Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A brief encounter with a leader of the Rebel Alliance...

Why, yes, the title of this entry does sound more like Star Wars than medieval Lithuania. But, seriously, it's not every day you get your photo taken with someone who helped bring down an Evil Empire!

Let me explain. On May 22 I went to the Lithuanian Festival with a couple of friends, one who had gone there with me before and one who hadn't. (I like to go every year, but last year a business trip got in the way.) Of course I wanted to show my newcomer friend all around the various booths selling crafts and food. After a lunch of cepelinai and a chance to watch the dance group Malunas, I took him into the side room to look at the military and historical exhibits.

In that side room, I noticed an older gentleman with slightly hunched soldiers, a light-colored jacket and a boutonniere in the Lithuanian flag colors. The members of the Lithuanian post of the American Legion were pointing out various exhibits to him and having their picture taken with him. Chatter flew back and forth in a mixture of English and Lithuanian.

My friend nudged me. "That's Vytautas Landsbergis!" he whispered excitedly. "You should introduce yourself."

True enough -- if I didn't do it right then and there, I knew I'd regret it, maybe not right away but soon, and for the rest of my life. (Channeling Casablanca there, I know.) After briefly wishing that I'd made a better clothing choice than a T-shirt and shorts, I walked up to him and (with the hope that I was pronouncing my surname in the correct Lithuanian fashion), introduced myself with my real name: Patricia Daukantas.

He shook my hand and replied, "Ah, you have a famous name!"

I nodded and explained that my grandparents came from Lithuania but died before I was born. Then I said "it's an honor to meet you!" and asked if someone could take our photo together. He agreed, and here's the result.

So that was my brush with real-life greatness! I had no idea that this festival in Maryland would attract a former head of state of the home country -- an important figure in Lithuanian history at that.


  1. Lucky you! :)

    Oh, and his tie is divine! (And to be fair, you are at least wearing a thematically appropriate t-shirt. Where on earth did you find it?)

  2. The Lithuanian folk dance group Malunas was selling those shirts as a fund-raiser a few years back. The front image, incidentally, shows a pair of skeletons dancing in Lithuanian national costume. That's a nod to the Grateful Dead (see http://www.sfgate.com/sf/deadshirts.html).