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Posted on Apr 14, 2020

AABS Recognizes Best Undergraduate Papers in Baltic Studies

 

AABS has selected two undergraduate students, Marija Čyvas and Gintarė Daulys, to receive the 2020 AABS Undergraduate Paper in Baltic Studies Award. The AABS committee for selecting the awardees of the Undergraduate Paper Award, chaired by Student Representative Kristo Nurmis, noted that both awarded papers were very well-written, empirically rich, and packaged in a good theoretical framework.

The $250 award recognizes academic papers on Baltic Studies based on originality, scholarship, excellence in writing and quality of engagement with the subject area. Faculty members at the college and university level are invited to nominate undergraduate papers once in every two years. The 2020 awards recognize papers written as class assignments in 2018 or 2019.

AABS congratulates the winners of the 2020 Undergraduate Paper award and thanks all faculty members who submitted nominations.

 

WHAT IT MEANS TO BE LITHUANIAN IN AMERICA AND WHAT RUSSIA’S GOT TO DO WITH IT: A STUDY OF ETHNIC IDENTITY FORMATION AMONG LATER GENERATIONS IN A DIASPORIC COMMUNITY

Marija Aldona Čyvas, The College of Wooster

Supervisors: Tatiana Filimonova, Heather Fitz Gibbon

Nominator: Heather Fitz Gibbon

Marija Aldona Čyvas

The purpose of this Independent Study is to examine the experiences of first- and second-generation members of the Lithuanian American community to better understand how they identify ethnically and how they make sense of their ethnic identity. Additionally, I look at what role the perception of Russia and the former Soviet Union play in the formation and understanding of ethnic identity among this population. I conducted ten in-depth interviews with first- and second-generation members of five Lithuanian American families in the greater Chicagoland area. I primarily relied on the theories of Mary Waters, William Safran, and Eglė Rindzevičiūtė on ethnic identity, diasporic communities, and Lithuanian national identity (respectively) as the framework through which I analyzed the experiences of the individuals I interviewed. Additionally, I discussed the influence and work of Tomas Venclova, a Lithuanian writer who offers a unique and critical perspective on the attitudes of Lithuanians. I coupled my work on Venclova with an analysis of a Russian article (which I translated into English) by a Ukrainian author who is critical of the Lithuanian understanding and celebration of its past.

The experiences of the Lithuanian-Americans described in their interviews, together with the two critical points of view of Venclova and the Russian article, as well as my own perspective as a member of the Lithuanian-American community gave me a well-rounded understanding of how second-wave Lithuanian Americans make sense of their ethnic identity. I come to the conclusion that unique historical circumstance, the shared experiences and history of the community, and a negative perception of Russia and its impact on Lithuania are the most influential factors in Lithuanian-Americans of the second emigration wave claiming Lithuanian identity, despite having been born and grown up in America.

Marija Čyvas graduated with honors from the College of Wooster in May of 2019 with a degree in Sociology and Russian Studies. She spent much of her final year at Wooster excitedly writing her thesis on various aspects of ethnic identity among Lithuanian Americans. At Wooster Marija was very involved on campus with the volleyball team, the Wooster Student Leadership Institute, both her academic departments and other student organizations. Marija has been an active member of the Lithuanian Community of Chicago in which she grew up. From a young age she attended Lithuanian Heritage school, participated in Lithuanian song and folk dance festivals, and is an active member of the Lithuanian Catholic Youth association “Ateitis.” After graduation Marija was selected as a member of the Mission Siberia (Misija Sibiras) 2019 team. Most recently Marija was invited to join the National Executive Committee of the Lithuanian American Community as Vice President of Youth Affairs.

THE CONTRIBUTION OF LITHUANIAN DEPORTEES’ MEMOIRS TO LITHUANIAN NATIONAL IDENTITY

Gintarė Daulys, Arizona State University

Supervisors: Laurie Manchester, Anna Cichopek-Gajraj

Nominator: K. Paul Zygas

Gintarė Daulys

Between 1941 and 1953, thousands of Lithuanians were deported from their homeland by the regime of the occupying Soviet Union to distant uninhabitable regions, including the northern reaches of Siberia. While many perished as they contended with hunger, thirst, illness, harsh weather, ill-suited clothing, and poor housing, some survived and returned. Among the returnees were those who recounted their experiences in written memoirs. In these recollections, returning adult deportees often report solidarity among Lithuanians, interactions with locals and authorities, and efforts to maintain agency and continue cultural traditions. Children remember going to school, relying on their parents, and then finally leaving these harsh environments and returning to Lithuania. Deportees and others involved in recording their memoirs wrote them in Lithuanian or translated them into English for different purposes and with different intended audiences.

The ways in which deportees describe their experiences and what they include or omit from their stories shaped Lithuania’s national identity when it reemerged after the Soviet Union fell and Lithuania redeclared its independence in 1990, long after the death of Stalin, architect of the deportations, in 1953. The years in which memoirs were published also likely influence their contents. Despite the horrors of deportation, returnees describe positive aspects of the experience. Many deportees portray themselves as struggling for survival, but not as helpless victims. Relatively rare mentions of conflict among Lithuanian deportees and infrequent identification of non-Lithuanian deportees’ ethnicities suggest the importance of Lithuanians striving together for a common goal: survival and return to Lithuania. The creation of museums focused on mass deportations, incorporation of memoirs in school curricula, and observation of a Day of Mourning and Hope in Lithuania, as well as the portrayal of deportations in works of literature and film, demonstrate their lasting impact and significance.

Gintarė Daulys is a second generation Lithuanian-American from the Chicago suburbs. She has long been interested in and loved learning about her Lithuanian heritage. In addition to the usual elementary and high school academic programs in the U.S., she attended and graduated from Lithuanian Saturday school. She has participated in many Lithuanian cultural song and dance festivals, heritage camps, and cultural organizations, such as Lithuanian youth groups (Catholic Youth Association “Ateitininkai” and Lithuanian Scouts), choirs (Vyturys, Polėkis, and Dainava), and a folk dance ensemble (Grandis). Her three trips to Lithuania have included a volunteer opportunity through Child’s Gate to Learning and an internship in a Vilnius hospital through the LISS program. She graduated summa cum laude from Barrett, The Honors College at Arizona State University in May 2019 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Biomedical Sciences, minor in Spanish Language Studies, and certificate in Cross-Sector Leadership. She completed her senior year honors thesis about the impact the memoirs of Lithuanian deportees in the 1940s – 1950s had on Lithuanian national identity. She currently works as a medical scribe for a family medicine physician and is considering pursuing a future career in medicine.

Questions? Please contact us at aabs@uw.edu.