An Important Story of the Diaspora

Postage stamp created by Lithuanian Uruguayan Gabriel Vuljevas commemorating the 100th anniversary of Lithuania’s independence

We Remember Lithuania

 Alberto Kaluzevičius of Uruguay wrote to “Tėviškės žiburiai”, describing his excitement on hearing that a member of the Uruguay Lithuanian Community was being invited to present a new postage stamp issued by the Uruguay Postal Service, in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of Lithuania’s independence.

 I threw my arm up as I sprang up from my chair yelling “Me!”. In that moment I returned to my childhood and remembered two things that were very important to me: philately (stamp-collecting) and friendship. I loved stamps from a young age – I searched for them, bought them and begged for them, as well as joining the stamp collectors’ club at the Central Post Office. Stamp-collecting taught me many new things, and though it may sound odd, my hobby also evoked many emotions. Later I took an interest in Lithuanian stamps and began collecting them. Vytautas Dorelis, a stamp collector and former president of the Lithuanian Community of Uruguay helped me develop my collection. During my lifetime, I have seen many Uruguay stamps, but never thought that one of them would be dedicated to Lithuania.

The second thing that came to mind was friendship. The image we see on the new stamp was created by by Gabriel Vuljevas, a Lithuanian Uruguayan. I still remember him as a young boy, as my friend and neighbour. We visited each other, played, went fishing and flew kites together. I am proud and happy that his artwork is featured on this stamp. Gabriel, you are an inspiration.

Lithuanians in Uruguay were called gringos, like all other foreigners. A century has passed since the first Lithuanian came to this country. Every one of the thousands who arrived here had unique experiences. Regardless of their diverse views, it is important to remember that each one of them deeply loved Lithuania in their own way. In 1930 there were about 10,000 Lithuanians in Montevideo. At that time the capital of Uruguay had a total population of about 700,000. Lithuanians grew to love Uruguay as well, feeling they were Uruguayan, joining into daily life, drinking mate and grilling asado. It’s important to realize that Lithuanians and their descendants were quickly assimilated into life in Uruguay, became part of the community with all its successes and failures. They became artists, political prisoners, union leaders, represininkai (supporters of a repressive regime), priests, parents, children, tradespeople, military officers, teachers, merchants or athletes. Some of them endured hardship, were killed, or disappeared during the dictatorship.

Original art created by Lithuanian Uruguayan Gabriel Vuljevas commemorating the 100th anniversary of Lithuania’s independence

The mission of the Uruguay Lithuanian Cultural Society is to promote Lithuanian culture both within Uruguay and abroad, with the help of the Consulate. We hope that the presentation of the new stamp will serve to renew every Lithuanian Uruguayan’s sense of identity and dispel any disputes. I would like to mention that organizing the exhibition made me very happy, because it was an opportunity for me to learn more about Lithuanians in Uruguay. Lithuania is an independent country and we know that all Lithuanians love and respect its language and culture, our common homeland and our ancestry and our history, which give us a common identity. Independent Lithuania welcomes all its children and grants the right to Lithuanian citizenship, no matter what their views and their history. Even as we live in Uruguay, we know that we always were, are and will be Lithuanians of Uruguay.