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When Push Comes to Shove

July 10, 2010

I’ve put up a couple posts about Lithuanian cooking, but not many people know a lot about Lithuania: the culture, the history, the people. I heard an interesting story yesterday and thought I’d share it with you, something you can read while you work on any one of their labour-intensive recipes.

Hill of Crosses-Šiauliai, Lithuania

If you’re feeling tired and sorry for yourself, read this story.

(Reader’s Note: Although this post is published on Saturday, it was written on Friday, on my BB Memo Pad)

 It is Friday night at 10:30pm. And I’m home. I’m 23 and home and this is how I spend most of my Friday nights now. I wasn’t home all night though. I had myself a pleasant little evening. I took a trip to the mall with my mom (standard practice for us, shopping, that is…we are seasoned shopping experts) and then we went to visit my aunt, Teta Sylvia, TS we call her, at her home in Port Credit. Another standard practice for us, a trip we have always enjoyed ever since we were little. Somehow, on the way down the 407, we ended up discussing our distaste for the Catholic Church. Not Catholicism, though, the Church, the building, institution. Somehow, the topic of religion got reintroduced at Teta’s, but the aspect of religion that doesn’t stir your intellect but ignites your soul: I’m talking religion outside institution–spirituality, faith…more importantly determination, perseverance, unhindered belief in something, someone maybe.

My aunt is an incredibly, incredibly talented artist. That statement is a huge understatement. You have to see it, really. On our visits, I love the trips we take around her house to see her work: of the new stuff first, found in her basement work area, which usually ends taking us back around the rest of the house to see stuff done earlier.

“Blessing II Laminas II by Silvija Saplys: Encaustic, photo transfer, oil”

Tonight, I saw something new and so unbelievably interesting and touching. It was a collection of work done in Encaustic–a style of art done in a wax that preserves forever (unless faced with any extremity of heat or cold). Art work from the Egyptian Age still exists in this form. But the eternal life of these works was not all that caught my attention. This particular collection all shared one theme: they were all photos of the Hill of Crosses in Šiauliai, Lithuania. I’ve heard of the place before, I’ve seen the beautiful replica at St. John’s Cemetery at the Anapilis Lithuanian Church, located just down the street from TS, a million times. But I did not know the weight of the story behind this famous Hill before tonight.

Hill of Crosses-Šiauliai, Lithuania

Lithuania suffered as an occupied state for much of its history–in Medieval times and during and after World War II. Since it stood as a symbol of national strength against invaders, this Hill of Crosses was bulldozed repeatedly during Soviet Occupation in Lithuania. However, after every bout of destruction followed a night of regeneration: the Lithuanians would go right back and rebuild the Hill, cross by thousandth cross, until all tens of thousands of crosses were standing tall once again. Every. Time. Eventually the Soviets got tired and gave up. The Lithuanians never did. So many times when I tell people I’m Lithuanian, they look at me puzzled. It is indeed a small Baltic nation, but small-willed it is not. If such a small power-less nation, at a time when power was so frightening, could win against a force so strong that it is responsible for one the greatest tragedies in human history, who says you can’t win your battles? Think twice before you give up on your task or goals, think three times before you succumb to the power of someone elses words or actions, think four times before you give up on yourself.

“Let There Be Peace in Lithuania-Tebūna Lietuvoje Taika” by Silvija Saplys: Encaustic, Photo Transfer, Charcoal

I insist you check out my Teta Silvija Saplys’ website, especially if you are a lover of beauty and art (aren’t we all?). Her work inspired me tonight–just as she has inspired and motivated me countless times in the past, and I’m sure, will continue to do so in the future. xoxo (Sorry Teta, I stole a few photos from your site)

Since the medieval period, the Hill of Crosses has represented the peaceful resistance of Lithuanian Catholicism to oppression.-

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