A Home Far From Home

How does a place become a home? How can Lithuania become home to someone who hasn’t planned to end up here? What we, as society, should and shouldn’t do to make people feel welcome?

To answer these questions we invited refugees, asylum seekers and migrants from different places, who are currently making Vilnius their home. We asked our listeners to join.

(Listen to the podcast episode above)

The conversation was held on October 19th in Vilnius, Ramintoja church and later turned into a podcast episode. ©Severina Venckutė

According to a national survey from 2013, there are people of 154 different ethnicities living in Lithuania. But it rarely feels that way. 84% of less than 3 million people in Lithuania are ethnic Lithuanians, 7 percent are Polish and 6 percent are Russian which makes everyone else feel like minority.

And public attitudes confirm that. A recent survey, published by Ethnic Research Institute, showed that 1/3 people in Lithuania wouldn’t rent their apartment to a Muslim. Only 1/4 believe that refugees can enrich a cultural life of Lithuania.

Senturk Celik needed to leave Turkey because of political persecution. He came to Lithuania as a refugee and now works as a barber. ©Severina Venckutė

However, according to the same survey, most Lithuanians haven’t met any migrants from non-EU countries and therefore haven’t got a chance to know them personally. Their views were formed by the media. This event, in which people of more than 10 different nationalities participated, was a rare opportunity to have a cross-cultural conversation.

'For a person like me, the most important part is freedom. I am grateful that Lithuania helps us not only in a personal but also in a political way' – Vsevolod Chernozub, political refugee from Russia. ©Severina Venckutė

Abdo Zein Al Abedeen grew up in Lebanon but left the country during the war. He’s been living in Lithuania for more than 10 years and became a citizen. His wife Katerina, a Lithuanian from Klaipėda, met Abdo online. ©Severina Venckutė

Some relatives wanted to change Katerina’s mind because they believed that a man from Lebanon will trick her for his own advantage. It didn’t happen. The couple are raising two children (pictured above). ©Severina Venckutė

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Studio voice recorded at Martynas Mažvydas National Library of Lithuania.

This episode had an additional funding by European Commission. It is a part of the Snapshots from the Borders initiative.

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