Monday, 25 May 2015

A neighbourly helping hand

War experiences would have been traumatic and many had long term consequences.  It is not surprising that some would be admitted to an institution.  Here is a moving article, that talks about how the community responded.

In a small cafeteria sits 14 men.  From their appearance you can tell that they are Lithuanian.  Some of them have nicely tanned faces, clean shaven and wearing clean clothes.  We talk of everyday things, about the weather, food, autumn. If you look more closely at them in their eyes you can see a warm Lithuanian palpable sorrow. They miss genuine freedom.  On the table is piled a package for each person in which you will find fruit, biscuits, sweets, cigarettes, tobacco, Lithuanian newspapers, handkerchiefs, tooth paste and other small items.  Inside the room are two Adelaide Women Society members who have brought the packages.  They have known these men for a long time.

They talk to each one of them. “I could leave, the doctor would let me, just there is no one who will give me work.  I am bored here”.

Others have been here for 12 years, and from appearance you would think they could live like us.  Some have been here 6, 8 or 9 years, they all speak lovely Lithuanian, some of them are real Žemaičiai (Samogitians), Dzukai or Aukštačiai (Highlanders) (References to the regional groups of Lithuania). After an hour we say our goodbyes.  We visit 2 women and one man lying in hospital. Going through the doors, the guard unlocks and then locks, the doors with large rattling keys.  The sound goes through your heart.  On the other side of the door are our blood brothers.  Born on Lithuanian soil, grown up in the Lithuanian countryside, through grass and forests they ran as children.  Today there are 17. Only a few remember them, only a few visit.  Every 4-6 weeks they receive small gifts from the Adelaide Women’s Society, so they are not forgotten.

The outside is beautifully kept, the lawn and flowers trimmed, by the gate you notice a modest sign, “Parkside Mental Hospital”.

Bledzdingėles prie Torrenso, Lietuvių Isikurimas Pietų Australijoj 1947 – 1962

Friday, 15 May 2015

In memory of Romas Kalanta

In memory of Romas Kalanta
Romas Kalanta (February 22, 1953 – May 15, 1972) was a Lithuanian high school student known for his public self-immolation protesting Soviet regime in Lithuania. Kalanta's death provoked the largest post-war riots in Lithuania and inspired similar self-immolations.

Kalanta became a symbol of the Lithuanian resistance throughout the 1970s and 1980s.
At noon on May 14, 1972, Kalanta poured 3 litres of petrol on himself and set himself on fire in the square adjoining the Laisvės Alėja in front of the Kaunas Musical Theatre, where in 1940 the People's Seimas declared establishment of the Lithuanian SSR and petitioned the Soviet Union to admit Lithuania as one of the soviet socialist republics.  He died about 14 hours later in a hospital.  Before the suicide, Kalanta left his notebook with a brief note on a bench. Its content became known only after the declaration of independence in 1990 and opening up of secret KGB archives. The note read "blame only the regime for my death.

After his death rumours spread that a few of his classmates formed a patriot group, and that they held a lottery to determine which of them would have to carry out the mission. The official Soviet propaganda claimed that Kalanta was mentally ill.
Kalanta Romas: In memory of Romas Kalanta who 10 years ago, died in Kaunas Lithuania, in protest of Soviet Russia’s oppression of all human rights of his people.  Your sacrifice has not gone unnoticed and will always be remembered.

Advertiser inserted by Viktoras Stalba (Adelaide) 1982
Image taken from Lietuvos Rytas