We’re back to Lithuania from ToBeLT’s journey to the West Coast USA and want to share with you what we’ve experienced and accomplished!
We began our journey by visiting Lithuanian communities with a mission: to learn and listen, to talk, to discover, to capture and share. Our first stop was Los Angeles, where we met so many inspiring people, learned more about them and tried to understand how they feel about their heritage and Lithuanian identity while living outside the geographical Lithuanian borders.
Some of the highlights include meeting the iconic actress Ruta Lee and talking to her about her Lithuanian roots. When we visited the famous Warner Bros studios, by pure chance, we found ‘Kanklės’ – a national Lithuanian plucked string instrument (similar to chordophone). We also had a chance to participate in the biggest annual Lithuanian event in LA – LT Days – where we danced and sang with Lithuanian ensemble ‘Tolimi Aidai’ and met tons of wonderful people. We didn’t forget the little ones – presenting a workshop where we had a chance to talk about Lithuanian identity and what it means to be Lithuanian. In those first few days in LA, we interviewed over 30 interesting people, setting a precedent for the rest of the journey where we continued to meet incredible Lithuanians that should make our homeland very proud: surfers, brewers, sports heroes, artists and overall great hosts and beautiful people.
In Santa Monica we met Natas Kaupas, one of the most famous skateboarders in the world. It was a real treat to hear his story and how he became one of the pioneers of skateboarding.
We visited Liucija Baskauskaite, a professor and cultural anthropologist who opened the first Lithuanian independent TV channel TELE-3 in 1992 and was managing it until 1996. Her husband, painter Steven Anaya, was a lector at Vytautas Didysis University. He saved a lot of his Lithuanian students works by bringing them to the USA.
We also met Marius Markevicius, a film director. His movie “The Other Dream Team“ is world famous and every Lithuanian has seen it, some of us probably a few times. It shows Lithuanian basketball players achievements and struggles during Soviet Union and immediately after Lithuania’s independence when they won bronze medals in Barcelona Olympic games in 1992. Marius was born in Santa Monica. He was already 16 when he and his good friend Are Ingl discovered that they both had Lithuanian roots. They were very moved by this discovery, as Are even got his Lithuanian citizenship. At the moment Marius is working on another Lithuanian film, based on a book “Tarp pilku debesu” (“Between Grey Clouds”) by Ruta Sepetys.
On our way to San Francisco we visited Egidijus Kavaliauskas, famous Lithuanian professional boxer. He let us join his workout session and shared his experiences in the Lithuanian national sports team.
Next stop – San Francisco, where we met a lot of great people, participated in Annual Fall Ball celebration and hosted an interactive workshop at Mama Papa Lithuania.
We traveled, collected lots of stories, met a lot of Lithuanians and visited great places which had traces of Lithuania. And now we want to shout from the rooftops – : Lithuanian identity is alive! It’s real and it’s growing! Each person who even remotely identifies with this heritage is a part of it.
“The most important things are hidden in the small details, but each detail found, let’s us feel Lithuanian identity everywhere we go! The feeling is bigger and stronger every time you find that small hidden detail. That’s how we grow our national identity,” says Jurgis Didziulis, founder of ToBeLT.
Our crew is working hard to capture everything in pictures. Have a look at them below! We will also share videos of all the interviews and events very soon!
We would like to thank those, who joined us on this particular journey, helped us by being there, organising events and meetings, giving us a place to stay, sharing their energy and enthusiasm, and supporting us financially. We could not go forward with the idea of Global Lithuania without you. You are super important to us and we value each and everyone of you!
Now, when we have even more motivation and energy, it’s time to organise another journey, to a different part of the world but with the same goal, to meet those who shine the Lithuanian identity abroad.
To be continued…