Diaspora Researchers’ Seminar at the National Library of Lithuania

May 20, 2022

After a two-year break, diaspora researchers gathered on May 5 for the 7th Diaspora Researchers’ Seminar organized by the National Library of Lithuania. Twelve researchers and scholars working in the field of diaspora gave presentations.

Musicologist Dr Darius Kučinskas shared his discoveries in researching the first publishers of Lithuanian pianola records. Pianola records or rolls, of which about 300 have been published, are a unique material of Lithuanian discography. In his presentation, Dr Kučinskas talked about the first publishers of the Lithuanian pianola records in the United States of America: Augustas Antpusaitis, Jonas Žemaitis, Vincas Nickus and others, as well as their contribution to the early Lithuanian musical tradition in the USA. Viktor Bilotas, a PhD student at Vytautas Magnus University, presented his project whose aim was to locate and digitize archival documents of Lithuanian war refugees and Lithuanian students in Tsarist Russia housed in Moscow and St. Petersburg archives. Symbolically, the last shipment of the project’s material reached Lithuania on February 24, the day Russia launched its war against Ukraine. Among the documents found in Russia and brought to Lithuania are the archives of such important Lithuanian political figures as Petras Vileišis, Stanislovas Narutavičius, Jonas Vileišis, Antanas Smetona, Steponas Kairys and Jokūbas Šernas.

Dr Ramūnas Čičelis, a lecturer at Vytautas Magnus University, spoke about the little-known correspondence between Jonas Mekas, famous Lithuanian American filmmaker, artist and creator, and Antanas Naujokaitis, Lithuanian journalist and editor. In his presentation, “Correspondence between Jonas Mekas and Antanas Naujokaitis: A Story of Friendship and Collegiality,” Čičelis shared his findings on 270 surviving letters written between 1997 and 2004, which will soon be published as a book.

Dr Akvilė Šimėnienė, a lecturer at Mykolas Romeris University, shared the challenges of preparing a collection of literary criticism in Lithuanian by Lithuanian American professor Birutė Ciplijauskaitė, a renowned Spanish scholar and literary critic. The collection was published in 2020 by the Lithuanian Institute of Literature and Folklore.

Dr Kristina Jakaitė-Bulbukienė, a lecturer at Vilnius University, presented a project she and one of her students had implemented some time ago. One of the main objectives of their project was aimed at motivating teachers working in Lithuanian language schools abroad. Ninety-two respondents were asked why they teach, sacrificing their time and often their own money, as well as why they decided to teach at a Lithuanian language school and what teaching in such a school means to them.

Dr Eglė Gudavičienė, also a lecturer at Vilnius University, spoke about how migration and the Lithuanian language are presented in Lithuanian media. She talked about a study carried out in 2019-2020, which analyzed over 650 articles containing the keywords “migration” and “Lithuanian language” in popular Lithuanian online media such as Delfi.lt, 15min.lt and LRT.lt.

After the break, Augustas Alekna, who currently studies for a Master’s degree at Lund University, joined the seminar from Sweden. In a presentation “What does it mean to be a Lithuanian Catholic in Protestant Sweden?” he presented his recent ethnographic research on Lithuanian Catholic immigrants in Sweden and their efforts to maintain and continue to practice their Catholicism.

A PhD student at Université Sorbonne Nouvelle and Vytautas Magnus University, Akvilė Kabašinskaitė, spoke on a topic that is particularly relevant today: how did France react to Lithuania’s struggle for independence in the 1990s, and how is it being repeated now that Russia has invaded Ukraine?

Dr Monika Šipelytė, who currently works on her postdoc, also joined virtually from France, where she has been collecting material on the Lithuanian lawyer and public figure Juozas Gabrys-Paršaitis. The Lithuanian greatly contributed to Lithuania’s struggle for independence at the beginning of the 20th century. In February 1911, he founded and headed the Lithuanian Information Bureau in Paris, funded by Lithuanian-Americans, and in July of the same year, he presented a memorandum as a representative of Lithuania at the Congress of Enslaved Peoples in London and gave lectures on Lithuania’s historic past. In 1912, he took part in the founding of the League of Nations in Paris and acted as its secretary. He contributed material on Lithuania to the organization’s publication Les Annales des Nationalités, published in 1913 and 1915-1918.

Ignas Stanevičius, a PhD student at Vilnius University, who is currently working on a thesis on the Lithuanian Catholic clergy in exile (1944-1990), talked about Lithuanian Catholic activities in the USA, highlighting the tension felt by some Lithuanian Catholic priests between pastoral challenges and social mission.

Dr. Ina Ėmužienė of the National Museum of Lithuania presented a paper on the origins of Lithuanian American radio: from the first words to radio empires, in which she talked about the first successful efforts of Lithuanians in the USA to introduce a Lithuanian word on the radio.

The seminar was closed by the director of the Lithuanian Archives of Literature and Art, Dr Juozapas Blažiūnas, who presented the latest collections of documents and archives that have arrived at the archives in the last couple of years. These include collections and archives of dancer Elena Namajuškaitė (Latvia/Lithuania), artist Petras Kiaulėnas (USA/Lithuania), artist Mstislavas Dobužinskis (the Czech Republic/France/Lithuania), sculptor Vincas Jomantas (Australia), journalist Vytautas Kazakevičius (Lithuania), artist Eva Kuba (Australia), architect Jonas Mulokas (USA/Lithuania), artist Vidmantas Valatka (former husband of Marija Gimbutienės’s daughter) and artist Nijolė Mockus Šivickas (Lithuania).