An important youth event
The Lithuanian World Youth Association (Pasaulio lietuvių jaunimo sąjunga – PLJS) is an independent, non-political, volunteer youth organization, established in 1972 to represent and encompass Lithuanian youth throughout the world. Today the LWYA consists of over 30 chapters and communities. This year 98 representatives of Lithuanian youth from 18 countries convened online on June 19-20 and 26-27 for the 16th Lithuanian World Youth Congress. Delegates from Argentina, Australia, Austra, Belarus, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Denmark, Finland, France, Iceland, Norway, Poland, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Uruguay, USA and Venezuela, as well as ULSK, the Lithuanian Students’ Club of the Diaspora joined the meeting via Zoom.
The Congress host this year was the Youth Association in Punsk, Poland. Due to the pandemic, the entire program was held online, including cultural events, conference sessions and even a Jeopardy-type game show “Protmūšis” (Brain War). A lecture by ethnographer Anastazija Sidarienė on woven sash patterns and her straw mobile workshops also provided a pleasant break from voting and discussions. The theme of this year’s Congress was “Tradition Creating the Future”, emphasizing the importance of cultural retention.
Discussion sessions addressed issues such as Lithuanian citizenship acquisition and retention, virtual voting and relations with Lithuania. Most delegates agreed on the need for more active connections with Lithuanian institutions in order to facilitate the acquisition of language and culture for Lithuanian diaspora members, to upgrade attitudes the diaspora in Lithuania and to promote connections among youth organizations in the diaspora.
The Congress program included reports from each of the association chapters, and the Board report on its four-year term. Congress Chair and planner Skaistė Alekandravičiūtė, outgoing secretary and project manager of the World Youth Association Board, was pleased with the event, which she said proved that remote conferences can be a success and was an excellent experience in organizing online voting. She noted that the issue of citizenship retention remains a priority for the Association, together with youth involvement and cultural awareness.
The keynote speaker during the Congress was Canadian Lithuanian author Antanas Šileika, who spoke about his writing and its Lithuanian roots, the several phases of preserving Lithuanian identity in the diaspora, and how youth can best connect with Lithuania today.
A primary function of the Congress was to elect a new Board, which now consists of : Chair – Rimvydas Rubavičius (UK); Secretary – Eglė Butkevičiūtė (UK); Treasurer – Stanislovas Orentas (USA); members Ingrida Vaznelytė (Poland), Austėja Stanevičiūtė (USA), Marta Matuzonytė (Canada) and Tomas Valkauskas (Belarus). Incoming chair Rimvydas Rubavičius said that the Association was and will be the unifying voice of Lithuanian Youth. Next year, it will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of PLJS.
On June 27, the Congress of Lithuanian World Youth adopted a resolution in support of the Belarusian people fighting today for their right to free speech, for autonomy over their thoughts and actions, and fulfillment of their civic duty without fear for their lives and without threat of persecution or brutal treatment. On Monday, June 28, this resolution was presented to US Senator Robert Jones Portman, who recently visited Lithuania, where he met with Lithuanian Foreign Affairs Minister Gabrielius Landsbergis and Belarusian opposition leader living in Vilnius, Sviatlana Cichanouskaya.
The Congress also adopted a resolution focused on ensuring equal rights for LGBT+ persons in Lithuania. This was sent to the Office of the President of the Republic of Lithuania, the Government of the Republic of Lithuania and the Speaker of the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania.
It is clear from even a cursory glimpse of the various presentations at the PLJK that today’s youth in the diaspora is an intelligent and committed group, willing to work together to keep Lithuania and Lithuanians present, relevant and active in today’s world. RJ
News from KLJS, the Lithuanian Canadian Youth Association