6 – New Horizons

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The restoration of Lithuanian independence declared on March 11, 1990, marked the joyous beginning of a new era for both Lithuania and its diaspora. It did not unfold without hardships. The assault on the Vilnius television tower in January, 1991, was became one more testament to Lithuanian solidarity, which still mourns the loss of a number of lives, as thousands stood together to withstand Russian tanks. Photos in the newspaper attest to these events.

The newspaper continued to map out the nation‘s progress and the interests of the Community, as well as newly developing relationships and opportunities for projects and other work with the homeland. Regular columns on culture, current events, organizations and their activities locally and abroad continued, with timely reports becoming more available through fax machines.

Bestowed with the title of Monsignor (in 1987), Editor-in-Chief Gaida worked off-site but still nurtured the youth section of the newspaper, publishing opinions, poetry and essays by young Lithuanians. He took a special interest in the work of young artists, poets and writers, and made room for it in every issue, also encouraging artists to produce an illustration specifically for the front page. The cultural aspect of the Community was kept alive.

Gaida held the newspaper to strict guidelines of proper Lithuanian language, to the frustration of many writers. Editorial staff eventually compiled an informal stylebook which they and proofreaders were meant to follow. He sought to maintain a purity of language which as a principle of cultural retention made the Lights of Homeland famous.

Over the decade the newspaper was lively with numerous accounts of visiting cultural groups and politicians from Lithuania, and of individuals and groups supporting the budding nation and its endeavours, both financially and in person.

Editor Jonas Andrulis retired in 1994, having (in 1987) pressed writer Česlovas Senkevičius into service to share the editorial burden. Before leaving he induced a younger generation member, Ramūnė Jonaitienė, to take his place at the TŽ office, but continued to contribute one or two weekly columns. Jonaitienė had already been targeted by Gaida to edit the Youth Section at one time, and also a women‘s section, later abandoned as women‘s issues “graduated“ to the level of general interest. She also contributed reports on various events in the community, and had been chair of the Board of Publishers for several years.

That year became a testing ground for the staff, when new computers were introduced. Long-time administrator Salomėja Andriulienė retired, training Aušra Trussow to take her place, later assisted by Valentina Baliūnienė. The learning curve rose again late that year when layout designer Vytautas Balčiūnas suddenly passed away and his assistant, Genė Karasiejūtė-Gaižutienė, was pressed into work to set up the particularly complex Christmas issue. Other changes during that decade included the loss of Laima Kurpienė, who had been a mainstay in pre-press input for many years. Vytautas Kastytis-Tvardauskas suffered a stroke in 1998, and his work was divided among other members of the editorial staff.

After the declaration of independence, the most exciting event of the decade for Lithuanian Canadians was Lithuanian president Valdas Adamkus‘ visit to Toronto in October, 1999. His itinerary included stops at St. John‘s Cemetery, the Lithuanian Canadian Museum-Archives and the Tėviškės žiburiai office at the Anapilis Christian Community Centre in Mississauga before a public meeting in the main hall. In preparation for his visit, the long-neglected floors of the newspaper‘s premises were carpeted, the walls painted, and the lingering remnants of metal linotype equipment removed.

The end of the decade also ushered in the 50th anniversary of Tėviškės žiburiai, which was commemorated in a publication that included a brief history of the newspaper and an album of past and then-current staff. (see pdf, below).The 50th anniversary itself was celebrated at the annual dinner-dance on April 29th, 2000.

TŽ-50_lowThe Anniversary Publication Commemorating the Newspaper‘s 50th

Children‘s choir “Angeliukai“ at TŽ 50th

 

Salomėja and Jonas Andrulis