On 27 April, the song festival “Songs from the Exile” took place at the Cultural Centre in Varėna, that had already become a traditional event.
For the eighth time, Varėna hosted the Song Festival “Songs from the Exile” to mark the exile of the Lithuanian population and to encourage interest in the songs sung by the people sent into exile and the partisans who fought for the freedom of Lithuania. The Song Festival is an event for school communities where students creatively perform songs sung by their grandparents and great-grandparents, either in tradition or with new arrangements.
More than 200 participants from 22 Lithuanian schools attended the event in 2023. At the opening ceremony, Ronaldas Račinskas, Head of the Secretariat of the International Commission, said that “it has become a beautiful tradition to gather in Varėna every spring. And when we meet, we sing and share our experiences and participate in a history lesson.” Milda Padegimaitė, the director of the Ąžuolo Gymnasium in Varėna, emphasized in her welcoming speech that “the “iron” generation is slowly departing, and the “crystal” generation will remain. Because those people who survived the exile had hope, love, and great strength.”
The song “Our Ancestors, Our Parents” opened the song festival by the ensemble “Viltis” from the Varėna House of Culture, as if to show the remarkable connection between the different generations in the hall. Algis Kašėta, the Mayor of Varėna Municipality, who was present at the event, wished the students and their teachers to enjoy each other and to value friendship and fellowship.
Throughout the day of 27 April, sad and happy, serious and sensitive songs were sung, illustrated by photos presented on the screen from the life of the partisans and the exiles imprisoned in the vastness of Siberia.
The students and teachers were warmly thanked by Juozas Stramkauskas, the head of the Varėna Branch of the Lithuanian Union of Political Prisoners and Exiles (LPKTS), and by Vladas Sungaila, the Chairman of the Board of the LPKTS, who was present at the festival.
Representatives from the following educational institutions took partfromthe Song Festival “Songs from the Exile”from2023: Jotvingių Gymnasium from Alytus, Vlado Mirono Gymnasium from Daugai, Alytus district, and Alovės Primary Education Department, Anykščiai district, Troškūnų Kazio Inčiuros Gymnasium, Ąžuolyno Pro-Gymnasium and Versmės Gymnasium from Elektrėnai, Kauno Jono and Petro Vileišių School, Kazlų Rūdos Kazis Griniaus Gymnasium, and Balbieriškio Primary School from Prienai dstr., Ąžuolo and Valkininkų Gymnasiums from Varėna district, representatives from children’s ensemble “Bruknelė” of Varėna Culture Centre, Merkinės Vinco Krėvės Gymnasium and Ryto Pro-Gymnasium from Varėna, Veprių School – Multifunctional Centre, two ensembles “Sodautas” and “Kadujo” from Žemynos Pro-gymnasium in Vilnius, Jono Basanavičiaus Gymnasium and Užupio Primary School from Ukmergė.
The traditional song festival was organized by the Secretariat of the International Commission for the Evaluation of the Crimes Committed by the Nazi and Soviet Occupation Regimes in Lithuania, together with the Tolerance Education Centre of Ąžuolo Gymnasium in Varėna. The organizers would like to thank the Culture Centre of Varėna, which has been hosting the participants and guests of the song festival every year.