Preili Museum of History and Applied Arts (Latvia), Grodno State Museum of the History of Religion (Belarus) and Panevezys Local Lore Museum (Lithuania) joint virtual exhibition – migration.

Preili Museum of History and Applied Arts

 The collection of the Preili Museum of History and Applied Arts reflects the theme of migration both directly and indirectly, as not only people have migrated and moved, but also objects, technologies and new ideas. Objects obtained during archaeological excavations from prehistory confirm the connections of Latgale residents with other territories, for example, the cowrie shells in the museum collection, which were obtained during the excavations in the 11th century Bučki burial ground, have travelled here from the distant Indian Ocean coast. People of different nationalities who settled here during the last centuries have made a great contribution to the development of Preili with their traditions and culture, especially Old Believers and Jews. But mostly in the museum collection the migration of people, objects and ideas which took place in the end of the 19th century and during the 20th century is reflected. For many, it has been voluntary – due to different circumstances and reasons people have decided to leave their homes in search of work, education and even adventure, some of them witnessing and participating in important world events, as well as accepting and adapting new ideas and cultures from elsewhere. However, the middle of the 20th century is also marked by forced migration and its tragic consequences – especially the deportations in 1941 and 1949 by the Soviet occupation authorities.

 A nurse Sholastika Vailaine and Tekla Drukalska in St.Petersburg in 1911.

When Latvian territory was in the Russian Empire, Latgale was part of the Vitebsk gubernia, and with the construction of the St. Petersburg-Warsaw railway, many Latgalians went to work in the country’s capital, St. Petersburg, where there was always a demand for factory workers, domestic workers and other professionals. Here, Latgalians could also get a good education. Priests, engineers, teachers, doctors, students, workers, officers – this was the Latgalian intelligentsia in St. Petersburg at the beginning of the 20th century. The Latgalian intelligentsia of St. Petersburg began to shape its cultural life by publishing newspapers and books in the Latgalian language. The rise of Latgale culture also began here – the so-called Latgale national awakening. The Latgalian Musical Society had become an important centre of the Latgalian awakening movement in St. Petersburg, while the first Latgalian newspaper “Gaisma” played an important role in disseminating ideas. Here worked members of the national movement Francis Trasuns, Francis Kemps, Nikodems Rancāns and others. The photo shows the nurse Sholastika Valaine (born in Daugavpils district Kapini parish Madelāni village in 1897) with Tekla Drukaļska during work time in St.Petersburg. Unlike Tekla, Sholastika did not return to Latvia, but connected her later life with St. Petersburg (Leningrad from 1924 to 1991) and medicine – in 1930 she graduated from the Leningrad State Institute of Medical Sciences. As the captain of the medical service and the head of the laboratory of Evacuation Hospital no. 56 she has received the Order of the Red Star and the medal “За оборону Ленинграда” for her work during the Leningrad blockade. Both husband and son died in the war. Therefore, this medal went to her nephew Bronislavs Drukaļskis in Aglona Parish, who donated it together with photographs of S. Valaine to the Preili Museum of History and Applied Arts.

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A postcard sent by Spanish civil war witness Peteris Aleksandrovics on 25 January 1939 from Falmouth to his sister in Latvia

The seemingly distant events of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939) are also echoed in the collection of the Preiļi Museum, specifically in 5 postcards sent by Pēteris Aleksandrovičs in the period from 1937 to 1939 to his sister Monika who lived in Livani. According to historians, about 150-200 Latvian citizens took part in the Spanish Civil War. In 1937 February, Latvia declared its neutrality in this conflict, and the involvement of its citizens in this conflict was illegal, so supporters and volunteers had to look for alternative ways to get to the Pyrenees.

Little is known about Peteris Aleksandrovičs, mostly only fragmentary and indirect information, which indicates his possible involvement in the events of the Spanish civil war and open sympathy for the Republican side. It is believed that Aleksandrovičs was a sailor and worked on one of the merchant ships, because in the period from 1935 to 1947 he sent letters to his sister from various European port cities – Blyth, Falmouth, Hull in Great Britain, Antwerp (Netherlands), Rouen (France), Gibraltar and even from the Honningsvåg in Norway beyond the Arctic Circle. In a letter sent from Rouen and dated 12 October 1937 Aleksandrovičs writes that he will go to Spain tomorrow and ask his sister to pray for his wandering soul. In a letter sent from Gibraltar at the end of 1938, he writes about an injury on his way to Valencia, but on January 1939 describes the bombing of the port of Valencia, which he eyewitnessed unhurt. In February 1939, Aleksandrovičs left Spain and went to work in Italy. The last surviving letter sent by Aleksandrovich to his sister Monica comes from New York on 1947 February 23. There is no information of his further fate.

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Graphics by Aleksandrs Karpovs “Black Hole, Deportations – 14 June 1941 – History Accuses” 1993, paper, etching.

The middle of the 20th century – the Second World War and the subsequent Soviet occupation – was marked by drastic changes in the composition of the Latvian population caused also by the migration. It was influenced by the forced deportations to Siberia by the Soviet authorities in 1941 (more than 15 400 people from Latvia were deported) and in 1949 (more than 42 000 Latvians), as well as emigration to the West – by the beginning of the war ~ 50,000 Baltic Germans had left Latvia, but in the last year of the Second World War (1944–1945) when the Eastern Front entered the territory of Latvia, approximately 170–180 000 Latvians went West as refugees.

Although Aleksandrs Karpovs (1953-1994) – the representative of Latvian emigration, graphic artist – passed away relatively early, he has managed to present himself in Latvian and American graphic arts as a talented artist and graphic artist, who pointed out many issues of Latvian and American history and social issues through the genre of social realism. A. Karpov is descended from the well-known Volonti family. On 14 June 1941, the Volonti family from Anspoki, Justins with his wife Stefanija and daughter Regina, were deported, while the other three children, including Lucija, Karpov’s mother, escaped and later emigrated to the United States through the Fulda refugee camp in Germany. A. Karpovs, a graphic artist and a master of fine arts, was born in USA. Although settling in the United States was not easy – Lucija Karpova raised her children alone and in great need – she tried to provide them with everything they needed, and the Latvian way of life and family values ​​were an essential part of raising children. A. Karpovs received his art education in the United States. In 1990, he graduated with honors from the University of Minnesota with an artist’s degree. Shortly after the restoration of Latvia’s independence in 1991 Aleksandrs Karpovs moved to Latvia, where the cycle of several bright graphic works “Genocide of the Communist Soviet Power in Latvia”, “Rebirth” and “History Accuses” was created, in which he immortalized the tragic pages of the history of his Preiļi region.

In the graphic ” Black hole, deportations – 14 June 1941 – history accuses “, A. Karpov depicts a tragic page of his family – the deportation of his grandparents from Livani railway station to Siberia. This event, although not directly experienced, resonated strongly with all the descendants of the Volont family.

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Hrodna State Museum of the History of Religion

Migration in the history of mankind is not a new phenomenon. Not only various objects moved over considerable distances, but also individuals and whole nations. Various ideas also “traveled” from one country to another. They overcame not only distances, but also ethnic, social and cultural barriers. Many ideas that came from other cultures were firmly rooted in new “soil” and became an integral part of the local culture over time. This also applies to religious beliefs and related artifacts. The funds of the Grodno State Museum of the History of Religion contain many items created by other cultures, but which have become part of everyday life for many residents of Belarus.

Longevity Deity Shou-Sin. China. Late 19th – early 20th centuries

In the second half of the 19th – early 20th century, Europe experienced a surge of interest in oriental cultures and peoples. Plastic forms, colors, ideas fascinated artists, poets and writers. As a result, new works of art were created and new ideas and even religious concepts were born. Items brought from the East countries took a firm place in the life of wealthy townspeople, and soon they began to make replicas of them already in Europe. Many items came to Belarus directly from the East. The Russian Empire, of which the Belarusian lands were also a part, was an active participant in political life in the region of Central Asia and the Far East.

The ceramic sculpture of the longevity deity Shou Xing was made in China. In Chinese mythology, the appearance of Shou-Xing (“the star of longevity”) in the sky predicts the prosperity of the state and the emperor, and its absence predicts wars and misfortune. Temples in honor of Shou Xing appeared in China already in antiquity. The deity is usually depicted as an elderly man with a staff to which a pumpkin is tied (a symbol of prosperity and offspring), with a scroll and a peach blossom (they symbolize longevity). Long earlobes are a characteristic feature of the sculptures of the deity.

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Hand fan. Japan. The beginning of the 20th century

Interest in the culture of Japan in various countries has not languished since the middle of the 19th century. Japanese fine art has inspired many artists in Europe. Household items from Japan were also a welcome gift and an elegant attribute of wealthy townspeople in Belarusian cities of the late 19th – early 20th centuries.

A hand fan with oriental design was used for a walk, in a theater, and at a social reception. It gave its owner a sense of mystery and attracted the attention of others. The fan from our collection depicts a landscape dominated by the sacred mountain of all the Japanese called  Mount Fuji, as well as houses and flowers. This fan is part of the kit and was kept in a special case.

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Little Krishna in the arms of Devaki’s mother. Russia. Late 1990s

In the late 1970s – early 1990s in Belarus, with the popularity of Indian feature films on the background, an interest arose in the multifaceted culture of India and its religions. The International Society for Krishna Consciousness, founded in 1966 in New York, also found its supporters in Belarus. Krishna (one of the deities in Hinduism) in the understanding of the Hare Krishnas is the supreme hypostasis of God, the sources of all avatars (manifestations) of divinity. This religious trend, based on the Indian tradition, in the process of development in North America and Europe was partially transformed and adapted to Western societies.

In addition to this religious trend, Krishna is worshiped in other religions. According to the Bahá’i Faith, a religion that originated in the 19th century in Iran, Krishna is the embodiment of God, or one of the prophets who preached the Word of God. Krishna is revered in this religion along with Abraham, Moses, Buddha, Zoroaster, Jesus and Muhammad. Supporters of the Bahá’í teachings appeared in Belarus in the early 1990s, created a stable community, which is now part of the country’s diverse religious palette.

A postcard depicting Krishna in the arms of Devaki’s mother is common in Krishnaism and among Bahá’ís, and is used during various religious ceremonies. Krishna is traditionally depicted with purple-tinged skin, Indian clothing and adornments. Devaki is shown wearing a sari and a lot of jewelry.

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Panevėžys Local Lore Museum

Gilvydziai family archive

 The migration of Lithuanians, as well as the population of other nations, at various times was determined by the circumstances that arose during a certain period. People moved from one place to another due to religious disagreements, wars, uprisings of the 19th century, economic and social reasons. In search of a better life, Lithuanians mostly moved to Argentina, Australia, Brazil, the USA, Canada, Latvia and Uruguay. The summer of 1944, the Red Army approaching Lithuania, a large part of the nation’s intellectuals, fearing of a political defeat, emigrated to the West.

The Panevėžys Local Lore Museum preserves the unique family archive of the agronomist, pedagogue, state and public figure, political emigrant Alfonsas Gilvydis (1895–1987).

 In 1919–1936 A. Gilvydis lived in Panevėžys, worked in various fields and actively expressed in social and political activities. In 1936 he was elected to the 4-th Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania by a voters of Panevėžys city and in 1936–1940 worked as its vice chairman. In 1944, as the front approached, Gilvydžiai eight-member family moved to the West. No matter what difficult life situations were – A. Gilvydis always felt obliged to help his compatriots. He led the Lithuanian War Refugee Committees in Jena and Hanau, taught trade and cooperation at the Hanau Camp, actively participated in the American Lithuanian National Union, and led the Detroit Lithuanian Cultural Club.

The archive of A. Gilvydis’ family is distinguished by the abundance of collected and preserved reflections of everyday life. It contains not only the most important personal documents and photos of family members, but also protocols of organization meetings, letters, diary, graduation certificates, travel receipts, etc. The archive material reflects both –  the period of personal and professional life in Lithuania and the difficult emigration route through the refugee camps in Graz and Piochlarn (Austria), Jena and Hanau (Germany), and finally the Gilvydžiai family move to Detroit (USA). The archive covers the period from 1911 to the late 1950s.

The thoroughly collected archive material, which was withdrawn from Lithuania as the most expensive property when the Gilvydžiai family left Lithuania, was filled in refugee camps in Austria and Germany, later in America and carefully systematized, consisting of 161 photos, 185 documents, 136 magazines and 58 books. Returned to Lithuanian society by the care of relatives.

The Gilvydžiai family near the house of Elena Gilvydienė’s sister Jadvyga Jablonskytė and her husband’s captain Vladas Tarasonis in Vilkaviškis, where he has lived since 1941. until his departure to the West in 1944. July 31. In front, on the left, stand: Jaunutis, Mindaugas, Marija, Antanas and Algimantas, behind them: Alfonsas, Aldona and Elena.

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Photographs and documents testifying to the various activities of A. Gilvydis.

  1. Construction Department at the Agricultural Exhibition in Panevėžys. In 1926 the exhibition was organized by A. Gilvydis (standing third from the left).
  2. Panevėžys farmers’ small credit bank staff. Chairman of the Board of the Bank A. Gilvydis in the center, top. Photo by J. Žitkus (1939).
  3. Certificate of Alfonsas Gilvydis, Representative of the Nation of the Republic of Lithuania. (1936).
  4. The patrons of Lithuanian athletes – First Secretary of the 4th Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania Mėčius Kviklys (right) and Second Vice-Chairman Alfonsas Gilvydis by the pool on the French ship “Ile de France” on a voyage to the United States at the beginning of July 1937
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Gilvydis’ family documents of emigration from Germany to the USA. The Gilvydžiai family, leaving Lithuania, lived in various war Displaced Person (DP) camps in Austria and Germany. 1945 in the autumn he stayed in the Lithuanian camp in Hanau, Germany. After receiving permission to emigrate to the United States, in 1949. February 9 they sailed with the ship „General Sturgis“ from Bremerhaven and in March 14 got off the ship in a New Orleans port. In the 1950s, the family settled in Detroit.

  1. Confirming Receipt from the International Refugee Organization Representation in the Hanau DP Camp of Alfonsas Gilvydis’ application to emigrate with his family to the United States.1949 January 21.
  2. Passenger card issued to Alfonsas Gilvydis at the Bucbache Transfer Center.
  3. Receipt of luggage of a passenger on the ship „General Sturgis“, that sailed from the port of Bremerhaven to the USA.
  4. Baggage identification receipt for New Orleans port customs.
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About the project ENI-LLB-1-244 “Promotion of historical and culture cross border heritage through museums innovations” / Museum 2020

The project aims to build a cross border cooperation platform creating preconditions for ensuring the increasing interest of tourists and visitors about the cultural and historical heritage in the border area of Latvia, Lithuania and Belarus.

This project is funded by the European Union

Project budget: 367 864.64 EUR, EU funding 331 078.17 EUR

Project implementation period: 1st of June 2020 – 31st of May 2022

European Neighbourhood Instrument Cross-border Cooperation Programme Latvia-Lithuania-Belarus 2014-2020

http://europa.eu/;

http://www.eni-cbc.eu/llb

https://eeas.europa.eu/delegations/belarus_en