Vytautas Magnus University

Greta: To me, VMU equals study years. When I was still at school, I dreamed of studying in Vilnius, but VMU has been re-established for just several years, and it was so tempting, since it had a new study programme, and it was a completely new university without any Soviet traditions, full of promise that things here would be different, Western.:)  During the admission, Liucija Baškauskaitė (!) spoke to me (besides entrance exams, there was also an interview about motivation). Later lectures were delivered by a famous anthropology professor Arvydas Žygas (whose then incomprehensible yet enchanting lectures I started attending while still at school). There was also now-legendary Gintaras Beresnevičius (there was a rumour about him that he feared audiences, because he seemed shy and confused), an English teacher from Los Angeles, Amanda, a strict Frenchwoman Miriam (both connected to Kaunas by temporary romantic ties) and many others. Now I think, that there has been this promise of freedom in the air, the feeling that I have been missing for all my years in school. Since the number of students was ten times smaller, everyone knew one another or at least had seen one another before. Lectures were attended by people of different specialities and courses, so you could feel like a part of the community. It is no wonder that if you meet a person today from these times, even though you have not interacted with him or her, you feel the sense of kinship and this can be confirmed by all graduates from the first years.

I also associate VMU and my study years with a café at the House of Artists which I missed so much, after it had disappeared. Tea, discussions, keeping a company for those who smoke, sitting for hours on Jotulė puffs and the face of the bartender with an earring has become a part of my youth.
There was also a canteen in the house of Architects, yet it was closed quite soon, also Pakalnė, café at Metropolis Hotel, covered in thick layer of smoke, where you could find all of those who studied at VMU at that time, also walking in Laisvės Alėja, old town, a wine café in a cellar, full of the aroma of cheap mulled wine, Skliautas, sometimes BO.

These years cannot also be imagined without the annual jazz festivals in the Great Hall. And without film screenings with Gediminas Jankauskas in the Small Hall of the Central Building. A place we liked the most were tables at the end of the hall. It was the most convenient place. :) In other evenings, this hall was a space for concerts or discos, where the strangest and most romantic moments were experienced :). When we lost this hall, we felt like something was stolen from us...
The Central Building back then was my home. The main lectures used to take place here, there was a reading room, and we could sit on a cloakroom’s counter and swing our legs back and forth waiting for lectures or colleagues (but this was later forbidden). Yet the most important action of socialisation was active or passive smoking (it was forbidden as well) next to the Central Building. I was a constant (passive) smoker, because the most interesting occurrences, conversation, acquaintances, flirting and other most notable events of my student life used to take place here.
There was also Laviltė, a university café, where my friend and I created the weirdest and the most surreal poetry as well as a fictional poet, whose poems Donatas Kajokas wanted to publish in Nemunas. :)

I guess that later generations envy us such a university... (2014)

Mindaugas Kavaliauskas

Mindaugas Kavaliauskas (1974) is a photographer, curator of photo exhibitions and art critic.

In the fall of 1992, I was the first-year student of Art Critique and History at VMU. The rallies were over. There were new attractions instead. For example, initiation of freshmen: riding the benches and walking in the fountain in Laisvės Alėja. But this wasn't for me. When you have a camera in your hands, you may say that you are doing something important. To tell the truth, I had to complete one task defending the honour of my faculty and run a certain distance with a future fellow student on my back. I don't remember whether we won or lost, but the important thing was, my colleague Kristina, then still a resident of Klaipėda, remained alive and well. Now she is a resident of Kaunas, working at the M. K. Čiurlionis National Art Museum. I wanted to carry the fair-haired girl from the Faculty of Social Sciences, that liked colour blue and which I met during the German lectures. Even though it was not important back then. Photography was a far more interesting activity than carrying girls. Since I graduated from Jonas Jablonskis High School (offering intensive English lectures), at VMU, I was assigned to Level 4 English group. Good news was that one professor was an American, while others were so-so. I had to walk from Žaliakalnis to Metalo Street in Aukštieji Šančiai and I don't remember when it used to start, at 8 o'clock or half past 8. If you did not want to ride a trolley across town, the only other way was going on foot across Ąžuolynas (The Oakwood Park). The romantic photographic atmosphere of sunny mornings of the early autumn in Ąžuolynas was soon over. Walking in cold and foggy mornings was not the most pleasant experience. To make time fly, I was listening to the top selling songs played on M-1 radio station on a player I got as a gift from my uncle Edvardas from America. And, why were they selling? What could you buy? The student's grant was several dollars... The most bearable tops were “One” by U2 and, “Friday I'm in Love” by The Cure on Fridays. Such top selling songs like Breakfast in America by Supertramp and November Rain by Guns N' Roses did not improve one's mood. What breakfast? When you walk a muddy path in Ąžuolynas to reach the lecture room... And then I also understood that I didn’t know English at all. In Jablonskis school, we read works by Shakespeare, Wilde, Byron and many others, while we have not gained any spoken language skills. And I had to write essays all the time. For example, what are the advantages and disadvantages of dating ads in newspapers. Laura Stevens was of very positive nature. She made us understand that we do not have to be afraid of university teachers. She invited all students in our group for a welcoming party in order for us to know one another better. After Laura’s lecture, I used to go back again across Ąžuolynas, but slower, capturing the details of nature, increasingly rare smiles of autumn light, fragments of the Interwar Period until I reached the Central Building of the university. Moreover, American teachers arriving at Lithuania always encouraged us to smile. Californian Laura Stevens and the child from the Chicago suburb Cicero, Arvydas Žygas, who taught anthropology, stood out from the crowd because of their smiles that seemed permanently stuck on their faces. During the “serious” part of their lecture, when talking about home assignments, writing a mark, whether 5 or 2, they used to always do it with a smile!

Kavaliauskas M. 2013: D., G. and others. Kaunas:  Šviesos raštas, p. 10-11.


1 photograph
The first generation of the restored Vytautas Magnus University. From Rytis Bulotas's personal archive.

2 photograph
Chapters of Foxes' first waves of VMU. Photo: Mindaugas Kavaliauskas (from the album "D., G. and Others")

3 photograph
Chapters of Foxes' first waves of VMU. Photo: Mindaugas Kavaliauskas (from the album "D., G. and Others")

4 photograph

Handwritten by Stanislovas Lukošius (a Soviet-era photographer) on the other side of the photo:
Top: "We are preparing to demolish the houses on Janonio Square and the corner of Daukanto street for the construction of a political education house."
Bottom: "The House of Political Education. J. Janonio Square. The house was designed by the Kaunas Branch of the City Building Design Institute. He built the Kauno Statyba Construction Construction Foundation in 1974."