True Lithuania

Top 10 American (US) places

The USA is far away from Lithuania but it has been important in modern Lithuanian history. The USA has always been the prime destination of Lithuanian migrants leading to it also becoming a kind of role model for newly-independent Lithuania in both 1920s and 1990s. While most American sites in Lithuania are modest, they still provide a pleasant surprise for an American visitor reminding the role of the United States (and Lithuanian-Americans) in Lithuanian history.

1. Quality works of American modern artists at Europos parkas (Vilnius suburbs) open-air museum date to 1990s when successful non-violent Lithuanian freedom struggle inspired the artists worldwide to give Lithuania something its Soviet-ravaged economy could have never afforded on market terms. Europos parkas was one place for such international collaboration, receiving works by US artists Dennis Oppenheim, Sol LeWitt and others.

2. A US media sensation back in 1995 the Frank Zappa statue in downtown Vilnius was erected by a group of avid Lithuanian fans merely 2 years after the famous singer died. The libertarian atmosphere of the 1990s Lithuania ensured that this initiative was swiftly greenlighted by Lithuanian institutions. Located not far from US embassy the bust became a popular tourist sight and its copy was later gifted to Zappa's native city Baltimore, Maryland in 2010 (where it now stands on a corner of Conkling Street and Eastern Avenue).

3. The remains of a crashed "Lituanica" plane in Kaunas War Museum (Kaunas New Town) remind of the symbolic and tragic journey by the two Lithuanian-American pilots from New York to Vilnius, pioneering the Transatlantic air mail and attempting to set a distance flight record (they crashed just several hundred kilometers before destination, becoming instant martyrs in Lithuania, having many streets renamed after them). S. Darius and S. Girėnas are also icons of Lithuanian Americans with multiple monuments constructed for them in the USA.

4. Vytautas Kasiulis museum (Vilnius New Town) exhibits the colorful works this Lithuanian-American painter bequeathed to Lithuania after his death. His story is similar to that of many Lithuanian intellectuals forced to flee from a likely murder by Soviets in the 1940s. Becoming refugees as young adults they mostly naturalized as US citizens but still remained loyal to the "lost homeland" of Lithuania.

5. The medieval halls of Kazys Varnelis museum (Vilnius Old Town) are not only the final place of rest for the optical art and collections of this Lithuanian-American painter-collector but also served as his final living space after he returned to Lithuania in 1998 when Lithuania was still poor but independent.

6. Kazimieras Žoromskis museum (Vilnius New Town) has the works of yet another famous Lithuanian-American painter who returned in the 1980s. He called his style to be "optical impressionism".

7. Basketball is likely the most ubiquitous American product in Lithuania, as evidenced also by the Basketball monument in Vilnius Soviet districts. Its postament serves as a hall of fame for Lithuanian basketball players, among them Lithuanian-American Pranas Lubinas, the "grandfather of Lithuanian basketball". Known in the US as Frank Lubin he also served as the captain of gold-winning US national basketball team in 1936 Berlin Olympics before returning to disseminate basketball knowledge in his homeland. Largely thanks to Lithuanian-Americans basketball became the Lithuanian national sport in the late 1930s and now is even called "Lithuania's second religion".

8. Mykolas Žilinskas gallery (Kaunas New Town) is named after Lithuanian-American collector who bequeathed his artworks to his native city Kaunas even though Lithuania was still under a Soviet rule back then. The gallery is now the Lithuania's prime repository of international art.

9. Fluxus collection (Vilnius Old Town) has been bought by Vilnius city in 2006. Fluxus movement, advanced by Jurgis Mačiūnas (George Maciunas) and also associated with Jonas Mekas, may have been among the largest Lithuanian refugee contributions to the American modern art. The collection was initially destined for Vilnius Guggenheim; as that project has been shelved, only a part of it is available at the Fluxus Cabinet of Contemporary Art Centre.

10. G. W. Bush plaque (Vilnius Old Town) with his quote permanently sealed on Vilnius City Hall is one of the most important locations a memorial for US president has been created outside the USA. The words "Whoever will choose Lithuania as its enemy has also made an enemy of the United States of America" just created that much euphoria in Lithuania as many believed that another Russian occupation would now become impossible. Lithuania was fervently pro-American back then thanks to relations to Lithuanian-Americans, one of whom Valdas Adamkus as its president (who holds the Guinness World Record for a person who lived the shortest in a country before being elected its head of state)

Map of the top 10 American locations in Lithuania. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Article written by Augustinas Žemaitis

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