Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Knygnešiai - Lithuanian Book Smugglers

My longtime friend Cathy wrote on facebook today about the banning of books in Arizona, a subject bound to elicit an emotional response from most of us, being the First Amendment Rights lovers that we Americans are. The conversation brought to mind the banning of books in Lithuania by the Soviets in the late 1800s for the purpose of eliminating the Lithuanian language. Did you know that in Kaunas, Lithuania there is a statue dedicated to "The Unknown Book Smugglers"? The artist is Juozas Zikaras and there is a wonderful video link about the making of a movie on that subject on YouTube atšiai This is a story about my countrymen and my ancestors, for I come from a line (on my father's side) of book-loving Lithuanians who emigrated from their beloved homeland when the oppression from the Germans and the Russians became unbearable. They brought with them to the coal fields of Pennsylvania and then on to central Illinois a strong work ethic, an independent nature that borders on obstinance, and a love of learning. I am proud to be associated with and related to those writers, poets, priests, and smugglers who kept alive the Lithuanian language and in doing so saved their culture from being steamrollered by the Russians. Long live Lithuania and long live the right to read anything and everything that's out there!!