The Lithuanian Writers’ Association: Seven Decades of History

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    Aloyzas Baronas served as chairman of the Association from 1966 to the end of 1969. In a photo by Al Gulbinskas, Baronas is shown at work at “Draugas.”

    During the general election held in 1965, the members of the Association decided to move its Board of Directors to Chicago. The author Aloyzas Baronas received the majority of the votes and became the new chairman of the organization. In a letter to Stasys Santvaras, dated August 31, 1966, he admitted that he “was very reluctant to wear the President’s hat.” Baronas, who at the same time was editor of the Lithuanian daily Draugas (Friend) (1955-1980), stayed in the office for one term, from 1966 to the end of 1969. Povilas Gaučys became the organization’s vice-president, Albinas Valentinas served as secretary, Anatolijus Kairys – as treasurer. Jeronimas Ignatonis served as a member-at-large.

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    Letter by Jonas Jasaitis, president of the Lithuanian American Community, to the Association’s chairman Baronas, February 26, 1966.

    The Lithuanian American Community was among the first to congratulate the new chairman. Its president, Jonas Jasaitis, assured the new board of his support, at the same time noting the less-than-favorable situation of Lithuanian literature outside Lithuania, the decreasing number of readers of Lithuanian book and society’s lowered appreciation of the Lithuanian writer.

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    Nijolė Jankutė-Užubalienė’s request to become a member of the Association, October 17, 1966.

    Although at that time the average age of Lithuanian writers outside their homeland was about 60, the LWA remained a prestigious organization, attracting a number of younger writers. During Baronas’s term, seven writers – a healthy number – expressed their wish to join the organization: Kazys Almenas, Česlovas Grincevičius, Nijolė Jankutė-Užubalienė, Pranas Lembertas, Andrius Norimas-Mironas, Danguolė Sadūnaitė-Sealey, and Raphael Sealey.

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    Letter to Baronas from Antanas Krausas, dated April 20, 1967, regarding his plans to edit and publish ten volumes of Vydūnas’s collected works.

    On April 20, 1967, Antanas Krausas, who had moved to Australia after WWII and was faithful disciple and follower of Vydūnas, wrote to the LWA chairman. In his letter, he requested that Baronas mail him any as yet unpublished manuscripts and diaries of the writer, which he planned to include in his collected works. After Vydūnas died in 1953, all his manuscripts were entrusted to the LWA, as can be seen from Krausas’s letter.

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    Letter by Stasys Santvaras, regarding Kirša’s legacy and a planned publication of his works (no date mentioned).

    At the same time, a somewhat similar exchange of letters took place between the LWA and Stasys Santvaras, regarding the legacy of Faustas Kirša, who had died in Boston in 1964. Santvaras being one of two executors of Kirša’s last will and testament (Juozas Kapočius being the second), inquired Baronas which of Kirša’s writings the LWA was intending to publish. Santvaras also requested the Association’s help in solving the financial details of the deceased writer’s will. Kirša’s book Palikimas (Legacy), edited by Santvaras, came out in 1972, while the LWA was headed by a new chairman, Leonardas Andriekus.

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    The LWA statement sent to “The Chicago Tribune” regarding the 1968 events in Czechoslovakia.

    Perhaps due to lack of time, Baronas paid little attention to the Association’s statute and internal matters. In his opinion, the most important task of the chairman was to take care of on-going business related to literature and to maintain relations with US media and American literary connections. Baronas’s board kept a rather close connection with both. For example, it appealed to The Chicago Tribune on September 3, 1968, asking it to make public a proclamation regarding the events in Czechoslovakia and the arrests of 11 Czech writers. The LWA board also recommended that a few Lithuanian authors be included in the Anthology of Children’s Literature. Vytautas Tamulaitis was selected by the editors, out of five Lithuanian candidates suggested.

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    The seventh and final “Bulletin” by Baronas’s board of directors was published on December 13, 1969.

    Towards the end of Baronas’s term, in February of 1969, the Board of Directors asked its members in New York to form a new board. A summary of the tasks accomplished and the on-going business of the organization can be found in the Lithuanian Writers’ Bulletin, published on December 13 of that year.