Thursday, September 27, 2007

I shake the hand of Lithuanian President Valdus Adamkus

Yesterday, the Lithuanian American Community held a reception for Lithuanian President, Valdus Adamkus. I sat among three other Our Lady of Vilnius parishioners and watched as the familiar faces filed in, faces that I have not seen together in one place since the closure of our church. Ramute Zukaite made her introductory remarks, once again emphasizing concerns about the preservation of Lithuanian culture.

President Adamkus took the podium and spoke, in Lithuanian. While I don't yet speak the language beyond a few words, my presence at the church has led to recognition of even more words and the capacity to get a gist. Saulius, on my left, took out a piece of scrap paper and began to write list of bulleted points in English for me, which was a big help. The President addressed remarks to our parish and then moved on to the challenges that Lithuania faces as a nation, ending on a note of hope.

Later I had the pleasure of shaking his hand. Actually, I felt such a surge of emotion that I was up to his forearm before I collected myself. I told him that it was an honor to meet him and thanked him for his interest in our church.

My father and his sisters died within months of each other in 1993. They rejoiced in Lithuanian independence and again in 1992 when the Lithuanian men's basketball team won bronze medal in the Olympics. They were so happy that they did not even make snide comments about the tie-dye outfits that the team wore on the podium. I truly felt them smiling down as I shook the hand of Valdus Adamkus.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We have to stand firm on the fate of our church. In 1870 Italians took away the pope's earthly possessions and thus instructed him to serve the people, but not rule them. This New York anomaly has to be corrected for all time and the church has to be returned to the people. Saulius Simoliunas