Lithuanian-Americans note fight for freedom Festival displays recall 13 deaths during protests.

June 03, 1991|By Lan Nguyen | Lan Nguyen,Evening Sun Staff

Vytautas Banys regretfully turns away people from his Lithuanian sausage and potato dumpling stand. Sorry, he tells them, but come back next year.

In a matter of a few hours yesterday, Banys, 65, a former restaurant owner, had sold all 300 pounds of sausages, not to mention mounds of the potato dish.

"I had a line from here to the door," said the Linthicum resident, pointing to half the length of Festival Hall, where the 19th annual Lithuanian Festival was held over the weekend. "I should have made more food."

More than 8,000 people attended the two-day festival showcasing the Lithuanian-American community of Baltimore, said John Maskavich, festival chairman.

He said this year's theme, "Struggle for Independence," reflected Lithuania's fight for freedom from the Soviet Union. "It's a continuation of last year's theme, the 'Declaration for Independence,' " Maskavich said.

Several of the displays and booths commemorated "Bloody Sunday," when 13 Lithuanians died after Soviet troops invaded the country.

Algimantas Grintalis, a graphics-design teacher at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute and a local artist, erected 13 wooden crosses in a display to symbolize their deaths. He said he and two other artists designed the display to represent a strip of land in Lithuania called the Hill of Crosses, where more than 25,000 crosses have been erected to protest the Soviet government.

"It ties in with our fight for freedom," said Grintalis, also the curator of the Lithuanian Museum of Baltimore.

During the festival, dancers dressed in colorful, elaborate costumes (called audejele) stood in two rows and weaved in and out of each other, duplicating the intricate handiwork and labor involved in making the costumes.

"Many of the dances represent the work that the Lithuanian people do," said Danute Balciunas, coordinator of the dancing troupe Malunas, of Baltimore.

Samplings of Lithuanian food, including potato pudding (similar to hash browns), potato pancakes and cheese blintzes, were sold.

Potato and dairy products are prominent in the Lithuanian diet, noted Gintaras Buivys, a member of the Baltimore Lithuanian Athletic Club, which was selling and cooking potato pudding at a brisk pace.

Wooden carvings of Lithuanian cities and landmarks, painted goose eggs and jewelry made of amber -- a semiprecious stone cherished by Lithuanians -- were on sale by arts and crafts vendors.

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