Archive for January, 2012

Visiting Kaunas, Lithuania this week.

January 29, 2012

This Thursday, I’m going to a meeting in Kaunas, in Lithuania. It’s related to my work, it’s a meeting about Neuroscience (specifically Neuroinformatics) in Lithuania, organised by someone who used to be a colleague at the University where I work, but who has now gone back to her home country. I’m giving an invited talk, and staying a few days there, though not long enough to really see the whole country.

Why do I blog about this?

Well at least three, and possibly all four, of my grandparents came from that part of the world. Not Kaunas itself, but Vidzy, which is currently in Belarus, though it has been in Lithuania, I believe: the stories are difficult to discern, since they came to this country about 1905 or so. So I read over the history of the region since, then, which I knew already in outline, and it is indeed a most unhappy story: it is as well that many emigrated west long before the second world war, for those who stayed were largely annihilated in the holocaust. The websites I read (and the stories I had heard) suggest that the local population were enthusiastic supporters of the anti-jewish actions taken, perhaps because the jews had been seen to side with the previous imperial invaders (the Russians), perhaps because they were simply anti-semitic. No-one can really tell. I read that all that remains in Vidzy is cemeteries, though there are, apparently still about a thousand Jewish inhabitants in Kaunas.

Does this matter to me? Can one hide from history, and concentrate on Science? Should I try to see what remains of the Jewish parts of Kaunas? I will try to: Vidzy is too far for me to get to on this trip, but I should try to make some connection with these long-lost roots.