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JUOZAS APUTIS

PORTRAIT OF A WRITER
A SHINING WHITE SPECK OF THE PAST

 

When people speak about contemporary Lithuanian writers Juozas Aputis’ name usually comes up. For over 30 years literary critics have called him a writer in whose books tradition and modernity, universality and individuality have been blended with a masterly touch.
His first collection of short stories was published in 1963. Another five collections of stories and three collections of novellas have appeared since then.
The novel Never Stop in a Desert, which took the author 20 years to complete, was voted Best Work of Fiction in 1996.

 

PORTRAIT OF A WRITER


By Liudvikas Jakimavičius

 
Ienvy painters their ability to capture a person’s characteristics, a mood or a look. A written portrait will always be less visually suggestive than a work by a talented painter. I envy them especially when the subject is not some ordinary fellow citizen but a man who cannot be mistaken for somebody else when he walks down the street.
I am speaking about the writer Juozas Aputis whom I got to know closely some seven or eight years ago. I remember as clearly as if it were only yesterday a time when three of us – Aputis, another writer, Valdas Papievis, a chum of mine, and I – were sitting together in a small room.
It goes without saying that the table is not bare. Aputis brings out a flask of moonshine and starts slicing some sausage. The situation seems very relaxed, but the writer is twice our age and so we try to be polite. He insists, however, that we call him by his first name.
Emptying the flask and all shouting at the same time, we start a heated discussion. We share our views on other writers, who is talented and who is a dilettante.
This acquaintance was deepened when Aputis offered me a position on the literary magazine Metai (The Four Seasons). Frankly speaking, he was not the sweetest boss of the many I have had. Maybe his impulsive artistic character was to blame for that.
Every human being sooner or later finds a place where he or she can feel at home. When I see Juozas sitting at his editor’s desk it occurs to me that his true place is not here. It is on the bank of the Űla River in the unspoilt village of Zervynos where he goes whenever he can. It is there that he finds most of his literary ideas. From there come the pine trees, the sky, the sand and the moss that feature in his books.
I once heard a funny story. One summer students were studying folklore in the Zervynos area. They saw a man working in his farmyard and, as usual, asked him whether he knew any folk songs. Juozas said he did, and invited them into his house. He chatted with the students, but did not sing any songs, and they became anxious.
When they finally persuaded him to sing, they heard songs sung in an operatic voice. The students frowned and, saying it was no good, left without recognising the writer whose works are even included in secondary-school textbooks.
I do not know if this story is true or not, but one thing is clear. If the students had seen Juozas in a suit and tie they would certainly have recognised him. However, Juozas in Zervynos, next to a farmhouse, was not a writer but a simple man from the village. In other words, he was where he belonged.
On the other hand, I doubt this is the only place where he feels at home. I have heard that he once spent the whole night talking to a tramp under a bridge in Vilnius. The secret of his talent lies in this rare quality – to gain experience in real life as if he was an artist drawing from nature. If there is something that cannot be taken from him, it is his deep persistence and determination to carry his goals through.
He is a passionate collector of old radio sets. He hardly knows himself how many Telefunken radios he has repaired. One might think it is enough to have one working radio. However, Juozas would not be Juozas if he did not go to the flea market to rummage in heaps of spare parts, lamps and screws and then haggle furiously over the price until a bargain is struck.
He knows all the parts of a radio, and it looks as if he is obsessed with a passion to know everything from inside.
There are mountains of works of prose in his editorial office. To read everything would damage the eyes and waste time. Nevertheless, he reads them all and is never willing to dismiss them as mediocre and put them aside. Even in inferior prose he can find a jewel. Then he is filled with joy, like a child who has found a piece of shining metal, quotes the passage and cheers everybody up.
His latest novel (it took two decades to write) is called Never Stop in a Desert. The main character, Milađius, sent to work as a forester, may be modelled on the author himself who, like a sponge, absorbs stories of ordinary villagers.
He keeps asking himself: “Why?” He muses over how moss grows on sand, how the saw starts to wail when it comes into contact with a tree trunk, what can be seen from a watchtower.
Very often Juozas quotes from Chekhov. He envies this combination of doctor and writer. Not because literature seems to be capable of curing the sick, but because the profession of doctor, unlike any other profession, gives a host of opportunities to meet people. The doctor is able to touch their pain and their fate.
Juozas can sometimes surprise you with an unexpected question: “Tell me what happened?” And you thought that nobody had noticed what you were trying to hide and that you had learned to conceal what others were not supposed to see.
People say that when Juozas was a child a mare kicked him in the head and ever since then he has had this acute power of observation. It is true that there is a horseshoe-shaped scar on Juozas’ forehead. May God give each writer the same kind of mare’s kick.

A SHINING WHITE SPECK OF THE PAST


By Juozas Aputis

 
He was pacing the dusk-filled room, talking to himself, that nameless person who was not actually there.
“Thank you. From your words I realise you are a good man. If I am wrong, I’ll know how to explain myself. One doesn’t feel guilty mistakenly thinking that a person is better, not worse. But what do you care about my conscience! You insist that you mean well. Thanks again. Thanks firstly, for remembering me, secondly for the sincerity of your wishes. Yet why didn’t you come and shake my hand? Why did you hide so completely in the dusk?
If I followed the Japanese code of conduct my best wishes to you would be a hundred times more sincere. In doing so I would be simulating the truth in a way, but who on earth needs it?
Don’t be surprised or frightened. I can recognise you even by the way you walk. You don’t suspect that I can spot you from far away when you are walking in the same direction as I am, with many strangers between us, and lots of people going in the same direction! No matter how well you might know me – and your words tell me you do – I doubt you realise how I hate to stare at people, and it irritates me when others do, too. You must glimpse a person at once, in the twinkling of an eye, take him in in an instant before he starts playing a role. I don’t need a role, I can play my own role. When he gets into my range of view, the person feels a current run through his body, just for a moment, and that is all. That’s why you don’t turn when, walking way behind you, I stop looking at the back of your head. But why didn’t you turn around when I stared at you with such insistence? Could it be that you don’t find it very pleasant to see your own past?
I am familiar with the more interesting features of your face and the faults of your character. I once saw you examining me so thoroughly. I was standing with my back to you and the trolleybus was crossing the bridge in our town. To tell the truth, at the beginning I did not stand with my back to you. It was only later that I deliberately turned away from you so that you could see just half of my face. You can not take everything in at a glance. You stared at me for such a long time and the intensity of your stare was so irksome, as if I had just killed a man and you were at a loss what to do, that I could not help smiling. You did not seem to notice this, either, because you wanted to see something else. You did not even understand that I knitted my brows on purpose and, with feigned sadness in my eyes, ‘immersed’ into my secret life, which you were so interested in. I don’t remember when I last felt so good. Oh well, they say doing good is a fool’s lot, but I was happy to fulfil your wish, to let you see me totally broken down, finished, hardly able to ever get up, neck-deep in my miserable, secret days and nights.
But what I was really thinking about then was the little apple tree which I had recently planted and which had been gnawed at by hares twice already. Are they going to get their teeth into it again?
However, you were determined not to let me go so easily. Believe me. Even though I was standing with my back to you, I saw you take out a book, open it at the marked page and start reading. You did it on purpose! You moved your lips slowly, forming the words about deep despair. You went on and on, mouthing the words. I could hear them with my back, though. Thank you. I understood. You had started making prophesies.
I had to get off soon. Even when I was half-way out of the trolleybus, your words were still ringing in my ears. Annoyed and hurt, I walked away, thinking what words I could read to you and from what book?
And now, with those sincere words of goodwill you awakened that old wish of mine again. And again you made me remember that deep despair.
All right! I won’t read, but I’ll tell you a little story from my childhood. I’ll tell you about Gvildys.
Let my little story help you to know me and yourself better. I don’t mind.
Gvildys had a bicycle. Its black frames gleamed with lacquer and both wheels were nickel-plated. I never gave a thought to how he had obtained it, but everybody craved for a ride on it. He never begrudged it and would take us on his bike as far away as Rudupë Hill, but before that we had to undergo a very unpleasant trial. Was it only unpleasant? Gvildys was a shortish man, but strong as a horse. And his eyes. Oh, I remember them so well – cunning, dark brown. I have never since seen eyes of such a deep brown (I can see you rejoicing, you expect me to blurt it out that only your eyes, perhaps, are of similar brownness and by saying it I will give myself away. You will understand that I don’t know you. It’s an idle hope. No one who has ever seen them would call your eyes brown. Both his lips had a slight twist to the right, they would suck each other with an odd rage, and the teeth behind them seemed to be grinding the words he uttered. Gvildys’ cheeks were hollow, his jaw prominent, his black hair combed back and, evidently, oiled, because it was always shiny.
‘Want a ride?’ he would ask, jumping off his sparkling bicycle, always deftly, and squeezing my fingers hard in a handshake until it hurt. This handshake of his would make everyone, not only me, wince. People much stronger than me, grown-ups, even my father, would wince. (Your father, I am sure, would have winced as well.)
Gvildys didn’t even ask me then if I would like a ride. He jumped off and squeezed my childish hand. Gvildys was fond of children. He loved them. He even bought a hair clip and we would all go to his place to have our hair cut. And so, Gvildys gave my childish hand a squeeze. I squatted down with pain, and when I drew myself up, he nodded towards the shining bicycle – towards the crossbar, to be precise, on which we would sit when Gvildys gave us a ride – nodded his head and a second after he had let go of my hand he was again holding out his hand to squeeze mine. Fastened with clasps at the bottom, his trouser legs were sticking out like dog’s ears. This time he knew pretty well what he was doing. I don’t remember whether I badly wanted to get on the crossbar, but I, too, held out my hand timidly, a grazed, grubby hand, trembling with fright.
Standing at the side of the road, propped up against a pole, Gvildys’ bicycle looked like a roebuck caught in a noose.
‘Well, well, let’s see,’ Gvildys laughed, his lips giving an even sharper twist to the right and his bluish white teeth showing on the left of his mouth. ‘How much pressure do you think you can stand today?’
And so it began. As if there was a very precise mechanism fitted into his hand, I felt the pain rising slowly, gradually, from my fingers to the forearm, then coiling like a snake around my neck and drifting back to my heart and from there, piercing the bones, it reached my legs and feet and sank into the ground.
‘Well, how does it feel?’ I can hear Gvildys’ words and see his slanting eyes, the smirk on his face and a smouldering cigarette in his hand.
‘Nothing special... Just as usual...,’ I try to answer him. It is not the pain I am afraid of now, but the weakness. I feel faint, my knees buckle, and, no longer looking at Gvildys, I frantically look for some device in myself I could summon to will my knees not to bend and my mouth not to open. Gvildys’ lessons would last until the first yelp. The device appears, in my brain of all places. I see a snow-white speck. It is shining and white and so kind that we immediately find a common language, and it tells someone to hold me firmly, and I brace myself, put out my chest, and I can see, very clearly, Gvildys’ slanting eyes go back to where they belong. They slowly get rounder. He drops the cigarette from his left hand, sways a little to the right and starts stooping, almost pulling me. Big tears are rolling down my cheeks. His eyes, to my great surprise, have also started watering with tension. He looks embarrassed. He is furious. If he could, he would force my mouth open to make me yelp, but he does not know that there is this kind white speck in my brain. Gvildys does not know that I will not let out a squeak today.
And what do you think? Gvildys’ left hand is slowly moving towards his right hand to help it. They are already pressing into one and my little bruised palm disappears in it.
‘You can’t do this! This is not fair!’ I manage to say, and I say it so that Gvildys understands, immediately. Could it be that a white speck has flashed across his brain too?
He opens his palms, and his arms go down. The white speck in my brain wills some blood to be sent into my fingers which are as white as paper. The blood flows in and it feels as if a school of fish was nudging the numb places. They nudge and nudge, and my fingers get warmer and rosier.
‘Hell!’ Gvildys says and spits through a gap between his teeth. ‘What the hell has happened?’
What else can he say?
And what can I say, not then but now?
What was that kind white speck?
Subconscious realisation! I did not quite understand then, but now I know. Gvildys aimed to develop resistance, self-control and toughness in us, to strengthen our willpower. There is something else I know very well, too, and I want to stress this. It was not only because of this that Gvildys squeezed our fingers in his iron hand.
It was not only our willpower that he cared about.
Trusting your subtle ability to understand things, I would like to add a couple of words to the scene I have just described, the more so as it is so easy to do. Life itself has prompted them.
I went to my native village in the spring and visited the place where our houses used to stand. Staring at the pieces of bricks scattered on the ground, I spotted something rusty and tugged at it. It was a gimlet, part of my childhood days, forged by our neighbour the blacksmith. I had drilled quite a few holes with it before I made my way in life, in the right and in the wrong places. I cleaned it on the dry grass, hooked a willow branch through its loop and walked on, swinging it, with a fearful feeling of the invisible eyes of the past piercing my back.
Having covered a good distance, with silicate brick houses here and there, I suddenly heard chanting sounds behind the untrimmed bushes and asked a stranger whom I met on my way :
‘What has happened there? Has somebody died?’
‘Gvildys. Did you know him?’
I made for Gvildys’ house, the rusty piece of time in my hand.
I left the gimlet in the porch.
Gvildys was lying in that part of the house where he used to cut our hair and where our curls would strew the dirt floor like carded wool.
Gvildys looked handsome, his grey hair nicely trimmed by one of his children, perhaps with the same hair clip which he had used on us, his cheeks just as hollow, the jaw prominent and the lips with a twist to the right. You could not see his brown eyes, though. They were covered with eyelids which had turned blue.
I stepped aside nervously. I had to because the holy picture in his hands was casting a shadow in the candle-light. Having made that step, I saw the fingers of Gvildys’ right hand, and I had a very close look! The fingers were black!”
 
(From LITHUANIA IN THE WORLD, No 2, 1998)

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KONSTANTINAS BRUZAS


THE GUARDIAN OF THE PAST

VISIONS IN STONE
NARROW STREETS: A SOURSE OF PRIDE
SAVING THE CULTURAL HERITAGE

By Adomas Butrimas

In Zemaiciu Kalvarija, a quiet market town in Samogitia, lives one of the country’s most active ethnographers, Konstantinas Bruzas. Most of his ethnographic-historical studies and all kinds of diverse material are housed in the Alka Museum in Telđiai, the largest museum in Samogitia. Part of it is kept and displayed in his house which has also become a museum.
Konstantinas Bruzas, 85, was born into a farming family. He served eight years in the army of independent Lithuania. With the Soviet occupation, like most of the country’s army officers, he was exiled to the far north. During his second year of exile in Siberia he almost died of exhaustion.
After 15 years he settled in Latvia, as exiles were not allowed to live in Lithuania. He worked for a sanitary unit as a rat poisoner, later as a street sweeper, and began to jot down his observations of the various people he met. Gradually these notes became a collection of humorous and philosophical portraits of different people.
In 1963 Bruzas returned to Lithuania, where he failed to find a decent job. Wherever he went he received the same answer: “You are a former exile.”
In the autumn of 1967 he finally moved to Zemaiciu Kalvarija, a town in western Lithuania. He settled in a little house which had formerly belonged to the sisters of the Order of St Casimir. There lived the mistress of the house with her dog and a nun who had formerly worked at the convent.
“My fate was determined by my sympathy for the innocent. I became sensitive myself. First to pain and violence, and later to my homeland, my cultural heritage and nature,” Bruzas recalls. He was first introduced to ethnography by a museum curator in Telđiai who, in answer to Bruzas’ question about where to begin, said: “First extinguish what’s burning.”
He has been working in the town for over 30 years now, diligently, quietly and purposefully documenting place names, decaying buildings, household utensils, tools, pictures and books. The preservation of the old buildings of the town, its archaeological, cultural and natural monuments, has become Bruzas’ daily work.
 
VISIONS IN STONE
 
 
In his cottage most space is set aside for material about local poets, writers, figures from science and culture. He has spent much time and energy on the immortalisation of their memory.
First of all he devoted himself to the memory of the poet Vytautas Macernis, censured by the Soviet government.
Bruzas devised and implemented an original project. Seven stones bearing lines from his poetic visions mark the most important places connected with the poet’s life.
Later, he undertook to care for the place where Macernis died and to construct a monument. He collects and makes donations himself. In summer 1987 one of Bruzas’ dreams came true when a museum to Macernis opened in Zemaiciu Kalvarija.
 
NARROW STREETS: A SOURCE OF PRIDE
 
 
Zemaiciu Kalvarija has been mentioned in records since 1253. The town’s magnificent 17th-century baroque and classical church with its famous miracle-working picture of St Mary on its main altar, the 19 stone and wooden chapels of the Stations of the Cross recognised as monuments of folk architecture, the town’s layout, and the well-preserved wooden buildings are unique cultural features.
“Is it easy to find a town with such a varied topography? It has 12 hills that have been named, and as many that haven’t,” Bruzas says.
The town suffered a lot at the hands of bureaucrats. For instance, in 1967 Bruzas resisted the local government’s resolution to convert one hill, together with its ancient settlement, the remains of the dead and its legends, into a gravel pit.
He has had to battle with various “innovations” more than once, as when rash decisions were made to make alterations to the chapels, or to replace old wooden crosses made by craftsmen with ones made of two welded pieces of metal.
Bruzas’ concerns for this authentic monument to urbanism have been put into words in a collection of writings: “It is important to preserve the old and to harmonise it with the new; to continue to create, not to destroy. The conservatism of Samogitia is not a throwback, but an ethnic asset.”
“Our streets are narrow. Often two vehicles can barely pass each other. But these little narrow streets are a source of pride,” Bruzas says.
 
SAVING THE CULTURAL HERITAGE
 
 
“Lithuania’s villages were destroyed, houses decayed and collapsed before my eyes. In the 60s and 70s the villagers began to move to new places, leaving behind their old farms. In other cases they were forced by the demon of land reclamation. This was especially true of places that were more densely populated.
“I saw the rubble of destroyed cottages and heard people moaning. So I collected and described it all. Much has been reclaimed, but even more has been lost. The ‘harvest’ was too large and the workers too few,” Bruzas says.
In order that these cottages, whole villages with their residents, traditions and customs, would not disappear without a trace, he has taken notes and filled out questionnaires, collected hundreds of reminiscences, descriptions, has measured innumerable old cottages, and drawn plans marked with the locations of archaeological monuments.
Everything that he has accumulated has been handed over to the Ethnography Department of the Institute of Lithuanian History, the Institute of the Lithuanian Language and Vilnius University. However, the largest collections and manuscripts have gone to museums in Samogitia.
Only a few of his works have been published and this does not reflect the significance of what he has done.
Part of the material collected has found its way into researchers’ studies, sometimes without any reference to the man who has delved into the riches of Zemaiciu Kalvarija.
 
 
(From LITHUANIA IN THE WORLD, No 2, 1998)

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SIMONAS DAUKANTAS

By GIEDRIUS SUBACIUS

"Through my writing, I wanted (...) to prove to the adversaries of the Lithuanian and Samogitian languages that every person who has the wish can write in Lithuanian just as well as in any other refined language."

Simonas DaukantasSimonas Daukantas There is a street named after Simonas Daukantas in every Lithuanian city or town. His portrait appears on the new 100-litas banknote - the Lithuanian paper-money note of the highest denomination.
To Lithuanians, Simonas Daukantas has always been the symbol of their country's national identity and spiritual rebirth. In the Polonized and Russified Lithuania of the 19th century, Daukantas was the first public figure to publish his writings only in Lithuanian. He wanted to prove that his mother tongue was perfectly suited for literary and scholarly works and that it had to occupy a prominent place in Lithuanian culture.
Daukantas was an innovator in many spheres of Lithuania's public life and culture. He was the first to write a history of Lithuania in the vernacular (until then, historical works had been printed in Polish and Latin only). In 1845 he published The Character of Ancient Lithuanians (...), the first scholary book in the national language about Lithuanian customs and traditions, beliefs, military skills and ethnography. Daukantas was also the first to formulate in Lithuanian the rules of the Lithuanian grammar. He made significant contributions to almost every field of 19th-century Lithuanian philology: he wrote historical works, grammar books, and a prayer-book. He also collected and published folklore, prepared special booklets for farmers, compiled dictionaries, translated fiction and historical writings. Nevertheless, Daukantas is viewed as a tragic figure because he did not live to see his ideas develop into a national philosophy and many of his works were not printed during his lifetime.
Daukantas was born in 1793 in Samogitia (Ţemaitija), an ethnic region in western Lithuania. Two years after his birth, Russia completely occupied Lithuania, and Daukantas grew up and live in an oppressed country. He traversed Lithuania on foot to study at Vilnius University. Having obtained forged papers establishing his nobility, he was one of few persons of peasant stock who graduated from the University. Daukantas died at the end of 1864, after the suppression of the 1863 uprising against czarist rule. Just before his death, Daukantas learned about the ban on the Lithuanian press which would be enforced for the next 40 years.
The name of Simonas Daukantas and his works were revived by the following generation of writers, linguists, historians, and politicians. To this day, many Lithuanian historians support Daukantas' ideas against serfdom, national suppression, and his denouncement of the Crusaders' incursions on Lithuania. Most importantly, Daukantas revealed the significance of political independence for the development of Lithuania's national identity.
One of the squares in the Old town of Vilnius, which was earlier named after of foreign army commanders, such as Napaleon and Kutuzov, is now dedicated to Simonas Daukantas, the Father of Lithuania's national revival.

From: “Lithuania in the World, January” - February, 1994. Page : 9

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ALEKSAS GIRDENIS

A well-known Vilnius University professor, Aleksas Girdenis, 61, is an authority in the field of dialectology. In 1964, still at the beginning of his career, together with a co-author, he classified contemporary Lithuanian dialects.
His Phonology (1983) and The Basic Theoretical Principles of Phonology (1995) are of fundamental importance to the science of the sounds of the Lithuanian language.
Researching into the peculiarities of his native ţemaičiř dialect (the dialect of Samogitia, one of the country’s four ethnic regions, occupying the greater part of western Lithuania), Girdenis hid a tape recorder in the wall of his parents’ house in his home town near Telđiai to record the language of his close family. In this way he obtained over 400 hours of spoken language which he used for his book on the local dialect published in 1996.
The professor says that he has been collecting material for this book since 1968.
“I’m a native of Samogitia. We are famous for our accuracy and meticulousness, traits which have served me well in the field of phonology and phonetics.”
The university’s Department of General Linguistics, headed by Professor Girdenis, is jokingly called the department of Samogitian linguistics: most of his colleagues are from Samogitia and speak their native dialect among themselves.
“To be a phonetician you need keen hearing and to be good at mathematics and literature,” says Girdenis. He won a prize at a nationwide physicists competition while still at secondary school. He also used to play the violin and wrote poems in his native dialect.
“I started writing verses at the age of ten and it must have influenced my decision to choose Lithuanian language studies at Vilnius University,” Girdenis says.
He still writes poetry in his native dialect. This spring saw the publication of a collection of verses in the dialect. Edited by Professor Aleksas Girdenis himself, the book includes several of his own poems.
 
(From LITHUANIA IN THE WORLD, No 2, 1998)

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EDUARDAS JONUSAS

From the painter's life. Eduardas Jonusas was born in the Mazeikiai region in 1932. In 1941 his family emigrated to Germany and lived near Berlin till the end of the war.
On the way back to Lithuania, he got lost and was sent to prison in Gardinas. In 1946, when the Russians were trying to take him to a children's home, he ran away and turned to his grandparents in Maţeikiai. Recruited to the Red Army in 1951, he was sentenced as a "secret spy" to 25 years' imprisonment and 5 years' exile when the KGB found out about his past. He served time in a Chita prison, in concentration camps in Siberia and the Far East. He was given amnesty in 1956, but the KGB continued its watch over him. Having returned to Klaipëda where his mother lived, he never again saw his father and three brothers. Eduardas Jonusas lives in Nida.
The first exhibition of his paintings was held at the Museum of ethnography in Klaipëda in 1957. His works have been displayed in various towns in Lithuania and Germany. Jonusas' paintings can be seen in private collections in Germany, the USA and Canada. Some of his wooden sculptures stand in Nida and Pervalka

From: "Lithuania in the World", Vol.4, No.1, 1996. Page: 41

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VYTAUTAS MAJORAS

A DREAM HOUSE

By Gediminas Pilaitis

There is a village in the Klaipeda region which tourists visit to see one of the most unusual farms in western Lithuania, to hear the howl of an iron wolf and the firing of a real cannon. Although a wooden club hangs from the farm gate, tourists, newlyweds and guests are always welcome.
 
EVERYTHING WITH HIS OWN HANDS
 
 
Twenty-five years ago folk artist Vytautas Majoras and his wife Birute moved from Klaipeda to the scattered village of Jurgiai when he realised that it was impossible for a wood carver to work in the city. Being raised in the country, he had always dreamt of having his own yard to work in. Since they moved in, the other houses have also been reclaimed.
In the village Majoras found a neglected farmstead where farmers had previously kept sheep. One end of the farmhouse had collapsed and very little of the roof remained, but enormous lime trees grew in the yard. Land reclamation workers had planned to raze the farm and no one believed that anything could still be done with it.
“First we rebuilt the walls of the house and plastered the white bricks,” Majoras recounts. “The barn became a workshop. Then I built a stone wall around the farm and turned the granary into a sauna. We uprooted the dead apple trees in the orchard, harrowed the soil and sowed a lawn. I made myself an efficient lawnmower which works better than any bought equipment.”
The house features a large hall with a purpose-built fireplace. “I can even burn tyres in it, and the smoke and smell won’t come into the house,” explains Majoras. The hall floor is laid in red tiles, according to tradition in the Klaipeda region. A library is situated at the other end of the house. A replica antique staircase leads to the first floor. All of the trimmings and furniture were made by the craftsman himself.
Majoras regrets that his farm stands on level ground. In order to vary the landscape, he dug out a pond where he can fish. The pond used to be visited by swans, but now a beaver has moved in and gnawed up some of the surrounding greenery. For many years a family of storks has lived in the top of one of the trees.
 
COMFORT IS CREATED BY ORDER
 
 
While in a labour camp in Siberia, exiled there by the Soviet government, he learned the craft of metalworking. He has erected two metal sculptures on his farm, the Iron Wolf and the Knight of Truth. The wolf is equipped with two ship’s sirens. When a mechanism is turned on, the wolf raises its head and howls so loudly it can be heard across the whole district.
While making the knight, Majoras searched for a long time for a symbol of truth. “The symbol of love is the heart, for faith it is the cross, for hope the anchor,” he says. “Finally, a priest suggested that truth could be symbolised by the All-Seeing Eye. Visitors are surprised when the knight’s head turns, but the symbol of truth engraved on his shield usually goes unnoticed.”
Majoras had a cannon cast at the Baltija Shipyard. If the gunpowder is good the cannonballs land half a kilometre away in a well-protected clearing. It is fired to commemorate birthdays and national holidays. Majoras points out that city dwellers could never do anything like this.
When asked about his future plans, the folk artist revealed one more of his dreams, to erect a three-headed, fire-spitting dragon on the farm. The design has already been completed. All he needs now is to find the materials, the tools – and the time.
 
(From LITHUANIA IN THE WORLD, No 2, 1998)

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© Samogitian Cultural Association Editorial Board, 1998.
Page updated 2000.05.08.
Comments to: samogitia@mch.mii.lt

HistoryLanguageLiteratureFolkloreCulture
BishopricVsiting_placesWord of the editor