After a hiatus due to COVID-19, the Lithuanian Canadian Community executive called the Annual General Meeting online via Zoom on November 21. This was the first virtual AGM, which was chaired by Joana Kuras, with technical assistaance from vice-chair Virginija Zubrickas and Skaidra Puodžiūnas, past chair of the Lithuanian Canadian Youth Association, currently on the board of the Toronto chapter of the LCC and communications expert.
Participants waved hello to one another to break the virtual ice, and current chair of the LCC Kazimieras Deksnys introduced guests: Ambassador of Lithuanian in Canada Darius Skusevičius, World Lithuanian Community Board member Mons. Edmond Putrimas, Honorary Consul-General Paul Kuras, Honorary Consul Arūnas Staškevičius, Lithuanian Parliament-World Lith. Community Comission member, author Antanas Šileika, Lithuanian Canadian Foundation representative Dr. Arūnas Pabedinskas.
After the anthem and a moment’s silence to commemorate deceased LCC members, the Ambassador spoke about visiting Lithuanian communities throught Canada before COVID-19 struck, and how impressive he finds the Lithuanian Museum-Archives of Canada and the work being done by its director, Danguolė Juozapavičiūtė-Breen. The LMAC’s professional-quality exhibitions travel throughout Canada and are admired in Lithuania as well.
With 400 Lithuanian Canadians voting in this year’s Lithuanian parliamentary elections, it is clear that their connection to Lithuania is important to them, and especially to younger Lithuanians. Lithuania’s ties to the diaspora is growing all the stronger with a member of the newly-elected parliament representing Lithuanians abroad.
As did everyone in Canada, the Embassy has adapted to working under restrictive conditions. Several consular missions were organized in Toronto, Calgary and Edmonton. In the New Year, the Embassy will be collaborating with the LMAC to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the events of January 13th in Lithuania, and also the 30 anniversary of the renewal of Canadian-Lithuanian diplomatic ties.
Mons. Putrimas brought greetings from the World Lithuanian Community Board, and briefly outlined its work over the past year.
Deksnys noted that the activities of the Community could be divided into two categories, pre- and post-COVID. In the first were the World Lithuanian Community and World Youth Association meetings in Nida, Lithuania; Canada Day in Lithuania; Black Ribbon Day and January 13th commemorations together with other Balts. Independence Day was also celebrated in Toronto. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic, the XVI Lithuanian Folk Dance Festival planned in Philadelphia was postponed, as well as the North American Lithuanian Song Festival in Cleveland and the World Lithuanian Sports Games in Druskininkai, Lithuania. He expressed gratitude to the Lithuanian Canadian Foundation for its support of all Lithuanian organizations, language schools, the Museum-Archives and other endeavours.
Loreta Gudynaitė-Savitch of Ottawa reported on Lithuanian language schools and the hardships they are encountering under COVID restrictions, and how they are managing. There is an Owlet Club in Vancouver which meets twice a month, and language schools working remotely in Toronto, Hamilton, Calgary and Ottawa.
Representatives attending the AGM reported on community activities in Ottawa (L.Gudynaitė- Savitch), Montreal (D. Jaugelis), Toronto (S.Rukienė), Calgary (J.Perminaitė), Wasaga Beach (R.Poškienė), London, ON (A.Valaškevičienė), and Edmonton (I.Čuplinskaitė).
Lithuanian Canadian Youth Association news and LCYA activities with language school students were presented by Lina Samonytė, Emilija Degutytė and Viktorija McMurchy.
LMAC Director Danguolė Juozapavičius-Breen reported on the latest in-person exhibitions (Tėviškės žiburiai/Lights of Homeland 70th anniversary and Lithuanian Restoration of Independence 30th). Exhibitions about the Lithuanian Canadian Community and “Do not Let Down Your Wings” travelled to Lithuania and Poland, and the Lights of Homeland 70th went to Hamilton. After the pandemic began, exhibitions including the “Our Stories” series continued online. A Facebook page was begun in May for wider distribution of news about the Museum-Archives. Two “drive-through” exhibitions were organized, and currently work is being done on an exhibition about the first Lithuanians in Canada. Work is also ongoing to digitize archival material. New acquisitions include the archive of the weekly newspaper “Tėviškės žiburiai” and the Lithuanian Folk Art Institute. An invitation was also received from the National Museum of Lithuania to produce a new exhibition on the history of Lithuanians in Canada in 2023.
Antanas Šileika, member of the Lithuanian Parliament-World Lith. Community Commission spoke about the issues under discussion in the commission, most importantly citizenship for emigrants, assistance for returning expats, prevention of human trafficking, problems for Lithuanians living in ethnic territories and Lithuania’s image in the world. The meeting confirmed Šileika as Commission-member for the next thre years.
Aside from several creative virtual events, the planning of future activities continues to be problematic due to the pandemic.
Translated by Ramune Jonaitis