Vol. 1 - No. 7
Editor: Bernard Tiva
Layout/Design: Rick Gostautas
Vacation is over and school is about to begin again. As some of you may already know, I am a teacher in an inner city high school in Houston, TX. For the past four years, I have been running the computers for the school and all records are kept locally by each high school in our huge district. This year, I have an opportunity to teach World Geography and World History. This to foreign students, and US History. I look at this as an opportunity to spread the word about Lithuania. Should any of you have any material that I could use in my classroom, any suggestions for me, please Send Them To Me. Hope you enjoy this issue of LABAS.
1. Lithuanian Hostage Update
2. Lithuanian Jews make a big Impact in South Africa
3. Lithuanian detailed maps
4. Impressions of a Visit to Lithuania
5. Treasures of the Vilnius Cathedral
6. Excerpt from "Lifetime of Remembrance"
7. Another surname page
8. Another Baltic contribution to the world's art treasury
1. Lithuanian Hostage Situation Update.
From Lietuvos Rytas
Lithuanian Hostage Could Be Exchanged for Two Chechens
by Donatas Stravinskas, Correspondent, Lietuvos Rytas. One more possibility secretly considered for freeing the kidnapped Vilnius businessman.
Suggestion still not replied to .Lietuvos rytas managed to find out that the 34-year old resident of Vilnius, Viktoras Grodis, being held hostage in Chechnya may be exchanged for two Chechen citizens. High level Lithuanian officials have been approaching their Chechen and Russian colleagues on this possibility for freeing the Lithuanian. It was suggested to them to help exchange the Lithuanian hostage for two high security Chechen prisoners being held in Pravieniskiai high-security prison, 36 year old Sultan Mogamed and 27 year old Salavdiy Kagirov. These efforts have, however, so far amounted to nothing concrete.Kidnapped 9 months ago
Grodis left for Moscow in May of 1997. In September he called his family and said he was being held hostage in Chechnya - he was being held for ransom. Later a man calling himself only Mogamed began calling the Lithuanian man's loved ones. At first he demanded a half million dollars for letting the Vilnius resident go, but later discounted the price to 100,000 USD. If the ransom were not paid, the kidnappers threatened to send Grodis back in pieces. The most believable version of the story is that Grodis was tricked into traveling from Moscow to the Dagestan capital Machkaela and there was taken hostage and shipped to Chechnya.Russia Blamed for Kidnapping
A Lietuvos rytas correspondent met with both Chechen citizens inside the Pravieniskiai high security work colony and they talked about themselves as well as kidnapping in their country. "A real Chechen surely wouldn't get involved with that, because it's very difficult to kidnap a person and demand money for that person's release. Very powerful people are interested in this. Kidnappings happen according to orders and are also connected with politics. The people placing the orders pay the executors, tell them to take a person hostage and order them to be held as long as neccessary," affirmed Magomadov. According to him, Russia is interested in having foreigners not visit Chechnya. He is convinced that when a foreigner appears in Chechnya, Russia's security service either gives a command to kill them or kidnap them. "I reject the version whereby people are kidnapped in Chechnya without the interference of Russians," avowed Magomadov.The Unpleasant Experiences of a Siauliai Man
Asked who are the executors of that order, Magomadov answered: "Executors can be anybody, as long as they pay money. Bastards will arise to the occasion. Such can be found among Chechens, just like they can Kagirov to nine years of imprisonment for illegally crossing the border and for robbery.Robbed the PHARE Representative
The court determined that the Chechens on July 13, 1997 at the Hotel Lietuva robbed the advisor to the project on Government Reform and to the Municipal Ministry from the European Union's PHARE program, Spaniard [Italian?] Francisto Cardona Perreta. The Chechens breaking into the room beat up the Italian, threatened him with a gas pistol outfitted with a silencer and made off with 700 USD as well as a watch. In the court's decision, it was said that by committing this crime they had discredited all Lithuania. The two Chechens speaking to the journalist didn't deny their own guilt and a few times apologized to the Lithuanian people.Wished to do Business with Lithuania
Magomadov had established a mercantile firm in Chechnya in 1994. At that time Magomadov made business contacts with one Vilnius company and began to visit Lithuania often. "The possibility here of trading in oil, metals and grain interestedme," Magomadov said.Italian Mistaken for Robber?
During his last visit to Lithuania the Chechens reported they had gotten into trouble. Last year on July 12 outside the Hotel Lietuva three Russian speakers beat Magomadov up and took 800 USD. The next day Magomadov saw in the hotel one person who he took to be one of the robbers, and robbed him in his room with Kagirov. Only later did it become clear that that had been one high level PHARE official visiting Lithuania. "until they put them right in front of us, I was sure that that was one of thsoe robbers. During the sentencing, we didn't hide anything, we told all, apologized to the people of Lithuania and the victim. I was very ashamed on account of it all, because in Chechnya's darkest hour, Lithuania helped us always. And here we are arrived in Lithuania and accomplished such a piece of work," apologized Magomadov.They have Both Friends and Enemies
Magomadov says he has suffered in Lithuania before too. In 1995 someone beat him up and robbed him in Klaipeda. A year later he was attacked together with a friend in the Vilnius suburb of Seskines. That time the robbers managed to get 2,000 USD from him. Even so, Magomadov confirmed that after this event he didn't feel any hatred for Lithuanians and has quite a few friends here.Both Chechens - Both Relatives
Kagirov is Magomadov's cousin once removed. Magomadov calls him his brother and tries to take care of him in the colony. Initially the Chechens were assigned to different groups, but later they wrote requests to the administration asking they be allowed to serve their sentences in the same group. Colony officials said Kagirov and Magomadov behave without any complaints .... The Chechens don't get into conflicts with other prisoners, but neither do they have any close friends among them.Fought Against Russia
Kagirov fought in the Russo-Chechen War, was wounded four times and received the pension of an invalid in the second group. "I also participated in military activities, but at that time there was a great shortage of weapons, so I later withdrew of my own will," said Magomadov. His brother, during the war, was taken, alone, into arrest by the Russians. After this incident, according to Magomadov, "my brother wasn't quite right in the head." Magomadov brought Kagirova to Lithuania hoping that he would heal here. "At that time in Chechnya there was no such possibility, and getting to Russia to heal wasn't successful at all," explained Magomadov.Elder Take Care of the Younger
Magomadov hinted that he felt guilty for bringing Kagirova to Lithuania, where he went to prison. "According to our traditions, the older answers for the younger countryman. And if something here happens to Kagirov, I until the end of my life will be marked with an indellible stain." Kagirov was silent during almost all of the conversation and didn't interrupt his elder who looks out for him, Magomadov, even once. Both Chechens said they would gladly agree to be transported to Chechnya to serve the rest of their sentences there, if only because there their relatives would be able to visit. They don't want to be imprisoned in a Russian prison, however.Family Left in Chechnya
Magomadov is married. His wife lives in Dzochargala with their three children, nine and seven-year old daughters as well as their eight year old son. Magomadov's house was destroyed during the war with Russia. His relative Kagirov is unmarried and until arriving in Lithuania lived in the city of Zakan Yurt.Important - Blood Relations
Officials concerned with the freeing of Viktoras Grodis said they are not very sure that they will succeed in exchanging these Chechen citizens for the kidnapped Lithuanian. There is no information that the kidnappers are somehow related with Kagirov or Magomadov. If that doesn't come to pass, another possibility remains. The immediate relatives of the Chechens serving sentences in Lithuania could themselves seek out and negotiate with the criminals for the exchange.Promoting Terrorism Not Wanted
Lithuania's Government has said that it will not pay ransom for the hostage because that will violate international rules and will promote terrorism. "The Foreign and Interior Ministries, making use of all channels and possibilities, constantly calls on responsible Russian and Chechen agencies as well as seeks all possible means to free Viktoras Grodis," it says in the Government's statement.Much Money Still Needed
Wife of the kidnapped victim Rasa Grodiene said she doesn't have the 100,000 USD demanded by the kidnappers and doesn't know where to get it. Together with Grodis' parents seeking to free her husband by any available means, she opened an account at Lietuvos Taupomasis Bankas (www.ltb.lt) and asked the people of Lithuania to donate money. Currently a little over 20,000 litai have been gathered (only about 5,000 USD). Incidently, even a donation for 500 kroner (about 250 litai, or 62.50 USD) was received from Sweden.Kidnappers Call Constantly
Besides the multitude of telephone calls, demads to pay the ransom more quickly and threats, the hostage's loved ones also received a letter from him this year in April. A few days ago a representative of the kidnappers called once more Grodis' loved ones and again demanded money. As well, in Lithuanian there exists a video tape in which Grodis, filmed by a criminal in some closed chamber, asks his family's help. Officials who have seen the tape say Grodis looks to have suffered very much and is in very poor spirits.Prosecutor's Initiates Criminal Case
A few weeks back the parliamentary group for solving the problems of Chehcnya approached the Vilnius Regional Prosecutor's Office. In their letter the parliamentarians informed of the hostage Grodis and expressed their opinion that the events surrounding his disappearance can be looked into having initiated a criminal case. Vilnius Region Senior Prosecutor Virginijus Sabutis said the criminal investagitive case was initiated because of the taking of a hostage: "We don't know exactly where he is held or disappeared. We can only believe that acts of violence were done to him in Chechnya. But as a possibility we have to investigate whether he was taken in Lithuania." Asked why a criminal investigative case was only started more than a half year after Grodis' kidnapping, Sabutis answered: "Until now nobody had approached an official institution with a report that some person had disappeared, even though much was written about that." In investigating this case Grodis' family and closest friends have already been questioned.Fingers Cut from Hostage
Currently a few other foreigners are being held hostage in Chechnya: 2 Hungarian, 2 Swedish citizens, two subjects of Great Britain as well as the citizens of other countries. The close ones of the kidnapped Hungarians were also sent a videotape casette. It is seen there how the kidnappers demanding ransom cut the fingers off their hostages.Swiss Buys His Freedom
A few days ago Swiss citizen Peter Colinger returned home from captivity in Chechnya. He was taken hostage in November, 1997. According to the reports of the foreign press, the kidnappers were paid a half million dollars' ransom in exchange for his freedom. Peter Colinger himself said that the bandits held him in some kind of chamber, locked in chains, fed him only bread, potatoes and tea. The Kidnappers told him more than once, that "it's just business, just for money." The money having been paid, the Swiss man was transported from Chechnya to Ingusetia and released.Copyright 1998 Lietuvos rytas
2. Lithuanian Jews make big impact in South Africa,
By Ed Stoddard
JOHANNESBURG, June 12 (Reuters) - Casino magnate Sol Kerzner, the late communist Joe Slovo and veteran anti-apartheid activist Helen Suzman make an unlikely trio but they share one thing in common. Aside from making a big impact on South African public life, this colourful cast is all of Lithuanian-Jewish descent. ``Within the realm of public personalities here, you have a lot of Baltic Jews and their descendants, especially Lithuanian Jews,'' Tony Leon, head of the small liberal Democratic Party and himself partly of Lithuanian Jewish heritage, told Reuters. ``We are quite a little mob here,'' said Suzman, who for 13 years was the only anti-apartheid voice in the whites-only parliament.
Like their Old World ancestors, whose ranks included wealthy capitalists, zealous Zionists, prominent religious scholars and committed communists, South Africa's Litvaks, as Lithuanian Jews call themselves, have spanned the political spectrum. On the left stands Slovo, the former head of the South African Communist Party, who was born in Lithuania in 1926 and came to South Africa at the age of nine. On the right stands Kerzner, a flamboyant businessman who built the casino resort Sun City in a black homeland and founded the entertainment and leisure giant Sun International.
The Baltic Jewish community in South Africa also includes Nobel prize-winning novelist Nadine Gordimer, whose father came from Latvia.SOUTH AFRICA NEW WORLD HOME FOR LITVAKS
Lithuanians dominate the Jewish community in South Africa to an extent seen in no other country, even their former home. ``We have around 80,000 to 90,000 Jews in South Africa, and about 80 percent of them are of Baltic descent, most of them from Lithuania,'' said David Saks, an historian and researcher at the Jewish Board of Deputies in Johannesburg. ``We probably have the most 'Lithuanian' Jewish community in the world,'' said Saks, whose own grandparents came from Lithuania. This ratio even exceeds that of Lithuania itself as most of the Baltic state's small Jewish community, now numbering a mere 5,000, comprises immigrants who arrived from different parts of the Soviet Union after World War Two.
The war devastated Lithuanian Jewry, once a leading centre of Jewish thought and culture. Historians estimate that 94 percent of the country's pre-war Jewish population of 220,000 perished in the Holocaust. The capital Vilnius, once known as the Jerusalem of Lithuania, was home to a thriving community of 60,000 Jews, with more than 90 synagogues and the biggest Yiddish library in the world. Aside from one functioning synagogue, few traces of its rich Jewish past remain. ``South Africa is more Litvak than Lithuania itself...when Jews from Lithuania look to South Africa, we see our culture and society have been preserved there,'' said playwright and novelist Mark Zingeris, one of the few Litvaks remaining in Lithuania. ``Here, the Litvak culture was all but destroyed by the Holocaust and 50 years of Soviet rule. But it has lived on in South Africa,'' he told Reuters by telephone from Lithuania.ROOTS TAKE HOLD IN SOUTH AFRICAN SOIL
The public activities and politics of South Africa's Litvak community were rooted in the Old World but flourished in the soil of oppression and opportunity found in the New. The reformist streak of Lithuanian Jewry, which faced anti-Semitism and repression at home, was carried on by a host of anti-apartheid activists. ``Many of the Lithuanian Jews who arrived in South Africa in the late 19th century were fleeing repression in Tsarist Russia and so they were keenly aware of injustice,'' said Saks. ``Those who came after also faced anti-Semitism and the Holocaust.'' ``The striving for social justice for everyone is a very Litvak trait. It has carried on uninterrupted in South Africa,'' said Zingeris.
Other less altruistic immigrants, reared in a strong entrepreneurial tradition, were lured by gold, discovered in 1886 on the spot where Johannesburg now stands, and the opportunities offered by the booming economy built around it. ``One of my great-grandfathers came from Lithuania in the late 19th century with nothing but the freedom to trade,'' said Leon, whose party is firmly in the pro-market camp. ``He started a bag and bottle business and turned it into a huge company in one generation.'' ``I evolved my activist politics under my own steam...my father left Lithuania at the turn of the century to escape anti-Semitism, pogroms and service in the tsar's army. But he was not a radical chap,'' said Suzman, a part-time member of the South African human rights commission. ``He came to South Africa simply looking for a better life.'' Back home, Lithuania's small surviving Jewish community continues its diverse tradition of public and private service. Several of its members are prominent businessmen while the one Jewish member of Lithuania's parliament, Emmanuel Zingeris, heads its committee on human rights and minorities.
3. Lithuanian Detailed Map
There has been a greal deal of interest in the 1920-1923 Lithuanian Atlas. Here are some details:
Lithuanian Topographic Maps
The Atlas is being sold through a Lithuanian-American Scout Organization and Lithuanian-American Community Archives headquartered at the Jesuit Lithuanian Youth Center in Chicago and can be order via Lithuanian Global Resources.
It is often said that the best, most accurately written country guide does not descibe as well as an accurate map. For most lovers of the homeland, maps are like a great book. Wanting to produce such a good book for Lithuanian emigrees (escapees), we produced a one color, photographic copy of Lithuanian topographic maps in 1:100,000 scale. 1 kilometer of Lithuanias land equals 1 centimeter on our map. The smallest details are noted on the map: villages, estates, farms, small roads, creeks, ponds, and small forests. These are full size copies of independent Lithuania's military topographic maps. Maps not available from Lithuanian sources were obtained from German, Polish and Soviet Russian sources. These maps show the border agreements existing in 1920-1923. Assuming that people with a deep knowledge of maps will be reading this book, we've included no legend.
The publication of this book was the work of many. University of Notre Dame professor, Steponas Kolupaila contributed extensively from his collection. Significant efforts were put in by V. Z~emaitis, president of the Organization of Lithuanian Emigree Forestors. Technical problems were answered by V. Stasis~kis. This publication is more complete due to their efforts. Hopefully, this book will help those longing for their homeland to recall memories and visit far off corners of the land.Vladas Vijeikis, publisher
Bronius Kviklys, Editor
This book published 36 years ago has become rare. We've
received messages from Lithuania that a republication was needed. Funds and
time have allowed us to publish 500 copies of a second edition,
most of which have been reserved for newly independent Lithuania. Many
of the place names have faded from living memory. Although, this book
may help some of those trying to recover family lands by identifying
locations. This collection mostly serves history.
We thank artist Vladas Vijeikius for the use of his publishing
facilities. We thank Clementas Dedelis for his many hours spent
preparing this book. We thank Reverend Juozas Prunskis whose Fund
financed the reprinting of this book.
4. Impressions of A Visit to Lithuania from Francine Locke
I am so glad we went to Lithuania, I never would have gone with out my mother, she never would have gone without me, so the timing was perfect.
The trip itself...it wasn't a vacation per se, 'though I knew that when we set out. We flew in to Palanga, they are still in the process of enlarging their airport, the Hamburg - Palanga route just started in April. We were picked up at the airport by the son of the family we stayed with in Rietavas. We didn't know them personally, it was the sister of the family my mother's cousin had stayed with a year earlier, no previous contact, no ties but did they open their home to us!
When we think of roughing it, it's nothing compared to the everyday life in rural Lithuania. The heat came from the centrally located wood stove in the kitchen (there was another in the house but we didn't think we needed it lit...we wore lots of clothes instead!), the water from the well outside the back door. A well with a bucket and a crank handle. Naturally the outhouse was in the barn. What the family didn't have in modern conveniences was offset by the treatment we received, such hospitality, good food, honest to goodness friendship,, it was incredible.
The rural areas of Lithuania (most of the country) has just simply sat still for about 60 years. During the Russian occupation nothing advanced other than in the big cities. Acres and acres of empty fields, no equipment or money to plant any crops. The fields which were being worked had horses pulling the equipment, the farmer walking behind.
We started our journey looking for the town my mother had grown up in, Piktuponin. No street signs, no highways, our driver just knew where it was supposed to be. I recognized a photo a childhood friend of my mothers had sent her of her home, and that's where we started. The house that had once housed one family now had three living there. We were lucky enough to find one of them at home working in the root cellar. She directed us to a man who had lived there for the past 50 years who also spoke German (Mom speaks it better than Lithuanian as she fled her home while a teenager and went to Germany.)
I can only begin to explain what this was all like, we found this man at home, he invited us into his house, made us coffee and served us cookies, obviously saved for some special occasion. Turns out he knew of the church Mother had been confirmed at, this had been destroyed many years ago. He also recognized a picture she had of her childhood home, and took us to it. He knew many of the families my mother had known when she lived here, and also people her parents had spoken of. The whole experience was unbelievable!
Anyhow, I'm off on a tangent, I don't know that this kind of stuff is of any interest to anyone other than Mom & me. As to Lithuania...such diversity. The rural areas are incredibly primitive, but the resort (Nida) was just beautiful and just as expensive as you might expect in a big city.
We looked for several towns where my mom's family had lived, some towns were now just a few run down buildings, people lived there, but you wouldn't expect them to, and some simply didn't exist anymore. We were in the middle of a big nothing, just a road, and this was apparently were my great grandfather once lived. We also tried to find her home in Guden, found the train station, but not her home. It was difficult as there had been a small orchard there when she was a girl, also a small forest behind it and we couldn't find any trees. We stopped at a house and talked to the people who lived there, they said the Russians had burned the fences, then the trees, and finally the telephone poles for firewood during their occupation. Rather than cut down trees from huge forests, they simply took whatever was close by.
We ended our trip to Lithuania in Palanga and stayed overnight at a families home. When we first entered Palanga we found an old man sitting on a chair on a street corner. Our driver got out of the car and asked this man if he knew of families who were taking in boarders. For information he had to pay 4 Lita! Not a lot of money, but just kind of funny, everyone has to make a living! We stayed upstairs in their home (they also had boarders living in the barn), and lucky us, they invited to share their dinner! Ever have cepelinas? Probably spelled wrong, but are they delicious!!!
From there we returned to Germany where we continued our journey, still had lots to accomplish, but so much going through our minds...wow!
What else can I say about our trip? Gas was cheap, however to rent a car is very expensive and not recommended. This trip we had a guide, next time I would opt to drive. The country was flat for the most part (western side) empty fields and forests. Roads were two lanes, in the cities the farmers had their wagons pulled by horses, of course there were also cars and buses. In the sticks many roads turned into ruts and ditches. The favorite color for houses seems to be an awful mustard. It ranged from somewhat rundown to questionably inhabitable, although we did see a couple of new "developments" that looked quite modern. There were several antennas on each house, that's cause many families lived there. An obvious distinction between poor people and middle class. Surprisingly there was a large aquarium with a dolphin show in Nida! AND they played American music for the seals and dolphins to dance to!
5. Treasures of the Vilnius Cathedral sent by Vilius Kirvaitis
Last week "Lietuvos rytas", major Lithuanian daily, published a sensational article about unique collection of golden jewelry discovered in Vilnius Cathedral 13 years ago. The collection of artworks is estimated in hundreds of millions of dollars (!!??) and was kept in secret till now.
For Lithuanians, it is much more valuable than equivalent sum of dollars :-), because it is the source of national pride. Lithuanian history was openly defiled by soviet "historians" and is frequently dismissed by Western Europeans. Many people imagine that while kings, queens and palaces were thriving in the Western Europe, Lithuanians essentially were dressed in furs and hunted deer in the woods.
Meanwhile this collection of artworks is paralleled to riches of Venice and Vatican. And it is only a fraction of riches and art works which were accumulated in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Many others were lost during the wars and the years of occupation.
Along with sense of pride, the news brought concern to me (and perhaps other people, too). I don't know if Lithuania is capable to protect those treasures in the current stage of its development, with all technological and financial problems. Perhaps the release of information was a bit premature. I would _love_ to be wrong, though... :-)Read the original article in Lithuanian
Fast translation by Vilius Kirvaitis for non-commercial use only.
"Lietuvos Rytas" Daily, July 4, 1998
THE WALLS OF THE CATHEDRAL PROTECTED TREASURES FROM THE ENEMIES
"Lietuvos rytas" reveals the secrets of invaluable treasures kept in hiding places for hundreds of years
View Picture #1 of Vilnius Cathedral
View Picture #2 of Vilnius Cathedral
By Valdas Bartasevicius
Reporter for "Lietuvos rytas"
Riches of the Banks are Beyond Comparison
Today (July 4 - V.K.) the highest Lithuanian authorities will be shown the treasures of art of exclusive value from Vilnius Cathedral - the unique collection of about 270 applied art works which was kept in the special safes of storage until present time and is virtually unknown to society.
According to the director of Lithuanian Art Museum Romualdas Budrys, monstratios, goblets and other items made of gold and silver and decorated with precious stones were created by highest class jewelers and are invaluable national wealth of Lithuania.
If this collection would be taken abroad for exhibition some day, it could be estimated and insured for hundreds of millions of US dollars.
"I think that the value of these treasures excels the sums kept in the bank of Lithuania" - said R. Budrys.
Two art treasure-houses of great value had been accumulated in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania for hundreds of years: one of them was kept in the Lower Royal Castle, and the other one - in Vilnius Cathedral.
Presents of dignitaries, heads of foreign states and envoys to the Grand Dukes of Lithuania were kept in the Lower Royal Castle. Pope's viceregent B. Bongiovani, who had seen those riches, wrote that they even surpass treasures of Venice and Vatican. (??? - V.K.)
Riches of the Lower Castle were lost long time ago. Lithuania was overran by wars, the country was devastated by Swedish and Russian armies. Lot of art works were plundered and taken away. When the royal palace moved from Vilnius, the remaining portion of the treasures of the Lower Castle was taken to Krakow and Warsaw.
However, other riches remained in Lithuania, which could compete with the collection of art works of the royal palace. It were the treasures of Vilnius Cathedral.
The Monstratio is Unique
Dignitaries and even members of the families of Lithuanian Grand Dukes presented Vilnius Cathedral with very expensive presents on various occasions - monstratios, goblets. They were ordered at the most famous European jewellers.
These monstratios and goblets look woven with subtle patterns of the finest golden and silver threads, are decorated with ornaments and small human figures and are considered as masterpieces of applied art by experts.
One of the most valuable creations from Vilnius Cathedral treasure-house is 16th century Great gothic monstratio with armorial bearings of Albertas Gostautas; it was presented to Vilnius Cathedral by his son Stanislovas, the first husband of Barbora Radvilaite, on foundation of Gostautas family chapel and mausoleum.
"I compare this monstratio with St. Ann's Church in Vilnius and is such a gothic masterpiece of applied arts as St. Ann's church in architecture. I have seen 16th century monstratio from Vatican in one exhibition in the Spanish city Seville. I was glad that our monstratio was on equal par with that universally famous religious art work." - said R. Budrys, as he characterised the Great gothic monstratio of Vilnius Cathedral, which is 152 centimetres high, weighs 20 kilograms and is made from gilded silver.
The Originals Were Substituted by Copies
Presumably this monstratio was never used in liturgy. Simply it would be impossible to raise such heavy thing during service. Many European Cathedrals used to make reduced and lighter copies of especially valuable relics. The originals were most often kept in the storage of the Cathedral which was known only to the person specially assigned for their protection and maybe also to the bishop.
The original art works of jewellery of Cathedrals were hardly seen by anybody at all. Even rescuing the church property in the times of confusion only copies of the art works were frequently moved to safe places. Most often they were thought to be originals, while the real treasures remained hidden in stone walls of the Cathedral.
Usually European Cathedrals used to arrange 5-6 hiding places. They never announced their plans. It was considered top secret.
The Losses of Treasures of the Cathedral
In troubled times Lithuanian dignitaries also kept their riches in the hiding places of Vilnius Cathedral. It is known from historical sources that Zygimantas the Senior kept the huge amount of golden coins bequeathed to his children in the storages of the Cathedral.
In the same way tapestries of Radvila and Sapiega families were brought to the Cathedral - now they are exhibited in the Museum of Applied Arts.
When Russian army approached Vilnius in 1655, efforts were undertaken to move the treasures of the Cathedral out of the city. One part of treasures was floated through Neris river, and another was carried in carts. Only the latter portion was saved. The boats sailing in Neris river were snatched by tsarist soldiers, and the further destiny of those art works is unknown. A lot of valuable historical relics were lost then - famous goblet presented to the Cathedral by Vytautas the Great, [kielikas], cross of Jogaila, goblet of Gostautas.
The riches that were taken away in carts were moved back to Vilnius Cathedral when the storm of war was over. However, when Lithuania got Vilnius back, the fate of the treasure-house of the Cathedral was totally unknown.
Generally, there is no information about seeing this collection of jewellery after the First World War.
Gathering of information was initiated
Search for Vilnius Cathedral treasures began back in 1962. Vytautas Jakelaitis, the deputy minister of culture of that time urged the museum specialists to arrange the group of experts for gathering information about treasures of Lithuanian art mentioned in historical sources and trying to find out their destiny.
Paulius Galaune, regarded as patriarch of Lithuanian museum workers, once invited a group of art experts to his flat in Kaunas, Zaliakalnis. He offered to define specifically, what art works will be searched by certain people. In addition to other assignments, representative of the Museum of Lithuanian Art R. Budrys was obligated to accumulate knowledge about the treasures of Vilnius Cathedral.
The museum workers searched for the information on the treasures of Vilnius Cathedral in written sources and also looked around in Russian museums expecting to see something that could have been identified as part of Vilnius Cathedral collection according to descriptions.
No Traces Were Found in a Strange Land
Rumours were that in 1939, when Lithuanian state got back its old capital, the archbishop of Vilnius moved treasures of the Cathedral somewhere, as he departed to Poland. However, they were not confirmed. Even if some items could be taken away, it had to be only copies.
When R. Budrys visited Warsaw in 1971 and 1973, he met the director of National museum of Poland Stanislaw Lorentz, who worked as the chief preservation expert of cultural monuments in Vilnius and Naugardukas voivode districts before the Second world war.
This excellent expert of art history of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania sincerely told he was not aware where treasures of Vilnius Cathedral could be, and he assured that this collection was not taken to Poland. S. Lorentz advised to search for the traces of treasures in Moscow.
R. Budrys succeeded in penetrating the storages of Moscow museums. Without advertising his search for Lithuanian art treasures he was looking for some thing that could belong to the treasures of Vilnius Cathedral
However, he failed to find anything of that kind.
The geography of the search narrowed. Quite well grounded suspicions were that the search should primarily focus on Lithuania. Some pre-war art experts of Vilnius also guessed that treasures could be hidden somewhere in the Cathedral itself.
Search in the capital of Lithuania
However, there was no rush to search for treasures in the building of the Cathedral. There were apprehensions that Moscow could claim any especially valuable art works. In 1984-1985 the air conditioning system was installed in Vilnius Cathedral. At the same time the restoration of the church was started.
Swedish air conditioning system won the competition. Special channels had to be made for it. Before this work archaeological and architectural investigations had to be carried out firstly.
It was an excellent occasion to investigate the whole Cathedral and restore it at the same time. Without publicising it, the archaeologists also searched for the remains of Vytautas the Great. They also hoped to find treasures in some hiding place.
Findings of Archaeologists
Findings were numerous: the remains of Stanislovas Gostautas were identified and repeatedly buried, the old foundation of the Cathedral was uncovered, lot of valuable scientific information acquired. The restoration works were completed only in 1988. After three months the Cathedral was returned to church-goers.
The laboratory of vibrotechnology under the guidance of Kazimieras Ragulskis sent its specialists for the investigation of the Cathedral. Using this technique firstly they checked places where, according to findings of earlier investigations and literature, various valuable items were kept: tapestries, the archive of the Capitula.
The experts also found about five places where empty cavities could be suspected. However, the walls were not ripped open at once. Slowly the places were checked one after another, but nothing was found.
Glitter of Treasures' Gold
It was 27th of March, 1985. Only now, after thirteen years, the events of that day were revealed to "Lietuvos rytas" by their witness R. Budrys: "We took counsel together with the investigator of the Cathedral Napalys Kitkauskas and decided to uncover one more particularly interesting place.
We suspected that we could find something there. The ultrasound device sent very strange signals in that place.
We prepared for taking photos, took packaging and sealing materials, metal boxes, and prepared some numbers of the Museum of Applied Art. You see, the law provided that treasures labelled with numbers of some museum could not be moved to any another place for permanent storage. So we decided to label treasures, if any, with numbers of the Museum of the Applied Art immediately.
Till the very last moment only N. Kitkauskas and I knew about these preparations.
On the fixed day we invited Juozas Stasiulaitis, the chief of Vilnius momuments' preservation inspection, and Stasys Cipkus, the head of the department of museum management of the ministry of culture. These men together with N. Kitkauskas and myself comprised the commission of four. We were overwhelmed with presentiment of some especially valuable findings.
We started to disassemble the wall. One longitudinal brick was removed, then another. Somebody's sceptical voice said" "There is nothing here!" . I took a crow, moved a brick and felt that it let go very easily. We continued to hammer, and the crow pierced into cavity in no time.
I had a flashlight. I threw some light into the interior and we saw the glitter of gold. I remember faces of us all turned pale".
Safety Measures Were Taken
The doors were immediately sealed. R. Budrys went to inform Jonas Bielinis, minister of culture at that time, while the rest members of the commission stayed in the cathedral, outside the locked doors.
It was decided that the commission would register all the found items, but would not announce it to the public. The inventory act was made in three copies, which was locked in safes in three different places.
The art works of treasure house were sealed in boxes and taken to one storage. Only few people new this.
Only superior authorities were informed about the findings by the minister of culture. After some time a small group of leaders of Soviet Lithuania came to see them. They were shown some art works from the treasure-house of the Cathedral.
Later the treasures were moved to Town Hall and placed into iron-barred and well-equipped storage (according to standards of those times). The investigation and preservation works were started there, but they were not publicised.
The Treasures Were At Risk
Why the information about treasure-house was concealed from society?
"I always thought that our tongue was our enemy - answered R. Budrys. - We did not want to advertise the findings because of safety considerations. Besides, till present time we had no possibilities to show the collection to society anyway".
For some time there was reluctance to spread information about treasure-house for political reasons as well. The onset of Lithuanian rebirth brought the increasing confrontation with the forces of soviet empire and its military structures. It imposed threat on the art treasures of this country. This danger was especially real in January of 1991.
"That night when the soviet tanks were already rolling towards TV tower, the treasures were hidden by us so that nobody could find them. It was done by commission of three people" - recalled R. Budrys.
Criminals Were Feared
After restoration of Lithuanian independence and withdrawal of Russian army, there was no urge to publicise the information about treasures because of criminal situation. Temptations for art collectors (primarily foreign) were also avoided.
Besides, there were no technical and financial possibilities to arrange the public exhibition of the treasure-house of Vilnius Cathedral, and it was chosen not to intrigue society.
The Collection Will Be Also Shown to the World
"Now we can publicly rejoice at having such valuable collection of jewellery and show it to the world. It reflects the evolution of this branch of art from the times of foundation of Vilnius Cathedral. The oldest creation is gothic relic [relikvijorius] of St. Stanislovas, sent on the occasion of consecration of the Cathedral" - told R. Budrys.
It is expected that the exhibition of the treasure-house of Vilnius Cathedral may be arranged till the end of this year. However, the rooms of the Museum of Applied Art where this collection will be kept will not be accessed as easily as other halls.
The Church Does Not Request Treasures
According to the director of Lithuanian Art museum R. Budrys, the Church does not pretend to get the treasures of Vilnius Cathedral back.
When the Cathedral was returned to church-goers, R. Budrys was invited by Julijonas Steponavicius, archbishop of Vilnius. He said: "The best place for the masterpieces of religious art is a museum. Please keep them and show to the people".
These art works primarily belong to the whole nation. They cannot be used in contemporary religious ceremonies and, according to R. Budrys, are usually brought to museums in all the world.
Besides, the art works of jewellery require unique and modern protection, which cannot be granted in churches.
6. Excerpt from Lifetime Remembrances by Vanda Sliupas
My wife Vanda is writing her "Lifetime Remembrances" so she can leave them for our grandchildren. In 1972 we made our first touristic visit to Moscow, Vilnius and Leningrad. While reading over her shoulder what she was writing I noticed the following two paragraphs that may be of interest:
"We flew on to Moscow for a couple of days of sightseeing. The capital of the Soviet Union was a major industrial, scientific and cultural center. A fort in Russian is called 'kremlin'; therefore, a small kremlin was built in the 12th century on the banks of the Moskva River. During the following centuries churches, palaces and government buildings were erected within the fort's walls. It had no other name and thus remained the fort - the Kremlin. History records that Lithuanian military forces, led by the Grand Duke Algirdas, tried on two occasions to breach the walls of the Kremlin in the 14th century, but did not succeed. However, the Grand Duke of Muscowy came out of the city and made peace with Algirdas with a gesture of recognition of his authority.
According to our friend in Chicago, historian Jonas Dainauskas (the same man whom we first met in 1960 and who showed us Paris - five days on our feet), this has following history:
The University of Moscow sits on Lenin's Hill. Previous to the Communist Revolution these hills were called "Vorobijnyje gory" - or hills of the sparrows ('zvirbliu kalnai' ir Lithuanian). But, until the second half of the nineteenth century, they were known as the "Poklonnyje Gory", a term whose real connotation is not easily translatable. In Russian this means: kneeling and bowing for surrender. During the Tatar subjugation times that meant unconditional kneeling, with one's forehead banging the ground, showing complete acceptance of the other persons authority. That is why that place was called 'Paklonnyje Gory', because there the Grand Duke of Moscow, on his knees, bowed and asked for peace from the Lithuanian Grand Duke Algirdas and his armies...."
7. Another surname Page
My hobby is the study of historical linguistic changes, especially as applied to Lithuanian surnames. I am starting a list of Lithuanian surnames and their meaning on "the Zemaitis Homepage" and would like to add your surname.
The list of Lithuanian surnames can be viewed at: http://www.webmart.net/~zemaitis/zemaitis.htm
Your surname and it's etymology would certainly be of interest, and you never know what sort of connections my turn up from elsewhere.
Names are spelled basically phonetically. The orthography tends to change because each language has different orthographic conventions.
Spelling of surnames varied all over the place in eastern Europe, since the Commonwealth of Poland-Lithuania was a multi-ethnic state in which a number of Languages were in use. Surnames sound different pronounced in Polish or Russian than they do in Lithuanian. There are also dialects. The Samogitians (lowland Lithuanians) speak a different dialect from the Aukstaicians (highlanders). Where my Zemaitis family lived, the Dzukish or Kapsas dialects were in use.
Do you know the meaning of your surname? Has the spelling changed in any way---Americanized, Polonized, Russianized, etc.? If you have the information and would like to have your name included on the list, please provide me with the above information. If you don't have all of the information, that is okay. I'll take whatever you have.
We Lithuanian-Americans have a strong desire to trace the origin of our Lithuanian surnames back to Lithuanian roots. Americans who have your surname would appreciate the information. I have been pretty lucky in tracing my roots, but there are a great number who have little or no information to go on.
In what city do you live? If you would like to have your surname and comments added to the list of surnames on the Zemaitis Homepage, please provide the name of the city in which you live to complete the posting.
8. Another Baltic contribution to the world's art treasury from Almus Salcius
Vaclovas Ratas, his post mortem, 25 years belated exhibition of the internationally noticeable art work, has been presented on June 13-14 in New York-Brooklyn Cultural Center. His daughter Ramona Zakareviciene, herself an internationally renown ballet dancer deserves, a respect and gratitude for bringing from Australia father's art via Chicago, New York ,back to Lithuania. The creative contribution of her father, the art curator in Kaunas Museum, testifies how displaced by war Baltic artists have enriched the world's culture.
"Vaclovas Ratas" in words of Roger Butler, Curator of Australian Prints, National Gallery of Australia," holds a distinguished position in the artistic heritage of three countries: Lithuania, where he was born in 1910, Germany, where he lived from 1944 to 1949 (The Twelve Ravens printed in Germany in 1949 was one of few illustrated books with English text to be published in exile), and Australia where he settled in 1949 and worked until his death in 1973. An artist of diverse talents, he is principally remembered today as a printmaker who excelled in traditional techniques and constantly experimented with new materials and methods.
On his arrival in Perth, Ratas quickly absorbed some of the stylistic characteristics of the art of the indigenous Aboriginal people. His small greetings printed cards use Australian animal motifs; in his limited edition exhibition prints the influence is seen in the striated cutting of the blocks.
Moving to Sydney,NSW in 1954, Ratas was at the forefront of the revitalization of the graphic arts of Australia. In 1960 it was the Lithuanian art community that was instrumental in organizing the first Australia Wide Graphic Art Exhibition and providing money for one of the prizes.
During his Sydney years Ratas became increasingly experimental. From single color woodcuts and engravings, multiple blocks were introduced. Then the cutting into softer material such as plaster and lino which gave a new fluidity to his work. There were the experiments with additional collogued elements, and finally the wonderful monotypes of his last years.
In all his work there is a profound elegance, both in the idea and its implementation." His work will join the permanent exhibition in Vilnius National Art Museum, as well as in Kaunas Art Galleries.
Books from the Lithuanian Studies Society at the University of Tasmania The Lithuanian Studies Society at the University of Tasmania has some books on Lithuania for sale (all in English, but not all published by LSS). The book titles include Lithuania's Environmental Problems by Amanda Banks, $7.50 plus $3 postage; and Lithuania in 1991 (includes a graphic report on the Bloody Sunday), $9.95 plus $5 postage. Leave Your Tears in Moscow by Barbara Armonas, is currently on special at $6 plus $2.50 postage. Lithuanian Papers Nos.1, 5, 6, 7, 8 are sold out. A few copies of Lithuanian Papers Nos. 2 and 4 are on hand at $7.50 plus $3 postage. Nos.9,10 and 11 are available at $6 each, posted. All prices are in US or Australian dollars. The Society accepts certified checks, money orders, personal checks, or cash (US banknote).
All orders, requests for catalogues (etc.) should be posted to :LSS
PO Box 777
Sandy Bay, Tasmania 7006 (Australia)
or e-mail to
Post Office Box 777
Sandy Bay, Tasmania, 7006, Australia
LITHUANIANS HELPING LITHUANIANS
This section is to acquaint you with some of the not for profit organizations helping Lithuanians and Lithuanians who have a business with whom other Lithuanians may do business.
NOT-FOR-PROFIT ORGANIZATIONS PROVIDING AID TO LITHUANIA
The U.S. Baltic Foundation
1717 Massachusetts Ave., N.W. Ste. 601
Washington, D.C. 20036
Tel: 202-986-0380 Fax: 202-234-8130
Purpose: to provide an interactive forum between U.S. and Baltic business, education and political leaders.
Lithuanian Mercy Lift
14911 127th St.
Lemont, IL 60439
Tel: 630-257-6777 Fax: 708-388-2059
Purpose: To solicit and transport conations of critically needed medicines, medical supplies and equipment to the people of Lithuania.
Lithuanian Children's Hope
2711 West 71st St.
Chicago, IL 60629
Tel: 773-476-0664 Fax: 773-436-6909
Purpose: To bring Lithuanian children to the U.S. to receive specialized medical treatment through the Shriner's and sponsor and orthopedic teaching facility in Lithuania.
Lithuanian Orphan Care, Inc.
2711 West 71st St.
Chicago, IL 60629
Purpose: To provide care to orphaned and needy children and large natural and foster families in Lithuania as well as scholarship aid to needy student. Suggested annual donation is $150 per child or $250 per student.
(American Professional Partnership for Lithuanian Education)
P.O. Box 617
Durham, CT 06422
Tel: 860-347-7095 Fax: 860-347-5837
Purpose: To conduct summer in service seminars for teachers in Lithuania and support ongoing exchange of educational information, material and personnel. Scholarships to sponsor summer interns in 1998 are $30. A.P.P.L.E. instructors are volunteers.
"Saulute" (Sunlight Committee)
419 Weidner Road
Buffalo Grove, IL 60089
Purpose: to provide care to needy children. $240 suggested annual donation per child.
The Lithuanians of America is a non-profit organization for Lithuanian-Americans based in Kansas City. The purpose of the organization is to promote the Lithuanian culture through education, dance, and language. We have several events per year, including a Christmas party with Kucios table and Independence Day celebration (2/15 this year). Membership is only $10 for a family or $7 for a single person. For more information, contact Kathy Hazlewood at firstname.lastname@example.org or (913)262-7175.
Is your not-for-profit organizations not listed? Send an email to email@example.com with a brief description of your mission and get it listed.
Are you looking for a speaker for your next event? Author RAIMONDA MIKATAVAGE is not only a writer, but also a great public speaker. Please visit her site at http://www.GuestFinder.com/mikrai.htm
Jauzinios, the magazine of the Australian Lithuanian Youth Association is about to release edition 46 which contains articles about Congress held in Boston and information regarding the next Congress in Australia. It also has some local articles and information. For further details and subscription information email the editor L.Zdanius@latrobe.edu.au (Lukas Zdanius)
Translations International, base in Vilnius, offers translations to/from Lithuanian, Russian, and English. If you are a private individual, business, school, or government, no job is too large or too small for us. Our work is high-quality, fast, and costs considerably less than our competitors. If you want it done right and if you want to save money, contact us at:
Fax: (370 2) 751056
Address: P.d. 3290
LT-2013 Vilnius Lietuva (Lithuania)
A Lithuanian grammar, published in Lithuania a few months ago. An 800 page hard cover edition, published with the support of the Soros foundation, Lithuanian Academy of Sciences and Lithuanian government. The price is $40 for a single copy (with shipping and handling). Also available is the recently published LITHUANIA: IN HER OWN WORDS, an anthology of contemporary Lithuanian writing. As Vytautas Kubilius writes: The anthology marks the first serious attempt to introduce the Western reader to contemporary Lithuanian writing; its major concerns, stylistic currents, and most importantly, to the issue of a divided literature a historical situation experienced by most of the literature of Central and Eastern Europe. Price of a single copy is $22 (with shipping and handling). For more information email: Jkeleras@aol.com (Julius Keleras, Editor of Lithuanian-American weekly DARBININKAS, Chairman of Lithuanian PEN center in the U.S.)
LOSE FAT WHILE YOU SLEEP!! Take one tablespoon of Calorad in a full glass of water just before going to sleep on a three hour empty stomach and wake up thinner. Testimonials by fellow Lithuanians who have taken the product and had great results. Find out how by visiting http://www.eyiteam.com. The code is A9058T0986
GET PAID FOR DRINKING COFFEE. That's right! You can get paid for drinking gourmet coffee. Go to http://www.clubjoe.com/dist/10107 and find out how easy it is.
Join many Christians all across this country in the GREATEST Christian Business there is: SCRIPTURES (Salon, Nutrition, and Bible Studies) FREE information: http://get-it.net/cgi-bin/get-it
If you have a business or you are a not for profit organization and would like to advertise here, just email me and I will put it in. There will never be a charge for not for profit ads, business ads are also free at this time.PUBLICATIONS
LITHUANIAN PAPERS is an 80 page journal, published annually in English
by the Lithuanian Studies Society at the University of Tasmania
(Australia). The latest issue, No.11/97, is bursting with topical
articles and information. Professor Valdas Samonis discusses
"Lithuania^Òs road to Europe^Ô and what Lithuania should do to gain
admission to the European Union (EU). Howard Jarvis, an English
journalist living in Vilnius, gives an account of Sofija Grauziniene's
undeserved tragedy and appeals for help to continue his research. Other
articles deal with understanding change in Lithuania, Baltic
co-operation, Soviet conscripts, saving Jewish children, the cost of
NATO enlargement and so on. There is poetry and a presentation of a
Lithuanian sculptor, Teisutis Zikaras. Six books are reviewed. Many
brief items record various Lithuanian events. Finally, some humor
appears on the Back Page. All this is available at $6 (including
surface postage) in US, Australian or Canadian currency. Please add $2
if airmail is required. Prepayment is not mandatory: you may order now
by e-mail, address:
A.Taskunas@utas.edu.au and pay when you receive