This year Daina Sablinskas had the great privilege of representing the Canadian Lithuanian Youth Association (CLYA) by attending the 19th South American Lithuanian Youth Congress (SALYC) held in Sao Paulo, Brazil in mid January 2016.
Canadian and South American Lithuanians have maintained close ties since Monsignor E. Putrimas started the congress 19 years ago, opening the door for new friendships and a dialogue regarding how each country keeps the spirit of our Lithuanian identity alive – despite living outside of Lithuania.
In attendance at this year’s congress were youth representatives from Canada, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil and Venezuela – all eager to meet and participate in this unique event.
The congress started with icebreaker games and a historical tour around Sao Paulo, given by a local historian. In the evening the delegates were graced with words of welcome from Lithuania’s Foreign Affairs deputy minister Mantvydas Bekesius, who was also present at the 18th SALYC in Uruguay. The organizers surprised everyone with a drum performance from a local university which got everybody on their feet and dancing.
The real discussions started the next day when the group travelled to “Lituanika”, a camp in Atibaia that is owned by Lithuanians where many vacation (think Camp Kretinga in Ontario, but bigger, with a pool and a lot less sand).
Delegates discussed current challenges and solutions that each youth community faces, reflected on events that were successful in their communities, and suggested future endeavours that they hope to accomplish in the upcoming year.
On the topic of “Lithuanianism” and what it means to be Lithuanian, Jurgis Didziulis held a wonderfully interactive workshop and discussion on this important matter. He challenged the assembled youth to think outside the box and to really reflect about the connection they have to Lithuania and why being Lithuanian is important to them. In the evening, Jurgis held a concert where he sang his popular song “Welcome to Lithuania”.
The following day, famous Brazilian graffiti artist twins, collectively called “Os Gemeos” gave a great lecture on their work and the importance of their Lithuanian roots. They have artwork all around the world including Canada, USA, England, Spain and of course Lithuania.
Camp concluded with a talent night about Lithuanian legends and a great bonfire around which everyone gathered and sang Lithuanian songs.
On Sunday, Monsignor Putrimas held a mass. Afterwards there was a memorial tribute to the 13 victims who gave their lives in 1991 in the Republic of Lithuania square where a freedom monument now stands. Representatives from each country placed white roses while the congregation sang the Lithuanian National Anthem.
It was truly a remarkable experience and there are no words that can express how inspirational the guest speakers were. An immense THANK YOU has to be given to the organizers and all the supporters of the event who did a fantastic job in bringing together such extraordinary people to inspire the Lithuanian youth of today.
KLJS, New membership Chair