by Markas Zingeris
Rachel Kostanian-Danzig, one of the founders of the Vilna Gaon Museum of Jewish History, is celebrating her venerable ninety-first birthday. She belongs to the generation that survived the horrific years of the Second World War as well the times of the Soviet regime, and saw the fall of the Iron Curtain: the geopolitical “earthquake” that allowed Lithuania to take back control of its own history.
During her youth in Soviet times, Rachel completed a law degree at Vilnius University and qualified as an English teacher at the city’s Pedagogical University. Her field was not history, until the breakup of the Soviet Union and the rise of Lithuanian liberty gave her the freedom to immerse herself in the history and culture of her Jewish people. But no historian’s diplomas could match her relentless, painstaking and passionate desire to meaningfully fill the gaps in Lithuanian collective memory. Today’s young professionals could envy her enthusiasm and “engagement.”