudė kitus?
Kodėl taip nutinka nepriklausomoje Lietuvoje?
Ne tik J. Noreikos veiksmai rodo, kad toks asmuo nėra vertas didvyrio vardo, bet ir jo mąstysena, jog kai kuriuos Lietuvos žmones reikia persekioti, eliminuoti, nėra gerbtina. Tai mūsų istorijos juoduliai. Apmaudu, jog mums tenka tokios istorinės patirtys. Bet praeities blogis neturi būti “užtušuojamas” ir viešinant Lietuvos kovotojus prieš sovietų okupaciją, ir tuos, kurie įvertinami kaip paminklų nusipelniusieji. Deja, mūsų bendruomenė nebuvo išprususi. Sovietmečiu buvome mokomi klaidingos istorijos. Daugelis Lietuvos žmonių ir dabar vis dar tokias įsisavintas žinias vertina kaip tiesą ir teisingus faktus. Turime mokytis is savo praeities istorijos, atvirai pripažinti blogį, nebijoti parodyti, kad žiaurūs poelgiai buvo daromi visų tautiečių vardu. Esame pakankamai stiprūs ir brandūs žmonės, privalome pasipriešinti blogiui, oriai priimti savo istorijos tiesas, pripažinti praeities išgyvenimus.
Dabar, kai Lietuvoje vėl susigrąžinta laisvė ir nepriklausomybė, galbūt, įmanoma susigrąžinti ir anksčiau puoselėtas bei skatintas vertybes – pagarbą, žmogiškąjį orumą, dvasingumą, meilę, tikėjimą, tarpusavio supratimą, draugiškumą, atjautą, nuoširdumą, vieningumą..?
Tegu tai pasiekia kiekvienio lietuvio širdį.
2016 m. Lietuvoje įvyko milžiniškas šuolis į priekį įvertinant savojo krašto istoriją. Tūkstantinės minios Lietuvos žmonių susirinko Molėtuose, Šeduvoje, Biržuose, Vilniuje tragiškoms aukoms pagerbti.
Mūsų tautos istorijoje užtektinai didvyrių poetų, mokytojų, vadovų ar kitų piliečių, apie kuriuos kaip pavyzdinius rastume daug informacijos bibliotekose. Pastatai, gatvės pavadinamos didvyrių vardais, bet ar visada tai atspindi tiesą? Valdžia, viešindama tariamąjį didvyrį, tuo pačiu pripažįsta ir jo principus, veiklą. Visuomenėje jau diskutuojama apie mūsų tautos toleranciją ir orumą, todėl svarbu, kad valdžia į tai atsižvelgtų ir padarytų deramas išvadas.
Kviečiu, vienykimės dvasia. Tai neseniai parodė ir Molėtuose vykęs istorinės atminties renginys. Pakylėjant mūsų Lietuvos kultūrą į neribotas aukštumas pagerbkime tuos didvyrius, kuriais pagrįstai galėtų didžuotis visi.
Aut. Aleksandra Kudukytė
Vert. red. Rima Stanelytė
A Passion to Serve Born from the Destruction of 9/11
By: Alexandra Kudukis
September 11, 2001, a day eternally engraved in the hearts of every American.
No matter where we were, and what we were doing, we all remember dropping everything, and being transfixed, watching with horror the devastation unfolding before our eyes. Pure shock, pain and suffering followed; submerging our hearts.
Thousands of miles away sat a ten-year old boy in a tiny village on the outskirts of the small country of Lithuania. The boy sat stoically, also transfixed, by the images appearing on his TV screen. The scenes of devastation, the pain, suffering and torment imprinted themselves on his heart, and changed him forever.
From that moment on, Aurimas Širvys dedicated his life to serving others.
“Others destroy, I repair and rebuild. It’s what drives me continuously. You can’t prevent people from choosing to hurt and destroy, but you can choose to help and rebuild” he stated.
We see negative reports every single day, everywhere across the globe, horrific attack after horrific attack, and devastation after devastation. This is one person who decided to use the pain and suffering he witnessed on 9/11- for good.
Aurimas grew up over the course of the last 15 years; he studied diligently, and is now an architect.
He travels around Lithuania finding tattered and broken synagogues and churches and helps to repair them, sharing their stories and restored beauty with others, using his now finely honed talents.
There is good in all things woven into the worst, if we choose to seem. Aurimas used the impression the tragic events of 9/11 left on him to help his people and his country. Born in 1991, in the small city of Obeliai, in the district of Rokiskis, from the first time he picked up a pencil he loved to draw and sketch. With his mother’s encouragement he applied and was accepted to art school. Up to the age 10, he considered many professions including archeology, biology, even paleontology.
All that changed for Aurimas on September 11, 2001. He returned home from school, and turned on the TV, his normal routine, expecting to watch the Simpsons at that time. As the first graphic images flashed in front of his eyes, he felt confused, not completely comprehending what he was witnessing. He turned the channel only to learn that on this day, all the channels were showing what had had just occurred in New York City. “At first, I simply didn’t understand, I was only in the 4th grade, it was just too much for me,” However, as he continued to watch, he became transfixed. The images drew him in. “I had never seen devastation of that magnitude. All I could do with the intense emotions I was experiencing was to draw. I sketched the towers with the American flag in front, the best job my shaky and overwhelmed ten year- old hands could manage. The images, the screams, the terror burned right though me. I still have that picture, I keep it to remind me of why I do my work.”
From that day forward, a desire to help and repair was born in him. “As I grew, I began to explore, and to seek. I wandered throughout the Lithuanian countryside on my bicycle; I looked at things differently, with a new perspective. I became completely absorbed by the history of Lithuania’s architecture. All of it, the broken bridges, the buildings, the roofs with holes, some even entirely crumbling into the ground. I wanted to help; to repair all I saw.” He studied diligently and was accepted to and eventually graduated from the Vilnius Art Academy.
“My work repairing the synagogues and churches began while I was in my second year of study. I began to work at a museum, while employed there I was asked to participate in a trip to Byelorussia.” He visited a synagogue there that needed repairs, assisting with 3D measurements. The beauty of the architecture took him in and the experience drove him to learn more, and with subsequent research he began to understand how much was lost in Lithuania. Inspired by what he learned, he created the 3D exhibition “Gone and Disappearing- The History of Wooden Synagogues in Lithuania”.
Aurimas is currently enrolled in a Masters degree program at the university and is considering a doctorate program; he plans on creating more exhibitions in the future that he will share with the public. He has an upcoming project starting in 2017 involving Lutheran churches and subsequently one with Catholic churches in Lithuania.
Aurimas Širvys- a man using tragedy in a positive way to share, help, to heal, and to restore his homeland’s rich and disappearing history.
The Day Lithuania Became a Culture of We
By Alexandra Kudukis
Nearly three thousand participants walked this day to pay tribute to the over 2,000 Jewish Lithuanians — 700 adults and 1463 children — who were murdered here on August 29, 1941.
This historic day, 75 years after the tragic event, heralds an era of renewed respect and unity for the Lithuanian people and the country at large. For many years, Lithuanian historians have urged Lithuanians to come to terms with the events of 1941 that suddenly ended Jewish civilization in their country. A change in public awareness, however, began with two recent publications. The first, Rūta Vanagaitė’s book „Mūsiškiai,“ looked unflinchingly at the role of Lithuanians in the deaths their Jewish fellow citizens. The second was May 2016 article written by Molėtai native Marius Ivaškevičius entitled, “The Jews [and] the Curse of Lithuania,” which, among other things, observed how Lithuanians are often perceived by those in the West who are quite familiar with Lithuania’s past.
The Molėtai march does not overcome Lithuania’s years of selective ignorance of the events of 1941. However, quite significantly, the majority of the participants were ethnic Lithuanians. This represents a major change in the public conversation about the Holocaust in Lithuania. By closing the “information gap” about the Holocaust, the Lithuanian people may, slowly, confront what Lithuanian historian Saulius Sužiedelis referred to as “the greatest single atrocity in modern Lithuanian history” (“The Burden of 1941,” http://www.lituanus.org/2001/01_4_04.htm ) and, hopefully, the West will see a new Lithuania in a better light.
In his May 2016 article, Ivaškevičius encouraged Lithuanians not to be mere spectators at the August 29 march, “Imagine: Several dozens of Molėtai’s Jews will walk the same way their relatives walked 75 years ago, and 6,000 citizens of Molėtai will watch them from their homes. This is the worst thing that can happen. My town cannot or does not want to understand the importance of this event. It should be helped. So I call for everyone to join us. You will not need to do anything, just go—together with our Jews. The march will take place anyway, but the question is will the Jews go alone again or shall we go with them. May the 29th of August become the day of our reconciliation.”
And, quite happily, over 3,000 ethnic Lithuanians answered his call. Moreover, as one man in attendance noted, a viable energy was palpable, heavy, clinging in the air and to every participant.
This attendee, Aurimas Širvys, was asked by the event organizers to contribute to the success of the march after they learned of his exhibition “The Lost and Disappearing Architectural Heritage – Lithuanian’s Wooden Synagogues.” Širvys is a young architect who works to positively effect change and to help his country heal. He has spent several years visiting Lithuania’s towns and cities helping to identify the images of local churches and synagogues and to restore these buildings, even in the face of recurring vandalism, noting “while others may destroy, my place in this world is to repair”.
Širvys, along with 3000 of his countrymen, marched the 2.2-kilometer route over which the Jewish population of Molėtai – 700 adults and 1463 children – were herded to their deaths on that devastating day on August 29, 1941.
It was reported that a few drops of rain fell on the marchers as they walked, as if they heavens cried with them.
“A miraculous event occurred,” Širvys recalled of the procession. “As we began to march, the local residents simply started to leave their homes and joined in. It was almost surreal to watch; it was an amazing occurrence. And those who did not join, stood. They stood outside their front doors erect, as a sign of respect.
Širvys recalled the intensely somber feeling among the participants, heaviness. “As I walked shoulder to shoulder, I got the sense, looking from person to person, that we all could sense how the Jews of Molėtai must have felt when they walked this road 75 years ago. For me, and no doubt for the others, one could imagine the enormity of what occurred here. For the first time in many years, Jews and Christians once again walked together to pay to tribute to fallen fellow countrymen. Today, those who walked, and who watched, finally began to understand the events of 1941 as not simply a Jewish tragedy, but as one that we all collectively share.”
In her address, President Grybauskaitė mirrored the sentiment of the day, stating that we as Lithuanians see, comprehend, and mourn these events as a shared Lithuanian tragedy.
The President’s words were moving, but of greater significance was participation of ordinary Lithuanians, who, individually, chose to publicly show respect and, thereby, made the Molėtai commemoration a turning point in Lithuania’s memory of 1941. Hopefully, August 29, 2016, will be written down a generation from now as the day Lithuania stopped being a country of “them” and “us” and became, once again, a country of “we.”
ILF- International Lithuanian Federation www.iamlietuva.com Interview with Syrian Journalist Redwan Eid
I had the outstanding opportunity to speak with Redwan Eid, the Syrian journalist currently residing in Lietuvą. Many of us can relate to the refugee experience being the children or grandchildren of refugees from Lithuania.
Take a moment to learn of the experiences of a refugee who was taken in by Lietuva.
Thank you Redwan Eid for taking the time to speak with me. I learned so much from you as a person and about the modern day refugee experience.
Interview with Journalist Redwan Eid
Redwan Eid is a Syrian journalist who currently resides in Lithuania. He has recently been featured in a multi-part series in the Lithuanian Tribune. I was immediately drawn to his story. Perhaps, initially, because we both are journalists, a superficial commonality, and then as I learned of his struggles, on a more basic more human level, I felt a growing connection to his story and his struggle.
I loved the Lithuanian Tribune articles. I thought they were insightful and well written. But I wanted to know more; my curiosity was increasingly piqued with every subsequent article. I wanted to know more about Redwan as a person, about Syria as it once was, and what the experience of leaving absolutely everyone and everything behind you to start again was like. So, with all these unanswered questions gnawing at me, I reached out to Redwan. He graciously agreed to an interview. I learned so much more than I had hoped: about the man, the journey, and the refugee experience.
It’s easy to view people as statistics, until you learn about the person himself or herself, that every statistical number in actuality has a beating pulse, fears, hopes and dreams. Thank you Redwan, you were more candid and honest than I had expected, and I thank you for sharing part of yourself with me.
Could you share a little about Syria- what it was like for you as a child, and how did it change in the past few years?
Well, to answer this question, I need to flashback in memory to the very early times of my childhood.
Syria as a child didn’t hold a special meaning, since a child would not realize that the land they are on can be different from other places. If the child even realizes that there are many lands with different names, all I could know about my country as a child is that “this is where I am, I live here”.
I am a child of two patriot parents, I can still remember how strongly my father expressed his emotions toward Syria and never chose to go abroad for a job in spite of the many, many tempting chances he had.
Still, as a child, a negative side about my country in my memory maybe took over. The prejudice I witnessed as a pupil in elementary school, where I, with others, could see how those children of people in authority, including the army and other high ranks in the regime, were given advantages over us. These ‘others’ were treated way better than the other pupils, and for nothing. They were tolerated for any mistakes they committed and were given all they wanted and desired in the school. To an extent, for them, the school was as a club to only hang out in. Now, as an adult, I can say the domestic rules of Syrian schools were tailored for their sizes!!
They didn’t have to do homework, nor study for exams. They would pass the exams whatever their efforts and, sometimes, with far superior grades.
I, with others, were still well-treated, but for our good manners and achievements in our studies only. Meanwhile the spoiled children of the people in authority were given the same treatment as we were, if not even sometimes better, despite their bad manners and low grades they achieved in reality. We were always surprised that eventually they were “the high-grade achievers”.
So that was a starting point for me in realizing that this country, “Syria”, has those issues, without being aware as a child that they are “issues” or what is the meaning of such a word!
Such stories affected our memories as children in schools. As we grew up, we realized that the prejudice of teachers and school headmasters in favor of those “privileged” spoiled children had another reason: our sectarian origins, as those children belonged to the same sect Hafiz Al-Assad and his men belonged to.
Facts like these are not understood by children at their age, nor would their families provide clarity, since parents would not willingly plant such ideas in the minds of their kids. But life can’t hide it for long and, with time, they learned for themselves!
Hence, as we grew up we learned that the regime was totally corrupt!
Otherwise, all the love I have towards my country is for the land in its moral meaning, as a country that I adore and wish to come back to later when the war is over, and to participate in reconstructing it.
For sure, to talk about my whole love for my country, Syria, I would need books and books to tell the people about, and cannot be summarized in mere lines.
How was the ability to live a normal life altered? Did you always want to pursue journalism?
The credit for me leading a normal life goes to my parents, and my parents only. I am a child of cultivated, well-educated parents who brought me up, alongside with my brother and sisters, on the basis of love and respect for our land and all people regardless of where they come from or what religion, race or colour they are, as well as other historical factors that have played a role in forming prejudice among nations. This was the base and, regarding my domestic life, my parents gave us all what we wanted. They were simple employees for governmental departments and used to earn a low monthly income from their jobs, but they did their best to please us and bring us up in a moral way.
At home, under their supervision, we might have been the most spoiled children ever, we had everything we ever wished to have. Regardless of how expensive it was, they just brought it to us the second day we asked for it, even if they would need to borrow money from friends to afford it. They just didn’t want us to feel like we wanted for anything: a doll, an electronic gadget and we couldn’t have it. They made birthday parties every year on a regular basis, not only to celebrate our birthdays and make us happy, but to teach us how to behave on such occasions when we got invited to friends’ homes for such parties.
I can still remember that, all the time, my father worked overtime at his job to afford the “luxurious life” we lived. Compared to many people I knew, we lived well. My mother also worked tirelessly, she used to tailor dresses for ladies in the afternoon and evenings to gain more money to afford the life she and my father wanted for us.
She is a brilliant mother, and has very beautiful, modernized taste. She studied the arts, so she cared about artistic things and tiny details, and paid serious attention to etiquette and other related details in our upbringing. Although rarely, she even painted pictures at home in her free time.
My parents indulged us a lot, but they would never tolerate two things: if we did badly at the school, or someone (mostly a neighbor) would complain about us misbehaving. At those points, they would firmly discipline us, and had no mercy in that regard!
As for my career in journalism, I am going to give you the very typical answer that we hear from actors and well-known celebrities, which is “it all happened by chance”.
Personally I had always thought that such answers were made up. I would think: “come on… how can such things happen by chance. Look at those people who don’t belong to the ground”. Then it happened to me.
I never planned to pursue a career in journalism specifically, but I wasn’t far from that. Instead, I always fancied being a news anchor, or an actor. But especially a news anchor. I always dreamt of getting such a job in a TV, but it was just a dream that I didn’t actively try to fulfill.
I like languages very much, and I have been fond of English since the first lesson I took as a child. Here I would again like to mention my mother, since she was the one who taught us English at home and helped us revise for the exams. Later, when I finished high school, I felt like I wanted to have a job using my English skills and that’s why I studied tourism, through which I hoped to get a job in the flight industry. However after I finished my studies, I did not work as a flight attendant or tour-guide. As it happened, at that time, a local newspaper launched in my city and they needed employees from different specialties. I applied there.
I remember that my teachers always paid me compliments on my gift in writing and expressing myself about the situation I was discussing. So I can say that I was always gifted in composition at school, which is “writing” in general. Although I acknowledge that “writing” is not “journalism”, I am a good news reader and follower of current affairs in general, so that helped me in doing my job as a journalist.
So, the whole matter happened “by chance”.
How did you end up coming to Lithuania?
I arrived in Greece, making my way from Turkey, where I had stayed for a year and a half. In Turkey I worked as an English teacher first, due to the lack of journalistic opportunities. Later I continued my job as a journalist for some Syrian news websites and a radio station, where I could feel like my dream came true as I was a news anchor, though only partially, as it was not on TV!
So after I made to Greece, I registered in the relocation programme, which allocated me to Lithuania. At the beginning, I was rather scared of going to a country that I did not know, nor its people and culture!
What are your impressions of Lithuania and Lithuanian people?
The answer to this question seems to be a continuation of the previous one; so honestly, I would say that I now feel comfortable here in Lithuania. I have many Lithuanian friends of various ages and they have been very welcoming and really tried to ease things for me and lessen the feeling of “isolation”. I initially felt isolated as a newcomer to the country who definitely felt strange at the beginning.
Lithuanians are nice and lovely, and, as I am starting my life here, and would for sure need help from some friends. I really cannot say enough about the generosity and courteousness I have been met with by my Lithuanian friends, even going so far as to offering to host me at their homes until I find an apartment in Vilnius.
I think I can confidently say that I love the Lithuanians and they are good-hearted people.
Still, I was met with some rejection and prejudice by a few Lithuanians, on the basis of my nationality or religion. However this small number never truly represents the majority of Lithuania. Secondly, I can understand that Lithuanian society is not yet prepared to receive refugees and still has fears in that regard, which is understandable. I am sure, with time, there is going to be a good relationship between the Lithuanians and refugees.
Thank you Redwan- it was both insightful as well as a pleasure learning more about your early life, your experiences, and your goals.
by: Alexandra Kudukis
I was very shocked (as many were) when I read the initial JTA article about the Seventh Fort in Kaunas. Here is the link:
The rebuttal piece that followed in the form of a Lietuvos Rytas article was not quite clear. Here is the link:
I thought as a rebuttal piece it should have been much more comprehensive and should have included more Jewish and well other Lithuanian community leaders’ input.
This issue is far from black and white. Mr. Orlov presented at the Yad Vashem in 2012. Here is a link to that article:
“Vladimir Orlov, a young local archaeologist, found the items – and revealed a dark secret hidden for 70 years.
At a 10-day seminar held at The International School for Holocaust Studies in Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority in Jerusalem for Lithuanian educators that ended Wednesday, Orlov presented his research in a talk: “The Beginning of the Holocaust in Lithuania (VII Fort Findings).”
He documented and shared personal belongings he found at the site. The man has made real efforts to document and care for items he found on the site. He understands both the societal and historical importance of the site as evidenced on his website.
Because of this “Jewish genocide in the 7th Fort (1941)””Guides will not only show you the past, but they also will talk about the future. In 2009 NGO “Military heritage centre” are investigating this crime for the humanity. They are also fixing the place where all the people were buried. NGO “Military heritage centre” also published a book and the movie “7th Fort: Lithuanian tragedy”. You will be able to buy them in 7th Fort Information centre.”
Additionally, Mr. Orlov has a website, in English/Lithuanian/Russian describing his non-profit and work regarding the site including videos. Here is the link:
The site provides information about the events and activities of the NGO that is responsible for the fort, as well as a list of publications, and information about the projects it has undertaken with various organizations, including universities, research centers and the like:
“In 2007 Military Heritage Centre kept in close contact with Kaunas municipal authorities (senior ranking officials – vice-mayor and members of Municipal Council) in relation to Kaunas fortress forts conservation and regeneration issues. The Centre representative proposed to rent one of the fortress forts on long-term basis with the intention to carry out restoration works. However this culturally-lucrative deal was never realized due to the fact all derelict forts belong to the State and are not under control of Municipality. With regard to the circumstances it was decided to purchase the fort. In early 2009 the Seventh fort was purchased. As of today, fort restoration project and plans for “Kaunas Fortress museum” creation on its grounds are firmly under way. The museum is set to become an important public scientific popular and cultural centre. In connection with future fort restoration and conservation, a preliminary museum concept has been developed and initial applied research of the military heritage has commenced. Moreover, by decree signed by Mayor of Kaunas City and on MHC initiative, a Task Force concerned with issues of adapting Kaunas fortress elements for the needs of the society was created.
Currently, Military Heritage Centre is the leading public non-commercial organization in Lithuania, actively working in and contributing to the military historical heritage field. It boasts a marvelously rich collection of materials, strong and fruitful ties within Eastern European scientific circles and a very solid material technical base for conducting applied scientific research (including a unique mobile research laboratory complex, the only of its kind in Lithuania). The centre is keeping in constant contact with state, public and commercial sectors, and has established itself as a reliable and professional business partner, able to produce significant results within tight deadlines. Military Heritage Centre welcomes everyone partial with our cause for cooperation in the effort to tackle the issues of conservation and modern integration of unique all-European military historical heritage.”
“Moreover, by decree signed by Mayor of Kaunas City and on MHC initiative, a Task Force concerned with issues of adapting Kaunas fortress elements for the needs of the society was created. This may explain some of the information listed on the website that is at best, odd, at worst inappropriate and insensitive.
“The 7th Fort of Kaunas Fortress is 7,5 ha nature and history oasis in Kaunas, Žaliakalnis district, 5 minutes away from city center. 7th fort museum can offer you not only excursions but also other interesting services – children’s parties, corporate and community events, artist’s workshops, a variety of children camps and so on. What is more 7th Fort – fantastic place for professional and amateur films or photo shoots. Go beyond standard solutions – if we will connect your and our ideas – it will become a unique product for your event or party.”
As stated on their website, they have birthday parties, as well as themed parties for adults, and St. John’s Festivals (Jonines). Here is the link:
Orlov states, in the Lietuvos Rytas article, that there is significant distance between the burial site and the area that he rents out for their events. However, it is important to remember that it is still the same fort, the same land.
At the very least, the appearance of impropriety exists. Is this due to the lingering Soviet-style mindset that the upbringing that those who grew up Lithuania during the Soviet occupation experienced? This system has been argued to have created a slight overall insensitivety to the value and importance of human life. Does and/or can this effect the solemnity which they revere final resting places?
There is also the issue of funding which needs to be addressed. The site needs to keep up maintenance, which must be expensive. The renting Orlov does is needed to support the structure and planned projects.
Which then leads to the question of the privatization itself. Was it correct to privatize such a structure in the first place? Due to the fact that the site is in private hands, it lacks sufficient government funding; the owner needs to support the structure, which leads to questionable alternatives. Perhaps the structure needs a better source of funding so they don’t have to rely on the renting out of the facilities?
One question that I would like answered is that of the educational component. It’s stated on the site that there is one. Are the people who rent the site informed about the history? Are they taken to the memorial? If so, then at least people, who otherwise may not be aware, are being informed of the structure’s past. Especially in the case of the children who camp here, if they are instructed as to the entire history of the site going back to and including the events of WWII, it could be used to positively impact the next generation. With the “adult themed parties” listed on the site, it’s more problematic, and would seem difficult to incorporate educational elements into these.
There is more that needs to be discussed on the subject. It is my sincere hope that the links I’ve shared promote and foster constructive debate, which then leads to discussions that offer real solutions. I feel that questions should be raised so that the Seventh Fort may be used and supported properly, because at the heart of the matter is that fact that this is the final resting place our fallen fellow brother and sister Lithuanians, and they deserve a fitting, solemn, permanent resting place.
The following is an interview between Grant Gochin and Alexandra Kudukis, ILF www.iamlietuva.com Senior Correspondent. Grant is a well-known Litvak engaged in Lithuanian society.
Alex: Grant, thank you for meeting with me and agreeing to be interviewed.
Grant: Thanks Alex, I very deeply care about our common heritage and moving our common cause forward in a progressive and constructive fashion.
Alex: When and how did you become involved in Lithuania?
Grant: My Grandfather taught me stories when I was a small child, I grew up with it in the home. When Lithuania was still occupied by the Soviets, I engaged with the then Lithuanian Diplomats who were still accredited, even though Lithuania no longer existed as a sovereign nation. Before independence, I attempted contact with the remnants of the Jewish Community, and in 1992, I made my first visit to Lithuania to begin to engage. I claimed heritage citizenship in Lithuania for the first time in 1991, while it was still Soviet. I have returned to Lithuania many more times since, I feel very at home there now.
Alex: You are very well known among Lithuanian society, often with a poor image as an agitator.
Grant: Yes. I have been an agitator in Lithuania since 1991. It was an interest of mine as a young child, and it has continued throughout my life. I was involved in the South African liberation movement in the 1980’s, and paid a heavy personal price, but those were the values my Grandparents taught me, and I live according to those values. So too, must we work on righting and recording history, and walking towards future reconciliation. If that makes me unpopular, so be it.
Alex: But, why would citizenship be a criteria for you?
Grant: It is a legal tie, connecting the generations and people. With a legal tie, it becomes tangible and necessary to walk the path to a better future. Jewish survival has been so random, so fragile, people have been murdering Jews for a few thousand years, we are no longer victims but a proud people that stake our claim in society, and so we need to build bridges and connect. Jews lived in Lithuania for about 700 years, to lose that tie would be tragic for both Jews and Lithuanians, so we must walk the path together to truth and ultimate reconciliation.
Alex: Do you now have Lithuanian citizenship?
Grant: Yes, I first applied in 1991 and was denied. I then applied in 2004 and was denied, I then applied a third time and was denied. I knew that the rejection was based upon my Jewishness, and I was not going to allow bureaucrats to dictate the future of Jewish Lithuanian relations, so I pursued it. I wrote a book about my experiences titled: “Malice, Murder and Manipulation” and a blog with some of my writings at www.ggochin.wordpress.com. I have also been extensively quoted on the subject which has become quite contentious.
Alex: Recently, Lithuanian Parliament has passed new legislation on Jewish citizenship.
Grant: Actually, the legislation does not even address Jews, it applies to all Lithuanians, Jews and non Jews alike. Unfortunately, a few disingenuous people have termed it as “Jewish legislation”. It is because they simply do not know the history or the background of the subject. This particular situation was created by bureaucrats at the Interior Ministry who created a dishonest environment and denied Jewish applications based on their own ideological platform. It was one new tactic they created, after having applied many more different tactics in the past. This legislation came from very many years of hard work by people like Faina Kukliansky, Andrius Kubilius, Gediminas Kirkilas, Vydas Gedvilas, Emanuel Zingeris, Sergey Kanovich, Darius Udrys, Dr. Leonidas Donskis, and myself, dedicated, hard working, deeply concerned Lithuanians and Litvaks alike that have worked together for the betterment of all Lithuanian society. Ex-Lithuanian Ambassador to Israel, Darius Degutis, and current Lithuanian Ambassador to Israel, Edminas Bogdonas have also been invaluable in their assistance.
Alex: But I have read claims from others that they were responsible for this legislation.
Grant: There are always 1,000 parents of every success, and every failure is an orphan, the record is replete with articles and agitation from the people I mentioned; ask those claiming parentage of this legislation to show their public record of actions, otherwise it is mostly a few insecure people trying to make themselves look important or to turn this into business opportunities for themselves. There is a great difference in selfless work for betterment of society, and other people turning our decades long, hard work into their business opportunities.
Alex: Do you expect Litvaks to claim citizenship?
Grant: I hope so. This should not be a matter of convenience, but a re-kindling of ties. There is an entire passport industry in the world, our work will create a new cottage industry for lawyers who will make all forms of claims to generate business opportunities, but the purpose of our work has been to create opportunities for reconciliation, to open paths of dialog, to begin to have history and rights recognized. We cannot bring back the murdered, we can remember them and honor them. This is one way.
Alex: Why would applicants need a lawyer to claim citizenship?
Grant: They do not. They can do it at their local Embassy. If people feel the need to hire a lawyer, they should hire a lawyer inside Lithuania. A South African, Israeli, Mexican or American lawyer would only add layers of cost and time to the process. In all likelihood, a non Lithuanian lawyer would be more of an impediment to the process than a benefit, but people are free to do as they wish.
Alex: What other activities are you involved in inside Lithuania:
Grant: I was Chair of an organization called Maceva where we restored over 40 Jewish cemeteries in Lithuania and collaborated on another 20. We have worked on documenting the history of Jewish life in Lithuania, we are working towards the re-writing of school text books to include the history of Jewish Lithuanians and the contributions of Jews to Lithuanian society. Much of Nazi and Soviet propaganda still is accepted “truth” within Lithuania, it is a false narrative which needs to be corrected. The youth of Lithuania are by and large fine people who are not responsible for the actions of their Grandparents, but they do not know what the facts are. We need to ensure that truth is in the public domain, and objective truth is told, that is why one of my goals is correcting school textbooks to give an accurate reading of facts, not repeating of fiction.
We are also working to take down monuments and memorials to Holocaust perpetrators. In 2012, the Lithuanian State re-buried a perpetrator named Brazaitis with State Honors. It is a stain of shame that will stand over Lithuania for generations to come. They also re-buried other perpetrators with honors. Lithuanian society needs to recognize historical truths, face them, and then move forward. How could there be reconciliation without truth? One of the biggest current obstacles to truth is a Lithuanian Government Institution called the “Genocide Center” which is staffed by some disingenuous people with ideological agenda’s to obfuscate truth. Unfortunately, they speak with the authority of the Government, and are therefore destructive towards attempts at reconciliation. Their damage will need to be undone in the future, they are part of the problem, not part of the solution. It is very unfortunate.
Alex: But isn’t the new citizenship legislation an act towards reconciliation?
Grant: I am not an authorized representative of the Jewish community to speak about future reconciliation, I can only give my personal thoughts. Citizenship for Jews was originally denied to Jews in order to avoid property claims. It was then denied by ideologues within the Migration Department. Lithuania faces a demographic crisis, and an economic crisis. Leaders in Government view Litvaks as a possible escape path for both of these crises, so, now becoming more open to Jewish heritage citizenship is self serving for Lithuania. The Foreign Ministry is touting this as an act of reconciliation, but there is nothing in the law specific to Litvaks, so, no, I do not see this as an act of reconciliation. For reconciliation to happen, there has to be raw truth telling. The youth of Lithuania are ready to hear the truth and face the truth, it is the older generation that do not want to face truth. The young will be able to walk the path to reconciliation, then friendship, and ultimately, brotherhood. The single biggest requirement is truth.
Alex: Grant, thank you for all that you have done and continue to do for Lithuania, one day, we hope that all Lithuanians, Jews and non Jews alike, can walk that path to reconciliation, together, in friendship. Until then, your agitation has brought us far along the path, and Lithuania owes you a debt of gratitude for your dedication.
Grant Gochin is a Wealth Advisor and Financial Planner in Los Angeles. He is the author of “Malice, Murder and Manipulation”.
Mr. Gochin may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Amerikos Zydu Komiteto (American Jewish Committee , AJC) siu metu surengtame Globaliniame Diplomatiniame Seder (vakariene kuri centrinis Passover sventes ritualas) nuostabiai sutelke ivairiu tikybu dvasiskius , JAV valdzios atstovus , konsulus , ir tautybiu vadovus. LR Garbes konsule Ingrida Bubliene, ir LB atstovavo Dr. Stankus.
Cleveland AJC prezidentas Michael Cantor (kurio seneliai patyre caro priespauda rusu pavergtoje Lietuvoje) paaiskino susirinkusiems kad siu metu Seder tikslas uztarti persekiojamus , diskriminuojamus zmones kurie kencia uz savo tikyba, etnine kilme ivairiuose pasaulio krastuose .Ta tema AJC Regiono direktore Lee C. Shapiro meistriskai ijunge nuostabius kalbetojus i vakarienes programa.
Dr. Farid Sabet siurpiai atpasakojo kaip nuozmiai yra persekiojami ir zudomi Baha’i tikybos tikintieji Irane. Dr. Akran Boutros (tai Petras , nuo graikisko Petrus) apibudino kaip Koptu (Coptic) krikscionis, originaliu Hamitu egyptieciu palikuonys , vis labiau persiakiojami , diskriminuojami arabu muzulmonu Egypte. Iskelta kaip kituose muzulmonu krastuose , ypatingai Syrijoje ir ISIS kontroliuojamoje teritorijoje, krikscionis ir muzulmonu mazumos persekiojamos , zudamos . Kalbejo ir kiti krikscioniu dvasiskiai.
Jungtiniu Ukrainieciu Organizaciju Ohio(United Ukrainian Organizations) prezidente Marta Liscynesky-Kelleher pristate kaip vis tesiasi Ukrainieciu zudimai , Putino agresijos aukoms Kryme ir rytineje Ukrainoje .
Seder ruosos ko-pirmininke Rachel Uram kviete susirinkusius isijungti i AJC Global Advocacy akcija , JAV kongrese paremti : rezolicija HR 220 pasmerkianti Baha’i persekiojima Irane ; AJC uzvesta rezolicija 2551 Genocide and Atrocities Act, sponsorius JAV senatorius Sherrod Brown (D,OH) ; Disinformation Act atremti Kremliaus propoganda, ypatingai pries Ukraina , sponsorius JAV senatorius Rob Portman (R,OH)
Ir buvo maloni staigmena Seder vakarieneje susipazinti su Jezuitu kunigu is Indijos , tevu Thomas Chillikulam SJ, dabartiniu Cleveland diocezijos Gesu jezuitu parapijos , salia John Carroll jezuitu universiteto , klebonu .Pasikalbeta apie lietuvi misijonieriu Anriu Rudamina SJ , kuris atkeliavo 1625 m. apastalauti Goa, Indijoje.
Bendrai Seder sujunge dalyvius sergeti tikybines ir zmonijos teiseas. Grazu kad AJC teigiamai ivertina rysius su Lietuva .
Dr. Viktoras Stankus
Nuotrauka : Dr. V. Stankus, JAV senatoriaus Rob Portman atstove , apigardos direktore Caryn Candisky; United Ukrainian Organizations Ohio prezidente Marta Liscynesky-Kelleher; Cleveland AJC prezidentas Michael Cantor; Kun. Thomas Chillkulam SJ.
Why not support a Lithuanian Author while reading an excellent Book?
Learn more about Lithuanian-American Author Karolis Gintaras Zukauskas (pen name Gint Aras) below in an exclusive ILF interview with the author.
1.) How did you begin writing, was the passion with you since childhood, or did it develop in you later in life?
It was there since childhood.
I was always very interested in stories. Among my most important memories are the stories my grandfather would tell in his calm, baritone voice, now before bedtime, later in a fishing boat, the sun setting behind us, our eyes affixed on bobbers. Some of them were fiction, but he told me stories of his flight from the old country, his life in the UNRRA camps and more.
I must have been seven or eight when he told me that I tried writing before I even knew the alphabet. I’d sit on a stair and draw lines of squiggles on a sheet of paper, then bring him the “text,” ask him to “read” it back to me. “What’s this story about?” I’d say it’s about a bear trying to forage for honey or a boy who wants to catch a big fish. He’d “read” that story to me, obviously making it up himself, but playing along, letting me claim it was “mine”.
Writing isn’t an activity to me. It’s a way of seeing the world, both a lens and a practice. It’s a state of constant focus and analysis crossed with dreaminess and wonder. It’s a kind of listening, and impulse to reorganize, reorder, retell. I’ve had it since I can remember.
2.) How much (if any) has growing up Lithuanian had on your writing style?
I wouldn’t be able to say that it’s affected my style. However, it has affected my content. I suppose content and style affect each other reciprocally. But I feel my writing style is affected much more by the books I’ve read than the experiences I’ve had.
Those experiences affect content directly. I write about universal themes like love and death. My treatment of them is informed by stories of loss that certainly arose from a childhood in Chicago, among migrants, refugees and displaced persons. I also write about the difference between memory and imagination, which to me has always been a fuzzy barrier, one clouded further by the experience of trauma, the kind that accompanies flight, departure, displacement, loss, war, abuse, etcetera.
Also constant in my writing is the theme of disappearance, of absence, of an entire everything that can be wiped clean without anyone left to remember it. I recently became aware of the complicated psycho-social roots of this theme.
I grew up during the Cold War, when the threat of nuclear war was real, and also when Lithuania did not exist as an independent state. There was fear, both implied and spoken among my elders, that one day we might all die out. No one else “knew” who we were and we “weren’t on the map,” so in those ways we were already failing to exist, if existence requires one to inhabit someone else’s mind. The antidote to this is to “maintain” and “share” culture, or at least the aspects of culture you believe are worth maintaining. That fear of failing to exist—in the manner you wish to exist—influences what characters end up in my stories.
Obviously, this is a deep well of clean water but also unfathomable darkness. There is no such thing as a culture of pure victims, of people who were always threatened and persecuted while threatening and persecuting no one. Lithuania has a history of 1000 years, and there is more than one blemish in the record, to speak softly. In my teens, I woke up to what a manicured and sentimentalized version of Lithuanian identity I had been handed in my youth. I found it odd that we feared the eraser above our heads but had no problem with the one in our hands. We had no problem pointing out atrocities committed by others but locked our own up in trunks.
Because of this, my writing is also about denial, censorship, control, deception, myth and other methods we have of constructing identity for ourselves while distracting the mind from facing our record’s blemishes.
3.) You discussed in an interview with Amy Danzer, the concept of no supporting players in your novel The Fugue, that though a birds’ eye view, we play equal parts, and that idea you brought to your novel. Could you elaborate on this concept for our audience?
This is a response to Amy’s curiosity…how did I come to structure a novel—one that’s rather long—according to the principles of a musical fugue. Why did I make such a decision?
A fugue is a composition in which two or more voices run alongside each other. At one point early in my novel, a character thinks about them this way:
Lita knew what a fugue was, a composition of usually two strands—voices—of music that borrowed short melodies and phrases from each other. It was like a game where melodies played side-by-side and pretended to be each other, or sometimes even became one another. They could weave together like braids or plaits, then split up and come back together again.
A fugue presents challenges to the player and the listener. It’s an experience of simultaneity, and the beauty of a fugue does not really come from the quality of a theme; instead, it comes from how themes, playing simultaneously, relate to one another. A fugue is an expression of constant interdependence.
To me, fugues became metaphors for the interplay between people. It’s a delusion, and a dangerous one, to think of the human story, the moments we share in any moment, as narratives with primary players and supporting ones. When you look at the story from above, the way a bird would, there’s obviously no supporting player. Everyone is their own universe, their own voice, their own complete system, and yet we are all in constant interplay with systems just as complete as we are. Life is an unfathomable composition, unfolding like a fugue. To see it that way was disarming, and I wondered if it could be possible to express this perception in a novel.
4.) You’ve mentioned how important setting is to a story. When developing a story, as you see the events unfolding in your mind’s eye, do you conceptualize them in diverse settings?
This is one of the most challenging questions I’ve ever been asked.
I’m very interested in what changes when we move in space. A lot of writers worry about how the room changes when it’s experienced by a different character. I’m interested in both, in how the character changes the room and also in how the room changes the character.
It’s no secret that people who travel and speak multiple languages have more flexible minds. They also have larger context to face conflicts or solve problems. Curiously, one needs to have a certain kind of flexibility in order to desire travel and language in the first place. You have to be comfortable with the discomfort of not knowing exactly how things are going to unfold. Really, what you need is to see “comfort” for what it is: a delusion. In truth we are constantly replacing ourselves.
Placing a character is of enormous importance to me as an artist. I do play games, wondering how such and such a character would behave, what her possibilities would be, in Havana, Cuba versus Panama City, Florida. Really, I play that game with myself first. It’s why I travel. How am I different following my trip to Bydgoszcz, Poland? How did I describe it on the first day and how would I do it now that I’ve been away for a few years? How does my trip to Bydgoszcz affect how I respond to overheard conversations about Poland or Polish food, or a train ride from Berlin to Vilnius, or whatever?
Obviously, I’ve learned you don’t need to go very far to do this. How does our concept of “self” change when we face a job interview versus a drink with a friend? The difference is dramatic. My writing is partially about that fluidity of the self, about the construct of identity. It’s revealed to us when we pay attention to how we change when we move around.
5.) What drives you to write?
It’s something like an obsession or a compulsion. I wrote for years when I had no audience, and I started when I was a kid. I used to write to have a universe I could escape to, one I could control entirely. That was a juvenile but necessary way to go about it. Now I write because I need to let things go. When I was younger, writing used to feel like putting up fences. Now it feels like opening a gate. I used to build cages where I planted eggs. Now I feel I’m releasing birds into the wild.
6.) We ask all of our guests at www.iamlietuva.com the same final two questions. What does Lietuvybe, or being Lithuanian mean to you?
Being Lithuanian in America offered me a vantage point from which I eventually grew and evolved to imagine myself a global citizen. What I mean is that the policies of isolationism and the point of view that sees America as exceptional and God’s best friend with a gun didn’t work on me. When I came to Vilnius at age 19, read the city’s history, realized how complicated the place was, it was liberating, and I started to see the entire world not as a set of teams behind borders but an ever-shifting, ever-changing interplay. Realizing how different Lithuania was from the story I’d been told drove my curiosity through the stratosphere. I started traveling, opening myself up to the stories and ideas of people different from myself. Vilnius was my gateway drug to global consciousness.
7.) We ask everyone the food question because many in our audience do not speak the Lithuanian language, but still feel a tie to our shared heritage through their remembrances of special Lithuanian meals. Do you have a favorite Lithuanian dish?
Čeburėkas su sultiniu. If I lived across the street from a čeburėkinė, I’d eat them every day. This is fried dough stuffed with lamb and onions, served with a broth. During Soviet times, little places that served this were everywhere. Now they’re harder to find, but I always make a point to eat this when I visit.
8.) Could you please share with our audience how and where they can purchase your books? Could you please share your website and social media information?
My website, Liquid Ink, is http://gint-aras.com
My books, Finding the Moon in Sugar and The Fugue are available anywhere books are sold. Most independent stores will need to order them. You can also get them online, via Amazon or your Kindle store. If you live in the United States, the Book Table in Oak Park, Illinois, will ship either book to your home.