Our meeting with Fausta Marija Leščiauskaitė takes place in a hotel located in old town of Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania: Stikliai hotel in the heart of the old city, where there was the Jewish quarter in the past.
Fausta Marija is a young Lithuanian journalist born in 1993, three years later her country regained independence, reoccupied by the Soviets at the end of the Second World War.
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Her testimony, in the context of our project, is very important. Because it is the testimony of those new generations who did not live under the Soviet occupation and do not directly know the brutality of the regime and the suffering that their parents, relatives and older acquaintances suffered.
What is the meaning of resistance today?
“There are many angles from which one can look at the Lithuanian resistance, but the first thing that comes to mind is today’s youth.
I think many people think that this started in the 90s, based on their parents’ stories when the Soviet Union collapsed, when there was so much pain, so much joy, so many, so many new emotions and experiences… But Lithuania has a much older history. The partisans are part of that history”.
Fausta heard about the resistance within her family since she was a child.
Her grandfather was a political prisoner. He was lucky not to be deported, but imprisonment undermined his health. He died prematurely.
During her studies, Fausta deepened her knowledge of the resistance and its commander Žemaitis.
“…The subject of my thesis was the Aušra magazine and the people who were part of it. That’s when I first came across the story of Jonas Žemaitis. Knowing and understanding the personalities, understanding the connections that existed, the friendships, the relationships… When you start to understand those contexts then everything becomes very interesting”.
How to pass on memories to young generations
To attract the younger generations, according to Fausta, it is important to find new methods. Not just monuments or ceremonies, but a greater insight into the personality of those who decided to fight for freedom.
“The lives of those heroes of ours were truly fascinating in themselves. I’m not proposing to create a cheesy soap opera. I’m saying look for insights from their lives that might spark interest”.
Showing the more human aspect of historical figures would help bring young people closer to the historical theme, to memory.
“Those were real people, they had their love stories, they loved their children and hoped to meet their grandchildren. Sometimes even small details of their lives can be interesting: what newspapers they read, what friendships they cultivated, who their enemies were”.
History can be boring for younger people, according to Fausta, and often today historians, despite being very knowledgeable, fail to engage them.
“Showing the human side of Jonas Žemaitis and other fighters. In that way perhaps we can better attract the attention of an eighth-grade child, a student and most of us”.
The interview is part of the project “Jonas Žemaitis, commander of fighting Lithuania”, created by the “Baltika-Baltijos Istorijos” Association and LithuanianStories to remember the figure of the commander, with the precious support of Kotryna Buono and Ana Luisa Monse, Žemaitis’ great-grandchildren.
The initiative is partially financed by the Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Lithuania.
The project involves a series of video interviews with figures from civil society in today Lithuania: historians, representatives of institutions, ordinary citizens, people who are interested in and pass on the memory of the partisan resistance against the Soviet occupation.
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