1 May 2012
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    • Summer is here!
      30C(86F) in Vilnius!

    • History buffs gather in Lithuania to retrace Napoleon’s disastrous retreat

      Napoleon’s soldiers at the
      Vilnius’ Old Town Hall, 1812.

      History buffs from the Netherlands and other European countries have gathered in Lithuania to retrace Napoleon’s disastrous retreat from Russia 200 years ago.

      The enthusiasts, decked in period costumes and strolling alongside Napoleon-era carriages, attracted large crowds of onlookers Friday in the Lithuanian capital of Vilnius.

      Read more…

      Raised growth forecast for Lithuania but no switch to Euro until 2015

      SWEDBANK, the largest lender in the Baltic region, raises its 2013 economic-growth forecasts for Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, citing a better outlook for global demand.

      Estonia’s economy will probably expand 4.2 percent next year, compared with a January forecast of 4 percent, the bank said in an e-mailed report today. Latvia’s economy may grow 3.5 in 2013, while Lithuania’s gross domestic product may expand 4.3 percent, it said.

      The bank also raised Latvia’s 2012 growth forecast to 2.5 percent from a previous estimate of 2 percent, the report said.

      Swedbank also said Lithuanian chances to qualify for euro adoption as planned in 2014 have “significantly narrowed” because of consumer-price growth. The country is more likely to switch currencies in 2015, it said.

    • Invest Lithuania:
      Lithuania among the most attractive destinations for shared services and BPO

      Former British Ambassador to Lithuania, Mr Simon Butt and Lithuanian Ambassador to the UK, Dr. Oskaras Jusys

      Global Shared Services industry experts named Eastern and Central Europe as a most attractive destination for Shared Services (SS) and Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) for businesses that are looking to relocate their operations to more competitive locations.

      Experts from the UK and the United States gathered to share views on current trends in the global shared service and BPO industry at a reception hosted by Invest Lithuania, at the new premises of the Lithuanian Embassy in London on April 17.

      Associate Director and Corporate Location Consultant of Jones Lang LaSalle, Mr. Alex Ash noted that businesses are rebalancing their business services portfolios globally. Ms Cynthia Pasky, founder, president and CEO of Strategic Staffing Solutions (S3), highlighted that People, Price and Proximity are key criteria for relocating operations. She remarked that rising labour costs, retention, quality, and distance to client, both cultural and physical, have emerged as factors challenging Asia’s traditional advantages as a destination for relocating services centres.

      Mr Adrian Hall, Strategic Lead at Barclays Bank PLC, noted that Barclays Bank initially planned in 2010 to recruit around 250 employees for its strategic IT engineering centre in Lithuania, but has since taken on some 700 IT professionals. He said Barclays is very satisfied with the great talent pool, cost-effectiveness and the geographical and cultural proximity of Lithuania to the UK.

      The former British Ambassador to Lithuania, Mr Simon Butt and the Lithuanian Ambassador to the UK, Dr. Oskaras Jusys, agreed that with its highly skilled and multilingual talent, low operating costs, physical and cultural proximity to Western and Northern Europe, Eastern Europe is emerging as a strong competitor with Asia in terms of attracting Shared Service as well as BPO investments.

    • During the first three months of this year the number of passengers at Vilnius International Airport on the average grew by 64.3 percent !
      During the first three months of this year the number of passengers at Vilnius International Airport (VIA) on the average grew by 64.3 percent. This March the VIA serviced 142 thousand passengers – 17.5 percent more than in February and as much as 56.5 percent more than in March 2011.

      2277 flights were performed last month, which makes up for 8.5 percent increase compared to the same period last year. London, Frankfurt, Riga and Copenhagen were amongst the most popular destinations.

      “The results of the first quarter set a good start for the aviation summer season which commenced 25 March. So far we can see that Vilnius International Airport growth plans are being successfully implemented. During the summer season as much as 5 new airlines will be operating on 11 new routes,” – Minister of Transport and Communications Eligijus Masiulis commented on the VIA performance.

      Good performance is the result of successful operation of traditional airlines and growing demand in low-cost carriers’ services. One of the companies which serviced the largest number of passengers in March is Lufthansa. The airline celebrated its 20th anniversary at VIA and by offering two daily flights to Frankfurt serviced almost 13 thousand passengers per month. Scandinavian Airlines also demonstrated excellent results for March with 10.5 thousand passengers and helped to keep Copenhagen amongst the top destinations of Vilnius International Airport. Excellent results were demonstrated by the airline airBaltic which offered flights to Riga and serviced 12.5 thousand passengers.

      Direct connection with Milan and London introduced last year proved to be highly successful – these destinations were chosen by 8 thousand and 16.5 thousand passengers, respectively. The popularity of these destinations contributed to the successful performance of low-cost carriers – in March WizzAir serviced 25.5 thousand passengers and Ryanair – almost 30 thousand passengers.

      During the summer season Vilnius International Airport will offer flights to 31 cities and 36 airports. 40 direct regular flights shall be operated from Vilnius. 21 airlines shall be offering regular flights during the summer season.

    • Our VilNews Board Member, Vladas Lasas, awarded the Oslo Business for Peace Prize
      The Business for Peace Foundation and the International Chamber of  Commerce (ICC) have announced the seven recipients of the 2012 Oslo Business for Peace Awards, the highest form of recognition that can be bestowed upon a person in business.

      Ibrahim Abouleish (Egypt), Anil Agarwal (India), Eduardo Eurnekian (Argentina), Vladas Lasas (Lithuania), David W. MacLennan (USA), Reginald A. Mengi (Tanzania) and Latifur Rahman (Bangladesh) will receive their Awards during a special ceremony on 7 May, taking place as part of the Oslo Business for Peace Summit in Oslo City Hall, Norway.

      Recipients are selected by The Award Giving Committee, comprising Muhammad Yunus (winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for 2006), and A Michael Spence (winner of the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in  Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel for 2001). 

      Usually awards are assigned to one person - but it's always recognition of the great people and great teams around them.

    • Lithuanians and other Eastern Europeans no longer so welcome to Switzerland
      The Swiss government has decided to re-impose quotas on immigrants from Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Poland, Hungary and Czech Republic, officials said Wednesday.

      The Swiss Cabinet announced that residents from these countries will be subject to quotas starting in May when they apply for residency permits needed to work more a year in Switzerland.

      The decision reflects a longstanding uneasiness about immigration and rising concerns about integrating workers and employers' compliance with wage and labor requirements, along with a desire to hold unemployment to 3 percent even during a time of economic turmoil.

      "In weighing its interests, the Federal Council took into account the fact that the free movement of persons provides a good number of advantages to the Swiss economy," the government said.

      Read more…

    • Top Lithuanian diplomats posted in the U.S., Canada and Mexico meet in Chicago this week
      This weekend, top Lithuanian diplomats posted in the U.S., Canada and Mexico meet in Oak Brook — because the Chicago area has the most Lithuanian Americans in the U.S.

      Discussing the upcoming NATO summit in Chicago is just one of several purposes for the gathering, which will include Lithuanian consul generals and honorary consul generals in North America, Lithuania’s ambassador to the U.S., Zygimantas Pavilionis, told me when we chatted on Friday.

      Lithuania is ramping up for the May NATO summit in Chicago. Lithuania joined NATO in 2004. It seceded from the Soviet Union in 1991. While much of the attention of the Chicago meetings at McCormick Place will be on the Afghanistan conflict, Lithuania wants to make sure NATO fighter jets continue to patrol the airspace of the Baltic Nations: Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

      On Saturday, the Lithuanian diplomats also will mark the 50th anniversary of the Lemont-based Lithuanian Foundation, which helps keep alive Lithuanian culture in the U.S.

      Read more…

    • Lithuania seeks gas supplies from Norwegian Statoil for LNG terminal
      Lithuania is in talks with Norway’s Statoil ASA (STL) over possible liquefied natural gas supplies for the country’s gas terminal on the Baltic sea, the Lithuanian energy ministry said.

      Gas tankers from Statoil’s Snohvit (Snow White) export terminal would reach Lithuania’s Klaipedos Nafta (KNF1L) AB LNG terminal within five days, which is an attractive alternative because of lower transportation costs, the ministry in Vilnius said in an e- mailed statement today.

      Klaipedos Nafta, which is 70.63 percent owned by the state, plans to begin operations at a floating LNG terminal at the end of 2014. Klaipedos is also in talks with other potential gas suppliers such as the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan, known as Socar, Spain’s Gas Natural Fenosa and Cheniere Energy Inc. (LNG) of the U.S.

    • First-time event in Chicago this Sunday, April 15, to address lingering issues affecting Lithuanian-Jewish relations

      Zygimantas Pavilionis, Lithuanian ambassador to the U.S. (left), and Harley Felstein of the Lithuanian Heritage Project

      Organizer: The Sunflower Project: A Jewish Lithuanian Heritage Project
      Harley Felstein, project founder
      Where: The Hyatt Lodge, 2815 Jorie Blvd., Oak Brook, Illinois 60523
      When: 8-9 a.m. Sunday, April 15, 2012

      Top-level individuals representing the Lithuanian government, Lithuanian-American groups, and members of the Jewish community, will be gathering for the first time in Chicago in an effort to begin to address lingering issues affecting Lithuanian-Jewish relations. The meeting is the second of its kind nationally -- the first was in Washington in the fall. The gatherings are the initial stages of an exciting new endeavor, the Sunflower Project, a Jewish Lithuanian Heritage Project, recently established as a means to reconnect Lithuanian Jews and their descendants in the Diaspora to their Lithuanian roots, support a revival of Jewish history and culture in Lithuania, further awareness of these efforts, and foster positive interest in Lithuanian Jews and Lithuania among American Jews. Ultimately, the Sunflower Project seeks to transform and positively influence the nature of Lithuanian-Jewish relations.

      The Lithuanian Embassy in the U.S. and Consular officials as well as Harley Felstein, the founder of the Sunflower Project, have initiated many cultural activities already this year and have plans for in coming months.

      Attendees will include, among others:
      - 17 honorary consuls to Lithuania from across North America.
      - Lithuanian Ambassador to the United States Zygimantas Pavilionis
      - Lithuanian Ambassador to Canada
      - Lithuanian consulate generals in Mexico City, New York, and Chicago
      - Michael Kotzin, Senior Counselor to the President of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago
      - Steve Dishler, Jewish Community Relations Council of Chicago’s
      - Director of International Affairs AJC Chicago Director Dan Elbaum
      - Eugene Steingold, a Chicago lawyer born in Vilnius
      - Alexander Domanskis, who is affiliated with the Lithuanian Foundation based in Chicago
      - Stanley Balzekas, Jr., President and Founder of the Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture in Chicago; board member of the Lithuanian American Council
      - Harley Felstein, Sunflower Project founder, based in Washington

      Contact: Samantha Friedman, Rabinowitz/Dorf Communications
      (202) 265-3000; (202) 215-9260 (c);

    • The paperback of "Between Shades of Gray" has made the New York Times Best Seller list. HOORAY!!!!
      Between Shades of Gray, now a New York Times Bestseller, is the debut novel of American novelist Ruta Sepetys. It follows the Stalinist purges of the latter half of the 20th century, Between Shades of Gray follows the life of Lina as she is deported from her native Lithuania with her mother and younger brother and the journey they take to a work-camp in Siberia. It has been nominated for the 2012 CILIP Carnegie Medal and has been translated into more than 27 languages.

      Between Shades of Gray was originally intended as a young adult novel, but there have been several adult publications. In an interview with Thirst for Fiction, Ruta Sepetys said that the reason she intended Between Shades of Gray to be a young adult novel was because she met many survivors in Lithuania who were themselves teenagers during the deportations, and had a greater will to live than many of their adult counterparts at the time.

    • 100 years later, rare Lithuanian book salvaged from Titanic
      The RMS Titanic sank one-hundred years ago, and has remained a fixture of curiosity and study ever since. Over the last century oceanography has advanced a great deal, and several research expeditions have gone down to the wreck to study it, sometimes managing to bring items back up from the depths. Last week, one such story broke about a rare Lithuanian book being salvaged from the shipwreck. Lithuanians on the Titanic? Indeed.

      Juozas Montvila was born in Gudinė in 1885 and ordained in 1908, became a vicar in Lipskas, but was caught ministering to the Uniates, a religious group “proscribed” by Czarist Russia. His sentence removed his vicarage and forbade him from becoming a pastor. He wrote and illustrated for several newspapers in Vilnius. An appeal to the sentence was not forthcoming, so he prepared to emigrate to the United States, where he had family, so that he could resume his pastoral calling. He traveled to England and from there boarded the Titanic and stayed with the Second Class passengers. After the ship struck the iceberg, Montvila, along with two other Catholic priests, stayed on board to console doomed passengers who couldn't make it to the life boats. Montvila was 27 in 1912.

      Read more…

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USA and the relationship between the Lithuanian-Americans and their homeland will be
substantially covered in our VilNews editions during the month of April. Feedback from
you, dear readers, is very much wanted! Go to SECTION 11 – LITHUANIA IN THE WORLD

Sun, 29th April, 2012 - Posted by admin | Comments (0)

“Why do you love
Jews so much?”

Vilnius, the old Jewish Synagogue.

By Aage Myhre, Editor-in-Chief

I have repeatedly been asked, by Lithuanians and others why VilNews, and I as a Norwegian without a single drop of Jewish blood, love Jews so much? Recently I met a Lithuanian-American, well educated and well read, who yet bombastically trumpeted. "You lick the asses of the Jews, Aage."

During my meetings with Jews in South Africa, where 90% of the Jewish population of almost 100 000 are of Lithuanian descent, I have also been asked why I have such great interest in Litvaks.

My answer to all these, has been that I do not love Jews more than other peoples.

But I also tend to add that I am always impressed by people who achieve more than the common herd. Intelligence and wisdom are to me among the most important qualities a person can have, and I have no problem admitting that these are qualities I've seen a lot of among the Jews I have known through life.

As to the Litvaks, they were subjected to an almost total extinction here in Lithuania during the Holocaust. It was an assault and a genocide of an unimaginable scale that we must never forget, and which memory must find its fair balance in the mental as well as in the practical.


Category : Front page

Sat, 28th April, 2012 - Posted by admin | Comments (0)

Ona Šimaitė:
Righteous – and Human

Julija Šukys,
Author of
Epistolophilia: Writing the Life of Ona Šimaitė

Julija Šukys interviewed by Ellen Cassedy

In her new book, Epistolophilia, Julija Šukys follows the letters and journals—the “life-writing”—of Ona Šimaitė (1894–1970), a Lithuanian librarian who again and again slipped into the Jewish ghetto of German-occupied Vilnius carrying food, clothes, medicine, money, and counterfeit documents.  Often she left with letters to deliver, manuscripts to hide, and even sedated children swathed in sacks. In 1944 she was captured by the Gestapo, tortured for twelve days, and deported to Dachau.

Šukys beckons back to life this quiet and worldly heroine.  Ona Šimaitė is a giant of Holocaust history – one of the “Righteous among the Nations” honored at the Yad Vashem memorial in Israel – and yet little known. 

Julija Šukys lives in Montreal, Canada. In addition to Epistolophilia, she is also the author of Silence Is Death; The Life and Work of Tahar Djaout.  Visit her website at


Category : Front page


Have your say. Send to:

    • Comments to
      Jenifer C. Dillis article:
      A visit to our Homeland
      through the eyes of 12 American-Lithuanian women

      To read the article CLICK HERE

      Jurate Norkunas
      Jenifer, you have captured not only the spirit of Lithuania in your post, but the love we Lithuanians living apart from our Homeland all over the world feel. How wonderful our parents were to fill us with such love and appreciation for their homeland. Thank you for this lovely post. Jurate Norkunas-Aukstikalnis/Boston

      How do I explain my teary eyes to my class of 2nd graders who just returned from PE class as I finished reading this???

      There are no words....ok, maybe PRICELESS...but that still doesn't do the story, the photos, the memories…

      Linas Eitmanas
      Love your story and pics!

      Debbie Kimball
      Thank you for sharing your story! I too want to visit my homeland, both my grandparents were from Lithuania, my cousin has visited now i want too, I just need to find the right travel companion and just do it! someday SOON!
      Thank you again.
      Debbie Kimball-Morrow
      (Kimbaldis) (Gregavilage) (sp)


      Gaile Jucenas Callo Nolan 
      One of my favorite places on earth!

      Joyce Kulikowski Wehrwein 
      I would love to make that trip, maybe 'someday!'

      Jenifer C. Dillis
      I MUST return soon...2007 was so very long ago. The 3000+ photos I had taken need some updating! :) 
      If anyone would like to view ALL my photos from the Trip of A Lifetime, I have them all on KodakGallery... 
      Just let me know...:) Aciu for allowing me to revisit my favorite far away home.

      Jenifer C. Dillis 
      There is no "if" only a "when" to describe my return to the home I love from far away...I miss my Baltic Sea...♥

      Jenifer C. Dillis 
      I'm packing my bags right now! Ready to take the plunge into the calm, warm waters of The Baltic...heeeeheeee:)

    • I find the whole issue of identity quite fascinating and something that is often underestimated or assumed
      I have been visiting your website and have enjoyed reading the various items. I think it is a very useful resource especially for people of Lithuanian background living outside Lithuania - as it gives them a chance to interact and hear opinions etc. from locals and others.

      I like the interviews and the historical info the best - the banter and dialogue can be interesting too - but it can easily get dominated by a personality or two.

      But it is a very great thing you are doing and I am very happy to see you seem to have a growing base of advertisers which suggests that the site can be self supporting and even flourish.

      I find the whole issue of identity quite fascinating and something that is often underestimated or assumed ... but really is quite important and your site can certainly help to illuminate this issue for Lithuanians living both here and abroad.

      Vytas PACAS

      Dear VilNews readers,

      Rimantas Aukstuolis (see below) believes there are many Lithuanian-Americans who would like to retire in Lithuania, while Gintautas Kaminskas thinks "the shocks" you have to expect makes such an idea less attractive.

      I think Rimantas is right that moving here for retirement is a good idea and that you may well enjoy many, many years in your home country's warm embrace. At the same time I give Gintautas right that there are obstacles that could easily topple such plans.

      I do therefore offer, hereby, to help anyone who plans to retire in Lithuania. I have lived here for 20 years (I'm originally Norwegian), and I must say that I most of the time have been very pleased and happy.

      I've managed to get through the problem areas Gintautas refers to, and I have an infinite number of good friends and interesting tasks that make life here extraordinary interesting and attractive.

      I am ready to share my many experiences with you who would like to move here or just visit for shorter periods, and I am willing to tell you which experts you should seek advice from, being it within legal, health care or other fields.

      I can also help you to find a new home.

      Call me or write me if you find this interesting. To retire in Lithuania is a brilliant idea, and I promise to help you getting things in place in an excellent way.

      Warm Regards,
      Aage Myhre

      Makes me wish I were old enough to retire...:)
      The Baltic looks MUCH calmer in this photo than it did when I was there in July 2007...Makes me wish I were old enough to retire...:)
      Jenifer C. Dillis

      My impression is that many of us Lithuanian-Americans have thought about the possibility of retiring in Lithuania

      Rimantas Aukstuolis

      Dear Editor,
      I enjoy reading VilNews and, VilNews seems to touch on, if not already delve into, a variety of issues which are relevant to someone who may wish to retire in Lithuania. It might be interesting for much of your readership to more sharply focus on specific retirement issues such as comparisons and advantages of retiring in Lithuania, vs. the US. This seems to be evolving as a hot topic in the US as many baby boomers face the reality of high living costs (particularly healthcare) and diminished pension resources.

      Detailed and systematic comparisons of living costs, tax issues, health care and real estate ownership might even result in significant "foreign investment" into Lithuania by foreign, especially US retirees. My impression is that many of us Lithuanian-Americans have thought about this possibility. I know several who have taken action. Perhaps such "dreams" should be encouraged with facts, experiences, even government incentives. Thoughts?
      Rimantas Aukstuolis
      Cleveland, Ohio, USA

      Trying to retire in Lithuania is in for not just "a shock", but a number of shocks

      Gintautas Kaminskas

      Rimantas Aukštuolis asks for other readers' on the possibility of retiring in Lithuania. Well, I tried to (2008-9). I'm deliberately not going to go into specific details of my case (that's personal), but I have to say from my experience that any Lithuanian-American (and it's not just Americans, don't forget that there are Lithuanians in other parts of the world, too) who tries to retire in Lithuania is in for not just "a shock", but a number of shocks. By the way, I happen to speak fluent Lithuanian (I am a professional translator). That certainly helps in some ways, but it's no help against the myriad of problems confronting present-day Lithuania, which are mostly to do with the lingering Soviet mentality ("naglumas - antra laimė").

      Living costs are lower there, but the health care system is a nightmare. You won't even get the health care you're entitled to as a Lithuanian citizen without paying bribes, and as a foreigner you're "fair game". Real estate ownership? Make sure you have a very good lawyer. Government incentives? Which Government? The Lithuanian Government? As the kids say these days: "LOL". From the lowliest local or State government officials right up to some Seimūnai (Members of Parliament) and Cabinet Ministers - corruption reigns. They enter Government "service" asking not what they can do for their country but what they can get for No. 1. (For anyone not familiar with the English idiom - No. 1 is "moi", me, myself, I - and my family and friends and clan to some extent.) That's the reality. You only need to follow the Lithuanian media to realise that what I'm saying is the truth and no exaggeration.

      Just for the record, I am still in love with my native land and would still love to live there: theoretically (lengthy visits will have to suffice). It's green, beautifully uncrowded, lots of nice lakes and streams, and I have no problem with the climate, not even in winter. It's wonderful to meet thoughtful Lithuanians and to communicate with them in our native language. But .... see above.
      Gintautas Kaminskas

      An issue for elderly seeking to reconnect with families and younger professionals who seek to participate in the economies

      Tony Mazeika

      Relocation back to Lithuania will only be an issue for elderly seeking to reconnect with families and younger professionals who seek to participate in the economies. The vast majority of "diaspora" have citizenship from their adopted nations like the US, Canada, Australia. Ironically, the real issue is the continuing alarming emigration of young educated from Lithuania to the UK, US, Canada, etc. The numbers are a threat to the developing economy and future political stability of Lithuania. That void could be made up with people within the EU including Muslims.
      Tony Mazeika

    • The book, "1939, The Year that Changed Everything in Lithuania's History” reveals the unflattering response by the top leadership, their abdication, and flight from the nation, leaving the population defenseless... without any responsible and effective resistance… as if independence never happened
      Go to our Section 5 to participate in the discussion

      Book author: Sarunas Liekis

      In a commentary to our VilNews article series "Lithuania and the Soviet Union 1939-1940" (Section 10 - HISTORICAL LITHUANIA) Tony Mazeika from Mission Viejo in California writes the following:

      "It is necessary to read the full account of Lithuania's leadership response to Soviet demands and occupation in 1940. The book, "1939, The Year that Changed Everything in Lithuania's History", Arnas Liekis, reveals the unflattering response by the top leadership, their abdication, and flight from the nation, leaving the population defenseless...without any responsible and effective resistance. It's as if independence never happened. Lithuania, together with Latvia & Estonia, make no formal military resistance knowing that Finland fought in 1939-1940 and survived a Soviet onslaught. Much more need to be disclosed about those "patriots" who chose to run rather than fight for their nation."

      Tony Mazeika

    • Our VilNews Associate Editor, Vin Karnila, has edited the four articles we have presented on the topic "Lithuania and the Soviet Union 1939-1940" from the personal memoirs of Juozas Urbšys. Here is his response to Mr. Mazeika's commentary:

      Easy to say that they should have organized formal Military resistance – and get slaughtered

      Vin Karnila

      I would like to thank you Mr. Mazeika for sharing your thoughts with us and making us aware of what I'm sure is a very interesting book written by Arnas Liekis.

      You bring up a topic that has been discussed many times throughout the years following 1940. The members of the Lithuanian delegation that were involved in the negotiations with Russia have always claimed that they knew that Russia at any time they chose could have invaded Lithuania. They also felt that if Russia did in fact invade, whether there was organized military resistance or not, this would result in catastrophic consequences for Lithuania and its people. Throughout the negotiations they said that what they were trying to achieve was the best possible outcome for Lithuania. In the end what they achieved was the best possible outcome that Russia would allow.

      The topic of the courageous people of Finland and their organized military resistance to Russia's invasion of their homeland in relation to the fact that Russia's invasion of Lithuania in 1940 occurred without a shot being fired has also been discussed many times. The question remains how much did Lithuania know or did not know about Finland's armed resistance to Russia in what is known as the "Winter War"?

      3 October 1939 the Lithuanian delegation flew to Moscow to begin the negotiations with Russia. 30 November 1939 Russia attacked Finland to begin the "Winter War". By March of 1940 both sides began to negotiate a peace treaty. Did Lithuania know that in spite of the great courage of the Finns the primary factor in Finland's success was that the Winter War was fought in some of the harshest of winter weather conditions and in equally harsh terrain? This harsh terrain the Finns knew like the back of their hand and the weather conditions to them was normal winter weather? Did Lithuania know that if Russia attacked across the gentle rolling hills and flat farmlands of Lithuania in spring or summer that the advantage of weather and terrain, that so greatly helped the Finns, would only make Russia's evil task easier? An invasion of Lithuania by Russia in the spring or summer of 1940 would have been a military situation completely the opposite of the Finland's and Russia's Winter War. Did Lithuania know that whatever peace agreement Finland and Russia came to that it would end up being short lived? Had Lithuania taken notice of the fact that no Western power had come to Finland's aid with any meaningful support? From all reports, Lithuania realized that their Military, no matter how courageously they fought, was no match against the might of Soviet Russia's army.

      Many comments have been made and questions asked about the large number of government and Military top officials that left after 15 June 1940. Why didn't they stay? Why didn't they stay and resist? How could they leave their homeland? I would say that the real answers to these questions can only be answered by these top officials that left. Some left almost immediately as if they knew what would happen once Russia occupied the country. Others left after they saw what Russia was doing now that they occupied the country. In fact many people that had the means to do so left once they understood what their future would be at the hands of Russia.

      All these questions to all these situations I have asked myself over and over. Again and again I come to the conclusion that more than seventy years after these events occurred, while I'm sitting in the comfort of my home and while I can walk the streets of Vilnius without (for the time being) having to worry about being run over by a Russian tank, shot by a Russian soldier, kidnapped by the NKVD, put in a gulag or executed, I am really not in a position to judge people who were trying to do the best they could for our country and simply trying to survive during very difficult and dangerous times. I guess it could be kind of easy for some to say that they should have organized formal Military resistance – and got slaughtered. It could also be easy for some to say that the top officials and the people of means should have stayed – and got executed, imprisoned, put in gulags or sent to Siberia. Personally I can't judge these people for their actions because I wasn't alive then and I wasn't involved in these dangerous and difficult times. I also refuse to be a "Monday morning quarterback" and go on and on talking about all of the "should haves" for the same reasons I just stated. The opinions of others about these matters though are something I am very interested in.

      Having said all this I must say that the discussion of what happened, what did not happen, why it did happen and why it didn't happen during these times are matters that will continue to occupy my thoughts – I'm still trying to understand and make sense of all of it. Again I would like to thank you Mr. Mazeika for sharing your thoughts with all of us and I would also like to thank you for letting us know about the book by Arnas Liekis - 1939, The Year that Changed Everything in Lithuania's History. I'm sure that I am not the only one out there looking for more information about this period of Lithuania's history and I'm sure that I'm not the only one looking for more information about this so that I can try to make more sense of everything.

      Dear readers, I'm sure that Mr. Mazeika and I are not the only ones out there that are interested in what happened during these times and we are not the only ones with opinions. We would please invite you to share information and your opinions on this topic with all our readers throughout the world. I'm sure this is something we all are trying to understand better.

      Su pagarbe
      Vin Karnila
      Associate editor

Older opinion letters...

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VilNews e-magazine is a leading online source for Lithuania-related news, opinion blogs and information – for readers in 181 countries over the entire globe. Around one third of our readers are living in the U.S., one third in Lithuania, and the rest in virtually every corner of the world. VilNews attracts around 25.000 visitors and 1,8 million article hits per month. VilNews consists of 24 sections with huge amounts of background information as well as news from and about Lithuania and its diasporas around the globe.

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