Nov. 22nd, -95

Karin skriver på engelska om sina äventyr på en berömd kyrkogård och berättar om hur Vilnius förändras.

Vilnius, Nov.22nd, -95

Today it’s snowing, it is calm, white and beautiful outdoors.

Indoors it is a bit cold, though I have lit a lot of candles and even left the gasstove on in the kitchen. The first snow came on Nov 1st, All Saints day, and disappeared the same day. That very day I had dear visitors from Östersund, two colleges from my school, one with husband (archaeologist) and best of all, Björn, ”my little Benjamin”, (now a young man of 26)!

Together with a lot of inhabitants of Vilnius we visited the famous cemetery, where the victims of Sovjet oppression in January -91 are buried. There were candles and flowers everywhere, even on old graves from the first and second world wars. A big area is covered with hundreds of low black crosses, not white as usual, for Polish soldiers from 1920. The Polish ambassy people come there every year, hanging red-white ribbons on each cross, a good memorial gesture. Sometimes I have seen old women sitting crying beside the graves, maybe they have lost many male members of their family.

It’s incredible that this nation, Lithuania, exists after all wars and occupations it has gone through and suffered from. But life is still hard for the people, low salaries and pensions, high prices and bad houses. You can see more and more beggars in the streets, but not children here, thank God, as I have seen in Riga, the capital of Latvia.

For X-mas I am going from Riga by boat to Stockholm, it takes one night. Usually I drive to Tallinn in Estonia, but that’s the double distance from Vilnius, 8 hours drive instead of 4, which is enough if the weather is bad. Last year I had a terrible day, driving in snowstorm on slippery roads. After the terrible catastrophe (850 people drowned) whith the ferry ”Estonia”, which I thought was a very good boat, Estline has a new boat, called Mare Balticum, comfortable, even luxurious. You can’t say that about ”Illich” from Riga, which is an old boat from St Petersburg with only Russian-speaking crew, not interested in the passengers! But it can’t be helped, I have to stand it to get home to Sweden.

In October I made a short visit, two days, in Växjö, where Mats’ ex-wife Marika lives with her daughters and my grandchildren, Elin (10 years) and Isa (6 years). There was a conference about Swedish-Lithuanian cultural relations, and we were 28 people from Vilnius, who went by air (which took one hour!). It was a great experience in many ways, but most in meeting the two wonderful girls. They are both very sweet, kind and talented, excuse my boasting! You can understand what a proud grandmother I was, when I invited them for a lunch at the conference, so my colleges could see them. I just feel sorry that they have very little contact with their father, I can’t understand it. One reason might be, that Mats has recently remarried to a young girl in Laholm. They have a little daughter, Natalie, whom I have met once. Only Per from our family went for their wedding, Nov.4th.

All the others are doing well, Per and Elinor with little Olga in Nacka, outside Stockholm, and Marit with her family, who have moved north-west, two hours drive, from S-holm to Norberg, a small quiet town, where they have bought a nice villa with garden and fruit trees. Marit is working as a biologi teacher and Bobo, her husband is writing novels, which are not published yet.

About my job at the university I can tell you that I love it! Vilnius University from 1579 is quite unique in Europe, told us a visiting author, who compared it with Bologna in Italy. The old buildings, built by Jesuits, also look very Italian, especially the baroque church, St John’s. During the 50 years occupation it was used as Museum of science, which means that it has not been distroyed as many other churches. In october -91 it was reopened as a church, and I was lucky to be there at the very solemn occasion. Now it is also very often used for concerts of all sorts, many visiting orchestras and singers from abroad, even Sweden and Norway, I have heard there.

The teaching here is the most rewarding job because of the motivated students. They learn quickly, and already after one year they speak almost fluently. In the group of 16 with Swedish as the first language, only 5 have been in Sweden. My boss Erika, head of the Scandinavian department, and I are now planning to go to Sweden with the whole group in the end of April. The main problem is how to get money. I have to write to all Rotary and Lion clubs I know of to ask for support. Two years ago we did the same with the former group and it was a real success. We had a bus from Vilnius Univ., the students brought a lot of bread and canned food, we stayed at schools, in summerhouses on the West-coast and in families in Göteborg and Lund, all to lower the costs. During 10 days we saw a lot of historical, cultural and everyday Sweden, which the students had only read about.

As you probably know, Lithuanian money is worth nothing in other countries. My month salary at VU for exemple is 500 Litas ( 400 Litas=100 dollar) and that is a rather high salary here. The students get 70 Lt per month, which is impossible to live on. They must get food from their parents in the countryside and live with relatives in very small flats in town. Prices have gone up terribly, some products like coffee and tea are the same as in Sweden, it’s absurd.

This was something about life in Lithuania, maybe it seems hard, but it’s most interesting. I wish you could come and see for yourself! All visitors from abroad are enthusiastic about Vilnius with museums, churches, art galleries and cultural life.

I wish you all the best and A Happy New Year! Love from