The Lithuanian Writers’ Association: Seven Decades of History

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    Brazdžionis’s positive response to the invitation by the secretary of the LWA to chair the Association.

    At the close of Tysliava and Naujokaitis’s term of office, the LWA Board of Directors started the search for a new chairman. To that purpose, secretary Pranas Jurkus appealed to the poet Bernardas Brazdžionis, a longtime member of the LWA, who had lived in Los Angeles, CA, since 1959. In response to Jurkus’s letter, Brazdžionis writes: “… by inviting us to form the board of directors from writers in the LA area, you wish to put a heavy load of responsibility on our shoulders. We live at the furthest edge of the US and communication with us is only possible by correspondence. But if you think that a board of directors living in such distant reaches could be useful to the Association and its members ... we prepared a list of 5 individuals.”

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    Bernardas and Aldona Brazdžionis, Los Angeles, 1963.

    Since not only the chairman Brazdžionis, bus also all members of the LWA board lived on the west coast of the US, basically all activities of the organization for the four-year period of 1962 to 1966 were moved there. Vice-chairman Bronys Raila, treasurer Juozas Tininis, secretary Alė Rūta (Elena Arbienė), and honorary member prof. Mykolas Biržiška completed the board. The first meeting of the new board was held in LA on August 19, 1962. Unfortunately, prof. Biržiška’s term in office was short. The very first press release by the Board of Directors announced the professor’s unexpected death on August 24, 1962.

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    The LWA’s ad for its first literary evening in Los Angeles sent to the local Lithuanian radio program.

    The new chairman soon realized that the support of the entire local Lithuanian community will be needed, if the Association was to successfully initiate its activities in its new location in California. He effectively used local Lithuanian media to achieve this goal. For example, an upcoming literary evening, the first one organized by the new LWA board, was announced on the local Lithuanian radio program on December 15, 1962.

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    The first issue of the Lithuanian Writers’ Bulletin, revived by the Brazdžionis Board of Directors.

    Seeking to maintain the closest possible contact with members living in other locations and keeping in mind the distance between east and west coasts, Brazdžionis revived the Lithuanian Writers’ Bulletin, started by former chairman Babrauskas.

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    Antanas Vaičiulaitis’s responses to the LWA questionnaire.

    Brazdžionis concerned himself not only with the organization’s reputation, but also with its archives. In a letter dated November 22, 1962, the Board of Directors asks Babrauskas, the former chairman of the LWA, to forward to Brazdžionis responses to a questionnaire mailed to all Lithuanian American émigré writers before the start of the Second Cultural Congress, which was held in Chicago on November 21-25.

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    The LWA article in Europos lietuvis, no. 5, January 29, 1963.

    Brazdžionis’s concern over the legacy of Lithuanian-American writers was widely reported in Lithuanian press, and not only in the US. The newspaper Europos lietuvis (The European Lithuanian), based in London, England, published a LWA article on January 29, 1963, in which the organization expressed its wish to start collecting recordings of speeches by writers, authors reading their own works, and also to compile a collection of photographs of the LWA members.

    The entire issue can be found here:

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    The cover of Grinius’s book, Gulbės giesmė (The Swan Song) (Chicago: Lithuanian Book Club), the winner of the LWA Literature Award of 1962. Brazdžionis’s speech at the Association’s Literature Award event in LA, February 10, 1963.

    The Association’s Literature Award of 1962 was given to Jonas Grinius of Munich, Germany, for his historical drama Gulbės giesmė (Swan Song). The event, organized together with the Los Angeles chapter of the Lithuanian American Council, took place in LA as part of the Lithuanian Independence Day commemoration. In his speech, Brazdžionis stressed his group's obligation to the public, because “a writer needs the community,” and his determination to bring back traditions practiced in independent Lithuania, i.e. to present national and other awards on the eve of the February 16-th commemoration. Unfortunately, this attempt to revive the tradition was not followed by later boards.

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    Program of the second part of the LWA 1964 Literary Festival.

    The writer Marius Katiliškis was named the recipient of the Literature Award of 1963 for his book Šventadienis už miesto (Sunday in the Country). The event coincided with the 250-th anniversary of the birth of Kristijonas Donelaitis. The Association organized a special event at the Lithuanian St. Casimir parish in LA on April 5, 1964, to mark this occasion. During it, “Joys of Spring,” the first part of Donelaitis’s epic poem Metai (The Seasons), was read in eight languages by both Lithuanians and non-Lithuanian guests. It should be mentioned that Los Angeles Lithuanians sponsored the award.

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    Letter from Brazdžionis to the new chairman, Aloyzas Baronas, October 27, 1965.

    In 1965, as the Board headed by Brazdžionis neared the end of its term, the great majority of its members voted in favor of moving the organization back to Chicago. Thus ended the first Californian period and Brazdžionis’s chairmanship. The LWA would return to the west coast again in 1980.