I have just returned from a visit to Lithuania where I spend a month travelling around the country, catching up with old friends and meeting new relatives. I grew up in Australia and was always a little sad that our family was so small. I was still better off than most as my paternal grandfather has his siblings here, but it still added up to a small group that could all sit around one large dinner table. This year I met my parents cousins for the first time, and am amazed at how my family has suddenly expanded. I wish my parents had this extended family growing up, they missed out on so many family gatherings, gossip and squabbles. For me, finding family overseas has given me deeper roots to the country that has played such a big part in my life. I returned home clutching a precious photograph of my maternal great grandparents, which I never had seen, and a photograph of my grandparents wedding, we have one photo but had never seen this one. I now have images of my grandfather as a young man and images of him mourning the loss of his father at his funeral. My new found family took us to visit the graves of my maternal great grandparents and extended family, I had no one to visit in cemeteries in Adelaide.
My roots grow deep and strong in Lithuania, but new sprouts are growing and expanding in Australia. While Lithuanian blood may flow through my veins, I realise that growing up in a different country makes me not Lithuanian. I speak an accented, grammatically poor, old fashioned version of the language, I am unaware of the slang, local jokes, have no idea of music, films and tv from years ago. Nor do I have the experience of growing up in an occupied country under a regime that was enforced upon you. I am a new breed, a 'litho', an Australian born of Lithuanian decent. I will always belong in two places.