Greta Armonaitytė | the Lithuania Tribune
It could seem that in the times of a crisis, when we are mostly concerned with the financial domain of our lives we often forget to think about the true human consciousness – the perception of our national identity in the context of the world-culture. While the emigration still remains one of the biggest problems in Lithuania, the Movement to Preserve Lithuanian Citizenship encourages us to perceive the Lithuanian citizenship from a new perspective.
The non-governmental organization, established on June15, 2011 , strives to preserve the natural law to Lithuanian citizenship for those who have a direct relation with the native land even after choosing to be the citizens of another country. The members and supporters of the movement state, that emigration is unavoidable in the process of globalization, which is why the dual citizenship could unite all the Lithuanians and even preserve the nation from extinction (dual citizenship is not possible according to the law of April 1, 2011 ). The Lithuania Tribune team spoke to Asta Buračaitė, the representative of The Movement to Preserve Lithuanian Citizenship about the current tendencies of the movement and the importance of Lithuanian identity.
What results or changes have you noticed in the society, political decisions and amongst your members since the establishment of the movement?
The first changes started to show right away when The Movement to Preserve Lithuanian Citizenship announced about its establishment in Chicago‘s press, stating its main goal: the natural law to the preservation of Lithuanian citizenship after receiving the citizenship of another country. First of all, we have encountered a lot of people who are against this belief, mostly, Lithuanians themselves who live in a foreign country and have the right to dual citizenship and those, who are not interested in the preservation of the citizenship. We understood that the movement, at least in the USA, is most needed for the Lithuanians, who left Lithuania after 11 March, 1990, and who according to the law of the Republic of Lithuania cannot preserve Lithuanian citizenship after receiving it from another country.
Lithuanians who left the country at the time of the war are indifferent to the importance of dual citizenship for emigrants. Most of them do not understand that Lithuanians who emigrated in 1990 are similar to them – these are the same emigrated countrymen. For them the suffering of emigration because of shortage, social inequality and many other reasons does not raise the willingness to fight for the natural law to preserve Lithuanian citizenship. This, of course, incites the unity of our countrymen. This is why the members of the movement have a task – to provide as much information as needed about one goal – to preserve the natural law to Lithuanian citizenship to all the emigrated citizens and their children. At the same time, it is important for us to receive the support from our countrymen in the whole world. In our belief, Lithuania has to preserve every Lithuanian without rejecting any of them. Our laws should not divide the nation, on the contrary – they should unite and protect our people.
This is one of the sullen encounters, but we have to admit and be proud of the people of the same generation who think differently, give their support and agree with the goals of the movement. Our ideas are supported by the chairwoman of World Lithuanian Community Regina Narušienė as well as the chairmen of Lithuanian Communities in other countries. From my point of view, our biggest achievement was the introduction at the meeting of board chairmen of the Lithuanian World Community and Lithuanian Youth World Community, on August 10 – 14 in the summer of 2011. We made certain that the goal of the movement – to preserve the natural law to Lithuanian citizenship – is relevant to Lithuanians not only in the USA but all over the world.
There was much talk about children who were born and will be born in emigration, who get the citizenships of other countries as well as natural laws to them, but Lithuania does not provide any hopes to this new generation to remain the citizens of Lithuania. According to the law these children will have to choose one of the two citizenships at the age of 21. This kind of rejection of the young generation will reduce the possibility to return, to use their education and knowledge for the sake of Lithuania. We aim that these children would have the same rights to the citizenship and at the meantime we try to solve this problem without leaving it to the future generations.
Another great achievement was the meeting with the Spokeswomen of Seimas Irena Degutienė during her visit in Chicago, where she had a chance to meet with the countrymen who support these ideas and the representatives of the movement. We personally handed her an application about the preservation of Lithuanian citizenship and the new vision of Lithuania. After this visit we were able to see Government’s stance towards the question of dual citizenship and to know the view of Speaker of the Seimas herself.
There was a lot of miscommunication, intolerance towards the emigrants, insults and confrontation in the country among the ones who left and who stayed. Some time ago, the preparation for the referendum on dual citizenship during the upcoming Seimas election had begun. Our movement supports the idea that this referendum will not only be unjustified but could also do harm to finding the solution for dual citizenship problems. That is why one of our goals was to make sure that the question of dual citizenship would not be solved by referendum. Currently the discussion on this matter has settled down – it seems that at least for now the referendum will not be organized. We do not know if the movement had any influence on that. Most importantly, the society and the media already started discussing these matters.
The members of the movement had met a lot of famous people in Lithuania and in the USA; moreover, there are cases when politicians had a chance to meet with our people, living in emigration and take a look at their daily life and even change the perception of the importance of citizenship preservation and the dual citizenship issue. We are glad to have met with Nijolė Oželytė, Algimantas Matulevičius, Andrius Mamontovas, Laimonas Dinius and others, who are continuing the discussions in Lithuania after our meetings and are able to see deeper problems, even a danger of extinction of our nation.
The movement is going forward, that is why we are sure that this is only the beginning and we will find the understanding in the structures of Lithuanian government, parties, organizations and in the hearts of Lithuanian people. We are one nation that cannot be separated by oceans, so why should we be divided and split by our own laws? We do not feel as if we were traitors or worse citizens than the others: we love our homeland, we vote and take part in Lithuanian activities, we are watching the situation in Lithuania and we are connected to Lithuania; many of us plan and want to come back to Lithuania.
In the official World Lithuanian Community website (plbe.org) you have mentioned that you were expecting the support from other countries. So what is the initiative of those other countries, have you managed to receive enough attention? How does this connection look now?
We are glad to receive attention from so many supportive people living in other foreign countries, such as New Zealand, Russia, Israel, Poland, Italy, Norway, England, Ireland, Spain and others; the countrymen in South America are also joining the movement. It is very important for us, that the goal of the movement – to preserve the citizenship – would be known to Lithuanians all over the world, that united and supportive to each other we could know that we are moving the right way. Together we can preserve our nation from dissemblance in the times of globalization.
However, it is sad to admit that in Lithuania the question of dual citizenship is not the problem of today. We think this is because of the more difficult problems. High rates of emigration show that conditions in Lithuania are worsening because of the rising number of the jobless people, low incomes, high taxes, wide social gaps. The movement in Lithuania is not active for many reasons, one of them – emigration is not yet linked with the possible extinction of our nation. That is why we need so much effort for the movement not only to be heard in Lithuania, but also to be supported by active participation in its activity. You can find the information about the possibility to join us and support the movement at www.pilietybe.com.
Is it possible to compare the activity of the movement in Lithuania and abroad? If so, how does it differ? How the alternation of the Citizenship Law has affected the families of emigrants?
At this time we can see that more and more people are supporting us, many politicians who perceive the problem of emigration and strive to preserve the people of Lithuania are aware of the mentioned problems. We could say that the understanding of the inadequacy in Citizenship Law that discriminates emigrants is rising, as well as the understanding that the law is separating Lithuanians and allowing to preserve the citizenship for only some of them.
Some of the Lithuanians abroad have managed to use the law that was forced in 2003 – 2006 and gained dual citizenship, but later the law was changed by the Constitutional Court and its new amendments. Today, we have such ridiculous situations where one of the spouses has dual citizenship and the other has automatically lost Lithuanian citizenship after taking the citizenship from the country he or she was in after 2006. For a family like this, it would be very problematic to come back to Lithuania. Another absurd situation is that children, born abroad in the same family have different rights, because the ones who were born between 11 March, 1990 and 22 July, 2008, and also from 1 April, 2011, at the age of 21 will have to choose one of two citizenships — either their birth country’s or Lithuanian. Meanwhile, the children of Lithuanian citizens born abroad between 2008 and 2011, will be able to have dual citizenship for the rest of their lives.
Sadly, the problems of emigrants are taken for granted in Lithuania, which is why we cannot say we are active in Lithuania. Every person can understand the problems the best after facing them directly. We promote all the politicians, heads of organizations in Lithuania, and everyone who would like to contribute for the goal of solving the common emigrants’ problems. The movement is not a political organization – this is a rally of people, we cannot agitate which political force to choose, but we are in favour of those political forces which support our cause for the sake of the unity of Lithuania.
The MEP Leonidas Donskis has earlier advised to initiate the amendment to the Law of Citizenship on the basis of Article Two of Citizens’ Legislative Initiative, according to which, 50 000 Lithuanian citizens, who have the right to vote, can offer a bill to Seimas. How is the realization of this initiative evolving?
We are very grateful to the MEP Leonidas Donskis for his advices and support to the movement. Sadly, we do not see the point in doing this, because this initiative was started back in 2008 by US Lithuanian Social Committee, which has been fighting for dual citizenship for years in a row now. We do not want that people would be mislead and signed for the same thing again. It is registered in the Seimas, but sadly, no one has noticed this initiative so far. We believe that our representatives, i.e. members of Seimas, should initiate the amendments of the Citizenship Law.
I would like to note that the movement is in favour of natural law to preservation of Lithuanian citizenship, as it is established in the Constitution as a guarantee. However, we need to admit that today there are many other violations of human rights and freedoms, although they are also submitted as natural laws in the Constitution.
From your own point of view, how should we support our patriotism, national consciousness and what is most needed for Lithuania today, what do we lack?
We could compare our nation to a young man who is becoming conscious of what he needs for his growth. It is more than 20 years to our freedom, which is why we feel that the nation is awakening; the deeper perception of patriotism and national consciousness is appearing just now, the perception of who we really are. After 50 years of Soviet regime and strong efforts to denationalize us, we are starting to find our identity just now.
However, patriotism should not be born out of anger – it should arise from national consciousness and inner personal feeling and strong self-esteem: to present ourselves to the world not only as Lithuanians, but also as Lithuanians of the world. We are free, we can travel and live wherever our dreams may take us, but we always come back to the place where our roots lie. You can feel as a full-fledged human being only if you know who you are. Lithuanians mostly lack that feeling of a dignified and a full-fledged person. You can create the rest with love and faith – Lithuania which is a good place to live in.
Edited by Modesta Kvederaitė