The Beauty of Lithuania: Video Transcript

Anna Melberg [senior major in Russian, East European, and Eurasian Studies, Class of 2018]: Well, I had been to St. Petersburg before once in high school, so I had the experience of going to a different country, a different city, because previously I thought all cities looked like Chicago, because that's the only city I'd been in and it kind of looked like Akron or Cincinnati. But if you go to a city in Eastern Europe, it's nothing like you would have imagined. Flying over Lithuania was so intense because I thought it would just look like St. Petersburg, but it was like this kind of hilly, green forest country that I never would have imagined that it'd look like.

The purpose of the trip as a trip was to go to Lithuania to present in Vilnius at a Havighurst conference. It was for young researchers, which at the time I thought meant students, but it actually meant in the process of your PhD. So three of us from Miami — myself, my friend Olivia, and my friend Ashlynn — went to present our papers that we had written for classes throughout the year as a final part of the program, just to get the practice of presenting and get feedback from all these incredible PhD students who were presenting. They spoke about security, about culture; it was all very, like intense and obviously above my study level, but it was great to see how they presented, how they talked.

Dr. Neringa Klumbyte offered it up to Miami students, and she arranged for us to be taking Russian language classes at Vilnius University. We stayed with host families. I stayed with an incredible woman named Rossa, who was in her late 60s, and she had lived through both Nazi and Soviet occupations of Lithuania, so she had incredible stories to tell, and although my Russian language skills would've allowed me to communicate with her, she was also, luckily for me she was also an English teacher. So she told me all these stories in English and Russian about her experiences with the KGB and the Nazis and the Soviets.

I conversed in Russian with older Lithuanians because they had been raised in Soviet Lithuania, so they were required to speak Russian and Lithuanian. But the younger generation speaks mostly Lithuanian, so I couldn't speak to many younger kids.

We went to a lot of different places within Lithuania. There was Kaunas, which is where Dr. Klumbyte is from, and we saw the church that she was baptized in, which was really interesting. We went to Neringa, which is a foresty area off of a beach on Kaliningrad, which is shared between Lithuania and Russia. We went to Latvia, which is the country directly above Lithuania, and we went to the capital city, Riga, and there's a part of the city that is still as it was, it's like the old part of the city, which was really interesting to walk around and see how what parts were touched by the war and which parts weren't. It was just a beautiful city.

There's just a lot that I didn't know about Lithuania that really surprised me. The beauty of the culture, the enormous churches — it's just really beautiful. There are some things that we don't have in America that are just strikingly beautiful, and you can't even imagine.

[February 2018]