Chapter 6－People and culture
2005年 04月 19日
I luckily had chances to spend religious holidays with a Lithuanian family. One of the occasions was on Christmas in 1998. Edita, my best Lithuanian friend, invited me to spend Christmas with her family living 120 km away from Vilnius to the north. They celebrate Catholic Christmas. On the Christmas Eve people are not allowed to eat meat. In the traditional way 12 dishes are prepared and instead of meat they eat various sorts of marinated sardine, fried fish and salads and so on with bread. Unlike in Sweden they don’t eat ham but chicken or something else, and when the date changes to the next people are allowed to put meat into their mouth. By the way marinated herring in Lithuanian is called “silke” like “sill” in Swedish. I found some other words sound similar between these two languages. Those countries located close to each other, so no wonder to find similarity in the languages even if they belong to different language groups and the countries were separated by the iron curtain until recent history.
Talking about the people I should not forget to tell the facts of them. The population of Lithuania is about 3,600,000 people with 40.1 years as median age as of July 2004. The population growth rate is – 0.33%, and the net migration rate is – 0.71 per 1,000 people. When I was in Lithuania the population was said to be more than 3.7 million, so the figure shows that Lithuania is shrinking.
Lithuanian people are proud of their culture and ethnicity. To learn about the culture an open air museum called Rumsiskes is a good place. You can regard it as “Skansen” in Lithuania. It is located 80 km away from Vilnius and exhibits on the 18-19th century architecture, traditions, crafts and the way of life of different ethnographic regions of the country. I visited there a few times with my friends. According to what I heard the museum had amazingly already existed during the Soviet era when the ethnicity was totally denied by the Russification.
Among the exhibits there was a compound of gulag from Siberia. Once I met an old lady who experienced the life in a gulag. She was explaining of the life there to visitors at the site. According to her she was sent to Siberia with her family. The day when they were waiting for a railway wagon her father was separated from the family. Then he gave her his wedding ring by hoping the family could get together again. That was the last time she saw him. Later she heard that he was shot dead soon after they arrived at Siberia. He was working for the government. She thought that was the reason why the family was captured and sent away. The way of her talking was modest and didn’t say any jeremiad against Russian. That’s why we were more deeply touched by her story.