A CONVERSATION WITH INDRĖ ŽAKEVIČIENĖ, LECTURER AT THE DEPARTMENT OF LITHUANIAN LITERATURE AT VYTAUTAS MAGNUS UNIVERSITY
What places, symbols, streets, houses or monuments of Kaunas are the most important personally for you? Why?
To me the most important [place] is Kęstučio Street, because this is where I lived for the first nine years of my life and my mother lived there since she was two; another important place is the Garden of the Museum of War; all walking routes used to end there. These routes cannot also be imagined without Spurginė and the Central Bookstore in Laisvės Alėja. Žaliakalnis Funicular was another integral part of my childhood and teen years like Aušros Path and stairs. Aušros Path is a mystical place for me, just like the entire Putvinskio Street, I don't know why.
What commemorations, rituals, traditions, celebrations and other events with symbolic meaning are the most significant for you? Why?
Hanza days in Kaunas were the most impressive (when this celebration was not merged with the birthday of Kaunas). During that celebration, Kaunas looked the most festive, true and interesting. The birthday of Kaunas in May is also nice, but its spirit is different than that of Hanza days.
Which city events have remained in your memory as the most memorable ones? Why?
The most memorable event for me was the commemoration of February 16 in 1989 in Santaka Stadium and the “analogue” of the Baltic Chain 25 years ago in the Museum of War. The vehicle that was bringing us to the Baltic Chain got stuck in the middle. The driver got nervous, turned around, brought us back to Kaunas and let us go; there was no chance to reach our destination in time on foot. Out of desperation, we went to the War Museum and found a group of like-minded people; we held hands in front of the Eternal Fire, people had a radio, we listened to the radio at full blast broadcasting from the Baltic Chain.
Which people of Kaunas you deem the most important and who contributed most to city's people and its history? Why would you distinguish them?
I would probably single out Rūta Staliliūnaitė, Valentinas Masalskis, Jūratė Onaitytė. But I have chosen them only because during the Soviet period, I was crazy about theatre (so I'd rather single out the Kaunas Drama Theatre). Currently it is hard for me to say what and why I would like to distinguish. The most important thing is for a person to love Kaunas and I think there are many people who do.
What painting, film, photography or literary text would you associate with Kaunas, its identity or history the most?
A photo by Mečys Brazaitis, depicting a lady during the interwar period in Kaunas pier. Raudonmedžio Rojus by Vytautas Sirijos Gira. Kiškių Sukilimas by Kazys Binkis.
What symbolic places and heritage are important to you as a Lithuanian? What positive / negative memories, experiences and changes of life do they remind you of?
The garden of the Museum of War that I have already mentioned, M. K. Čiurlionis Gallery, Museum of Devils. All the memories are positive, there are no other kind of memories remaining from the childhood. For me as a Lithuanian, all Kaunas is symbolic, without excluding any place.
What heritage of ethnic groups in Kaunas and which people and everyday objects should be restored / commemorated in Kaunas? In what shape it should take place and why?
To be honest, I don't have much to offer because I know little about the heritage of our ethnic groups. I live myself in a house built by a Jewish businessman, so it means I use this heritage to this day. During the war years, all Jewish families from the neighbourhood that were mostly later shot, used to come to our home and talk to us, asking that if something happens, we would not forget them. My mom still tells me about those people: one neighbour told her a recipe, another said something funny, the third left a decorated plate... Maybe the "memory" heritage is the most important, even though it is not eternal.
Speaking about the objects of the everyday life, I would really love to see ships in Nemunas and a nice pier. I have heard that there many of them.
Which object(s) would you like to remember the most? What connects you with those places? With which period of life are they related? Are these memories positive or negative ones?
The Zoo and Vytauto Park. These places are integral to my childhood. Vytauto Park is still so sweet while horribly abandoned. Maironio Street is also very sweet even though there is nothing special there; I simply remember it from the childhood because I would cross it on my way from home to the Central Bookstore. The corners of S. Daukanto and A. Mickevičiaus streets (where they cross Kęstučio Street) are also very important, because forty years ago, there were two ice cream kiosks (so if there was no ice cream for seven kopeks in one, you could expect to find it in another). The name of Dainų Slėnis (Song Valley) itself seemed as a fairy-tale, and was also a valley where [people] play, dance and sing...