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Published: 20 february 2012 18:54

Greta Plokštytė: Growing Up Lithuanian

Greta Plokštytė is a 16-year-old volunteer in Lithuanian school "Lietuvėlė" in New Jersey, USA. The essay is her entry for a contest "Growing Up Lithuanian," organized on the occasion of the Independence Day, 16 February. Greta's essay won first prize in her age group.


I’m thankful to be able to walk through those doors every Saturday and see a whole different world inside. To be able to teach, learn, sing and spend time with fellow young Lithuanians. Our home country and flag is an inspiration for all teachers and mentors that there is hope that Lithuania won’t be forgotten in the world. Inside these young children’s minds, you see how proud they are to learn the language of their parents' homeland. They have a chance to learn about a whole different culture and mentality. By learning this language, they are able to talk to their grandparents and other relatives who live back in Lithuania.

Every Saturday, in the beginning of class, we choose a student to hold our flag as we sing the Lithuania’s national anthem. Afterwards, we all return to our classrooms and talk not only about grammar, but also about the culture and history and what we honor. They get to express their love for their parents' homeland with a blank piece of paper and paint. Their every amazing thought is laid On that paper. We also look at photographs taken in Lithuania and discuss them. It’s very appealing to see how interested these bright young minds are. Even though some of them haven’t been there, they feel a connection to our culture. Of course, we never forget our unique holidays. Even though I just started volunteering, I got to see and help out at two wonderful events.

The first event was the celebrations of the bread. People who might not have heard of this day might thing it’s not important or interesting, but in fact there are many stories about bread and its significance in Lithuanians' daily lives. Back in the day, bread was a very important and sacred thing. It united family and kept it from starvation, because in our culture, rye was the main crop. Hence, it was the main meal on the table. Our grandparents and ancestors put a lot of love into every loaf of bread. So we put together a little event. The kids did a play about how to make bread step-by-step. As a little gift the teachers presented them a small bag of rye grain so that they could make bread with their parents, just like Lithuanians used to. We were all proud of how much effort everyone put into this.

The second event was the celebration of Christmas. Every child’s heart was lit as they sang Christmas songs and recited poems which turned out to be magnificent stories. You see a bright warm smile on their faces as they sing the songs we once sang, when we were children. And just as Santa arrived with three bags full of presents, the children cheered and every one of them glistened like the Northern star. After the presents, we all played games with Santa Claus, even the teachers and everyone who wanted to join.

I can’t wait for all the upcoming Saturdays and events at the Lithuanian school “Lietuvele”. We are very proud of our teachers, for their patience, hard work and dedication. We never feel alone or left out even though we live abroad, because we have this wonderful school and, even though we are far away, us Lithuanians, are like one big family with one big goal – our love for Lithuania.

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