Remembering Silvija Velaviciene

September 13, 2021

This year we commemorate the tenth anniversary since the death of Silvija Vėlavičienė, the long-term head of the Lithuanian Studies Unit of the National Library of Lithuania, later the head of the Lituanica Unit.

From the very first days of the national revival in the 1990s, she tried to restore connections with the cultural achievements of the First Republic of Lithuania, to bring back silenced stories and hushed experiences of the Soviet era, to release publications “imprisoned” in the library’s repositories, and to lend them a new life.

When we talk about Silvija Vėlavičienė, we remember the great work she did in the field of Lithuanian diaspora periodicals—bringing back to Lithuania, systematizing and disseminating thousands of newspapers, journals, bulletins, leaflets, etc. For Silvia, this work was far from just a hunt of the missing publications. She always emphasized that this way she returned an entire phenomenon into the cultural field of Lithuania that had failed to enter the cultural consciousness of the Lithuanian society during the Soviet era.

At the turn of the 20th and 21st centuries, the name of the National Library of Lithuania in the Lithuanian diaspora was inseparable from Silvija Vėlavičienė’s name. Even today, the library has friends, who became acquainted with the library through Silvia. Later, the contacts with the Lithuanians living abroad were based on the good aura of Silvia’s positivity and understanding of the importance of the work that had to be accomplished on time in order to gain what had been lost.

The history of that time is revealed in Silvija Vėlavičienė’s book Draustosios spaudos pėdsakais [In the Footsteps of the Banned Press] published by the National Library of Lithuania a decade ago. She liked to say that it was necessary to find time to write down and record the events because Silvija Vėlavičienė at her desk. everything constitutes an important experience for future generations.

Jolanta Budriūnienė