A Diary of a Young Artist

April 15, 2023

A Diary 1944-1952 by Vytautas Osvaldas Virkau; compiled by Dalia Kuizinienė. Vilnius: Versus, 2023.

Vytautas Osvaldas Virkau (1930-2017) was an American-Lithuanian graphic artist, painter, and public figure whose life was marked by emigration, first to Western Europe and later to the United States. This spring, a diary written by Virkau in his late teens and as a young man, was published in Lithuania.

Virkau’s diary covers the period 1944-1952. It consistently and in detail records the author’s departure from Lithuania, his life in Germany, his emigration to the US and several years of his life in the new country. The diary records the most important experiences of a young man (a teenager and later a college student) living in a foreign environment. The book presents the experiences of many Lithuanians, displaced persons, who lived far from home, the feelings of loss of homeland, the unknown, and the hopes of establishing themselves as an artist in a foreign country.

The compiler of the book, Professor Dalia Kuizinienė, says that the diary provided her with an opportunity to get to know the artist in his youth after he had just left Lithuania—full of enthusiasm, contemplating, curiously exploring the alien surroundings of Austrian, later German, Chicago art, literature, theatre, fascinated by the breathtaking views of the Alps, which he recorded in his early drawings and literary impressions. The book provides a broad picture of cultural realities, moments of the Virkau family’s emigration odyssey, nostalgia and the hope that the family would soon return to Lithuania, and then the difficult adjustment to the new way of life abroad.