何でもリトアニア from スウェーデン

by traku7
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It is fresh in our memories that on January 27 it was the 60th anniversary of the Red Army’s liberation of the concentration camp. More than a thousand Auschwitz-Birkenau prisoners and leaders from over 40 countries, including Poland, Israel, Russia, France, the USA, and Germany gathered at the site and commemorated it. Everyone can remember Auschwitz as a symbol of the Holocaust. But this is not the only one. There are also many concentration camps around Europe, and Lithuania is not an exception, either. The name of the concentration camp is Ninth Fort.

Ninth Fort stands in the suburb of Kaunas, the second largest city of Lithuania. The city lies only 100km to the west from Vilnius. The fort was built ninth in a series of forts constructed by Russians to defend the western border of the empire in the late 19th century. The fort fell into the hands of Germans during the Second World War and it turned into a death concentration camp where more than 30,000 Jews from Lithuania and other European countries were killed.

I visited Ninth Fort once with my Lithuanian friends in 1998. We had to hire a guide to enter the building. It was all gray concrete and chilly inside. We followed the guide listening to her explanations like “At this spot there was a crash with arms between prisoners and guards” and “In the fort’s history the only one escape was made from this window”, etc. I could easily imagine the scenes with the help of the oppressive atmosphere there. From outside we can see the wall of the fort where prisoners were forced to stand with their backs against it and got shot to death. Behind Ninth Fort we can see a residential area a few hundred meters away and it was expanding toward the fort. To my eyes the view of the gray building with dark history behind and the peaceful residential block seen in one canvas was a kind of mismatch.

On July 7, 1944 the Red Army returned. Lithuania was reincorporated to into the USSR and that resulted in the deportation of 250,000 Lithuanians to the Siberian gulags. During my stay in Vilnius I was sharing an apartment with an Australian woman whose name was Kristina. Her parents were Lithuanian who fled to Australia to avoid the deportation. At that time many Lithuanians abandoned their homeland like her parents. Her parents never returned to Lithuania again, but she came back to see her origin. I saw many Lithuanian second generation people from USA and France coming back to Lithuania like Kristina. It was interesting to see the phenomenon that parents abandoned the country but their children returned.

Despite over 4 decades of forced Soviet assimilation Lithuania never lost its identity. On May 14, 1972 19-year-old Romas Kalanta set fire to himself and committed suicide in the public gardens in Kaunas. This incident sparked the first protests against the Soviet rule. On March 11, 1990 the Supreme Council declared the restoration of Lithuanian independence, and on 17 of the following month Moscow imposed an economic blockade. On January 13, 1991 Soviet troops made inroads into Vilnius. The civilians tried to guard their parliament and TV tower, and that resulted in the loss of 14 unarmed civilians’ lives. The center of Vilnius was inundated with the Soviet combat vehicles and soldiers. My Lithuanian acquaintance recalled the day was like chaos.

On February 12 Iceland became the first country to recognize the independence of Lithuania. In August the Soviet troops left the buildings they had been occupying since January, and Lenin’s statue was removed from the city center. On August 31, 1993 the last Russian soldier left the country. Like this Lithuania’s democratization proceeded, and on May 1, 2004 Lithuania became a member of the European Union.
# by traku7 | 2005-03-10 23:21 | リトアニア再発見(英語コラム)

Chapter 3 - Jewish Vilnius

The room of an apartment I rented is located on Traku Street in the old town of Vilnius. At that time the rent was only about SEK800 a month including utilities, water and local phone calls. I was quite satisfied to live there. The place is very close, only 10 minutes walk, to Vilnius University where I studied. Above all the fact that I could become one of inhabitants of the historical old town made me feel good, though no washing machine was placed in the apartment and I had to wash my cloths by hand. The windows of my room faced the courtyard of the Franciscan Monastery. Sometimes I could hear hymn tunes of a choir carried on the wind from there through my windows.

Traku Street meets at right angles with Vokeciu Street and the street was the border of two Jewish ghettos. Vokeciu means German and the name is derived from German merchants who had settled on the street. In the period of Nazi occupation there existed two ghettos, one small and one big, facing each other on each side of Vokeciu Street. In the small ghetto around 11,000 Jews were packed in and they were intelligentsia, workers and handicapped people. In the big ghetto there were around 30,000 people and they were mostly craftsmen. The massacre started in the autumn of 1941 and the small ghetto was totally perished on October 21. Nazi authorities left the people alive in the big ghetto for a while, since they were beginning to lose against the Red Army and they needed more workforces to support their economy. In September 1943 the big ghetto was finally liquidated and many of the Jews were killed and others were imprisoned in concentration camps. The one who conducted was Nazi SS but they were not the only ones. Lithuanian police and sometimes even local people helped them, too. A few years ago I read an article about Lithuanians who were accused of helping the Nazi to exterminate Jews. Since the holocaust a long time has passed but the past is still waiting to be liquidated in this present time.

My residence was just outside of the big ghetto. It’s hard to believe that only 6 decades ago Jews were forced to live in the area only a few blocks away from my apartment, and they couldn’t get out where I could get in and out freely now. There are a lot of old buildings which remain from the period but most of them have been renovated and it is hard to find out there were Jewish ghettos in the area. Unfortunately almost no Jewish cultural sites or homes of renowned Jewish personalities are remembered. One synagogue in Vilnius out of 105 synagogues in the whole of Lithuania remains now. Only the signs on the wall of buildings tell there used to be Jewish ghettos. If you walk in the area you might step into Zydu(Jewish) Street or feel strange to see the sign of Ligonines(Hospital) Street where there is no hospital. They are small traces of Jewish Vilnius.

While I was a student of Lithuanian Studies I heard that there were Jewish Studies held by Vilnius Yiddish Institute during the summer. When I visited the synagogue an old man who looked after it told me that a lot of students from all over the world come to Vilnius to learn Jewish culture and history. As he said Jewish Vilnius still mesmerizes people even though the culture has been totally destroyed now, or that’s why people become interested to seek the traces of the lost heritage.

At that time the summer course of Jewish Studies cost only US$500 and I wondered if I would take it or not. Then I didn’t. Instead I chose to spend the same amount of money to travel to other Baltic States. Now I found that the cost of the tuition fee skyrocketed to1339 Euro. I really regret that I didn’t take the course while it was still cheap.
# by traku7 | 2005-03-02 23:31 | リトアニア再発見(英語コラム)




この教科書に沿っていくと最初から猛烈に飛ばしてると思われます。普通の語学の教科書はせいぜい"Hello! My name is ~" くらいのことから始めると思うのだけど、この教科書の第1課の最初の一文は"This is a table"(いきなりフルセンテンス)で1課の終わりにはすでに名詞が格変化をおこしています(汗)。単語も毎回新語が20語位出て来て教科書を読みながら、スウェ-デン語に口頭で翻訳。今回が2回目なのに文法も名詞と形容詞の性別と数詞の一致が出て来て、ぶっつけ本番で順番に皆(生徒5人に先生一人)で解いてみたり。でも、みんな何とかなっている所がすごい...



# by traku7 | 2005-02-28 23:14 | ラトビア語



運転手: 「どこから来たの?」
私: 「日本ですが、今はリトアニアに住んでます」
運転手: 「何語が出来るの?私はラトビア語とロシア語」
私: 「英語とリトアニア語と仏語」
運転手: 「どこへ行きたいのかな?」
私: 「ヴァンタの滝まで」。。。


# by traku7 | 2005-02-22 19:02 | ラトビア語
People with various ethnic backgrounds compose Lithuania. The biggest majority is Lithuanians 81.8%, then followed by Russians 8.1%, Poles 6.9%(most of them are in Vilnius), Belarussians 1.4%, Ukrainians 1%, Jews 0.1% and others 0.7%. Lithuania was one of the USSR until recent years so it is easy to understand why there are such a lot of Russians in Lithuania. But why so many Poles? If you look at the history, you will find a clue to why the ethnic composition became like this.

For hundreds of years Lithuania and Poland have been indispensable to each other in the history. The primary religion of Lithuania is Roman Catholic and the people are very religious. But actually it was the last country in Europe which converted to Christianity and that was finally led by the marriage of the Lithuanian grand duke Jogaila and the Polish crown princess Jadvyga in 1385. Once the Lithuanian-Polish allies extended from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea, but Lithuania became weakened gradually and that resulted in entering the Commonwealth with Poland. It’s just an aside but I read a story that Lithuanian people tend to boast to foreigners about the fact that once their country owned land from the Baltic Sea to the Black Sea. That was not a lie. I heard that, too!

In 1795 the Commonwealth was cut up by a partitioning between Russia, Austria and Prussia, and Lithuania became a part of Russia in the end. Tsarist rule brought censorship and Russification, and public use of Lithuanian was banned. National uprising occurred in 1863 and then thousands of Lithuanians began to emigrate to escape tsarist persecution. Among them was the father of former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak.

The Lithuanian Council proclaimed the Republic of Lithuania on February 16, 1918. But on October 9, 1920 Poland annexed Vilnius and the capital was moved to Kaunas, the second biggest city of Lithuania, where it remained for almost 20 years. That’s why there are still lots of Polish people, like my former landlady whom I mentioned in the first chapter, living in Vilnius.

When we talk about the history of Lithuania we cannot avoid mentioning Jews, because until the Second World War there was the biggest Jewish community of the Eastern Europe Region in Vilnius. The date when Jews began to settle in Lithuania goes back to the 14th century and Vilnius became the center of Jewish culture and scholarship in due course. But after the Soviet Union brought Vilnius back to Lithuania from Poland in 1939, German Nazis occupied the country between 1941 and 1944 and 240,000 Jews were killed during the period. It was as much as 94% of the pre-war Lithuanian Jewish population. No other Jewish community in Nazi-occupied Europe was so comprehensively destroyed and presently only 5,000 Jews remain in Lithuania.

Vilnius was once called “Jerusalem of Lithuania”. In the old town of Vilnius there were Jewish blocks and they were changed into notorious ghettos where all the Jews were packed in to be carried away and killed later. In the next chapter I’ll write about Jewish Vilnius.
# by traku7 | 2005-02-20 18:06 | リトアニア再発見(英語コラム)