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KAUNAS FULL OF CULTURE

Aiming at happiness

Illustration by Rimantas JuĹĄkaitis

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“I loved you while you didn't know it” is a line from a famous Lithuanian poem. it can be read – in Braille, too – in the street of Literatai, a fascinating open-air gallery in the Old Town of Vilnius.


Barbie is one of the most recognizable dolls in history, but do you know Becky? Probably not, unless you were one of a few thousand who bought this Barbie’s friend a couple of decades ago. The production of the doll was discontinued quickly for a very simple reason – Becky just couldn’t fit in in the ideal world of Barbie. Becky wouldn’t fit through the door of Barbie’s house, she was too big for the elevator and the bathtub. Although the idea of the doll was praised by many, it was easier, cheaper and simpler to stop producing Becky altogether than adapting the elements of the toy world to her needs.

(Don’t) be like Barbie Becky is a doll in a wheelchair. Of course, a pink one. We heard this story accidentally in a pub quiz. The question posed was – how was Becky different, why didn’t it fit in the Barbie’s world and why was her production discontinued? We had many guesses: maybe it was her hairstyle? Perhaps she was too tall? We didn’t guess right, but other teams were close enough. In fact, Mattel has just announced a new version of Becky. We didn’t find any information about changing the house, though. These are just dolls, but what to do if the wheelchair doesn’t fit through the door of real home, gallery, cinema, or salon? The wheelchair is only one example among many. What is common and normal for a young, childless (or petless) Kaunas-based couple can be – and is – extremely uncomfortable and useless for thousands of other residents. Do you think it’s nice to listen to radio announcements of events that you will never be able to get into or see? To go shopping or to the gym with a small child or figure out where the bus is taking you when you don’t speak the local language? To not lose the status

of a townsman after retirement? The list is endless. Discomfort is a disaster. Can Kaunas become a happy city? Slowly, building by building, sign after sign. Kaunas 2022 and its partners invite to celebrate the 20th of March – the International Day of Happiness. To not only celebrate with those who can't hide their joy every day, but to actually try and give way to happiness. Therefore, this year, Kaunas cultural institutions, operators and initiators aim to organize a celebration that could be celebrated by those who until now had difficulties in reaching the various venues and using the cultural services. Therefore, this issue is about searching for and discovering happiness. We have inspiration - old friends of Kaunas from Sweden that we are able to learn from. We also have helpers from Poland who came to Kaunas to share their very recent and effective experience, and Kaunas residents telling us about their happiness and what they do to maintain it. We raise a glass of happy-juice to our city.

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The story of Paulius Jurjonas story is an excellent example of how support can open the door to the broad horizons of opportunity and motivate the community to respond in the same way. We often fail to realise what tremendous importance accessibility to seemingly self–evident things like education, culture and their communities has on a person’s life. In the case of Paulius, accessibility depends on the public’s adaptation to sign language speakers. Many of us do not know that Lithuanian sign language is one of the officially recognised languages in Lithuania. It is used daily by up to 8,000 deaf people in Lithuania and up to 40,000 partially deaf people. This language is the native and the main one to most of these people.

To stop being afraid Edvinas Grin Photo by Dainius Ščiuka

You lived in Šilutė until you were 7 years old and then moved to Kaunas where you live to this day. People say that small towns lack cultural life and entertainment. Tell me, what differences did you notice between these cities from the point of view of a deaf person? I moved to Kaunas because it has a good school for the deaf. A teacher from a kindergarten in Klaipėda suggested that it would be the best for me to go study in Kaunas. At first, I came with my mother. She stayed with me for a week, so I could see how the school was treating me. When she saw I was doing fine, she left, and I remained in Kaunas. I would stay at school from Monday to Friday, and on weekends I would return to Šilutė. My mother and father would pick me up. Recently I asked my mother how did I manage

to study there, after all, I didn’t know sign language at first; how was I able to integrate with the deaf immediately? My mother told me that I managed to make friends and learn sign language in a week and everything went well. I was surprised to find out, and I don’t regret coming to Kaunas. There are more opportunities in Kaunas, more access to things for the deaf. But I can’t say that Šilutė is bad. It is a charming, calm and clean town with beautiful nature. I am quite busy in Kaunas, getting involved in many activities and when things overheat, I go to relax at my parent’s in Šilutė. Another big plus is that in Šilutė, unlike in Kaunas, there are no big queues in shops [laughs]. But truth be told, Kaunas does offer more entertainment and more possibilities. The deaf community is also larger here. 22001 199 M A R C H

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Tell me, what do you do? I am currently studying at Vilnius Academy of Arts, Kaunas Faculty (master’s studies) and Vytautas Magnus University (pedagogy course) and I want to become an art teacher. I also lead a media technology club at the Kaunas Deaf Youth Organization and participate in various activities, projects and children’s camps. I volunteer as a guide in the Lithuanian Education History Museum. I am also a member of the council of the Lithuanian Association of the Deaf Youth, Kaunas Deaf Youth Organization, Lithuanian Deaf Association’s Kaunas territorial board and a delegate of Lithuanian Deaf Association. An impressive list! How do you manage? I’m lucky to have friends and family who can always offer help and support. That is why I am able to do it all and can continue moving forward. Of course, it gets hard sometimes, but I manage. Why am I involved in so many projects? Because time flies so quickly when you’re busy, you feel alive, and it is interesting. When I get old, I will have things to remember. Many tell me, “I can’t do it, I won’t make it, I don’t have enough time.” And to that, I answer, “You probably don’t want to.” Because if a person wants, he or she can achieve everything. Don’t you feel like there are not enough hours in the day? No, I have time to sleep as well [smiles]. I can tell you this one story. I participated in Erasmus+ project in Turkey. When studying there, I realised that I had to have a painting ready for the next day’s exam. So, I stopped what I was doing and focused on painting for 16 hours without interruption. I did manage in the end, and all went quite well.

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When I like the style of music and the song, I can work with it.

So, there are times when the hours don’t seem enough. Sometimes I complain too that I will not be able to make it and worry about what will happen if I don’t, but I eventually manage. And then I feel silly for complaining. Were you prone to creativity and arts in your childhood? I was always aware that I was doing good in art class, but I wouldn’t say I liked it that much. I never thought I would study arts. When my teacher first took me to an afterschool art club, it did not take me long to leave


it. I was good at it, but I wasn’t interested. When I graduated from school, I thought about what I should do next. It was then that I understood I did not like theoretical things and wanted to learn via practice. Then I remembered that I was good at fine arts. My mother reminded me I had shown her a flyer of one college. I found it and went to the Kaunas College Justinas Vienožinskis Arts Faculty. I am still grateful to one teacher from school, who is an artist herself, for helping me and accompanying me to the college. We inquired about the specialities there: photography, architecture, interior design... I kept looking, and one of them stuck with me – decorative plastic art. I have never heard of it. It was possible to choose one of a few different things: leather, textile, glass or ceramics. I found glass to be the most interesting one. I started to study, and my life changed. Before college, I was such a simple man, always dressed in black, nothing made me stand out, had never coloured my hair either. When I started studying at the college, my life became infused with colours and activities. That is how it all started. I am very grateful to the teachers at Kaunas College for taking my needs into account and paying attention to me. I was indeed able to participate in many activities and never experienced any discrimination. Everyone was helpful, and it was great. For example, that is where I learned about Erasmus+ exchange program. I would have never thought of entering it, but teachers encouraged and persuaded me. Supported by teachers, I took part in the competition for the presidential scholarship. I was lucky, I won. And things only started to get better after that. Since then, I have become more active in the deaf community, projects, activ-

ities, further studies. This year I will finish my master’s studies. I can’t wait, to be frank. I will find a new job, a new home and a new stage of my life will begin. Tell me, what are you planning on doing next? I want to teach art to deaf people. Maybe I’ll try to get a job as a mentor at first, I have already informed the school for the deaf about my wish, and after that – we will see. How did you get the idea of becoming a teacher? I see that children often don’t understand what is art for, what is its purpose. I think that everyone is creative, but not everyone realises it. I believe that a teacher’s goal is not merely to provide students with a task or tell them to draw, but rather explain why it’s important, useful, and what opportunities art can provide. And it is not necessary to draw in a way that someone else would find very good or beautiful. Fine arts have many different areas. You must get acquainted with all of them, then comes motivation and joy. In fact, that is what’s lacking in Lithuania. Times are changing, as well as children, so I believe that teachers should be changing as well. That is my goal – I see shortcomings in the education system. I want to get involved and make some changes and engage in education. You have also conducted art therapy classes. Would you agree that art, culture can help people overcome emotional difficulties? When I received a proposal to conduct art therapy classes in one project, I found it to be an exciting offer.

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A group of children was invited. Of course, I couldn’t say that at first, they were very enthusiastic about the classes but I didn’t panic and thought I should probably try out different methods. I gave out blank white sheets of paper, provided white crayons and told the kids to draw. They looked at me and asked, “Are we going to draw for the blind or something?” I said, draw as you like, try it out. Then I gave them crayons of another colour, and after that, we moved to watercolour. I suggested choosing one colour and covering the whole sheet with it. Suddenly the kids changed, they understood what the catch was – that their drawings made by white crayons emerge from the watercoloured background. Most importantly, children relax while drawing. They can sense that many things are possible. Finally, their faces showed me that the class went well. Art can convey different meanings and thoughts, social messages. This makes both the message and the art more accessible and attractive. One of your hobbies is imitative singing. Many people without hearing problems would find it difficult to understand the relationship that deaf people have with music. Could you tell us more? Of course, not all deaf people like imitative singing but I love it. What is it all about? The most important thing is to feel the rhythm. To start on time, you must count. If the style is slower, then you count slowly, if it’s fast then faster. In fact, you need to train a lot for that. It takes half a year to prepare one song (if you rehearse once a week), sometimes less. Depends on the complexity and tempo of the song. How do I do this? At first, I have a very small speaker. I turn the volume all the way up and

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put it next to my ear so I can hear it murmur. That is how I understand whether I like the song and feel its rhythm. I read the lyrics, what is the form of words. When listening to music, I can understand when the singing starts because it becomes slightly louder. The instrumental part is quieter and when the vocal part begins, the loudness and vibration changes. Based on the flow of this vibration – be it calm like a wave, fast or merry – I can distinguish the music style. I adapt my body language to that. I think many were fascinated with a sign language interpreter who so expressively translated Donny Montell’s song during his Eurovision performance in 2016. That’s true. The girl’s name is Laura. She interpreted and conveyed the song perfectly. Indeed, I am pleased that she has taken the courage to take part in an international project and has shown that we, the deaf, are capable of doing a lot. You were featured in hip–hop artist Medonas’ music video for “Enimeni 5” song. How did that happen? Do you like hip– hop? By the way, after seeing this video, I realised that both of the subcultures – hip–hop and deaf – have one thing in common – there is a lot of gesticulation in both. I have never thought about it. Medonas himself wanted to have sign language in this video. He contacted the rehabilitation centre for the deaf in search for a person who likes this style of music. I found it interesting and decided to participate. There was another guy, partially deaf, who really loves hip–hop. He was invited, but he did not have enough time to prepare, so he invited me. At first, it was difficult. I


didn’t understand anything, the tempo was so fast, I thought I won’t be able to do it, but I was encouraged to train. We had to learn so many things in a short period. In the end, we were given more time, we consulted how to coordinate everything, and it went well. The hardest thing was to translate the text into sign language in such a way that would make sense. We didn’t want just to show random signs. It was tough, but we did it over and over until things slowly started to work out. When I like the style of music and the song, I can work with it. Some people want to listen to the old stuff, like Povilaitis, Šiškauskas. I don’t really like this kind of music. The songs are too calm. I like it to be more dynamic. People have different tastes. For some time now I have been very fond of Pasidalink (Share), the anthem initiated by Food bank’s TV marathon, which was sung by many famous Lithuanian performers. I wanted to imitate this song for a long time, but there was no good quality record to be found before. Not too long ago a good new version of the song with great music came out. I have a deaf collective, and we plan to perform this song. I like the meaning and idea behind the song, it brings joy to everyone. Interestingly, you have chosen a topic related to sound for your master’s thesis. Tell us about it. The topic of my master’s thesis is The Deaf People’s Connection to the Sound through Sculpture and Installation. I wanted to study how sound can be connected to sculpture. An audible sound is not experienced by the deaf, so I wanted to know how I could convey sound for the deaf through sculpture. In fact, deaf people understand sound very well. It can be conveyed and

displayed in sign language. For example, the sign ’door’ is conveyed by gesticulating slower or faster depending on how the door is being closed. I noticed that there are sound expressions and that can be linked. However, it was hard to find a form. I had two ideas. First one – through touch when there is a vibration that can be sensed and the second one through visual means when the sound is visible. At first, I tried to make a cube out of mirrors and then installed a low–frequency source inside. Because of the low frequency emitted, the mirror vibrates, so it is very clear when there is a fast or slow frequency, vibration changes and is visible on the cube. I tried it, and it was a fascinating experiment. Another idea I tried out was a glass sculpture that looked like a gong attached to the stand on the ground. A person can hit the glass gong and sense the vibration. After that, I thought that it might not be that interesting for a person to just hit it. So, I started experimenting and thinking about how to automate it, maybe even use electromagnets to cause that vibration. Many are surprised to learn that sign language is not universal but different in each country. Tell me, would it still be possible to communicate with the foreigners? You studied in Turkey via Erasmus+, how did you communicate there? Most often, if there is an international project that brings together people from different countries, we communicate using international signs. When you meet a foreigner you can gesticulate, point fingers. In Turkey, people did not know international signs, so I had to learn Turkish

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sign language. But I learned it quite quickly, in about a month. I spent 10 months in Turkey.

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Is it true that the same sign in different languages can have different meanings? Yes, it happens. For example, in Lithuanian sign language, a gesture for ‘meat’ is a finger next to your neck, and in Latvian sign language, this gesture means Riga, the Latvian capital. Do you often visit cultural events in Kaunas? Can you go anywhere you want or do you often notice that events are not adapted to the needs of the deaf? There are indeed many events that are not suitable for deaf people. But there are also good examples. Last year, on February 16th (as well as this year) and Hanseatic Days, a sign language interpreter was shown on the big screen. I was glad, deaf people are grateful for this kind of attention. I go to various exhibitions, read their descriptions and don’t experience any difficulties. I hire an interpreter for some events. Kaunas Artists’ House has adapted its website to the deaf, the most important information and news are translated into sign language. This institution also organises tours in sign language on modernist architecture routes. I work as a guide there, and I notice that slowly the number of deaf people signing up for the tour is increasing. In the future, it would be nice to organise such tours for groups of deaf people from abroad. In cooperation with Lithuanian Deaf Association, during the day of Putvinskis Street organised by Kaunas Artists’ House, a presentation of deaf culture and sign language took place. This is very important because deaf people mostly lack information about the events adapted

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to their needs in the city and people without hearing disability lack information about the peculiarities of deaf culture. Maybe the readers of the interview will fail to understand what we are talking about and how little it is needed to accommodate an event for the deaf community. Could you briefly describe what the most critical steps are? I can’t give the exact advice on how to do it. It all depends on the space and event. Frankly, people can always contact the Lithuanian Deaf Association, Kaunas Rehabilitation Center for the Deaf and Kaunas Deaf Youth Organization or me personally. We can meet, talk, inspect the space, discuss the format of the event and then will be able to make specific recommendations. We are open and ready to offer the best solutions. It is best to meet live. Everything is much clearer and simpler then. A good example is Kaunas State Drama Theatre which asked me for a consultation. A decision was made to display subtitles on the screen located in the same field of vision as the stage. So, for some time now, you can visit performances adapted to the needs of the deaf. The community is informed when such a play is being shown. It works great. I have seen a couple of plays already. It is very important to point out, that, unfortunately, events adapted to the deaf is still something new. Deaf are not accustomed to going to such events and places. So, at first, it may be hard to convince people to come and try it out. It takes time to get in touch with the community. And if you invite someone to an event, you should keep in mind, that it is essential to leave a good first impression.


Deaf people mostly lack information about the events adapted to their needs in the city and people without hearing disability lack information about the peculiarities of deaf culture.

Do you think Kaunas is a comfortable city for the deaf community? And what’s missing the most? I will repeat myself – information. Last year the first International Day of Happiness was celebrated, and I didn’t hear anything about it. I only learned about the event a few weeks ago. I thought that it sounds like a beautiful event, I would like to see it and participate. But in general, I think deaf people enjoy living in Kaunas. There are plenty of events, most organised by the members of the community. Of course, there are still issues when it comes to the events that could include both deaf

people and the ones without hearing impairments, but the situation is gradually improving. Going back to the Day of Happiness. This year, Kaunas Deaf Youth Organization is thinking of offering a wide range of sign language lessons for the people without hearing disabilities and presenting the culture to them along with some song imitations. I hope we will implement this idea and people will find it interesting. I want people to stop being afraid of the deaf and understand that to attract deaf person’s attention you can simply gently touch his or her shoulder.

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Nobody knows the exact number of Kaunas residents with intellectual disabilities. This type of data doesn’t exist. Agnė Baronaitė, the employee of the Care Association for Intellectually Disabled Kauno viltis (Kaunas Hope), says that theoretically, the number is 1,5 to 2 percent of the population. Which means that it’s about 5 – 6 thousand of Kaunas residents, which is already one–third of the arena. We met only a dozen who arrived at the Kaunas Picture Gallery to participate in Dalia Bieliūnaitė’s workshop during which they made musical instruments, played and sang. Some Kauno viltis members and visitors of a daycare centre assured me that it was necessary to vote in the upcoming elections and promised to drag their mothers to the voting booths as well. With others, we discussed whether it is the mayor’s responsibility to provide them with work or perhaps they should try harder themselves to find it. I heard more about the everyday life of the centre from Agnė Baronaitė.

Happiness by autonomy Kotryna Lingienė Photos by Teodoras Biliūnas

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What is Kauno viltis? We work with people with intellectual disabilities, strive to mobilise members of their families, and reduce social exclusion. Genetics and trauma during childbirth determine intellectual disability. Intellectually disabled should not be confused with mentally disabled people. Our organisation is located near Kalniečių park. We are not the only ones in Kaunas. There are more centres, both of NGO nature as well as budgetary institutions. We are an NGO, which means that we have less money than governmental institutions. The centre welcomes people of all ages from all over Kaunas – from Šilainiai to Žemieji Šančiai. We could fill the centre with local people, but we don’t have the facilities for that. We received more money this year, before that, it was a colleague and me. Why is it better to visit the centre than stay at home? We talk to our students about what will happen when their parents are gone. Parents often avoid these topics, but we try to prepare the people because we believe that getting into a permanent care institution would be a tragedy. I would not wish this to anyone. We believe that the more independent they will get, the easier it will be for them to live independently or in a group home. Kauno viltis doesn’t have one yet, but we hope to obtain it in the future. What activities do you offer at the centre? Our centre is educational. We have a clear schedule like at school. People need routine, specificity – it provides a sense of security. So, in the first part of the day, we have reading, writing, and math. Of course, the level of skill varies. From people you see in the gallery today, only three

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know how to read and write. But everyone else, whether they want it or not, must know how to write their name also, even if it means learning it by heart. Other important lessons include the navigation of your surroundings: how to take a trolleybus or call for help, and in general, how to deal with different situations. After all, autonomy provides happiness. Since our students lack abstract thinking, during lessons, all situations need to be modelled. There is a myth that these people are not interested in anything. It can be so if you don’t explain why it is good for them. We taught them to watch the news as well. We told them if there’s war you won’t know what to do. We also have sex ed classes and talks about health because no one speaks to them about these topics, neither parents nor specialists. They feel free at the centre and seem to know everything, and upon returning home, they relax again. It’s as if the disability increases at home, they can’t even wash a cup, mothers are running around without leaving their side. Of course, it is all out of love and care, but too much of it is not good. After lunch, there are music classes, woodwork, and other activities. Recently, we were making nesting-boxes. Do craftsmen later sell their nesting-boxes? Yes, for example, during the open days. We don’t want to participate along with the disabled people, and I can explain why. There, you will usually encounter two types of objects – some obviously made by the teacher and others are in a deplorable condition and are often bought


out of pity. We think that it’s silly. The objects must be beautiful, good quality, aesthetically pleasing, and people should buy it because they actually like it. Therefore, our products cost more. What do the students spend their money on? It depends. Darius, for example, likes to embroider. He creates incredible fractals. Therefore, he buys embroidery thread and later sells his works and earns good money. We are very proud of him. Others buy sweets. Not everyone has financial skills. Often parents say, “I don’t give him any money because he doesn’t know how to handle it.” We are in Kaunas Picture Gallery now. Do you often visit other cultural institutions in Kaunas? We are in contact with Rūta Klevaitė, the curator of social projects at the M. K. Čiurlionis National Art Museum. She knows what we are and what suits us, so we do frequent this museum and its subdivisions. And generally speaking about cultural institutions, there are educational programs for children that are sometimes too childish for us. Or they are tailored for older people, but then they are too complicated for us. We need something in the middle – made for the adults but explained in simple terms. It’s harder for us to go to the cinema. The festivals are really good, but all the films are with subtitles. We can go to the dubbed ones for children or Lithuanian ones, but the latter are usually full or foolish stereotypes, and we don’t think our students should be exposed to that. So, on Fridays after lunch, we watch films in our centre.

Would you visit the cinema more often if there were more dubbed film screenings? Of course. Movies are so much fun. What about theatre? We have never been in a ’normal’ play at the drama theatre together. Some have visited the puppet theatre and quite liked it. When it comes to such institutions, we are also interested in what happens behind the curtain. What about sports? We have many Žalgiris fans among our students. They always watch matches on TV. If we were ever invited to the arena, we would definitely go. We try to go everywhere when we are invited. Our students really need to go out to the public. They also want to participate, and, it’s essential for society to get used to them rather than view our students like some kind of aliens. What else don’t people know about your centre? Our students are much more goal-oriented than you might think. For example, Vytas is a great woodworker, he works with machine-tool and still has all the fingers intact. We adhere to the principle of gender equality – we do not divide works into masculine and feminine. Everyone is doing everything.

Domas: I would like to work as a model. We really think that Domas could become a photo model. He senses the camera very well. We often talk about the future, what job could they do. Perhaps walk dogs or collect the baskets in the shopping centres.

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Domas: I could! Sometimes we do public service. We are located near Kalniečių Park. Sometimes we sprinkle some sand, collect the garbage. We try to show that we are capable of giving as well as taking. And how long have you been doing this job? It has been five years with these folks. I am a professional social worker, and I chose this profession deliberately, I only wasn’t sure about the specific area at first. During my studies, I had an internship in one large institution. It was horrible there, a tragedy. I realised that I want to work, but not in this kind of place, not in a budgetary institution. When the opportunity arose, I joined Kauno viltis. Work in an NGO often draws you in more than necessary. There is no way to close the door and forget everything. We know everything about our students’ lives, more than their parents. There are things that they feel ashamed to share with their parents, and we keep their secrets and in doing so build confidence. Was there ever a wedding within the association? Parents would never allow it. In general, parents would not even want them to have a boyfriend or a girlfriend. We explain that there is no need to marry and have children. Friendship is, of course, natural. It is nice to have a girlfriend or boyfriend. Here, in the centre, they feel freer and experience drama, intrigues, emotional triangles, and squares. It happens that phones are being thrown at the wall.

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We talk about it, try to normalise feelings and teach them how to deal with their emotions, how to control them. They learn, and there is huge progress that we are very proud of. They also start talking when they come to the centre. However, everyone in the centre is aware they have a disability. We often have to deal with new members’ fantasies that we don’t support. Someone comes from school and says, “I will become a policeman, will drive a car and have a wife.” No, it will not happen. When it comes to a job, yes, many things are possible, but you need to work hard for it.

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We discussed money and feelings but what about the internet and its security? Same rules as those concerning children apply here. It doesn’t matter if you don’t know how to read or write – everyone can find their favourite video on YouTube. With those who have smartphones, we study photography. For example, we give homework for the weekend to take a few photographs on a specific topic. They are interested in technology, and when something is interesting, motivation is not hard to find. Of course, at home, they might see many things on the internet. We talk about it too, discuss how much of what they saw can exist in reality.


Do you have any suggestions for Kaunas cultural institutions on how could they be more open to diverse groups of society? What is really useful, and is already being done in some places, is basic two–day training for employees. It focuses on communication with the intellectually disabled guests. And not because there is a need for some special preparation. People are usually afraid, there are many stereotypes, intellectual disability is confused with mental disorders, and it is not clear how they should initiate communication. Our students most often will not ask for an explanation; therefore, the employees should merely approach them and tell them what’s what. Will you participate in the International Day of Happiness? We are planning to. Maybe we will organise something unusual in Kalniečių Park. After all, we cannot pretend that we are like everyone else, so Day of Happiness would be a good occasion for showing that. Maybe a parade? We would include passers-by.

Maybe you will find new sponsors. They find us unattractive. We are not sick, we are not cute little animals. There is no prospect, so to speak. For the sake of support, to put it abstractly, no one will contribute, therefore, when we are looking for money, we do it purposefully. For example, now we need money for the ceiling, so that is what we ask money for. But there must be families who have intellectually disabled kids. Do they contribute financially to the centre’s work? The backgrounds are diverse. From the unemployed to doctors. But for some reason, statistically, students come from the families of teachers. Everyone pays a symbolic membership fee of 12 euros a year. But I have noticed that the system has taught the families to expect everything for free. We talk about the possibility of cooperation, pitching in and buying a flat, in which their children could live in the future. Of course, one apartment will not be enough, but we should start somewhere. But I suggest you visit us in the centre, they are more relaxed and fun there. We have such characters that we could publish a separate magazine on them. But even without this task, we will welcome you so you could see our everyday life. Have you personally changed during the five years of work with Kauno viltis? I have conquered many insecurities. For example, my fear of singing. Or the concept of normalcy. For example, our Domas, when walking, jumps on each fifth step. Is that abnormal? What’s wrong with that? Why can’t you let yourself walk unusually?

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What music do members of Kauno viltis like? Simple music that doesn’t require reflection: Šiškauskas, Kučinskas, Vyšniauskas, Mink taką, Karališka erdvė. This could be an interesting message for the performers themselves. We tried to play jazz or funk, but it didn’t stick. Classical music is good, they can tune into it, but anything stranger, more sophisticated is jeered upon. They never lie. And if they dislike something, they will tell you straight. Such sincerity can be inspiring.

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Order and clarity Justė Vyšniauskaitė Photos by Donatas Stankevičius

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Irma Jokštytė’s everyday life is intense and full of various activities. The evening before our interview she had just returned from a one-and-a-half-month trip to India and Egypt and had already promised to attend an event the day after we met. It is difficult to describe all of Irma’s activities in one sentence – she has worked in the theatre, hosted a television show, is currently studying, singing, playing the guitar, piano, and contributing to many social and artistic initiatives. Irma works as a reporter in a radio show Aklas pasimatymas (Blind Date) on Gold FM and is actively involved in the activities of the Lithuanian Association of the Blind and Visually Handicapped. We talked about her work dedicated to bringing the communities of sighted and blind people closer together, life lessons learned in the theatre, and the city’s adaptation to people who cannot see it.

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Could you tell me what the Lithuanian Association of the Blind and Visually Handicapped does and how you contribute to its work? Association of the Blind and Visually Handicapped is a non-governmental organisation. This association is a partner and a representative of the blind. People can contact it for help, and it helps them feel less lonely as well as provides opportunities to expand their knowledge.

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The organisation’s functions are to combine, enhance and empower people with visual impairments. I am a member of the association’s council. I am responsible for communication and education. I belong to this organisation on a global scale, so I gather and share information about blind people’s experiences from around the world. My mission is to melt the ice between sighted and blind people.


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One of your jobs to do with communication is a reporter’s work on the radio show Aklas pasimatymas. What is the format of the show? It invites you on a date that includes a conversation between a sighted and visually impaired people. The show can provide blind people with information about essential initiatives, events and new technologies. The sighted people can hear about the everyday life of visually impaired, trips, child-rearing, education, access to art, cultural events, and basically everything that can be relevant to all people. We talk about how differently the same activities are perceived by sighted and blind people. It is one of the initiatives that help reduce the exclusion of the blind community from society. Before starting work on the Blind date, you acted in the Naujasis teatras (The New Theatre). What has this experience taught you and why is The New Theatre important? I believe that The New Theatre is one of its kind in Europe. There are theatres explicitly created for the disabled people where they can realise themselves, but most of the time such organisations are coordinated by non-disabled people. The function of these institutions is usually to provide the disabled with the possibility of rehabilitation, haven, and education. Meanwhile, The New Theatre was founded by a woman who herself is visually impaired. With this initiative, she wanted to prove that someone with a different vision, hearing or movement abilities can also act, the only thing one needs is a strong wish. The New Theatre has a very diverse troupe. It consists of professional and amateur actors, people with various physical limitations and without them. The theatre is different from the others because,

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in it, you don’t have to be like everyone else to act. It emphasises the diversity of people. I believe that when you are continually working and looking for opportunities, they come to you. This was the case with The New Theatre, which came into my life accidentally but at the right time. Some of the significant turning-points in my life took place in this theatre. First of all, it was my first workplace. Here, I had to turn my focus from being a student to a working person. In The New Theater, I also learned how to know and improve myself. We had training that included various acting techniques. Acting for me was like therapy that allowed me to concentrate on myself. Here I learned to understand my abilities better, not to be afraid to be different and not to pretend to be someone that I’m not. We don’t want to stand out in society. As a result, many blind people try to behave like people without visual impairments. This is particularly pronounced among the partially sighted. They will do their best to make sure people don’t notice their disability. I also had this ‘disease’ that prevents you from accepting yourself and forces you to pretend to be a sighted person. Only in the theatre, having passed through all psychological drama, playing different roles and getting to know other people I dared to accept myself as I am. What stereotypes about the blind should be broken first? I had faced various misunderstandings, discrimination, and inadequacy. It seems that I should know better than to categorise people, however, sometimes it is difficult to avoid. But I always try to follow the rule that one should treat others the way she wants herself to be treated.


Kaunas State Drama Theatre is one of the most open spaces.

I always smile when people say to me, “You know, I don’t dare to go to the skating rink, but you do. How come you are not afraid?” or “Even I don’t go swimming, and you can’t see at all, but that is not stopping you.” This shows that people consider themselves to be better or abler and feel like judging me according to different criteria. However, we can never really know how the other feels, we can only be sure about our situation. Sighted people always look at the blind as a source of inspiration. I have indeed heard people saying, “Imagine if he – a disabled – can, what is there to stop me then?” I do not know if this is the right way to think, but we all choose the approach that is acceptable and helpful to us. Essentially, such an assessment is not adequate because it compares different standards. However, I think it is good that sighted people can find support and motivation in us.

form. Thus, it is only natural that even today people find it hard to get used to a more diverse society. It takes time. The purpose of the various organisations that mobilise disabled people is to show the public that people are diverse and that that is a good thing. What problems do blind people face today in the city, and how should they be addressed? To walk and easily navigate in the city, I need order and clarity. This condition is also important for people who are moving around in wheelchairs. So, yes, it is lovely that Kaunas is always in maintenance, but the bumps that appear on the sidewalks do complicate our everyday lives. I overcome the obstacles on the ground, but I am most disturbed by the crumbling sidewalks, trees leaning on them, holes in the ground and enclosures. Of course, it is more convenient for everyone when the road is not closed by poles and

In the Soviet Union, blind people were isolated and invisible. At that time, in general, everyone wore the same uni-

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when the tiles are even etc. Therefore, the order is the main condition when it comes to adapting the city to the needs of disabled people as well as to the rest of society. The main difference is that the sighted person – when walking down Laisvės alėja – will notice the obstacles in advance. Meanwhile, I only realise that the road is blocked when I reach the enclosure or a pit. As a result, we would like to see more organisation and easy access to information about the various constructions taking place and their specific locations. What are the most valuable initiatives in Kaunas oriented to the city’s adaptation for the blind? Which ones are still missing? Kaunas State Drama Theatre is one of the most open spaces which is trying to tailor more and more plays to people with physical disabilities. At least once every six months, there are performances featuring sound imaging that attract many blind persons. Theatre of senses type of initiatives are taking place at the M. K. Čiurlionis National Art Museum, and Kaunas Picture Gallery is currently hosting an exhibition Blind Date which allows people with different sight abilities to get acquainted with the art of the 20th century. I would also like to mention the Kaunas public transport app, which helps us navigate the bus stops. This program works with Bluetooth technology. The number of the arriving bus or trolley is sent to the app which announces it to the user. Kaunas is the first city in Lithuania to implement this initiative, which significantly facilitates the daily routine of the blind when travelling around the city. These are small steps, and although there is still a lot to be done in terms of accommodating the city to the needs of the disabled, I am thrilled that people find this work interesting and relevant.

As far as future initiatives are concerned, I can mention I have recently participated in a meeting with the coordinators of Kaunas 2022 whom I advised on the accommodation of cultural buildings to the blind. I communicate and share my experience with the blind from all over the world, so I was able to talk about the case of Japan. Now, with the help of navigation, one can practically find the location of each building but it is always difficult to trace the entrance. For this purpose, in Japan, the entrances of institutions have weak sound signals. Different signals also mark buildings of different functions: schools, hospitals, shops, and other public institutions. These signals are not sharp and annoying, they can only be heard while passing through the entrance. Also, it is not expensive to install such sound markers. I hope that at some point this initiative will reach Kaunas. On the occasion of the upcoming International Day of Happiness, I would like to ask you about beauty which is considered as one of the sources of happiness. Beauty is often described as a visual harmony of shapes and colours but what is it to you? If I had to define what beauty is, I would name it as a process during which your soul quivers. The sensation can be provided by an image, a voice, a musical piece, or just a beautiful day. I personally, first and foremost, perceive beauty through sounds and, to a lesser extent, through other senses. Some scents are also beautiful. I find a lot of aesthetics in texts and speech. Essentially, I love words. I like to analyse them in different languages, to discover a specific dynamic of sounds. However, fiction is probably the most obvious and best-known manifestation of aesthetics to me.

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In 1997, I went on a school trip to Växjö, Sweden, which was part of the extended city friendship programme back in the days. It was my first proper trip to the Western world. In fact, my mum still uses the cheese knife I received as one of the presents from my Swedish hosts. Does this count as a conflict of interest? Nevertheless, a chat with a person that has contributed significantly to the well being of our city in many levels seemed like a proper introduction to the first-ever Scandinavian week in Kaunas. Scheduled for 1–7 April 2019, the week aims to introduce the Scandinavian culture, lifestyle, ways of doing business and beyond to the residents of Kaunas. The embassies and consulates of Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and Finland, as well as the sister cities of Kaunas, the Nordic Council and Scandinavian businesses in Kaunas, together with numerous cultural institutions, have all agreed to participate in the events. The week will be full of lectures, performances, movie screenings and beyond. One of the honorary participants of events will be Bo Frank, the Mayor of Växjö Municipality for many years. He is now the President of the City Council. God knows how many trips to Lithuania has the kaunastic Swede made in the past three decades. This time, our chat is focused on Växjö as an exemplary city.

Uncle Bo from Sweden Kotryna Lingienė

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Växjö was the first sister city of independent Kaunas; the friendship agreement was signed as early as 1990! In 2007, there was even a direct flight from Kaunas to Växjö. What were the initial reasons for friendship? The friendship proposal came from a brave liberal politician Jarl Branting (Honorary Consul of Lithuania in Sweden from 1996 to 2005 – op. ed.) and was supported by all parties. As newly elected Mayor of Växjö, in 1991, I started with full force to increase cooperation with Kaunas. What were the main programmes you implemented in Kaunas back then? Education for politicians and parties about how we work in political parties, with local governance and democracy in Sweden. Among other things, we offered an extended programme for five years, that connected Växjö, Karlskrona, Klaipėda, Panevėžys and Kaunas. Its Lithuanian participants went on to become mayors, members of parliament and government, some of them even members of the EU parliament. The networks created back them still exist. For some 12 years now Växjö is known – and praised! – as the greenest city in Europe. It’d be interesting to hear for how long was the city preparing to this and what were the core steps to becoming the greenest? Was it a political choice and agreement or rather a natural development? Environmental issues have always been my primary interest. In 1992, I gathered all political parties for a proposal to make the green issue our main idea. In 1995, we declared the aim to become the first city in the world to be a fossil fuel free city.

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Since then, we have cut our emissions by 60% and 70% of all consumed energy in the whole area of the municipality is renewable energy. We have got many recognitions during the last two decades and have been appointed by the BBC and by the European Commission as the greenest city in Europe. When you read the current articles about your city, it sounds like an ecological dream come true. However, I am sure it wasn’t a dream – every goal is fulfilled only by hard work. Perhaps even by learning from your own mistakes? Can you tell me something about the hard part, too? I think we are the only municipality in the world where all political parties have agreed on all issues related to the environment. Climate, energy and transport. This is how Swedish municipalities do it – we are strong and responsible. However, sometimes citizens complain. Why do politicians make more space for public transports and bike lanes and less space for cars? Why must we connect to district heating? Why do we have to take care of organic waste? However, after every reform, people think it’s normal. The Mayor must take the lead and set a good example. To bike, to drive a car with no emissions etc. For how long have you been riding a bike to work? I have walked or biked to work and all the places in the city for 30 years. Also, I have been driving an environmental car for 15 years. I now drive a hybrid. I pay climate compensation for flying. And so does the city. How is the Växjö Declaration that the Swedish Government and European local authorities


Central park in Växjö. Picture by Mats Samuelsson.

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Construction of new wooden houses. Picture by Mats Samuelsson.

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Sustainability and greenness surely add a lot to the general happy state of mind of a healthy person. But not only that. So, are Växjö residents as happy as they are green? What’s inside the happiness formula for them? Citizens of Växjö enjoy green district heating, cooling and electricity. Clean lakes, green parks, no-emission public transports, biological diversity and the possibility of a healthy life. Almost all new buildings are wooden constructions with low or zero energy consumption. Moreover, most of the publicly served food is organic. When marketing ourselves as the greenest city, we got many ideas from citizens, business life and university. Business life is very pro-environmental in Sweden and wants to be green also for competition reasons. Scandinavian countries are often a destination for Lithuanian emigrants looking for a better life and bigger wages. It’s also true that an average Scandinavian does not like to show off his or her financial status with superficial things, but instead invests the wealth in something more sustainable. The question is, from

your point of view, how much is the material wealth essential for a happy life? Economy and ecology are two sides of the same coin – it’s all about taking good care of resources in a sustainable way. Money helps, but you can get money if you go green. Economy and ecology could and should be combined. The most important thing is political support for green issues. You witnessed the transition of Kaunas and Lithuania from a post-soviet place to what it is today. What would you say were the core changes? Moreover, what are your favourite places in Kaunas? I don’t know how many times I been in Kaunas. My main impression during all years is of the very well educated young people who work hard and want progress. That’s a core change. Personally, I like to walk a lot, so a walk in Laisvės alėja is one of my favourite things to do. Also, I like to have a nice drink at the town hall square. Lastly, It’d be interesting to hear what the Swedes can learn from Lithuanians. I’m sure it’s not a one-way process between us! We have a lot to learn. To be brave and strong. To work hard, to value education. Swedes are getting more and more spoiled and a bit lazy, taking things for granted. Your history is closer and reminds you of how things were. We share the same view of what Russia could do. Some 15 years ago, while at the Kaunas municipality, I noticed the PCs the locals used were more modern than ours at that time! You are more ambitious.

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to take meaningful action to go fossil fuel free doing? Has Växjö directly inspired green initiatives in cities not only in Europe but around the world? We have inspired many cities. More than seven thousand cities in Europe have joined the Covenant of Mayors for Climate and Energy. These are the cities who want to take the lead. We and 14 other cities started this “club”, and I am now the vice president of association Energy Cities. We like to inspire and be inspired by others.

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Architectural heritage is often constrained by strict requirements. In one way or another, it is sometimes necessary to find compromises between the past of the building and its adaptation to today’s needs – especially when it comes to opening the building to all societal groups. Although there is a tendency in the world that architects increasingly have to work with the existing buildings and their modern use, the works of Lithuanian architects concerning the reconstruction of already existing buildings are often forgotten. On that occasion, I had a talk with an architect of the younger generation, Rasa Chmieliauskaitė, about the conceptions of heritage, adaptations of old buildings and a changing perception of the topic.

Between historical value and the needs of the present Paulius Tautvydas Laurinaitis

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Rasa ChmieliauskaitÄ—. Photo by Paulius Tautvydas Laurinaitis

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You have worked with more than one heritage object. It had to start somewhere – how did you get interested and started working on historical buildings? I got actively involved with the heritage in 2015 when life brought me to the architecture firm Erdvės norma led by Gntaras and Asta Prikockiai. I was fortunate because they are not only a few of the most experienced professionals working with heritage objects in Kaunas and Lithuania but also patient teachers. So, over these few years, I gained quite a lot of experience in researching, learning about heritage objects, and adapting them to a contemporary context. I first got interested in the identity of the city and other urban structures as well as their lasting value when doing my master’s in Japan. At the time I was studying at Kyushu University. Its architecture faculty was located in one of the first student campuses founded in the early 20th century. Interestingly, its territory that was once fenced and located outside the city was developing on its own pace. The city too, increasingly grew until it embraced this little urban cell. The area contained what we in the West would call heritage buildings – early Japanese modernist buildings that were directly influenced by Western architecture and aesthetics. At the time, the university was building a new campus on a different side of the city and was slowly transferring faculties, as the old territory was put up for sale. There were discussions on what will happen to the aforementioned historical buildings as well as with the integrity of the complex. As far as I know, the debate is continuing, and at the time it had prompted me to focus my thesis on the subject. There is often talk of differences between the concepts of

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European and Japanese heritage. Could you provide our readers with a brief explanation? In the West, we primarily protect the authentic material – say, a specific brick, while in the East it is the idea and the craft that is protected. For example, St. George’s Church in Kaunas was built 500 years ago, which means that the oldest bricks and other details are precisely of that age. Still, over the centuries, architecture has


The original interior of “Romuva“. Photo from the archives of Lithuanian Theatre, Music and Cinema Museum.

undergone a variety of changes: there have been repairs, reconstructions, and changes in every period that are all valuable and interesting in their own way. Another example is the Ise temple in Japan, which is about 2000 years old but is rebuilt every 20 years according to the same unique building traditions. It is always identical because architects use the trees of the same kind, even from the same forest. Such heritage is constantly new but

perfectly authentic! Nara document of authenticity which appeared in 1994 was significant for the change in what was perceived as heritage and authenticity. That topic caught my interest, and I chose to write my thesis on inheritance in contemporary urbanity.

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How does one begin working with historic buildings? Historical buildings touched by today’s architects had undergone a number of changes before, so the first step is always to get to know and understand those layers: what is hidden, what was affixed later and why? Equally important is the cultural-historical context that helps to read buildings from the details. However, this does not in any way mean that the goal is to eliminate all the changes and restore the oldest state of the building. We cannot merely scrape history and after reaching foundations declare that it is better than the roof. Both of them are true to the culture and economy of their time, and what is more valuable to us is again a cultural issue. Of course, I am talking about imitations – they are a big separate topic. From all the objects that you worked on, which ones would you single out? How did the process of adapting them to current needs go? The architectural study of Raguvėlė Manor allowed me to experience an entirely new kind of joy for the first time. For around five days we lived in a manor with the team slowly scraping the paint and plaster layers of the walls, gradually realising the hidden anatomy of the building and its development. For example, one day with A. Prikonckienė we were checking the inner wall of the manor and discovered ancient stonework and even a tiny cellar opening. We were able to conclude that at a particular time it had been an external wall. And the next night, full of excitement, together with G. Prikockis we started collecting the broken crown parts of the masonry stove scattered all around until we finally put the 'jigsaw puzzle' into one. It is an excellent feeling, an artistic mystery to solve.

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It was similar when we worked with the Romuva film theatre. When it was opened in 1940, the technology, people’s habits, and needs were different. For example, today, the exit from the film hall that leads straight outside is no longer considered a rational decision. The main film hall originally had high windows which were later mured up, so we chose to mark the windows in the exterior by recreating niches and thus bringing back more expressivity to the vast bulk, however, windows will never appear inside again for various technical and practical reasons. The client's demand to adapt the building to multifunctional use also poses new challenges: how can we accommodate and create a quality environment for new functions that require ever–different technical and spatial solutions in the building that was built for the film culture of another time? Compromises need to be made. The hall will be shared by film, theatre and modern dance – we even found space for educational activities and administration. By the way, sometimes when reconstructing the interwar period buildings, one can gain more space. Many of them were serving as boiler– rooms, stoker, custodian or superintendent’s flats. These rooms can now be adapted to new functions, but it is always fun to leave a hint that would help decode the previous story. What are the current trends for adapting objects to people with special needs? Access to buildings is often a challenge in reconstructing old structures – especially valuable heritage objects. Often such structures have many steep stairs, narrow, intricate corridors, thresholds. The installation of any type of lift inside a building is often impossible because there is just no space for it, or it could also destroy the entire structure of the


building. Its installation in the exterior also changes the volume of the heritage object, and that is forbidden by the heritage protection. Working on such issues requires flexibility since architecture is primarily created for people. I notice that in Lithuania the most significant focus is on the needs of people in wheelchairs. Sometimes the deaf are also remembered (light signals indicating danger are set up); however, the visually impaired are considered less – only rarely bright stickers or strips are applied that eventually rub off and turn into stains. And there are more people with various needs and abilities! The most positive modern trend is to focus on accessibility, whether the object is convenient to use, can it be grasped and accessed. They are designed for people from the very beginning instead of being adapted afterwards. It is wrong to think that such design is unaesthetic or uninteresting. Conversely, design solutions that are meaningful and thoughtful, not just decorative, are a much more satisfying result for both consumers and the architect. It is essential to make sure that access for people with disabilities is not made via back or service doors. After all, we are all equal and have a right to enter through the front door. This, often, is a great challenge. Maybe one day some issues concerning accessibility will be solved by new technologies and we will all be able to float in the air without any obstacles without stepping on the valuable tiles. But for now, we have to learn to open the door for everyone.

Before the interview, you mentioned that you have recently been interested in adapting objects to people with visual disabilities. Some time ago I became interested in the non–visual perception of architecture and got acquainted with the community of the blind. This was inspired by several factors: first, as I mentioned earlier, they are the ones mostly ignored by the architects and second is that architecture has become a highly visual art, forgetting all other qualitative expressions of sensations that it can provide. However, the biggest challenge for this community is not the perception of an architectural idea, aesthetics or cultural significance, but the most basic use of a building to avoid unexpected injuries while walking in these heritage objects. I intend to develop this topic more widely and hope to find solutions in the long run. Have you ever come across instances where architects overlook the requirements that demand the buildings be fit for everyone’s use? There are cases when the utility part is sacrificed for the ‘clean’ design idea. For example, in a public building, all surfaces are light concrete or glass while directory signs are glued only briefly until a new building is delivered because supposedly it “ruins the interior.” This also happens with insurmountable ramps and doors that are impossible to open which are installed at the last moment. On the other hand, there is another side of the coin – sometimes the requirements actually have ineffective conditions implied. And yet, accessibility can be dealt with innovatively: I wish everyone to cooperate and not only adhere to norms but also to look for creative solutions.

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Anger-inspired progress Kotryna Lingienė Photos from Kaunas 2022 archive

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“I decided to engage in foundation’s work because I could not take it anymore,” Maciej Augustyniak, the representative of Polska Bez Barier Foundation (Poland without barriers) told me. “Well, how did it all begin – I was driving a motorcycle, got into an accident, ended up in a wheelchair and started playing rugby,” Sławomir Florkowski answers in the same straightforward, yet not blunt, tone when I ask him how he entered this exotic sport. The third of my four interlocutors, Anna Rutz was more forgiving when it came to my silly, stereotypical introductory questions that they had probably heard hundreds of times. She smiles and tells me that she was always active, so she continues to be involved in activities that are not only interesting but also help others. The smile disappears only when she is ignored by the waitress. Anna says that it still happens when she is in the company of non-disabled people – staff tends to approach them as if they were guardians. However, we are not here to talk about guardianship.

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Agata Etmanowicz, the president of the Impact Foundation, a fiery audience development specialist whom we interviewed about learning and teaching a few months ago, introduced me to the trio. Agata seems to be a woman capable of solving any problem. The bigger the issue, the more seriously it is tackled – healthy anger also plays an important role here as well as empathy. And the lector of Tempo Academy founded by Kaunas 2022 for current and future culture specialists has more of it than the average Lithuanian, Kaunas resident and probably a Polish national as well.

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As you have guessed, the members of Polska Bez Barier were leading a workshop for the representatives of cultural institutions and organizations in Kaunas. The theme of the training was accessibility and it began with the definition of the term. Then the challenges associated with it were pointed out and participants – at least briefly, had a chance to step into the shoes of people with various disabilities and experience their everyday life, to understand better different needs of different people, “turn on empathy”. After all, it is unfamiliar precisely because the world is not adapted to different people’s needs. So, when you know how people around you feel and you know a few ways to deal with the problems they face, the concept of accessibility becomes clear. Of course, you also immediately understand that one magical formula will not be able to knock down all the barriers in the world. Universal design solutions exist only on paper. First of all, barriers need to be knocked down in your head, then it will be easier to tackle the seemingly unsolvable questions of object design (especially heritage objects) and event organizing. Many

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of them have already been touched upon by Kaunas Full of Culture team in other articles of this issue and the representatives of cultural institutions have already returned to their colleagues with new knowledge gained at the workshop. So, perhaps not this spring but at least in 2022 there will definitely be fewer thresholds and barriers in Kaunas. Polska Bez Barier is not a state institution, so cooperation with them – for example, when releasing a building to the construction inspectorate – is not mandatory, although it is one of the foundation’s main activities. Of course, it would be better for everyone to start communicating during the design phase rather than inspection. And these are the partnerships that the foundation is engaged in as well as workshops similar to the ones held in Kaunas. As in Lithuania, so in Poland, not all the real estate developers tend to walk an extra mile; therefore, they set up mandatory ramps, lifts or toilets carelessly. When discussing the reasons behind it, we seem to agree that it is rarely done on purpose. You must be completely heartless, a venturer, and perhaps a fool to not take advantage of the opportunity to accommodate your new or reconstructed old building to a larger number of people. However, my hopes for humanity shrink when some time passes after the meeting with Polska Bez Barier Foundation representatives. I decide to read internet comments under the article which states that the VIP seats in Žalgirio Arena were installed in place of spots designated for fans in wheelchairs and that this mistake should be corrected. And there came the comments:


These disabled people with their demands are starting to get on my nerves. There never seem to be enough stuff for them. Maybe it is for the best that God has already punished these annoying types. The problem lies in the heads of disabled people. They like the role of the eternally disadvantaged. Something that was blown out of proportion for self–advertising... the places designated for the disabled are never filled, they just like to bark... The anger of my interlocutors, unlike anonymous commentators (it is tough to imagine who could write

like that, both as a joke or seriously) is not blind. If it were, they probably wouldn’t have enough energy to develop the foundation’s work and daily, step by step, pursue a goal which is global because it doesn’t take anything from anyone. Here is a great paradox contrary to the law of conservation of energy. If you improve conditions and accessibility to some people, you cannot ignore others. Only in one case, those ’others’ are absolutely free to choose any other place in the hall, bar, hotel or the world, while some get even more isolated, depressed and their social skills diminish even more.

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After all, sometimes all one needs to be happy is to see her favourite performer who is coming to the festival in your city. But how much will you be able to see when there’s a sea of mud in front of the stage? The foundation has come up with an idea – rubber mats designed to facilitate the trip around Orange Warsaw festival for those in wheelchairs. The non–disabled festival audience with their white converse sneakers appreciated the idea as well.

finally listening is an equally important part of the foundation’s work. No coercion though – if a person doesn’t want to communicate, no one will interrogate him/her and will not force any advice down their throat. Some may not even seek help and others might not like to be exposed. Finally, we laugh and agree that unpleasant people can be found everywhere. I would only add that especially in places where you don’t need to sign your name or show your face.

Psychological help for people with disabilities, practical advice and

To finish up, the foundation’s representatives organised an atypical

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P.S. I mentioned sports in the introduction. Believe me, wheelchair rugby is an impressive subculture. Foundation’s representatives, who also enjoy diving, reminded me that I haven’t yet seen the movie Murderball that gained a lot of fame some twelve years ago, therefore, I feel obliged to pass on this recommendation to our readers.

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www.polskabezbarier.org

a person in a wheelchair in front of him. You must agree – when you look at this very human situation, it seems absurd and it doesn’t seem that difficult to change.

kaunas2022.eu

tour of the hotel for me (by the way, one of the best in Kaunas). The hotel is truly cozy and comfortable, but not for everyone. For example, if one wants to access the toilet for people with disabilities, he or she needs to ask for the key at the reception. “We do this so that other people wouldn’t occupy the bathroom,” courteous employee pleads and we laugh. After dining in the restaurant of the hotel that you might not be staying at, you need to use the bathroom, get to it and then have to look for the reception. By the way, the desk is so high that not every administrator would be able to see

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Calendar THEATRE Wednesday, 03 06, 7 pm

Šokio spektaklis „Dior in Moscow“ Kaunas City Chamber Theatre, Kęstučio g. 74A

“I chose this overwhelmingly sad tragedy by Shakespeare because, in theatre, I like talking about love, relationship and human destinies,” says Andželika Cholina, one of the best-known and most-awarded choreographers in Lithuania. 03 12 – 03 17

Festival “Nerk į teatrą” [Dive into theatre]

The authors of the performance, Agnija Šeiko and Ingrida Gerbutavičiūtė, have tried to look deeper under the layers of feminine personality that shape the choices and behaviour of our mothers, grandmothers, aunts, TV hosts, actresses, singers, etc.

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Kaunas State Drama Theatre, Laisvės al. 71

Saturday, 03 09, 7 pm

Dance performance “Othello” “Girstutis”, Kovo 11-osios g. 26

The festival held by the biggest theatre in the city will present three performances by international crews, an experimental premiere and more than 40 workshops. We recommend seeing Kaunas Wi-Fi, a theatrical experiment by Israeli artists Ariel Sereni Brown and Asaf Schouten. 03 18 – 03 24

Theatre week Various locations

Pet-friendly places

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March never go out of fashion because it is timeless and follows no rules. As the Kaunas State Musical Theatre is undergoing renovation, the performance will be shown at the Kaunas State Drama Theatre. On March 24, the Kaunas City Chamber Theatre will be hosting the annual Fortune awards dedicated to the World Theatre Day. To raise the awareness and build up the dramatic tension, the whole week prior to the awards will for the first time be called the Theatre Week. Expect various popup performances, play readings, discussions and excursions, as well as the unexpected. All around Kaunas! Tuesday, 03 19, 6 pm

Operetta “Silva”

Kaunas State Drama Theatre, Laisvės al. 71

Saturday, 03 30, 6 pm

Contemporary dance night Kaunas Cultural Centre, Kęstučio g. 1

The programme of the night will consist of performances by the students of the contemporary dance department of the Vilnius-based National M. K. Čiurlionis School of Art, the most prestigious institution of its kind in Lithuania.

MUSIC Wednesday, 03 06,

Concert “Viviane canta Piaf”

Raudondvaris Manor Arts Incubator, Pilies takas 1, Raudondvaris, Kaunas district

Silva or Die Csárdásfürstin is an operetta in 3 acts by Hungarian composer Emmerich Kálmán, libretto by Leo Stein and Bela Jenbach. It premiered in Vienna at the Johann Strauß-Theater on November 17, 1915. Numerous film versions and recordings have been made. Rūta Bunikytė, the director of the newest Lithuanian edition, believes the topic of love will

12 years after starting her solo career, Viviane released a new album entirely dedicated to the singer Édith Piaf. The programme “Viviane canta Piaf” includes songs like “La vie en rose”, “Padam, padam...”, “Non, je ne regrette rien”, “Sous le ciel de Paris”, “Milord” or “Mon Dieu”, telling stories of love and tragedy. This exciting concert will take the audience back to the distant ’40s and ’50s in a very Parisian setting.

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Calendar Thursday, 03 07, 6 pm

Concert “Music in Ancient Lithuania”

Based in Šiauliai, the State Chamber Choir “Polifonija” is one of the best-known in Lithuania. It’s turning 45 this year, and the best way to celebrate it is, of course, touring Lithuania. The programme of the night will consist of music dating back to 16-18 centuries, including pieces by Jacob Arkadelot, Luca Marencio, Vincenzo Galilei, Claudio Monteverdi, Giulio Caccini, Dietrich Buxtehude, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Vaclovas Šamotulietis.

Friday, 03 08, 23:00

DJ night: San Proper Club “Lizdas”, Nepriklausomybės a. 12

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Kaunas State Philharmonic, L. Sapiegos g. 5

we mention the gig will take place in a synagogue that has been used as a photography studio for the past few years?..

Friday, 03 08, 20:00

Live: “Rakija Klezmer Orkestar“ “Sinagoga Studio, Vaisių g. 30

San Proper is a DJ that doesn’t need long introductions, as the personality of the flying Dutchman speaks for him. One day he’s getting a new tattoo, after that, he’s on his way to Japan, then India, then suddenly a gig in Amsterdam’s most excellent Red Light Radio… On day seven, he might end up in your living room. Come to “Lizdas“ to say hi. Saturday, 03 09, 21:00

The band is what its name suggests – and more. The musicians have just released a debut album – just in time for the band’s 6th birthday. “It will be a hot party with glamour and gold on stage” is a promise set in stone. Did

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Live: “Shishi” and “Egomašina” Club “Lemmy”, Girstupio g. 1


March re-recorded at the Abbey Road studios in London will be available. Thursday, 03 14, 7 pm

Concert “Tango Argentino” Kaunas State Philharmonic, L. Sapiegos g. 5 “Shishi” (in picture) is an all-girl surf band covered in glitter. “Egomašina” are trying to squeeze themselves between synth and garage sounds. Combine these two with a heavy metal music club, and you’ll have the Saturday of the season. Tuesday, 03 12, 20:00

Live: Andrius Mamontovas “Žalgirio” arena, Karaliaus Mindaugo pr. 50

You can’t say you know Lithuanian music if you don’t know Andrius Mamontovas. He sings in his mother tongue, but it’s hard not to enjoy the catchy melodies of his songs, many of which have become anthems of more than one generation. Yet another reason to visit this gig is the fact that the artist’s 20-year old solo album will be performed by the Lithuanian Chamber Orchestra. Vinyl of the album

The Lithuanian-Uruguayan musician and dancer Eduardo Gimenez, the accordion virtuoso Nerijus Bakula and the charismatic tango family of Brigita and Carlos Rodriguez are joining forces for a night to remember. Thursday, 03 14, 7:30 pm

Live: “Synaesthesis” Kaunas Artists’ House, V. Putvinskio g. 56

The contemporary music ensemble “Synaesthesis” will perform “Atomic B”, a work for an ensemble, live electronics and two video screens. The 45-min-long work is connected to nuclear power issues and various stories that atomic energy has accumulated since the start of its history.

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Calendar Wednesday, 03 20, 7 pm

Live: Ieva Narkutė

The charismatic yet modest and therefore charming singer is back to Kaunas with her new programme and a vinyl record. She’d like to call her upcoming gig a “therapy session with musical interludes” rather than a concert. It’s also worth pointing out Ieva usually delivers more than she promises!

Friday, 03 22, 7 pm

Live: Jurga

Club “Renginių oazė”, Baltų pr. 16

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VDU Main Hall, S. Daukanto g. 28

The contemporary sound of Mali and Western Africa is often called the blues of the desert. A striking example of this genre is musical legend Samba Touré from Mali. He is coming to Lithuania to introduce his latest album “Wande” (2018). He is known as one of the best and most convincing guitar players of present Africa. He sincerely follows his mentor Ali Farka Touré that is often compared to masters of the guitar like John Lee Hooker. Samba Touré fascinates the listeners by his well-expressed and technically fantastic guitar playing and his eloquent lyrics.

Thursday, 03 21, 7 pm

“GM gyvai”: Samba Touré (Malis) Kaunas cultural centre, Kęstučio g. 1

Jurga is one of the best-known singers in Lithuania; at the same time, she’s also one of the bravest, always willing to explore new territories and experiment. She’s just released a double vinyl with 22 of her best songs. The gig in Kaunas is part of her Lithuanian tour.

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March Saturday, 03 30, 17:00

Live: “Baltos varnos”

Kaunas State Puppet Theatre, Laisvės al. 87A

The Vilnius-based band is one of the most significant examples of post-metal. This time, they’re bringing their third album released earlier this year and called “Have you Found Peace?”. The band will be joined by Latvian experimental rock veterans “SoundArcade“.

CINEMA 03 21 – 04 04

Vilnius IFF Kino Pavasaris Various locations Sisters Milda and Teresė Andrijauskaitės are both singers and musicians. They first started off as a duo; today, the experimental folk-influenced indie band also includes a bass player and a drummer. For this gig, the group will be joined by a string quartet. Saturday, 03 30, 21:00

Live: “Autism” Club “Lemmy”, Girstupio g. 1

The Vilnius International Film Festival (Vilnius IFF) Kino Pavasaris is the most significant and most crucial cinema event in Lithuania. Over more than 20 years, the festival has become a highly-attended cultural phenomenon. The 2018 edition of the festival was visited by more than 116 thousand viewers – 2,300 more than last year. This year, Vilnius IFF will take place in 19 cities over two weeks – more than ever before. Its carefully curated programme has earned festival recognition from viewers and industry professionals alike. Now in its 24th year, the festival’s visual identity “Don‘t rush. Imagine” encourages you to slow your pace and find time for yourself and quality cinema. The programme again focused on a variety of international auteur cinema and events that combine audience education with the film industry, provide the opportunity to share the experience as well as acquire new knowledge.

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Calendar EXHIBITIONS 02 07 – 10 20

Exhibition “Memory Code: Legacy of the Tillmanns in Kaunas”

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M. Žilinskas Art Gallery, Nepriklausomybės a. 12

It took a few decades to put the catalogue codes and the exhibits – more than five hundred of them – together. The tremendous job was done by Dr Aldona Snitkuvienė. She’s the main mastermind behind the new exhibition showcasing the picturesque everyday life of a wealthy family at the beginning of the 20th century. The exhibited interior values of the villa of Mary and Kurt Tillmanns comprise one of a few collections of such kind in Lithuanian museums. The collection is significant from the historical point of view as it reflects the self-awareness, artistic interests, spiritual needs and interests of the hosts.

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In 1893, a German businessman Richard Tillmanns started a company in Kaunas. The business went well, so, in 1906, Richard’s nephew Kurt and his wife Mary relocated to Kaunas. More brothers and sisters joined them and soon became one of the wealthiest and most influential families in Kaunas – all in all, three generations of the Tillmanns’s family linked up with the life of the temporary capital, joined political, cultural and social activities. As many successful stories, this one was cut off by WW2 (the residential house itself didn’t survive it). The Tillmanns were repatriated to Germany, but their estates and wealth were nationalised by the Soviet government. Luckily enough, the wealth, including furniture, paintings and other valuable items, were given to the local museum – today the National M. K. Čiurlionis Museum of Art.

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Tactile exhibition “Blind Date” Kauno paveikslų galerija, K. Donelaičio g. 16


March “Blind Date” is firstly dedicated to people with visual impairment seeking to enhance their knowledge of Lithuanian national art heritage and at the same time develop personal artistic proficiency to experience visual art differently through the sense of touch. The exhibition presents original paintings and their tactile reproductions handmade by sculptors Jonas Aničas and Matas Janušonis with assistance from the Lithuanian Association of the Blind and Visually Handicapped as well as professionals of tactile art from Italy. The displays of embossed artworks are designed explicitly for touching which helps visitors to understand and feel the content of a painting. The exposition was carefully selected to represent the essential changes, art movements and manifestos with significant impact on Lithuanian painting of the 20th century. Traditional genres such as landscape and portrait will be followed by deconstructions, surreal visions and conceptual art. Visitors will be introduced to the social themes of paintings, avant-garde experiments and new ideas or comments on the subject of classical art. 03 02 – 06 30

Exhibition “The Treasure from Laisvės alėja”

M. K. Čiurlionis National Museum of Art, V. Putvinskio g. 55 In the summer of 2018, by a happy chance, during excavations necessary for the reconstruction of Laisvės alėja (Freedom Avenue), a treasure dating back to the 16th century was found. The uniqueness of the treasure is a 1565 Sigismund Augustus double-groat

coin. Such coins were found only in two other treasures in Lithuania, but none of them was transferred to the Lithuanian museums. See the whole discovery! 03 07 – 04 07

Exhibition “Vytautas Povilaitis. Approaching painting” Kaunas Picture Gallery, K. Donelaičio g. 16

The Kaunas Modern Art Foundation invites everyone to the first-ever retrospective exhibition of Vytautas Povilaitis (1927–2009). The modernist painter was one of the first to start painting abstractions in Lithuania. More than 50 years ago, local art lovers couldn’t resist his mystical urban landscapes. Quite a few lucky residents of Kaunas were painted by the artist. In fact, one-third of the exhibition are paintings lent by private collectors; many of the artworks haven’t been exhibited in public before.

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Calendar 03 15 – 04 13

Exhibition “Aftermath” by Henrikas Čerapas March sounds French all around the world, and Kaunas is no exception. In fact, the tradition of francophonie festivities in our city is almost 3 decades long. This year, the focus is on gastronomy, fashion, jazz (catch Frédéric Borey and his Butterflies trio in Theatre Club!), theatre, city walks and philosophy – including the legacy the Kaunas-born Emmanuel Levinas.

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Gallery “Meno parkas”, Rotušės a. 27

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03 04 – 03 08

VMU Asian week

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Various locations

Henrikas Čerapas is an artist that creates much but doesn’t exhibit it all. His public exhibitions are always mature and fundamental. “Les Exercises” was an exhibition by Čerapas in Krakow in 2017; “Aftermath” is its sequel of sorts. Plenty of the desperate suffering of existential emptiness, expressed by vertical rhythms and vast dimensions, to dive into.

OTHER EVENTS 03 02 – 03 27

The International Month of the Francophonie Various locations

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The week is organised by the Centre for Asian Studies (CAS) at Vytautas Magnus University together with the students’ clubs “Hallyu”, “Hashi” and “Wu Wei. VMU Asian Week is a oneweek-long cycle of events dedicated to East Asian countries – China, Japan and Korea. It is done through the presentation of specific aspects of culture, arts and cuisine. CAS social partners


March in Lithuania actively participated in the organisation of this event. Tuesday, 03 05, 4 pm Tuesday, 03 19, 4 pm

White clay workshop Park library, P. Lukšio g. 60

Swamp School, an experimental lab which represented Lithuania at the Venice Biennale in 2018, has been relocated to Kaunas. The project is curated by researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), VMU’s visiting professors Nomeda and Gediminas Urbonas.

Eiguliai is one of the microdistricts of Kaunas currently involved in the “Fluxus Labas!” programme of “Kaunas 2022”. The residents are attending white clay workshops to create a clay mural on one of the Soviet-built apartment buildings. More information: eiguliai@fluxuslabas.eu. Thursday, 03 07, 17:30

“Swamp School“: The opening

Vytautas Magnus University Centre for Research and Studies, V. Putvinskio g. 23

The project will be exhibited on several floors of the VMU Centre for Research and Studies: among other features, it will include an acoustic chamber, an aroma hallway, and a multimedia centre where video resources from the Swamp Pavilion in Venice are available. The visitors will be able to observe a wide variety of experiments: Bittern of Sound, Hollows of Scent, Swamp Ponchos, Šepeta Turf Column, a kombucha (“fungus tea”) grown by Argentinian-born artist Rirkrit Tiravanija, Swamp Radio, Swamp Soap, Icelandic Turf, Swamp Intelligence and other elements.

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Calendar Monday, 03 11

The Restoration of Independence Day

Kaunas Artists’ House, V. Putvinskio g. 56

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Various locations

Tuesday, 03 12, 7 pm

Slam #20

The Act of the Re-Establishment of the State of Lithuania or Act of March 11 was an independence declaration by the Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic adopted on March 11, 1990. The act emphasised restoration and legal continuity of interwar-period Lithuania, which was occupied by the USSR and lost independence in June 1940. It was the first time that an occupied state declared independence from the dissolving Soviet Union. There are many fantastic ways to celebrate March 11 – we’re confident you won’t be able to miss it if you’re in Kaunas on that day!

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There will be enough time and space for everything from futuristic Spring stories to Winter reminiscences in the twentieth poetry slam at the Kaunas Artists’ House. You can definitely slam in English (or any other language). Register at menas@kmn.lt

Wednesday, 03 20

International Day of Happiness Various locations


March This year, our local happiness ambassadors, the Kaunas 2022 team, are inviting everyone to create a meaningful International Day of Happiness. Let’s try and create more opportunities to enjoy culture in Kaunas for those that are often forgotten by builders, organisers and other professionals. In fact, that’s what this issue of our magazine is all about. On March 20, look for bright green lime fruit symbols all around Kaunas – they’ll be used to mark the participants of the Happiness Day programme.

with readings, discussions and other events. 04 01 – 04 07

Scandinavian days Various locations

03 21 – 03 22

World Poetry Day Kaunas Artists’ House, V. Putvinskio g. 56

What an international spring this one is! After saying goodbye to our French and Asian friends, at the beginning of April, we’ll enjoy the first-ever Scandinavian days. Coming from the fields of politics, culture, education and business, our partners in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland and Finland have a lot to share. Expect exhibitions, movie screenings, debates and beyond.

There’s no better time and place to discover Lithuanian poetry than World Poetry Day. It will be celebrated in a pop-up poetry fair accompanied

P.S. The stylish guy in the picture is Henry Parland (1908–1930), the Fenno-Swedish poet that lived in Kaunas, worked in the Swedish embassy and was an important figure of the temporary capital.

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pilnas.kaunas.lt

“I was probably the happiest person in the world when I learned how to read books in Braille.” Pranas Daunys (1900–1962) Writer, musician and military volunteer who became blind after a grenade hit him while fighting for Lithuania. He adapted Braille to Lithuanian.

KAUNAS FULL OF CULTURE Monthly newspaper about personalities and events in Kaunas (free of charge)

Laisvės alėja 59, 3 aukštas

Editorial office:

Authors: Andrejus Bykovas, Artūras Bulota, Austėja Banytė, Bernadeta Buzaitė, Dainius Ščiuka, Donatas Stankevičius, Eglė Šertvyčūtė, Emilija Visockaitė, Julija Račiūnaitė, Justė Vyšniauskaitė, Kotryna Lingienė, Kęstutis Lingys, Paulius Tautvydas Laurinaitis, Rimantas Juškaitis, Teodoras Biliūnas.

Patrons:

KAUNO MIESTO SAVIVALDYBĖ

RUN 100010COPIES TIRAŽAS 000 EGZ.

ISSN 2424-4481 2424-4465

Leidžia: Publisher

2019 2017No. Nr. 32 (43) (18)

Profile for Kaunas Pilnas Kultūros

KAUNAS FULL OF CULTURE. MARCH 2019  

KAUNAS FULL OF CULTURE. MARCH 2019  

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