MY World

I love to travel, it inspires my writing, but mainly it opens my eyes, mind and heart to the people around me. Through these travels I have been inspired to search out my family, on both sides.

What a World War II tried to divide, I have been determined to reconnect. I started a few years ago and never expected this glorious journey as I seek out my family tree.

On my father’s side, I started to gather information from my namesake and cousin, Neringa. Then, I learned from  another cousin, Violeta that she also had information. So far, I learned that my father didn’t just have two brothers, but actually there were a total of five brothers.  Sadly, two had died in infancy. In 1995, on my first visit to Lithuania, I had the pleasure to meet both surviving brothers before they passed away in 2012.  These memories will live with me forever. As this branch of my family tree grows, I continue to gather more information before I finalize my family tree book in 2016.

On my mother’s side, my journey has just begun.  A few years ago, I met a man named, Juozas, at my cousin Ray’s house.  I knew about my mother’s sister and her children, but this was the first time I had met anyone who still lived in Lithuania.  In my poor Lithuanian, I thought he was a cousin, I learned he was my uncle.  I learned later that I met his sister, Aurelija very briefly at a wedding, Ray’s daughter Debbie’s wedding.  You still with me? 

My Lithuanian  is a bit better, I learned that Juozas and Aurelija’s father is my grandfather; my mother’s father.  On a recent trip to Lithuania, I asked Neringa (on my father’s side) to see if she could contact him and find out exactly where he lived.  She found him quickly and learned that he lived down the street from where she worked at the restaurant in Kaunas. He was excited about my visit and offered to show me and my brother, Darius (his first trip) Lithuania.

Once there we hooked up, it was wonderful to see him and to meet his wife, Egle. Juozas also mentioned that his sister would like to see us.  We were thrilled. We met with her and her son on her 81st birthday. It was wonderful.  We spent the entire day learning more family history, we were gloriously drowning in it.

My grandfather, as a young man, was deported to Siberia.  He and his new wife had two children, one girl and Juozas, the youngest. There are so many stories they shared, too numerous to mention, but I need to briefly share one which Juozas told and Neringa  (my cousin) helped to translate. The struggles of our grandfather when he returned to Kedainiai were massive. He had no money, therefore no place to live for him and his family.  They had no food. They had nothing. My grandfather sold his teeth, they had gold fillings.  He bought a house and fed his family. It gave him a start.

I still remember the tear running down Juozas cheek as he told the story.

Aurelija told her stories about the difficulties of her becoming a doctor, another very long story. Suffice it to say, once again the human spirit prevailed. I am in awe of these people I now call family. Aurelija allowed my brother and I to take photographs of her old photographs. These include pictures of our “new’ family.

With Juozas’ help, we continued to meet, another branch of our family tree, Algis and his wife, Alina. It was Algis’ mother who drew  the original family tree I have dating back from 1865.

I take such pride, even more so now, as I continue to work on our family trees so that our future generations understand and know our strong roots and their unbreakable and incredible human spirit.

These trips and discussions help me learn about myself and my family. I found connections to why I love photography,                                                                  producing and directing, everything visual.  It is my choice of storytelling.

I discovered my grandfather published two books, one about the war and the other about his life with numerous photos of his-- my family.

I discovered that our world is small, and our similarities bind us, as our differences make us unique.

Thank you for letting me introduce you to my incredible family,


A gift from Juozas:

My grandfather’s

two books and a

photograph of the

typewriter he used to

write them...

the journey continues...


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