Lithuanians of Puńsk: “Living in Lithuania, you forget freedom’s price”

Lithuanians of Puńsk: “Living in Lithuania, you forget freedom’s price”
Punsko lietuviai
Puńsk local Petras Krekauskas

After the conference on the first day of expedition “Baltosandia 2016”, participants left for Poland, where they met local Lithuanians, and on the 1st of August held the second confenrece in the University of Gdańsk.

Homeland more precious to Lithuanians abroad?

One of the main goals of the first expedition and the whole trek across the world “Mission Lithuania 100” is to disseminate the idea of Lithuania of the World. “It is very important to meet Lithuanians living abroad, hear how they want to strengthen their connections with Lithuania, share idea about our country’s and nation’s future.” – said trek leader Gintautas Babravičius.

Staying at a rural tourism homestead in Puńsk, a Polish village on the border with Lithuania, expedition participants had such an opportunity for the first time. The homestead owner, Petras Krekauskas, is an exceptional personality. In his ecological farm he fosters Lithuanian culinary heritage traditions. The farm homestead itself leaves no questions about nationality – Lithuanian works of art, music – every corner of the home shows how important the homeland is to the owner.

“Lithuanians living here take part in folk dancing and singing groups, we celebrate traditional holidays together, and follow all news coming out of Lithuania. It seems that we live very close to the border, but we feel that the land is not our own.” Petras tells us. When asked how he retains the Lithuanian spirit while living in Poland, the homestead owner says that love for the homeland is the most important.

“Living in Lithuania you may not feel how important freedom is, to be possible to speak in your own language everywhere. My grandmother, though half Polish, imprinted me with such love for Lithuania that, even though I never lived there, I love and cherish my homeland – Lithuania.” Petras told the expedition participants.

Looking for footprints of distinguished Lithuanians

In the Wolf’s Den
In the Wolf’s Den

Expedition participants earnestly follow the words of legendary Lithuanian traveller Matas Šalčius “To Lithuania about the world, and to the world about Lithuania”.

“While traveling, naturally, we will be visiting some tourist destinations. It would be odd to, for example, to skip Machu Picchu while driving across Peru. The same applies in neighbouring Poland. We cannot skip the harsh facts of history, so we visited a remnant of World War II, responsible for families torn apart and destroyed cultural heritage, a bunker complex dubbed “the Wolf’s Den”, where Adolf Hitler himself had hidden out.

We also visited Malbork Castle, where the Lithuanian duke Kęstutis had been imprisoned. Places important to Lithuania and the world tell our history, from which we can and should learn. Therefore during the grand trek across the world “Mission Lithuania 100” we will gather a so called “Lithuanian gene fund”. Lithuanians have left their footprints across the world, no fewer than other nations. We will be looking for talented artists’, scientists’ or politicians’ footprints and will endeavour to raise the self-worth of every Lithuanian, who believes that he is a representative of but a small nation. Small – yes, but the people in Lithuania have been big at all time, and we want to prove it.” – says trek leader Gintautas.

Lithuania of the World idea is close to other nations too

Ieva Kieraite—Aleksandrova - Malbork Castle
Ieva Kieraitė-Aleksandrova in Malbork Castle

The conference at University of Gdańsk was the first international one along “Baltoscandia 2016” route. During his talk, prof. Jan A. Wendt of Oceanography and geography faculty, introduced the rich history of Gdańsk and stressed that the footprints of creators of Poland and other distinguished personalities are spread not only across the Baltics and Scandinavia, but the rest of the world as well:

“The idea of Lithuania of the World is close to us as well – large waves of emigration have scattered the Polish people across the whole of the world. We believe you are right in saying that at this time cooperation of citizens living abroad and in their homeland is one of the most important objectives.”

Recalling unduly forgotten historical facts

Božena Kisiel, director of Vilnius and Vilnija Lovers’ Society Pomenarija chapter, believes it is essential to strengthen cultural cooperation between Lithuania and Poland: “30% of emigrants from Vilnius and Vilnija region, other regions of the former Grand Duchy of Lithuania, live in Gdańsk or near it. Our roots and culture are intertwined, we cannot forget that.”

Expedition leader Gintautas Babravičius agreed that one of the mission goals is to mark communities and events related to Lithuania, and presenting them to the public. “Mission Lithuania 100” objective is to draw attention to facts that we have unduly forgotten and to urge to explore them.