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Labas: The Lithuanian E-Zine

Bernard Tirva, Editor
Sandra Souveskas, Assistant Volumn I (Issue I)

From The Editor's Desk

Welcome to the premier issue of LABAS – THE LITHUANIAN E-ZINE.  There are many web pages that have excellent Lithuanian themes as well as two discussion groups for Balts and a news group for Balts.  The “missing link” is an E-Zine, which we hope to fill with the advent of “LABAS – the Lithuanian E-Zine”.  In this publication, we will include articles that deal with Lithuanian topics.  Unlike static web pages, LABAS will be dynamic.  Unlike discussion groups, LABAS will contain articles by subscribers with letters to the editor.  Unlike newsgroups, this will be monitored and edited for content.

Initially, we hope to deliver monthly, more frequently if warranted, to avoid lenghly publications. We will include classified advertisments for Lithuanians Helping Lithuanians and listings for non-profit organizations helping Lithuania.  If you have a business and wish to advertise, send your copy to : The Editor. Any non-profit organizations involved with Lithuania can send a description of their organization and all pertinent information to: Non-Profit Organizations.

There will never be a charge for subscribing to this E-Zine. Any help with articles in any area will be greatly appreciated. If you enjoy our newsletter, tell your friends and relatives. We welcome suggestions on how to improve this newsletter.  With that, enjoy your premier edition of “Labas - The Lithuanian E-Zine."

Due to the number of articles we received, our first edition will be in two parts.

Part I:

1. Lithuanian Immigrants Adapting to Life in America by Raimonda Mikatavage

2.  Reminiscences of Kucios Past by Milda Motekaityte DeVoe

3. Fatal Extraction – a book review

4. Lithuania’s Forgotten Children by Jeanne Dorr

5. Impressions by Dr. John F.X. Knasas

Part II:

6. Balt-L Question
7. Balt-L Response
8. Secret Photos, Records Detail WWII Horrors
9. Sports
10. Link to Lithuania
11. Briefly Noted
12. Lithuanians Helping Lithuanians
Please ... be sure to visit:
Lithuanians Helping Lithuanians

Lithuanian Immigrants Adapting to Life in America

By: Raimonda Mikatavage E-Mail
Author of:

"Immigrants & Refugees: Create Your New Life in America" and
"Your Journey to Success"

Host of Dreams In Action : Prestige Vision, Westminster, MD

Melodija Books - P.O. Box 689 - Hampstead, MD 21074
(410) 374-3117 (Phone) - (410) 374-3569 (Fax)

Lithuanian Immigrants Adapting to Life in America

I've been asked to speak about what it takes for new arrivals from Lithuania to adapt to life in America. My family came to the U.S. in 1972. We lived through the immigrant experience and we made our mistakes. My parents struggled to find work, we struggled with English, we struggled to build a new life. It was very difficult. This difficulty is faced by over one million new immigrants coming each year. And the more immigrants come, the more Americans are resisting them, which even further complicates a newcomer's life. For a number of years now, I've been researching into this whole "adaptation" process. I've interviewed new immigrants, recently naturalized U.S. citizens, and foreign-born Americans who have lived here for over twenty years. I also talked with English as a Second Language (ESL) teachers and immigrant assistance organizations. And although there is no "magic bullet" to solve all immigrant problems, the experiences of immigrants are often similar enough to be able to make some recommendations.

First, why do so many immigrants come to America? Well, they often state very good reasons: a better education for themselves and their children, better job opportunities, and a better standard of living. All very good intentions. But once they get here, and find many of their expectations shattered, those intentions are often forgotten. Starting a new life creates many unexpected problems. A newcomer may become so overwhelmed with all the pressures of adapting that the intention becomes just "to make it through another day." And sadly, the great effort, organization, and persistence that went into preparing to come here is often not applied, when they actually get here. Despite all the initial hope and promise, a typical immigrant story can turn sour with the passing years. Important life choices may be made with little thought, by accident, or with the wrong intentions. Bad habits may get a strong hold on daily existence. Poor social skills may prevent meaningful relationships. Lack of knowledge about money may prevent a secure future. Our decision to come to America is not immune from becoming a potential mistake.

Even though there may not be any newcomers in this audience, I would like to ask a hypothetical question of all those Lithuanians wishing to move to America: How many surprises would be experienced by anyone trying to start a new life in Lithuania? You can expect at least as many surprises in America.

My most important recommendation to those wishing to move here would be: you need to know more than just what is immediately in front of you. Say, you have moved to America, you don't speak English well, and you found a job washing dishes in a restaurant. You think this is just a temporary position. But if you don't do anything to progress yourself, it may become a permanent position. The immigrants that have found success in America, work each day to improve their overall, general knowledge about their new life. Overall, general knowledge includes understanding the American way of life, understanding what it takes to fit in, getting the education and experience necessary to find work that not only pays the bills but also pleases you, understanding money and investments (immigrants often come here for economic reasons, but fail to learn anything about how to grow their money). Basically, immigrants need to prepare for all areas of life, before they stumble upon it. You cannot image how many immigrants, even after 5 or 10 years in this country, are declined when they apply for a credit card or when they want to buy a home. They are declined because they never took the steps to build their credit history. Or they paid their bills late, because it was common to do that in their country. Newcomers need to prepare in advance.

To make a few suggestions to these newcomers, I'm going to borrow some specific tips straight out of my book. First understand how Americans think and why they behave the way they do. To make an honest attempt to understand American culture, it helps to accept that most people around the world behave the way they have been taught. Lithuanians were taught one way, Americans another way. If you accept this from the beginning, when you are face-to-face with a confusing cultural situation, it will help you to remain more objective and calm. One characteristic of American culture is that Americans view people in parts. They have business buddies, shopping buddies, skiing buddies, relaxation buddies. They build relationships that suit their needs. This may sound cold to some newcomers, who may see friendships as total commitments. They want to know the whole person. They want to become deeply involved but find that Americans want to stick to surface conversations, look for common views, and avoid deep subjects like religion, philosophy, or politics.

In order to fit into American society, newcomers must first have the desire to fit in. This desire can be difficult to find, especially if you disagree with or even resist the American way of life. This resistance is often common among Lithuanians who hold great pride in their own culture and pride in themselves. To fit in as best as possible requires three things:

1. Learn to communicate in English and start talking to Americans despite your accent,
2. Conform to American-style hygiene and appearance, and
3. Adopt at least some "Americanized" behaviors. This will not happen overnight. It will take diligent observation and effort.

As difficult as it may be, I encourage newcomers to talk in English. Use your basic English skills, make hundreds of mistakes, but start talking to Americans. You will have to start first for the same reason why a foreigner in Lithuania would have to start first. Most people, in most countries, do not actively seek out conversations or friendships with foreigners. So if Americans are not talking with you, it's because you did not start first. It's not hard to talk with Americans. Ask about their families, their jobs, cultural differences, hobbies, travel experiences, just about anything. Just don't ask them about money, religion, philosophy or politics. Those subjects can be approached only when you know them very well and develop a bond or a friendship. It's always best to get the other person to talk. If you want to see that person again, ask him what would be the best way to "get a hold" of him. They may give you their business card or home number or maybe ask you for yours. The more that person has talked, the bigger chance that you will see him again. In your next encounter, concentrate on doing rather than knowing. Americans like to be doing things: "let's rent a video," "let's go shopping." With Americans you need to go slowly. If you unload your whole life story, share all your problems, brag about all your accomplishments, you will scare most Americans away.

As newcomers start to network and meet people, they will find many more opportunities available to them. Again, I would encourage them to prepare in advance as much as possible, to set goals and make plans. You may have to choose a new career. Choose one that will make you happy at least 80% of the time. Don't just learn about your paycheck, learn about money. Learn how to make it grow, how to invest it, how to shelter it from taxes. Understand that as you get older in America, a pension plan and social security will put you at a poverty level. You will need your own savings. Understand the traps of credit cards, join a credit union (there are a few just for Lithuanians), build your credit history. Know what insurance to buy and how much to buy. Learn the process of buying a home, way before you think you can afford to buy one.

There is a great deal to learn because you are starting a new life. As you are learning about America, it would be a mistake to ignore Lithuanian-American publications. Choose one or two and subscribe to them. You will find not only news about Lithuania, but also cultural explanations, job listings, credit unions, and other resources that can help newcomers.

Of course, most newcomers will strongly value and never forget their Lithuanian heritage. But at the same time, they should keep in mind their intentions for coming to America. If those intentions were to find a better standard of living, they will not find it Lithuanian-style. The energy they spent to prepare to come to America, must now be spent in becoming an American.


Order: Satisfaction In The Land Of Opportunity: Answers for U.S. Immigrants and Refugees (Pioneer Living Series) By Raimonda Mikatavage

... This book provides signposts along the road to successful adjustment ... ": Patricia A. Hatch, Director of Community Relations, Foreign-Born Information & Referral Network,

Learn how to fit in and understand Americans, establish friendships, look for work effectively, buy a car/insurance/home, deal with emergencies, understand taxes and social security, apply to college, build credit a credit history, make smarter decisions, adopt the habits and attitudes of success, and create a satisfying new life.
$19.95 (1997)

Order: Your Journey To Success: A Guide For Young Lithuanians By Raimonda Mikatavage
Special Order

____________________________ talks to Raimonda Mikatavage How did you begin writing? Did you intend to become an author, or do you have a specific reason or reasons for writing each book?

R.M.: When I was a little girl, I "re-wrote"; the story of Cinderella. I changed some things, drew some pictures, and thought it was a lot of fun. Aside from a few poems here and there, I then put it out of my mind. When I turned 30, I realized I have a passion for writing, for putting words together, for creating on a piece of paper. So I wrote my first book. What authors do you like to read? What book or books have had a strong influence on you or your writing?

R.M.: I like to read personal and professional development books. Books by Stephen R. Covey, Maxwell Maltz, Brian Tracy, Harvey Mackay, and many others. "A Return to Love"; by Marianne Williamson had a big impact on me. Could you describe the mundane details of writing: How many hours a day do you devote to writing? Do you write a draft on paper or at a keyboard (typewriter or computer)? Do you have a favorite location or time of day (or night) for writing? What do you do to avoid--or seek!--distractions?

R.M.: I have an active 3-year old daughter. I must write only when she is asleep or out of the house. So I generally wake up about 4:30am and sit down at the computer until she wakes up. Then I have breakfast with my husband and daughter and go to work. Writing supplements my income, but it is not my main source of income. Do you meet your readers at book signings, conventions, or similar events? Do you interact with your readers electronically through e-mail or other online forums?

R.M.: Yes. I have book signings, I speak at conventions, I correspond with my readers. I get a lot of mail from readers in Lithuania. The Lithuanian version of my first book is pretty popular there. When and how did you get started on the Net? Do you read any newsgroups such as rec.arts.books and rec.arts.sf.written, mailing lists, or other on-line forums? Do you use the Net for research--or is it just another time sink? Are you able to communicate with other writers or people you work with over the Net?

R.M.: This question basically sums up my writing life. I do research on the Net. I correspond with other writers. I subscribe to the materials writers discussion group through TESL (Teachers of English as a Second Language). My second book - "Satisfaction in the Land of opportunity"; is for U.S. immigrants and refugees. ESL teachers are some of my best customers. Feel free to use this space to write about whatever you wish: your family, your hometown, hobbies, favorite places, where you've lived, where you went to school, what jobs you have had, your last (or planned) vacation, your favorite color/food/pet/song/movie, what books you'd take to a desert island, what you intend to do before you die, or what you think of just about anything.

R.M.: I am a huge advocate of dream-seeking. Know what you want to accomplish, set goals to make it a reality. Even if your life is already busy, with all sorts of obligations, there is no excuse for sacrificing your dream. You will really regret it.

Reminiscences of
Kucios * Past

* Pronounced Koo-chos
By Milda Motekaityte DeVoy

Kucios is the Christmas Eve celebration.  There’s a big dinner, and communion wafers blessed by a priest which the family passes around as a sign of peace (although at my house we always played games like “how much of this can we give away without mom noticing”), there’s the singing of hymns, the prayer, the empty chair for absent family members…  My mother was nuts for traditions.  We always had the works.

The requisite “no meat” edict of the Catholic Church, left mom and memaking up thirteen dishes (one for each of the Apostles plus Christ) allmade of either fish or vegetables.  The crowning glory of the Kuciostable was always “that fish”.  It was basically cold flakes of cod or whitefish in tomato sauce with sautéed onions and other spices.  My mother served  it in a cut crystal vase which towered over the other dishes.  Our family never had another name for “that fish,” and everyone knew what was meant by the term.  “That fish” was the most palatable dish on the table.  Other menu choices were: cold herring in sour cream, canned mushrooms in sour cream, chopped cucumbers in sour cream…basically, anything meatless could be served with sour cream and considered an entrée.  Every Kucios started after grace with my mother repeating the Law:  you have to have a taste of everything at the table.  My brothers added a corollary to the Law:  if you don’t taste everything, you will die.

Kucios traditions at our house always ended ugly. When I was about nine, my mother discovered and added another “ancient Lithuanian tradition”:  the straws under the tablecloth.  We would drive out to a cow-field (we lived in Texas) and gather an armful of yellow straw, which my mother insisted, was identical to the straw that grew in Lietuva.   Then we’d spread it on our dining room table and cover the straw with a nice linen tablecloth, rendering the surface of the table lumpy.  We covered the lumps with table setting.  At some point before dinner, the family would draw straws.  Here was the rub - - no one could remember what the long/short straws meant.  One year there was a rumor among my siblings that the short straw would die before the year was out.  Another year, it was said that the long straw had to get married first.  The trouble with growing up isolated from fellow nationals is that there’s no one to ask.  I pulled straws each year, terrified that fate would cast me into doom, and I wouldn’t even know which one!

Despite all this, the holidays were a great time to be Lithuanian-American.  We would eat a huge feast while other families were wrapping presents or doing last second Christmas shopping at the mall, and then, while we digested all that sour cream, we got to open our presents.  My mom’s explanation was that Christ had come at night, so we should receive our gifts at night too.  I never bothered to argue with the logic of that statement, I just tore open the wrappings and the bows as instructed.  After the presents, it was time for Midnight Mass, which seemed like such a luxury to a kid who had a 9:00pm bedtime until age 16.  At Midnight Mass, after opening all those presents, I always felt so thankful to be Lithuanian that I sang like an angel with the choir.

And the next morning, when I awoke to a Christmas stocking filled by Santa, I was just as happy to be American.

About The Author:

Milda was born and lived in College Station, TX.  She is presently a full time creative writing student at Columbia University and a full time actress.

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Fatal Extraction

The "Pottsville Republican" wrote a review of the book "Fatal Extraction" in its September 24th edition. We may remember the first person documented to have contracted AIDS from a health care professional, was Kimberly Bergalis, a Lithuanian from Tamaqua, PA . The book focuses on the battle of Bergalis and the Center for disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta. Since Bergalis was a college student, the CDC claimed Bergalis was lying about her past sexual experiences, which upset her family. Bergalis was a college student at the time she was infected, which automatically caused the investigators in the case to wonder about sexual activity. None was ever proven. Bergalis contracted the AIDS virus during a routine extraction by her dentist, Dr. David J. Acer, in 1987. Before her death, she became a national spokesperson for new policies against the deadly disease. After fighting AIDS for more than two years, Bergalis died in her Fort Pierce, FL home on Dec. 8, 1991. She was 23. After a memorial service there, Bergalis' body was returned to Tamaqua, where she was buried at the Lithuanian cemetery. After Bergalis' diagnosis was made, she set out to ensure the same thing wouldn't happen again, making a speech in front of Congress, writing letters to health-care workers urging them to be tested and by speaking to the media. ____________________________


: Fatal Extraction
By Mark Carl Rom
The story behind the Florida dentist accused of infecting his patients with HIV and poisoning Public Health.
$16.10 (1997)
Dateline: 06/01/97

From Kirkus Reviews

Using as his case in point the well-known Kimberly Bergalis incident--in which a dentist was suspected of having infected Bergalis and several other patients with the AIDS virus--Rom probes deeply into the question of how public health policy is made. As the principal investigator of the Government Accounting Office's inquiry into the federal Centers for Disease Control's handling of this case, Rom expected to find that the CDC had made major mistakes. Instead, he found the the agency to have been both competent and thorough. The author (Government and Public Policy/Georgetown Univ.) explores the reasons for criticism of the CDC's role by the media and by advocates of both patients' and health-care workers' interests. While finding that the HIV-positive dentist, David Acer, had indeed infected Bergalis and other patients, the CDC admitted that it was unable to determine how, and without this knowledge, it was hard-pressed to develop a policy aimed at preventing future incidents. After looking at the CDC's consideration of such issues as mandatory testing of health-care workers, practice restrictions, and patient notification, and its eventual development of some rather nebulous guidelines, Rom turns to the response of Congress and the actions by state legislatures, regulators, and courts. Their actions, he finds, have produced a mixture of ambiguous and contradictory rulings. The CDC, he concludes, is the proper agency for making health policy regarding HIV and medical personnel. However, it should have brought together advocates on all sides--patients, health-care workers, medical experts--and engaged them in seeking a common interest. Rom skillfully points out what that common interest is--improving the safety of both patients and health-care providers--and how focusing on competence rather than HIV status benefits both sides. Despite the provocative title, there's no sensationalism here- -just solid research and the calm and persuasive voice of reason.


Reminiscent of And the Band Played On, here is an intriguing look into an unsolved AIDS mystery--and the questionable policies that have resulted. Kimberly Bergalis attracted nationwide attention when she accused her dentist of giving her AIDS. In this thoughtful examination, Mark Carl Rom poses a number of unanswered questions surrounding this case and makes conclusions that will shock readers.

Card catalog description
In Fatal Extraction, health care expert and former government investigator Mark Carl Rom presents an in-depth examination of the most compelling public health case since Typhoid Mary. The author takes readers step-by-step through the world of medical detective work, as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) must determine whether Dr. Acer indeed infected Kimberly Bergalis and other patients and, if so, whether Acer's actions were accidents or acts of premeditated murder. In this absorbing book, Rom uses the details of the "deadly dentist" case to raise myriad public health issues that are of concern to everyone. Fatal Extraction clearly shows how the CDC - and other government agencies - respond to the Bergalis case and similar incidents, examines why government officials act as they do, and questions what they can do differently. As the book unravels the mysteries surrounding Kimberley Bergalis's tragic infection, it informs readers of the actions we can expect (and should demand) our government to take to protect the health or patients, medical workers, and all citizens.


From the Author


Did she? Did he? Should we?
Did Kimberly Bergalis contract HIV from her dentist...or her own sexual activity? Did the dentist accidentally infect his patients...or murder them? And what should we do to prevent the spread of deadly diseases in medical settings? This book, I hope, answers those questions...but if your answers differ, please tell me why.

Write: Mark Carl Rom

Lithuania’s Forgotten Children

Reprinted from “LABAS” in Philadelphia
With Permission of Jeanne Dorr, Author

For many of the Labas readers, especially third and fourth generation Americans of Lithuanian ancestry, the word “grandmother” brings back beautiful and heartwarming memories. In this issue you will meet two grandmothers whose spirits would be hard to match anywhere in the world.  One is a city resident and the other lives in a small village.  Both are raising their grandchildren and, thanks to the generosity of American sponsors like you, they are able to keep their families together.

In the summer of 1994 I traveled to a small village outside Anyksciai. I met a grandmother who was raising her two grandchildren.  Two years passed between my trips to Lithuania and although I met hundreds of children and their families there were certain ones I couldn’t get out of my mind and this was one of them.  I had no contact with them except to know they had sponsors but there was still a gnawing feeling that I had to return to that village again.

Fourteen year old Dzolona, eight year old Uginius and their grandmother were working on their small plot of land.  The grandmother was stooped and work-worn but was genuinely glad to see me.  I toured the garden, admired the chickens and the cow but still couldn’t shake the feeling that something wasn’t right.  We went inside the house which consisted of two rooms and a tiny room off the back porch which held a small bed. There was no indoor plumbing or central heat and I couldn’t help but wonder how cold it must be during the long Lithuanian winter.

Everything was spotless.  There was nothing out of place, but then again, the family didn’t own many possessions.  These grandchildren were all the grandmother had in the whole world.

Her only child was killed in a motorcycle accident.  She proudly pointed to a large picture of him which hung on the wall.  She explained to me that she had always raised the children because their mother abandoned them even before their father died.  The mother has no contact with them and they thought perhaps she was in prison but they weren’t sure.  From my last visit I remembered there was a grandson in his early twenties, I asked her how he was doing since I knew he was the breadwinner of this small family.  It was at this point that two large tears rolled down her cheeks and then the tears started like a flood.

Her grandson was riding his bicycle home from work when he was hit by a drunk driver.  He was lying in a hospital in Vilnius and the prognosis was not very good.  He would probably never walk again and had fallen into a deep depression. He was terrified of what would happen to his grandmother, sister and little brother.  He wanted to die because now his grandmother would have the added burden of taking care of him when he returned home.  Few Lithuanian drivers have car insurance and in this case the driver didn’t even have a job.  Unlike America there are no law suits; there is just bad luck and bad breaks.

Between her sobs she kept apologizing for “spoiling” my visit.  Lithuanian people are very proud and they don’t like to burden others with their problems.  I assured her that both younger children would continue to receive support from Lithuanian Orphan Care.

As I left Philadelphia for Lithuania a woman pressed some money into my hand and told me to find someone who could use it.  I left the village grandmother with half of it because I still didn’t know what would be in store for me on the rest of my trip.  I couldn’t help her grandson but through the generosity of a grandmother in far away Philadelphia this grandmother could at least stop worrying about money for a few months.  When I asked her what we could do to help her she replied, “Please pray for my grandchildren.”  As is typical of our Orphan Care families she asked nothing for herself. The second grandmother I would like to introduce to you lives in Kaunas with her five granddaughters.  I telephoned a day before my visit so the grandmother and her five granddaughters, ages 16 to 7, were waiting at the door for me.  They all threw their arms around me and I felt very much at home.

As in the case of the country grandmother, the house was spotless. All six people live in a room and a half.  She was a widow who raised her own daughter to the best of her ability but it wasn’t enough.  The daughter entered into a disastrous marriage and was abandoned by her alcoholic husband.  She, in turn, also became an alcoholic, neglecting and then abandoning her children.  For some reason, one that only she alone can understand, she refused to give the children to her mother or tell her where they were.  She dumped four of them on the steps of an orphanage.  By what had she done with the fifth child?  The grandmother was able to obtain custody of the four children but almost a year of tears, prayers and sleepless nights passed before she found the youngest child in a different orphanage.

Today the children seem happy and well–adjusted, but the grandmother is terrified that she will not live to see them all grown.  As for the mother, she is still an alcoholic walking the streets of Kaunas.  Imagine the pain this mother must feel when she sees her daughter on the street or imagine the agony of the older children when they see their mother trying to sell herself so she can by a drink.  Mercifully, she has no contact with her mother or children.

The grandmother told me that one day they packed a lunch and went to a nearby lake.  The children shuddered when they saw a group of children from an orphanage on a similar outing.  The seemed so sad.  Their grandmother told them if it were not for Lithuanian Orphan Care and the goodness of American strangers they might find themselves in a similar position.  The children were so moved that they gave their homemade bread to the orphanage children.  They realized you can always find someone whose circumstances are worse than yours.  As we once again hugged goodbye, the grandmother asked me to relay a message for her. She asked me to tell the people at Orphan Care and the children’s five sponsors that not a night goes by that the family does not say a prayer for us.

The cost to sponsor a child is $150 a year but any donation is appreciated.  You will receive the name, address, birthdate and any other pertinent information we have about your child.  It is up to you to contact the child if you so choose.  Without YOUR support, there is no Lithuanian Orphan Care.  For each child we help there are hundreds more waiting for sponsors.  Lithuania’s children are her unfinished symphonies.

Their futures are in YOUR hands. On behalf of Lithuania’s children a sincere thank you to all the individuals and organizations who have helped us grow from caring for 60 children to over 500.  A special thank you to LABAS readers Barbara and Tony Passtore of Maple Glen, PA.  After reading the last issue of LABAS this caring couple asked their friends to bring their checkbooks to their annual Christmas party.  The incredible sum of $1800 was raised for Lithuanian Orphan Care.  Kestutis Pliskonis of Doylestown, PA was selected as the 1996 Michael Cardone Foundation recipient.  He selected Lithuanian Orphan Care to receive his $1000 award.  Thank you Kes.  My sincere gratitude to the Lithuanian Music Hall for their support of these children.  Last year they not only sponsored a child in memory of their deceased members, but they donated a shirt and a basketball both signed by the Lithuanian Olympic basketball team.  The items were raffled off at the annual Lithuanian Fair.  Because of their generosity more children are being provided for in Lithuania.

I’d like to close with a quote from the late Helen Keller.  “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt from the heart.”  As you write your tax deductible checks to LITHUANIAN ORPHAN CARE please remember your own beloved grandmothers.  Keep their spirits alive by giving the gift of hope to a child in Lithuania.

Send Contributions To:
Jeanne Dorr
4 Shrewsbury Yard
Riverton, NJ 08077


By Dr. John F.X. Knasas, Professor of Philosophy
University of St. Thomas, Houston, Texas

Lithuania is a country of 3.8 million, about the size of West Virginia, just north of Poland on the shores of the Baltic Sea.  The region that I visited this past July reminded me of the Texas Hill Country, though many more lakes dotted the terrain.  I went mushroom and strawberry picking in the forests, and I even did some haying at the farm of my sister-in-law’s cousin.

Lithuania has skies as big as Texas that, despite the northern latitude, are filled with the soaring cumulus that we find along the Gulf Coast.  In July the sun does not quite set, and evening strollers are treated to brilliant sunsets.

Lithuania was the last European country to be Christianized, evincing a stubbornness that would serve it well through two Russian occupations. Following the 1795 partition of Poland (with whom Lithuania had been unified), Lithuania belonged to the Czars until 1918.  During this time a new intellectual class formed.  It celebrated Lithuanian traditions that had survived only in farmers’ cottages.  The period between the World Wars was marked by an independent Lithuania that harvested the fruits of the 19th century rebirth of national identity.  Following the Second World War, Lithuania was a republic of the Soviet Union.  Yet on March 11, 1990 Lithuania became the first Soviet republic to reassert its independence.

I remember following those events in the Spring of 1990.  At the time I was riding the bus home from the University.  During my downtown transfer I would eagerly seek out the day’s Houston Chronicle for the latest news.  Little did I know that these events held something in store for me.  Las August I attended a philosophy congress at the Catholic University of Lublin, Poland.  I met four Lithuanian women philosophers from Vilnius and Kaunas.  One of them, Dr. Dalia Stanciene, is an accomplished publisher.  Among other projects, she has resurrected the pre-war philosophy and theology journal, Logos.  But in conjunction with the Dominican Order in Lithuania, she has repeatedly organized a Thomistic summer school.  I told her of our graduate program in Thomistic studies and offered to help in any possible way.  We remained in e-mail contact throughout the year and an invitation to teach in this July’s school was extended.

Through the generosity of our Faculty Development Committee, I secured the plane fare.  The institute utilized the parish facilities of Our Lady of the Presentation church in the scenic old lake town of Trakai, 20 to 30 miles southwest of Vilnius.  Approximately 30 students attended.  They were comprised of catechists and university teachers and students.  Over the ten days, five professors participated.  My colleagues came from Belgium, Spain and Germany.  Rev. Stanislovas Zarauskas, O.P., Dominican Vicar General for the Baltics and Belarus, also taught.  Besides lectures on Greek philosophy, the distinctiveness of Christianity, and synthesizing the history of philosophy, we studied in Great Books fashion texts from Aquinas’ Summa Theologiae, Contra Gentiles, De Ente et Essentia and De Regno.  Thanks to Dr. Stanien and her able staff, many of these texts were available to the students both in Latin and Lithuanian.  I myself transported forty copies of the Contra Gentiles, Book I, for the students.  Under the leadership of Liuda Flores, the Houston Lithuanian Association had very graciously and enthusiastically run a fund drive for their purchase.

We were in class from 9am to 7pm with an hour for lunch.  Mass followed, with a supper at 8.  Only Fr. Zarauskas spoke Lithuanian.  The other professors had their English lectures translated line by line as they spoke.  Despite the daunting schedule that would have wilted a Thomas Aquinas, the students, in testament to their commitment, never complained.  The students obviously were there to take full advantage of an opportunity.  Their attitude continued to call forth the professors’ very best efforts.

At the end of each day all took advantage of the long twilight to ravage the dessert menu of a small restaurant overlooking the island on which stands the restored castle of the 15th century Grand Dukes.  On one of these occasions. I went towing with the German and Spanish professors. When Pablo took up the oars, our boat only went in circles or into the tall reeds.  Professor Blum observed that now we know why the Armada was defeated!  On one Sunday, Dalia’s husband, Alphonsus, took the faculty sightseeing in the old town sections of Vilnius and Kaunas, the beauty of the former residing in its winding streets and that of the latter in its straight streets.  In the countryside around Kaunas we also visited the majestic Barouque and former Camaldolese monastery of Pazaislis and the outdoor ethnographic museum, Rumsiskes, with its wonderful collection of 19th century Lithuanian farmsteads.

Dalia hopes to increase the summer institute to one month and to utilize the internet to attract students from middle and eastern Europe.  Her most cherished dream is to purchase the vacant Tiskevisius country estate on Galve Lake in Trakai for a Thomistic Institute of Eastern Europe.  Fr. Zarauskas reports that Lithuanian vocations to the Dominicans are increasing.  The house at the Dominican Church in Vilnius is now full and plans exist to reopen the house in Raseiniai.  So, perhaps through Dominican assistance and still unknown benefactors, Dalia will realize her plans.

Independence arrived with the unmistakable seal of Providence.  God who makes everything new and is full of surprises had his fingerprints everywhere.  Even in the mid-eighties no on could have seen independence coming before 100 years.  No matter the adversities still faced by Lithuanians, and there are many, this truth stands forth both as an inexpressible consolation and as a clarion call.  Lithuanians like Dalia and Alphonsus, Jurate, Lina, Gintas, Fr. Zarauskas and their students realize all of this.  Alphonsus and I were once shopping in a Vilnius supermarket indistinguishable from its American counterpart.

As we pushed our cart down the well-stocked aisles, Alphonsus explained that before leaving, the Soviets chided the Lithuanians that independence would mean that they would starve to death.  Now, the simple task of grocery shopping is regarded as a patriotic and religious act!  My friends have wisely chosen as the object of their study the philosophy of  St. Thomas Aquinas.  In Aquinas’ metaphysics of existence (actus essendi) is the greatest possible human accommodation to the God of our faith who makes things new and who saves.  It was an honor for me to witness their efforts and to take a small part in them. Prof. Knasas is presently trying to obtain a commitment of  financial assistance to fund summer school travel to Lithuania for the next five years.  The amount of such funding would be approximately $5,000.

Interested donors, or those with information on funding sources, are asked to send inquires to: Professor Knasas

The Holocaust

Balt-L is an excellent discussion list that raises many points, finds people and places and is a good source for Balts to learn more about themselves and each other. In a December posting, one of the contributors to the list, Geoff Vasilauskas, raised a tough question:

"I'm still so bothered by what came out of the Simon Wiesenthal Center last summer regarding the celebration and commemoration of the Goan of Vilnius. We were told to boycott the celebration because of Lithuania's dark past in the Holocaust. We were told Lithuania has never apologized for her crimes. I don't happen to believe in the culpability of nations, nor in their preeminence over others, but that aside, let's get down to the real issue.

It is not about revisionist history except on the part of the Weisenthal people. I'm sure the people there have the very best intentions, I'm sure they are sensitive people usually. In this case, they've made a giant mistake. Lithuanians took no special glee, no special pride in being invaded by the Third Reich. Lithuanians took no special part in the Jewish genocide. Lithuanians experienced two great genocides themselves at the hands of the Nazis and Soviets which killed a comparable proportion of their population.

Lithuania was the only eastern European government which refused to capitulate to German demands to form SS troops for exterminating Jews. Lithuania has been painted with the broad brush of Soviet propaganda as being a center of fascism (read: nationalism, not bending to Soviet communism) which has continued long after the demise of the Union. Authors such as the man who wrote the Painted Bird have mythologized the Lithuanian countryside and peasantry in works of pure fiction. This is not hard fact that these charges are based on, but soft imaginings. There must have been Lithuanians who participated, there must have been bad apples and anti-Semites and worse. Just as there were Jews in the NKVD, in the Red Army who committed atrocities against Lithuanians.

I want to hear what Balt-Lers have to say about this. I don't really think it's right to talk about the Holocaust as a strictly Jewish phenomenon. What did Stalin do while Europe looked the other way? Is it less genocide when the people being massacred are not Chosen People? Lithuanian Heritage magazine, a few issues back, makes mention of a made-for-TV movie in the US that makes similar claims against Lithuania. I want the charges out ontable. Enough murky innuendo."


Balt-L Response

By Edis Bevin, the monitor/editor of Balt-L gave a very measured response to Geoff's statement. I chose to put this in as it is an issue that gets hidden or put off when brought up. There were many other responses to this, but I think the best was that by Edis, which follows in its entirety.

He raised some points about attacks on 'the dark history' made by the Simon Weisenthal center, a theme we have bumped into before over the years, and come no nearer resolving. I find it almost impossible to start dealing with all this material, because wherever one starts is the wrong place. And, wherever one starts, something else should have been discussed first, to avoid misunderstandings.

I am not looking forward to what might emerge as a response to Geoffs posting but I do have some thoughts. These aren't necessarily direct responses to Geoff, but may meet some possible comment others may have. The theme is - why, when there were so many mass murders in our region, do Holocaust hunters still focus on one (massive) round of murders?


Response By Edis Bevin, Monitor/Editor of Balt-L

I think we need to recognize that there is a special dimension to the tragedy of the Jewish peoples across Europe during the Nazi madness, period. Millions of people died in various slaughters instigated by Nazis and Soviets. Over and above this, the Jewish people (and the Gypsies) were targeted for extermination for what they were thought to be. Each Jew in Nazi controlled Europe knew that their death was sought. Specifically and personally sought, regardless of what else they were or what they did.

Soviet-managed slaughters in east Europe may have killed more people over a longer time; their attempts to destroy the educated and independent thinkers But, they did not kill nearly all the peoples they targeted. At the end of the Nazi period, only a few hundred of Lithuania's Jewish citizens ( for example) remained alive. If the Nazis and Soviets had been as successful in their death policies in respect of the other peoples of Lithuania,a couple of thousand 'ethnic Lithuanians' would have survived.

We lost one in eight of our (Lithuanian) population, not 99.5 percent. That is a measure of the special horror of the Jewish situation and it does no good to deny it. Its possible, of course, that if Stalin had lived five years more he might have matched, in his impact on the Baltics, Hitlers tally with our region's Jewish population. But we are blessed that we have only speculations here.

I have looked at some of the arguments elsewhere on the Holocaust and its aftermath, and I know that there are two things that shut down debate and make it impossible. It may be helpful to bear these in mind if discussing Geoff's points further. First, there is the habit of referring to 'Jews' as if they were indeed some kind of strange intrusion, in some way part responsible, just for existing, for the terrible events of that period. The sort of argument that refers to 'Jews' as outsiders, not part of local society, is a case in point. It's only too easy to slip into this game of categories. It's one of the trigger signs others use for spotting anti-Semitism and since it was indeed part of the anti-Semitic rhetoric its a dangerous habit of thought. I've not always avoided it myself.

On my part, looking at Lithuania, I try to see Lithuanian citizens. All are 'us' in a fundamental way, whatever their faith. In Lithuania it's more irrelevant than usual to talk about 'outsiders'. Forget the recent history of the Russian Pale of Settlement. Judaism was established in the Lithuanian Lands during the Pagan empire; it has as much right, if not possibly more, to be called a local religion than does Christianity. I believe that part of the reason for the intense emotional charge still felt by Jews everywhere over the fate of the Jews in Lithuania, is precisely because of this long history, the special place Lithuanian Jews played in the world, the place we played in ensuring the very survival ofover the millennia. Every village that was destroyed in the remoteness of other parts of Europe is an intense tragedy in its own right. The destruction of the Vilna community struck at the heart of the idea of Judaism itself. I said 'we' played a part in ensuring Judaism's survival over the centuries. As someone of 'ethnic Lithuanian' background with no known Jewish ancestors, I nevertheless do feel part of this great civilization that made the old Lithuania such a rich and special place. The pagan roots, the Christian and Jewish cultures, the unique groups such as the Kairaites, the links to Islam through the Tartars, all within one extraordinary society of unique potential. If it had survived to the present day, growing and learning and finding each others strengths, what a beacon Lithuania could be to the world, an unique society bringing together so many living traditions.

My protest against the Nazis and all the other gangs of butchers who roamed our lands, is to refuse to accept the 'them and us' language of so much of this miserable debate. We are all 'us'; it is our tragedies of which we speak. And looking at what happened is a matter of looking at the responsibility of people, humans who made sometimes good, but on occasion appalling, moral and practical decisions.

A second 'debate-closing' line of argument is what I have seen described as 'the sin of contextualisation'. This is a red hot trigger for tagging arguments as anti-Semitic. I think we need to be aware of it, as it complicates many things which otherwise do need to be said. We can understand 'contextualisation' as a bad thing if we look at the events of the late 1940's.

We have Soviet officials loading children into cattle trucks for a journey of thousands of miles into the Arctic. Each of those persons bears some responsibility for their actions. However dimly, each must have known that they were setting thousands of innocents on a death journey. Do we accept for them an argument that we need to see their actions in context' and that this provides some kind of excuse? Do we say about the Stribai, the collaborators who identified local people so they could be seized by deportation squads, that they were responding to previous horrors and so were in some way absolved?

I don't find that line of argument a convincing absolution. The people who participated in the deportations and slaughters of the second Soviet period, in which a greater number of Lithuanian residents died than died during the 1941-44 Nazi war years, were and are responsible for their actions and are answerable for them. We may understand from the 'context' how they came to be in that situation, we may 'understand' the horror of the choice, but we cannot offer understanding as a blanket excuse. Those who try to make understanding some grounds for excuse are practicing 'the Sin of Ommission."

Psychologist colleagues can tell us something about dealing with this kind of traumatic memory. No doubt concepts such as catharsis are relevant here. Sometime, perhaps soon, we need to deal with all of this so we can move on.

Move back a few years to the Nazi period. The people who collaborated with the Nazis in their death policies are surely in the same position as the Soviet Stribai. They have to face the moral consequences of their actions, and in a certain sense talking about contexts is irrelevant. That includes the context of the horrors of the first Soviet occupation. If one disagrees with this argument, one has to agree that the Soviet collaborators have equal excuses. I don't happen to favor handing out blanket excuses.

I am afraid that a lot of the arguments used by Baltics activists in the face of attacks by 'Holocaust investigators' never gets seriously considered. Because they use the dread word context and so get pigeon-holed aside as just another load of excuses. The problem is that in order to understand (not excuse) the events on all sides in the Europe of this period we do indeed need to look at the wider contexts. And this is a core point as I see it in the problem identified by Geoff.

This wider perspective approach is so firmly linked by some (especially some holocaust activists) to its use by anti-Semites seeking to avoid responsibility, it becomes virtually impossible to talk about important things. A closed-ear shouting match immediately develops. So, we end up with parades of competing demonologies (who was in the NKVD for example) and never actually deal with realities. Again, our psychologist friends will be thumbing their notes and talking about denial and transference other possibly relevant things.

The whole of Europe needs to take a cold look at the whole period, to understand the impossible choices facing people caught between Hitler and Stalin - to try to work though a real understanding of the events of mid-century. Of how, for example, a small country tried to survive - occupied by one horror regime and facing occupation by another.

It's not just the "affair" of one small country caught in a trap. For example, The Nederlands didn't have the 'excuse' of being caught between Hitler and Stalin but there were local anti-Semites at work. I believe the Nederlands Waffen-SS Legion ( a Volunteer Panzer Grenadier Unit the XXII SS) actually fought on Dutch soil against the British in 1944, prolonging the Nazi occupation of the North Nederlands for nearly a year. Yet, this is not widely advertised in west European histories.

I have to believe in this evidence: even without the Soviet threat and the terrors this imposed, there would still have been outrages in Lithuania under Nazi control.

asked the murky innuendoes be ended and the charges "laid on the table." It's a brave request. Are we ready for it? Many of the so-called charges will, I know, fall away when exposed to light. Some will not. Some will, I am afraid, establish acts of gross anti-Semitism, pure and simple. Do we want a short list of some of them?

As the Jewish population of Lazdijai was led off to the fields to be murdered, some Lithuanian citizens lined the roads jeering and loudly, debating how the victim's property was to be divided up.

They may not have seen Lithuanian SS units. Lithuanian authorities (uniquely) avoided military entanglement with the Reich, but there were the so-called "special police units", raised and used by the Nazis to exterminate civilians. A film made of a Lithuanian-manned unit at work was regarded as an example of thoroughness and enthusiasm and was used to train all subsequent Nazi extermination squads.

after the Soviets were expelled from Kaunas, there were sporadic slaughters of Jewish Lithuanians by local civilians. At one such slaughter, victims were one by one stoned to death. A crowd of spectators cheered a young man playing the accordion. For each death, he was playing the National Anthem. "Lithuania my fatherland, land of heroes, from your past your children draw strength..."

It's the sort of thing that is murkily under the table, hinted at in various reports. Each of these acts of gross anti-Semitism is a matter of bitter shame. For my part, I accept this shame needs to be accepted, faced and lived through. Without excuses, I accept and try to face these facts to the best of my inadequate ability.

I do not regard a single one of these acts to be excused in any way by the fact that the NKVD deportation squad which pursued my Mother through the streets of Kaunas for two days before the expulsion of the Soviets was led by a local Jew. That act is something that needs to be accounted and atoned for in its own right. He should stand condemned for his choices and actions, not his group affiliations. Nobody else can carry his guilt by association. In emerging war, he was faced with horrifying practical choices. I don't know what choices I would have made in his situation with only his knowledge of events.

To understand why these things happened, we need to know what went on 'in context' so we can understand the horrors of choices and failures. Then, we can look on the more hopeful events ... people hidden in security, people whose lives were saved by ordinary citizens making different choices. I understand this years 'Lithuanian Papers' has accounts of how Jews were saved in Lithuania - read that as part antidote to the pains of this posting.

Of course, the Soviets seized negative events and tried to tar all National Opposition with this horror. It suited their books and gave a 'context' that obscured their own new round of murder and other crimes. It is right that this set of lies was and is opposed. However this justified opposition had a bad consequence. At the start of the second Soviety occupation, Lithuania was unable to deal with their own Nazi criminals. Personally, I have no doubt some genuine War Criminals escaped detection and retribution because they managed to hide

Then there's the National Opposition efforts. It may be time for some to cease their knee-jerking automatic defense for each and every person who faces charges. Just because they were attacked using Soviet gathered evidence does not mean that genuine evidence doesn't exist, nor genuine grounds for possible condemnation.

Until we face this, we will not be able to deal with the Soviet-era criminals still in Lithuania's midst. And, they need to be dealt with. It is appalling that millions of deaths in Stalin's time are somehow airbrushed away. It is an insult to those who survived this suffering and to their immediate descendants. Is this immense crime somehow a second class event in 20th Century history? I hope the emergence and recent publication of the Resistance Archives can help deal with all of this.

It is Lithuania's good fortune that the local Jewish community, and so many in Lithuania's leadership, seem to recognize the need to work on these matters. It us unfortunate that some outside campaigners make comments, not taking this into account.

My aim - and I hope others - is to work at unearthing, understanding and dealing with our difficult history. Not so we can insult each other but so we can embrace life and live it more abundantly. I apologize for the length of this response but Geoffs posting triggered lots of buried thoughts and led up some paths distant perhaps to the original point.

As this theme emerges elsewhere the ensuing debate tends to be notably sterile and unhelpful and full of slogans. I can only hope that we can do a little better here.


Secret Photos, Records Detail WW II Horrors

By Carl Hartman, Associated Press

So reads the headline in an article in the Pottsville Republican of December 6-7, 1997. Jews in Kovno experienced a brutal ordeal. They kept a meticulous record of their destruction. Diaries and photos recorded the systematic campaign of Nazi occupiers to eliminate the 35,000 forced into a small suburb of the Lithuanian city. Only about 3,000 survived.

For the first time, the extraordinary record of the community's brutal World War II ordeal is on display at the Holocaust Museum. George Kadish, a Jewish science teacher, took 200 photos - many through a buttonhole of his overcoat - with a camera he built himself. He smuggled the pictures in a hollowed-out crutch from the German hospital where he worked an developed them with other documents of the community and escaped from the ghetto. He died in September in Florida. The record of death is there: Oct. 28, 1941, the Germans killed 9,200, including more than 4,000 children in one "Great Action"; in March 1944,1,200 died in a "Children's Action." Most of the objects are in Washington as the result of an unusual decision by the ghetto's Council of Elders early in the German occupation. They wanted to keep and to hide as complete an account of the ghetto as they, to provide a picture for a future that they knew most of them would never see. Three weeks before Soviet troops retook Kovno, the Germans blew up the ghetto. An estimated 2,000 Jews were burned to death or shot trying to escape.


If you wish to learn more about the Jewish Holocaust in Lithuania, visit our web site at:

History In Lithuania

If you want to comment on the Jewish Holocaust in Lithuania or post additional information, please visit:

Jewish Holocaust In Lithuania

This bulletin board is monitored. If you wish, you may remain anonymous, however any lewd or anti-semitic posting will be deleted. We reserve the right to edit and reprint any material posted in this forum to the Lotsa Lithuanian Links website.

Labas - The Lithuanian E-Zine

Part II

Balt-L Sports

Every Lithuanian is familiar with the "twin towers" who play on two different NBA teams - Arvydas Sabonis and Zydrunas Ilgauskas.

I am sure that many of you know of  Terri Zemaitis, the 6'2" volleyball player at Penn State.  For those of you who don't, let me introduce her as she was highlighted in the Penn Stater magazine from November/December 1997.

Terri Zemaitis was the captain of the volleyball team and an All-American. In the past three years she was considered one of the best volleyball players in the Big Ten.  In her sophomore year she was named Big Ten Player of the Year. Terri has always loved sports.  In the Chicago suburb of Downers Grove, she played high school basketball so well that she was named an all American.

She had more offers from colleges to play basketball than volleyball. Unfortunately, Penn State did not win the championship, but it was not because Terri didn't do her best.  She is now a senior and will move on to other things in her life.  We wish her the best of luck.

If you know of any Lithuanians that should be featured here, please send your article to: The Editor

7 Minersville, Pennsylvania Area Students Talk With European Teens Via Internet

Written by Gerry Ulicny, Correspondent for the Pottsville Republican
Issued Dated December 27-28, 1997

Minersville Area High School students are using the internet to hang out with teens in Lithuania. Seven students in the gifted program have linked up with Jablonskio Vidurine Mokykla, a junior-senior high school in Kaunas, Lithuania's second largest city.

What do they talk about? The Minersville students are mainly interested in what it's like being a teen-ager in Lithuania, including what they wear, dating and school subjects. "They all wear uniforms, black and red," said junior Robert A. Wallace, age 16. "This will allow us to find out about aspects of life in Lithuania."

"They start dating at around age 15," said eight-grader Jefferey W. Brennan, age 14.

"I asked about sports," said eighth-grader Falon R. Mitsock, 13.  "The sports are basically the same, except that they have national dance. That would be neat, having dance classes tight in our school."

The hookup between the schools began in September when Minersville Area gained Internet access for its students to use in research projects. Rita M. Tamalavage, reading and gifted education teacher, includes Internet research in the gifted program for her seven students.

In addition to Mitsock, Wallace and Brennan, the students are sophomore Kyle C. Klitsch, 16,; sophomore Jonathan B. Marazas. 15; and seniors Jessica A. Wasilewski and Christopher Murphy.

The Lithuanian students begin learning English at the age of 7 or 8, and Jablonskio is primarily a language school, so the two schools are able to communicate because the Lithuanian teacher, Aurelia Motieciene, and her students are all fluent in English.

While visiting the United States earlier this month, Motieciene stopped in Minersville to meet with Tamalavage and her students. Motieciene came to get some tips on installing the software from Thomas S. Slivinski of Web-Tester, Chicago, which donates equipment to Lithuanian schools to help them hook up to the Internet.

Slivinski was referred to the Minersville Area School District through the Schuykill Intermediate Unit 29. The next step will be to get software to allow the students to see and speak to each other.

Briefly Noted

Another tidbit from the Pottsville Republican: the first Lithuanian parish in the United States was St. George in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania, established in 1872.

From "The Lithuanian Papers":

There are more than 250 young men studying for the priesthood in Lithuania. You may receive a copy of the Lithuanian Papers by writing to:

Algis Taskunas, Lithuanian Studies Society
University of Tasmania
P.O. Box 777
Sandy Bay, Tas. 7005

Cost: $6.00 Per Issue.
See You Next Month !!!

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