Ethnic Women of Cleveland

Milda Lenkauskas Recording & Transcript

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  • INTERVIEWEE: Milda Lenkauskas
  • INTERVIEWER: Jeanette Tuve
  • DATE: May 22, 1986
  • PROGRAM LENGTH: 39:29 min.

JT: This is an interview with Milda Lenkauskas for the oral history project, ethnic women of Cleveland. The date is May 22, 1986. The interviewer is Jeanette Tuve. Mrs. Lenkauskas, what was your maiden name?

ML: Gulbinskas, a very Lithuanian last name, as the ending –es, -as, -is would indicate.

JT: Could you spell it for us?

ML: G-U-L-B-I-N-S-K-A-S.

JT: Thank you. Where were you born?

ML: In Kaunas, in Lithuania.

JT: Can you spell that for us?

ML: K-A-U-N-A-S.

JT: And do you mind saying when?

ML: March 29, 1933.

JT: Where were your parents born?

ML: In Lithuania.

JT: What was your father's occupation?

ML: Both of my parents were teachers.

JT: Can you tell us why they left Lithuania? First of all, when did they leave Lithuania?

ML: We left as the Russians were coming to occupy the Baltic countries, that is Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia, and spent the end of the Second World War years in western Germany…after the war we were in displaced person's camp in the English zone of West Germany.

JT: And how did you happen to come to America?

ML: We contacted relatives residing in America asking for affidavits for our family to enter the USA. My father had relatives in Michigan, and distant relatives in Chicago. The aim of most displaced persons was to reach America and make a new life for their family in the free world – in America.

JT: How did you happen to come to Cleveland?

ML: My parents, my younger sister and myself first did come to Michigan. Since both of my parents were teachers, they had the best intentions to give us as much education as possible. Knowing that Chicago had the largest Lithuanian community in the United States, we in 1949 moved from Hesperia, Michigan to Chicago. My sister and myself attended the St. Cazimir Academy. The Sisters of St. Cazimir, a Lithuanian religious order, founded a girl's high school in Chicago. Now it is the Maria High, a four year high school for girls. I finished high school, and then attended Mundelein College on a scholarship, in Chicago –

JT: Can you spell that?

ML: Mundelein, M-U-N-D-E-L-E-I-N, a girl's college, of the BVM sisters… The Blessed Virgin Mary Religious Order…and studied four years majoring chemistry and minoring in biology and physics and have my BS degree in chemistry from Mundelein College.

JT: And your parents, than, lived in Chicago?

ML: They did live in Chicago then. My father worked as a draftsman and my mother as a lab technician at several hospitals, starting out as a nurse's aide. When they did come to America they took any job available just to make sure that my sister and myself had the opportunity to go on to college … In 1954 I married Edmundas Lenkauskas, who by then had received his MD from the University of Heidelberg in Germany and finished his internship. In 1954, after marrying, we moved to Ft. Knox, Kentucky because he was stationed at the army Hospital there. That was where our first daughter was born, Viktorija, in Ft. Knox, Kentucky…

JT: And then how did you get to Cleveland?

ML: [laughter] … oh, the Odyssey. My husband wanted to go into the specialty of ears, nose and throat. He had spent four years in the US Army and had received some financial assistance from the Army and started his residency at the Western Reserve University hospital at then Crile VA Hospital on the west side and we lived in what formerly were the World War Two army barracks, a little apartment there, and started raising our family while he did his residency.

JT: Ah, interesting. Could we go back now to your parents home in Chicago? What languages did you speak at home?

ML: Most of our family is multi-lingual, but the language spoken at home is Lithuanian. Was at my parents home, is now at our home.
JT: You were about ten or twelve when you came?

ML: Sixteen.

JT: How did you learn English? Or did you know it when you came?

ML: I knew a “vocabulary” English. My parents were teachers, - they made sure that every opportunity that presented itself was used to learn the English language, in Germany, in exile, in the displaced persons camp. While attending school there, several languages were offered and taught, and I took French and English, and so came – most of us came – to the United States with vocabulary knowledge of English, but you don't know a language until you've lived with it and really used it in your daily life.

JT: I'm sure that's true. Did your parents follow Lithuanian holidays and Lithuanian customs in your home?

ML: Yes, definitely yes. All traditions were followed, especially the religious holidays … Lithuanians are eighty-eight percent Roman Catholic and they follow a Christian tradition.

JT: Were your parents active with the Church in Lithuania?

ML: Yes, since the Catholic Church is a predominant part of a Lithuanian's daily life.

JT: Were there any other holidays besides religious holidays, Christmas and Easter?

ML: Lithuanians commemorate “Lithuania's Independence Day” February 16th, celebrate names-days (feast days) and birthdays.

JT: Your mother then continued Lithuanian cooking and taught you Lithuanian dishes?

ML: Traditional cooking I learned from my mother-in-law.

JT: Did you belong … as a young girl did you belong to any Lithuanian girls' groups?

ML: From childhood on we belonged to the Lithuanian catholic youth organization Ateitis –

JT: Can you spell that?

ML: A-T-E-I-T-I-S, Ateitis, which means “the future”, a youth organization based on Christian principles. I belonged to Lithuanian Girl Scouts, and now, by birthright, all Lithuanians belong to the World Lithuanian Community. This makes us part of the extended family of Lithuanians. At this time I'm a vice-president of the World Lithuanian Community executive Council. I've been active in the Lithuanian community ever since I can remember.
JT: I wanted to ask you if you worked before you got married.

ML: Just as I studied. I took summer jobs to augment scholarship…

JT: How did you meet your husband?

ML: In Lithuanian community activities …in fact, I seem to remember meeting him at a commemorative Lithuanian holiday, at a celebrating of Lithuanian Independence Day which is February 16th. We celebrate it as national holiday commemorating our gaining of independence for Lithuania in 1918 … yearly, no matter where Lithuanians gather, one way or another they do remember this --- day… as a happy holiday then, and a reminder of what needs to be done.

JT: Was your husband background very similar to yours?

ML: I would say yes…

JT: …but he then had his MD degree and was about to take up an internship?

ML: He came to the United States a few years later and by then had already his degree in medicine.

JT: And so you started housekeeping in the barracks connected with Veteran's Hospital here in Cleveland?

ML: Not really. I started housekeeping in Fr. Knox, Kentucky in 1954. Then he started his residency in Cleveland and we moved to an apartment, which then were very hard to come by, and the hospital accommodations – Crile VA Hospital. Now the west section of Tri-C, right?

JT: Yes, I guess that's right. Did you think of yourself as having a career as a young woman?

ML: Yes, very much so. As I studied I expected to have to ---- support myself, and possibly my aging parents, and I think most of us were very career-oriented.

JT: Do you think Lithuanian young women were more career-oriented than most American young women?

ML: Very much so. I think from childhood on, we were taught and convinced ourselves that the only thing that you can take with you is education, languages, experience, life-experience, that's very important to be independent and self-supporting and supportive of others -----.

JT: I have very much had that impression. But you started raising a family very soon?

ML: Yes.

JT: Did you have a Lithuanian wedding?

ML: Yes, yes.

JT: Oh, could you tell us about it?

ML: …I don't know that I could say anything right now… I would have to go into much particular research for you as far as definite Lithuanian traditions are …but even then we made sure that the Lithuanian wedding was after a Catholic mass in a Catholic church, in a Lithuanian tradition decorated church. Our wedding was celebrated at the Holy Cross Church in Chicago, and we had a small wedding --- at home with our friends and relatives, and as Lithuanian tradition requires, we were met by our parents with wine and bread and salt at the door. Other different customs were brought out as the wedding was celebrated and they are carried over now into my family, as two of my three daughters are already married. Both of our sons-in-law are of Lithuanian descent.

JT: Good. What language do you and your husband speak at home?

ML: Lithuanian.

JT: Both of you speak Lithuanian to each other all the time?

ML: Right.

JT: And to your children?

ML: Right.

JT: So your three daughters grew up knowing both Lithuanian and English … perhaps Lithuanian first.

ML: Especially the oldest, since she was the only one at home then. She started in Lithuanian and found no hardship at all to be bilingual, that is, come home and speak Lithuanian, and turn to her friends and speak English. It was just expected.

JT: Did you continue Lithuanian cooking?

ML: Yes.

JT: And what are some of your favorite recipes?

ML: I think the Lithuanian household enjoys soups; that is different kinds and vegetables or different kinds of vegetable soups, and potato dishes and meat dishes … the culinary tradition I think intertwines with the eastern… some of the dishes have a lot of flour and potatoes and ground meat and -----,

JT: And calories?

ML: And calories… Everything with sour cream and everything with bacon …

JT: I assume you have household help?

ML: Yes.

JT: Do you have Lithuanian help?

ML: No I don't…

JT: But do you do most of your cooking yourself?

ML: Yes, I do the cooking. I just have help with… taking care of the house, but not the cooking.

JT: You and your husband are still active in church affairs?

ML: Church and Lithuanian community. We belong to the Our Lady of Perpetual Help parish on Neff Road, and are very active there. We are now starting to renovate the church and within the next year our pastor Father Gediminas Kijauskas -----

JT: Could you spell that?

ML: K-I-J-A-U-S-K-A-S, Gediminas.

JT: Thank you.

ML: His aim is to make the church as decorative and as Lithuanian as possible.

JT: You've spoken about Lithuanian decorations … what is traditional about Lithuanian decorations?

ML: Folk costumes… - woven cloth, wood carvings.

JT: Oh yes, you have… that's a very handsome doll.

ML: My daughters and myself own Lithuanian folk costumes. All three daughters of ours belong to the Lithuanian folk dance group Grandinele; this group is celebrating this coming weekend thirty years of existence and is having a get together where young women and men who danced in the group come together. They come to this reunion from all over the world practically. Our daughter just flew in from Bogota, Colombia, South America where she lives, to attend the celebration.

JT: And you have a national costume?

ML: Yes.

JT: Did your mother have a national costume?

ML: Yes, but it was left behind in Lithuania. I acquired mine in Germany in the camp, so it was a make-shift costume – woven with love, but not as lovely a thread as our daughter's costumes. They were professionally woven in Toronto, Canada. Costumes are sewn of wool and linen cloth and decorated in distinct colorful patterns.

JT: This doll is representative, wouldn't you say?

ML: Yes, the doll is in Lithuanian national costume.

JT: It's woven, rather than embroidery.

ML: Yes, it's woven.

JT: And I understand many of them come from Toronto.

ML: Yes.

JT: But there is a woman in Cleveland who weaves and sews the costumes too.

ML: Yes.

JT: Your daughters' costumes came from Toronto…

ML: The material did, and then a creative lady did all the sewing.

JT: You have one costume for a lifetime, is that it?

ML: That's about it … it's very, very expensive…

JT: That's must be very expensive. I notice the doll is wearing amber beads?

ML: Yes.

JT: Do you wear amber?

ML: Yes, it is part of our costume and really our national treasure, because Lithuania is one the shores of the Baltic Sea and that is where amber is found. Our Lithuanian gold is amber, and I doubt there is a woman of Lithuanian descent who does not own amber in beads and bracelets and pins and earrings…

JT: Do you wear it ordinarily?

ML: Yes very much so…

JT: It is beautiful. You have Lithuanian books and magazines in your home?

ML: Yes. We have a Lithuanian encyclopedia, and records and books…

JT: Oh yes, these are lovely books…

ML: We have books on Lithuanian Easter egg art, and folk costume, and …

JT: What a nice book… but it's in English…

ML: Yes…

JT: Do you have any books that are in Lithuanian, that you read regularly?

ML: Oh yes, many more.

JT: Lovely books… these are printed in the United States?

ML: Yes. The Lithuanian national costume and egg art are from Canada. The author Thomas Tamosaitis T-A-M-O-S-A-I-T-I-S, lives in Kingston, Canada.

JT: There must be many Lithuanians in Canada?

ML: Yes. A great number – mainly in Toronto.

JT: I know that you and your husband are very active in Lithuanian affairs… am I correct in saying that your husband is active in the World Lithuanian community?

ML: He is the president of the honorary court of justice of the American Lithuanian Community.
[Interview interrupted by entrance of Mrs. Lenkauskas's daughter]

JT: This is Mrs. Lenkauskas's daughter, Victoria, who will talk about… go ahead ---

V: Just on the Lithuanian Youth Organizations, but mainly some of the cultural groups that I belong to. Two of the most obvious are the Lithuanian folk dance group Grandinele, which has celebrated this year its thirtieth anniversary. It was established in Lithuania and is still continued… the director of the group still continues the group here in Cleveland. The age usually ranges from thirteen to about twenty-one, that's the high school-college group and it travels quite extensively, not only in America and Canada, but internationally. And another ensemble is the Lithuanian girls singing ensemble “Nerija”.

JT: Could you spell that?

V: N-E-R-I-J-A. It's the name of Lithuanian river, and we have put out two records within our brief seven year lifespan. We started out as just being interested in old Lithuanian songs and we used to get together during the Lithuanian language camps that we used to attend during summer, and then in Cleveland we decided that it would be nice to do something more with our vocal abilities and we found a young teacher who was a professional in music and she started arranging songs for us and we started traveling on concert tours – again internationally. We made a concert tour of South America – never of Europe, but of South America – and traveled in Canada and the United states. It keeps us busy!

JT: This is very much Lithuanian home, and I know that you are active in Lithuanian organizations. You're the Cleveland representative of the Lithuanian Foundation, is that correct?

ML: Yes.

JT: And in that connection you just made a trip to Chicago?

ML: Yes, we had our annual membership meeting, and we have reached a goal of three million dollars. That money is banked for Lithuania, - for independent Lithuania of the future. The profit of any investment thereof, we use for our Lithuanian education and Lithuanian cultural development.

JT: Would you judge that the purpose of the organization is more for the preservation of your culture in this country or for the future liberation of Lithuania?

ML: This particular Lithuanian foundation was started with the aim of having money for Lithuania when it regains its independence. We do need money for cultural and educational activities now, as we do have Lithuanian communities (that belong to our World Lithuanian Community) in nineteen countries. I am the Vice-President for Cultural Affairs and in touch with most of the nineteen countries which have large or small Lithuanian communities and have the same aim of not only working for independent Lithuania but keeping up Lithuanian language and culture. The yearly gain of the money in the Lithuanian Foundation is used to further Lithuanian language and culture in the free world.

JT: Your personal contribution to the organization then is mostly in administration/organization?

ML: When we are talking about Lithuanian foundation – yes. I have been active in the Foundation for the last twelve years. I am the representative for Ohio, and on the Board of Directors. I accept donations on behalf of foundation and hope that the main nest egg grows so that we do have more and more profit to use for Lithuanian weekend schools and folk dance and song festivals and books printed in different languages so that our culture and language is known throughout the world.

JT: That sounds like quite an extensive program. How many weekend schools do you have?

ML: In these United States? Just about every city has a smaller or larger Lithuanian community and has a sort of weekend school, a Saturday school. Cleveland has one school where over a hundred children attend classes every Saturday at, “Our Lady of Perpetual Help” parish school. The students have mother's Day celebrations, receptions, Independence Day celebrations, and all follow Lithuanian customs and holidays. All to further the Lithuanian language and culture.

JT: I presume your daughters went to weekend schools?

ML: Yes, they did. In addition to that they do belong to the Lithuanian Youth Congress and have traveled to congresses which have conveyed in the United States, in South America, and in Europe. There are hundreds and hundreds of Lithuanian youth, of high school and mainly college age, who come together and work within the Lithuanian community. The World Lithuanian Community, as I mentioned, has chapters in nineteen countries of all continents. All of us on the executive council travel to help out communities that are less numerous…

JT: I gather that you do quite a lot of traveling?

ML: As time and money permits.

JT: And this is all in connection with the World Lithuanian Community or the Lithuanian Foundation?

ML: Both. They intertwine, very much so. One was established to further the other. The Lithuanian Foundation was established in 1962 to raise funds for work in the World Lithuanian Community.

JT: Is your husband active in any Lithuanian organizations?

ML: Primarily in the Lithuanian Medical Association, the Lithuanian Medical Association has chapters in most large cities in the United States, Canada, Australia and really throughout the world. They do have biannual conventions and then he is active in the same World Lithuanian Community. At this time he is honorary judge of the Lithuanian community in these United States.

JT: What does the chief justice do?

ML: It's an honorary position.

JT: Do they give awards?

ML: For achievement. Awards within the Lithuanian community are presented to our cultural achievers, our writers, composers, educators. That is just about the only thing, the only way we can say “thank you”.

JT: Do you belong to any other Lithuanian organizations besides the ones you've mentioned, women's organizations?

ML: Within the Lithuanian community all of us that are active help out in any organization. I think the women's organization come in as an aid to the community work, and…

JT: Do you belong to any other women's organizations, the League of Women Voters, things of that sort?

ML: For the last six years I was on the Board of Directors of the Nationalities Services Center. Otherwise I assisted in presenting quite a few exhibits at the Western Reserve Historical Society and other museums.

JT: Do you and your husband belong to the Lithuanian American Citizens Club?

ML: Automatically.

JT: Do you go to the Lithuanian Village on East 185th St.?

ML: That's where we spend our weekends. That's where our parish is, the Lithuanian Hall, that's where the Lithuanian restaurant is.

JT: So you go often, and for many purposes. Is there only one Lithuanian restaurant?

ML: As far as I know, yes. The restaurant “GINTARAS” – amber follows real Lithuanian tradition with its menus and the ethnic decorations.

JT: It must be quite good or it would have some competition.

ML: [laughs]

JT: Do you listen to Lithuanian radio program?

ML: Not only do I listen, but I belong to, I'm on the staff of the Lithuanian radio program, Tevynes Garsai, which is “the sounds of homeland” and …
JT: Cold I ask you to spell that? The typist will have terrible time…

ML: T-E-V-Y-N-E-S G-A-R-S-A-I. I have a program of my own – a syndicated women's (five minutes) program “Women's World”, touching on different topics of Lithuanian literature, music, happenings, and news.

JT: Was it mostly literature in this country or was it occasionally literature from Europe?

ML: I was free to speak as the spirit moved me…

JT: How did the spirit move you?

ML: I remember reviewing Rachel Carson's Silent Spring, and then reviewing books by Dr. J. Girnius, the author of our philosophical outlook on Lithuania's future.

JT: What is his thesis on the future of Lithuania?

ML: Hopeful.

JT: What o you think is in the future for Lithuania?

ML: Unknown as all of our future, but we do have to strive and hope that as human nature improves so will life and with that the right of each and every one of us to live and work in our own homeland, in our case free Lithuania.

JT: When your family came to this country, did they expect to stay here, or did they hope to go back to Lithuania?

ML: Reality probably told us that we would stay, but we always hope that as Lithuania has arisen like a phoenix from the ashes so very often it would in the future rise again as an independent and – sovereign country. Lithuania gained its independence, sovereignty in 1918 after World War One, and its only right and just that it should achieve independence again because we do have our own language and culture and our land…

JT: A very strong culture I would say…

ML: Very. And therefore, the aim of all of us is to raise our families in the Lithuanian tradition and as we do our children are richer and better for it, being multi-lingual, multi-cultural, our youth has roots in Europe and in the New World, America. In our case – we do have three daughters, Viktorija, Nijole, and Sigute, and all three will always keep the Lithuanian traditions and keep the language alive and hopefully hand it down to their families. Nijole, born in Akron, Ohio, is now married to a Colombian of Lithuanian descent, and raises her own daughter Nerija. They speak Lithuanian. She (Nijole) has learned Spanish now in Colombia, but she met her husband at a Lithuanian Youth Congress and met him again and again at Lithuanian language studies courses. (We have a yearly language seminar here at Loyola on the lake close to Kent U.) Our youngest daughter married a young man from New York, a Lithuanian. Sigute, who is studying medicine now in Cincinnati is quite active, (she herself and her husband) in Cincinnati's Lithuanian community activities.

JT: So all three of your daughters then have been active in the Lithuanian community and two of them are married to Lithuanians…

ML: Yes.

JT: … and you have a granddaughter – one granddaughter?

ML: One granddaughter.

JT: … who will probably speak Lithuanian before she speaks English…

ML: Or Spanish…

JT: One of your daughters, I believe, has been active in Cleveland Lithuanian groups.

ML: Well, all three were…

JT: What were they active in?

ML: As Viktorija mentioned, in the “Grandiele” folk dance group, in the singing group of university students, “Nerija”, and they were quite active in Lithuanian Youth congresses, starting out in the Lithuanian parish…

JT: Wasn't one of your daughters president of the World Lithuanian Youth Association?

ML: The Cleveland chapter?

JT: The Cleveland Chapter…

ML: …On and off… All three were and are so active that I can't even keep track of all their activities… [laughter]

N: (Nijole, who was visiting home and now is back in South America “joined in” the interview) Yes, that was me because I remember receiving letters from for instance, Cuyahoga Community College addressing me as president of the Lithuanian Youth Assn., but at that time the association wasn't very active itself, so it was just…

ML: Cleveland chapter…

N: Cleveland chapter.

JT: Well, you're listed in the Cleveland Ethnic Directory record as president of that chapter, that's how I got the name.

N: That's right because I was a representative for the Lithuanian Youth Congress at that time.

ML: All three were delegates to congresses and what not, so…

JT: I haven't asked this question and I don't know quite how to ask it, but you and your daughters have married within the Lithuanian community. Did any of you ever go with anyone, or think seriously of anyone who was outside the Lithuanian community?

ML: I think all of us have diverse friendships and have many friends of different nationality backgrounds. Our daughters who were born in these United States. Viktorija was born in Ft. Knox Kentucky, Nijole and Sigute were born in Akron, Ohio. And all attended local schools. All three girls attended Glen Oak High School, Gesu parish Grade School, Glen Oak High School and then different colleges; Viktorija , Ursuline and Kent, Nijole John Carroll, and Sigute Case Western Reserve. They did have serious friendships. But for two of them now, we do see, that life seems best with young men of their own and similar backgrounds.

JT: Thank you. Have you been back to Lithuania?

ML: No I have not. Viktorija is the only one. Our oldest daughter has been in Lithuania for duration of about ten days last year.

[Some exchange among family members regarding Mrs.Lenkauskas' saying “ten years” rather than “ten days” in the above statement. She corrects herself and laughs.]

ML: …we are at the moment permitted a stay of only five days behind the Iron Curtain. They – the Russians – cut a visit to Lithuania down from ten to five days at their whim…

JT: Did she visit relatives or was she…

ML: Yes.

JT: And she found you relatives?

ML: Yes, she did meet some of them, especially her father's relatives… because my parents and sister are here, were here in these United States, and I don't have that many relatives anymore in occupied Lithuania. But she did visit with my husband's relatives in his native town Plunge.

JT: Would you like to go back to Lithuania as a tourist?

ML: It depends on the circumstances. Right now, the aim of the occupational government, the Russians, is just to entice us to go visit our friends and relatives, but the price is so high that they are aiming to acquire American dollars more than invite us as visitors. We are very limited to visiting the capital of Vilnius, and the city of my birth, Kaunas. Other than that travel is really restricted.

JT: Have you been to Europe?

ML: Oh yes…

JT: Many times? ... In western Europe…

ML: Yes, yes…

JT: Do you correspond with anyone in Lithuania?

ML: Yes, with family, and again the letters are censored all of the time. We send packages. Occasionally they will send books, especially children's books and we try to send them anything that they will let through… household. They do need everything but hardly anything is permitted through.

JT: Have anyone from Lithuania visited you?

ML: Yes. Occasionally they get permission, especially the ones that do have relatives… not anyone of our family, but we have had visitors – medical doctors that have come and stayed with us and visited the American hospitals - --- ---- …

JT: I have an impression that there are many Lithuanian doctors…

ML: In Cleveland?

JT: Yes…

ML: In Ohio?.. Oh yes. I would say in Cleveland we have about fifty Lithuanian doctors…

[Exchange with Dr Lenkauskas – unclear]

JT: It strikes me as unusual.

ML: How so?

JT: Among other ethnic groups I think there aren't so many doctors…

Do you keep up with the news from your homeland?

ML: Yes.

JT: Do you get any printed material from there?

ML: From behind the iron curtain?

JT: Yes.

ML: Again, we receive only what they want to send to further their own aims, propaganda. You have to read between lines in their publications. We receive Lithuanian newspapers, quite a few, printed in the USA and other free world countries.

JT: Lithuanian newspapers from Europe?

ML: From Europe, from Australia, from Argentina, Brazil, S.A. We have a European newspaper, we have two Canadian newspapers, and cultural magazines, monthlies, a daily newspaper from Chicago, “DRANGAS”, which is translated “friend”, and we have a newspaper weekly here in Cleveland, Dirva, and we have youth magazines, and we have our World Lithuanian Community, “World Lithuanian” monthly magazine. It comes from Chicago, and covers the activities of Lithuanians throughout the nineteen free world countries mentioned.

JT: What do you think of American policy regarding Lithuania? Do you approve of American policy regarding Lithuania?

ML: Especially so because the United States does not accept the occupation of Lithuania, considers Lithuania to be enslaved by force.

JT: Would you like to see the government do something beyond that?

ML: Within reason. Yes, but at the moment, there's not much one can do.

JT: Have you visited the Lithuanian Embassy in Washington?

ML: Oh yes…

JT: Many times?

ML: We have a legation, not an embassy, in Washington… it is the only place that we consider “free Lithuania”. It is very dear to all our hearts, a place to visit, especially the older generation, remembering very much when it was established, and how it was kept up and furnished, and staffed by the government of independent Lithuania.

JT: That's the end of my questions…..

JT: You have a Lithuanian home…can you explain some of your artifacts?

ML: Most of our Lithuanian homes will be very much decorated with paintings, and sculptures of Lithuanian artists. Most of our paintings are of Lithuanian artists, Vizvgirda Galdikas [names are spelled out] and my cousin's wife, Ilona Peteris. She is a renowned artist in Los Angeles, a graduate of Berkeley, and a California Art Association member. We do have some paintings from behind the Iron curtain. The artists are very well-known. One of them is V. Kmieliauskas [spelled out]. We have wood carvings. And folk art, we have Lithuanian tapestries and sashes, and hundreds of books including the Lithuanian encyclopedia and art books… One sculpture came from behind the Iron Curtain. It portrays a singing minstrel. But really, I believe what they are doing is sculpturing a traveling Christ, and instead of using a cross, he is given a staff, and carrying a Lithuanian instrument, - “Kankales”, which is like the lyre.

JT: It's very interesting.

ML: And we do have the Lithuanian Easter egg collections and …

JT: It's a lovely home … the furniture…?

ML: [Laughs] … is contemporary.

JT: We met the doll … and this is…

ML: A mosaic… A Lithuanian art mosaic, the pattern is of flowers in sashes that are woven and the mosaic tiles put into flower design and trees, in different color combinations. And what you see is the vase, the flowers, Viktorija brought from behind the Iron Curtain, from Lithuania. The flower arrangement is straw flowers which is formed of straw flowers and rye and wheat, and worked into a very colorful artistic staff-branch.

You are very welcome to come back. I know what happens when you travel to a strange land and this must be something like traveling to a strange land coming to our home, because it is very much an island of Lithuanian culture and life. So if there's anything that you have not covered, please call and come and visit with us.

JT: Thank you very much.

JT: We were talking about the fact, or I asked the question whether you think women are more concerned in retaining the Lithuanian culture than men, do you see any differences there?

ML: It possibly was a fact in the past because the women spent more time with their families in getting established in a new country. I would say this is more typical of my parents' generation than of my generation and the younger generation. Both sexes are very much interested in their own background, go back to their roots for different reasons. Not only for pursuing their own professions and making use of professional expertise, but trying to continue to do the work of their Lithuanian parents and grandparents. For instance, someone following a political career would very much be aware of the status of Lithuania now and the aims of Lithuanian communities for Lithuania in the future. A young family would be very much aware of Lithuanian art and music and fill its library with books on their ethnic background topics. I think that just as my daughters will be very much interested in filling their life with artifacts, and information, that one way or another includes Lithuania into their daily life.

JT: Thank you very much, that's a very interesting comment.