Lithuanian Language and Culture Club, Inc.
The mission of the Club is to educate English-speaking Lithuanians in their language, history, heritage and social and political events. In 1987 the Club established Lithuanian language classes for adult members of the Lithuanian community. In 1988 the Club started the Vilties Balsas (Voice of Hope) newsletter to bring cultural, historic, social and other current events and activities to people of Lithuanian descent. In 1992 it was formally organized exclusively for charitable, educational and literary purposes. It participates in the yearly Baltimore Lithuanian festival. I makes transportation arrangements for needy, retired Lithuanians to attend religious services at St. Alphonsus church, the Baltimore Lithuanian parish. It helps make arrangements for Lithuanian university exchange students for living accommodations to continue their studies in our community.
History of the LITHUANIAN LANGUAGE AND CULTURE CLUB, INCORPORATED
The origins of the Baltimore Lithuanian Language and Culture Club, Incorporated, can be traced to the efforts of John Keydash (Keldosius), a retired U.S. Navy Commander, who after a long and distinguish military career initially retired in the city of his birth. In the mid-1987, Keydash became active in Baltimore Lithuanian Hall activities. Being a military veteran, John quickly joined and became active in the American Legion, Lithuanian Post 154, but soon realized that most of the community’s second and third generation children were not participating in the many Lithuanian Hall activities as he had done in the days of his youth. Still, it was clear that the majority of the community’s children retained an interest in their heritage as thousands turned out for the annual Baltimore Lithuanian American festivals. Sadly, few if any were taking part in the Lithuanian Hall ongoing activities the rest of the year. In an effort to foster increased activities in Lithuanian Hall activities, Keydash gathered together a small number of like-minded Lithuanian activists and they established the Baltimore Lithuanian Language and Culture Club. The established mission of the club was to foster a new awareness among the community’s English speaking second and third generations of all things Lithuanian. The club’s mission was not limited to just the teaching of the Lithuanian language, but educating all concerning the nation’s history, heritage, traditions, and current events. Their mission also had a political aspect with the club gathering and disseminating information related to current social and political events in the then Soviet occupied Lithuania and spreading information about all of the ongoing activities within the Baltimore Lithuanian American Community.
Since the majority of the club’s initial members considered themselves to be newly “Reborn Lithuanians”, the learning of how to speak their ancestral language became its first mission. Since few spoke the language, its members established Lithuanian language for beginner classes. The club’s first Lithuanian language classes began in September 1987, under the tutelage of Joana Valciulaityte-Slavikiene, and soon there were 30 adult students enrolled in three different proficiency level classes. Classes where held in Lithuanian Hall provided space and after their Friday night classes most students took the opportunity to stay and enjoy a traditional Lithuanian meal. In keeping with the club’s mission to foster a rebirth in Lithuanian culture and language, students also regularly discussed Lithuanian history, traditions, culture, and current events during their classes. As a result of this program, many Lithuanian American born students who had not learned or forgotten the language skills they learned in childhood now take an active part in Lithuanian Hall activities and speaking the language of their ancestors.
In furtherance of its mission to follow the social and political events in the Lithuanian community, club members in 1988 began publishing “Vilties Balsas”, a Lithuanian and English newsletter and chronicle. During its existence, the chronicle was published six times a year on a subscription basis and provided current and historical information to the Baltimore and Washington, D.C., Lithuanian communities, replacing the then existent old word-of-mouth information system. Since the publication was not founded on a profit basis, the club members in 1992 formally reorganized the entity making it exclusively a charitable, educational, and literary organization. As a result, any monies made by the club related to its literary publication, and participation in the Baltimore Lithuanian events such as the festival have been donated in support of community activities. For many years, the club provided four yearly $50 grants to students of the Baltimore King Mindaugas Saturday program. Due to the work performed by John Keydash, Katarina Coard, Jieva Vaitekunaite, Jaunutis Burbulis, Rei Kacinskas, Janete Keidosiene, Joana Slavikiene, and Robert Luddy, the newsletter quickly gained popularity and flourished for many years. During the time of its existence, “Vilties Balsas” not only published countless articles dealing with Lithuanian traditions and history, but chronicled events held in the Baltimore and Washington, D.C., Lithuanian American communities. The club’s members took great pride in having chronicled the events which lead to the 1991 liberation of Lithuania and the fall of the Soviet Union. During that same year, Keydash and Valciulaityte-Slavikiene were forced to resign from the club for personal reasons. The club’s adult student class teaching was assumed by Grazina Eringiene and its beginner classes by Dovile Beltauskaite, a Lithuanian exchange student. Unfortunately, with the liberation of Lithuania in 1991 the need and desire for publications like “Vilties Balsas” waned, as news and current events related to Lithuania became readily available on the internet. As a result, “Vilties Balsas”, which had served the Baltimore and Washington, D.C., Lithuanian American communities well, was forced to cease publication and became part of our history.
The club’s Lithuanian language classes ceased after several years when most of its original students reached their desired level of language proficiency and the number of new students declined. As a result, the Lithuanian Language and Culture Club under the leadership of Jaunutis Burbulis concentrated upon increasing the club’s mission in working for and supporting all things related to Lithuanian culture, history, and traditions. Initially, the club emphasized arranging and transporting needy retired Lithuanians to attend religious services at St. Alphonsus Church and helping make arrangements for Lithuanian university exchange student living accommodations, and hosting and assisting Lithuanian government officials during their visits to Baltimore. One of the club’s notable accomplishment was the preparation and showing for many years of an outstanding Lithuanian Festival remembrance photograph slide program chronicling in support of the Baltimore Lithuanian Festival Committee.
With Burbulis’ unexpected early demise, the current club President Judith Baker and Vice President Gintaras Bujanauskas have continued the club’s emphasis on assisting Lithuanian government and student visitors to the community. In addition, the club is now directly involved in Lithuanian Hall social activities and the preservation and research of the Baltimore Lithuanian community history through the support of the Baltimore Lithuanian Museum and Lithuanian National Library.
For further information contact Judith Baker at 410-997-5631