The Litvak Memorial Garden (Plungė district, Medsėdžiai) has been created and growing in the Samogitian National Park for seven years. It is dedicated to honoring Jews, having lived in Lithuania. This is a unique project of Jakovas Bunka Charity and Sponsorship Fund.
The shape of the garden, created from evergreen plants, repeats the contours of Lithuania, and the locations wherein 1941–1944 Jewish communities were destroyed are planted with metal-forged apple-trees by folk artist Artūras Platakis. In memory of the Litvaks, the trees are ordered by various organizations, institutions, and Litvaks worldwide to commemorate their ancestors (before the war, 234 Jewish communities lived in Lithuania). Apples in trees perpetuate families of those communities.
You can also find memorial columns of Karelian granite in the garden erected on the spots where world-famous Litvaks were born. The memorial columns have already been put for Darbėnai resident David Wolfson, the founder of the Israeli state, Herman Kallenbach, born in Rusnė, who contributed a lot to the regaining of Independence in India, former Kretinga resident Berek Joselewicz, the organizer and commander of the all-Jewish cavalry regiment during T. Kosciuszko uprising, the Knight of the French Legion of Honour, the national hero in Poland; Asa Yoelson from Seredžius, the lead actor of the first sound film, starting a new era in the culture.
The community of Vilkaviškis Salomėja Nėris School (students, parents, and teachers) donated to plant a memorial tree in the Litvak Memory Garden to commemorate the Vilkaviškis Jewish community, so this year the Litvak Memorial Garden got enlarged by a memorial apple tree (the 58th) and two apples. The inscriptions: “Vilkaviškis Jewish Community” and “Vilkaviškis Salomėja Nėris Basic School” are engraved on the leaves of the newly planted metal tree.
One apple has an engraved name – ŠMARIJA PUSTOPEDSKIS, a former Vilkaviškis resident, an exile to Siberia, who had emigrated to Israel, and was very proud that his Lithuanian citizenship had been restored to him; he spoke Lithuanian fluently and cherished Lithuanian traditions, even though he lived in Israel.
On the other apple, you will find two surnames SALIAMONAS KLONICKIS (Leonard’s grandfather) and LEONARDAS KOENAS. LEONARDAS KOENAS is better known in the world as Leonard Cohen. In one of his interviews in 1993, Leonard Cohen said that his grandfather Solomon Klonitsky-Kline was from Vilkaviškis and worked as the Kaunas Jewish religious seminary – Yeshiva’s director.
According to Eugenijus Bunka, “the pandemic takes its part; therefore the initiative of Vilkaviškis S.Nėris Basic School community is twice as important: you do not forget your neighbors who burned in the flames of the Holocaust and remind others that Memory is alive when you talk to the departed. The ones who do not speak to them lose memory.