Friday, February 16, 2007

Celebrating Lithuanian Independence at Our Lady of Vilnius

And the flag was still there...

Last evening a small celebration of Lithuanian independence took place in the basement hall of Our Lady of Vinius. The fluorescents were dimmed and the colored party lights gleamed. Father Eugene forsook his usual wardrobe and appeared priestly and handsome in a cassock. Lithuanian Consul General Mindaugaus Butkus and his wife arrived, then all stood as Gintare led the singing of the Lithuanian national anthem.

Consul Butkus made a speech in Lithuanian as a distant radiator made noises like a distressed kitten. My bilingual friends told me that the Consul had expressed sympathy for our plight and encouragement in our cause.

Champagne was poured and we toasted Independence. We sipped and chatted around bistro tables on which candles flickered and guttered. Two short films were shown. The first was a silent film that began with a shot of the printed words "...Brooklyn before it became an artist's utopia." The first part showed a series of vignettes from life in the Lithuanian community in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, in 1950. The image that remains in my mind this morning is the flock of little girls in their white Communion dresses and veils scurrying into formation to process up the steps of Annunciation church. It looked like a "Swan Lake" of the streets. The second part of the film displayed vignettes of the same area revisited in 1972. Throughout this silent film a man played an evocative syncopated accompaniment on our yellow-toothed old piano in a corner of the room with no view of the screen. The second film had sound and chronicled the activities of a chauffeur in Lithuania in the 1940's. The film had English subtitles and a wonderful soundtrack of the florid dance music of the day. Everyone swayed as they watched.

On a table off to the side Laima had placed a large square cake decorated with the Lithuanian flag. People came over and helped themselves. As I unsuccessfully fought temptation, I was one of the last to cut a piece. As the evening wore on the cake shrank around the flag, which, at the end of the evening, prevailed.

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