Expedition “Baltoscandia 2016” around the Baltic Sea is not only holding conferences in universities of visited countries, but is also seeking traces of Lithuanians in neighbouring states. “At the beginning of the journey we focused more on the search for historical facts, but in Norway we wanted to meet Lithuanians who are working and creating here. We’re glad to find them in rather unexpected places”, says expedition leader Gintautas Babravičius.
Takes time to love Lithuania anew
The meeting with “Baltoscandia 2016” participants in Bergen was attended by young and active members of the Lithuanian community. “We left Lithuania not only for higher wages. In Norway each employee is valued, businessmen understand that it is their employees that make money for the company. In the end I know that I will be using the work relations experience I gathered here, and the attitude towards business I learned, when I return to Lithuania. I believe that every returning Lithuanian brings back valuable knowledge for our developing state”, says Kęstutis Kaupas, who lives in Bergen.
His colleague Tomas Eidukevičius added that at first the emigrants are overwhelmed by the opportunities in this rich country: “However, note that after five or ten years in emigration people start proudly wearing clothes with the national coat of arms – Vytis – again. Living abroad does not mean you don’t love your country. It’s more of a protest form agains the unchanging living and working conditions, decisions of the government.”
Create jobs as well
Nearby the Lofoten archipelago, on the island of Andoy, expedition participants were met by Lithuanians who live there every season. “Six years ago we started a business here. Immediately after learning that we’re planning to invest into a recreational fishing base on their island, both the government representatives and the locals did their best to help us. I know from experience that investors in Lithuania sometimes meet obstacles of bureaucratic, and sometimes – of human nature. Here we had nothing of the sort. It’s very important to learn from higher-developed countries, share good experiences and advice, on how to avoid failures”, told “Andoy fiske-camp” director Saulius Babravičius.
Afraid to return to Lithuania
After arriving to Magerøya Island, expedition members first visited the Northern-most European tourist attraction – Nordkapp. There we learned that around 20 Lithuanians work here. The center itself is run by a Lithuanian – Mykolas Masiukas.
“Some of the Lithuanians here knew each other from before, but most gathered here by chance. I myself have been living in Ireland for eleven years, and it’s the second season that I’m working in Nordkapp. I’m planning to return to Lithuania this year and to try and start my life here. Even though working conditions abroad are better, but I’m really drawn by my home country. Of course returning after so many years is scary – I don’t know what kind of Lithuania I’m going to find, if there will be a place and suitable work for me”, says Monika Račkauskaitė, who is working in Nordkapp.
Tourist spot is not the northern-most
“Before coming here we learned that Nordkapp is not in fact the northern-most point of Europe. The nearby Knivskjellodden is about 1500 m further north. Even though the winds were very harsh and the dense fog allowed for only a couple of meters of visibility, we set out to an almost 20 kilometres hike north along rocky cliffs. By the way, both of these spots are on an island, the northern-most continental point is in Nordkinn, 2 minutes and 19 seconds to the south”, told expedition member Egidijus Jakubausas. After hiking for several hours he and a small group of other members reached the northern-most place in Europe.
About “Baltoscandia 2016”
“Baltoscandia 2016” is the first expedition of a 3 year extreme trek across the world in off-road vehicles – “Mission Lithuania 100”. The trek will be divided into stages, which will be captured in documentaries: “Grand Duchy of Lithuania”, “Silk Road”, “Beringia” and others.
The trek crew will be crossing the Bering Strait by attaching pontoons to the vehicles. So far 4 expeditions have successfully made it to the strait in winter, one has crossed the Bering Strait, but none have succeeded in crossing Alaska and reaching civilization in summer time. “This stage involves 4500 km of complete off-road. This is the most complicated and also the most interesting part of the coming trek. If we succeed in reaching this goal, we will be the first ones” said trek leader Gintautas Babravičius.
Photos by Ignas Veršinskas and Vidmantas Balkūnas