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During WWII and in the post-war period, large-scale deportations took place in Lithuania. It is estimated that more than 130,000 people were deported from Lithuania between 1940 and 1953. In the face of the threat of extinction, it was important to preserve identity and strengthen the spirit. Kaunas Ninth Fort Museum collects silent witnesses of the exile: unique small handicrafts made by deportees (vizitėlės, which are pieces of embroidery with a short text, memory books – decorative hearts with inscriptions, brooches, etc.). These handicrafts are a material embodiment of memory, resistance and identity.

The exhibition features the photographs of textile handicrafts preserved in the collections of Kaunas Ninth Fort Museum. The handicrafts were made by political prisoners and deportees in 1949-1953 and can be divided into several groups: vizitėlės, small books and functional textiles. Vizitėlės are small-format textile messages with an embroidered text (a greeting, a short message or a wish), decorated with plant motifs or Lithuanian folk or national symbols. It was easy to hide and pass on the small embroideries, and the textile form of the message ensured durability. Another part of the handicrafts is small books. These were usually heart-shaped, small in size and with carefully bound pages. They preserved the memory of a loved one, memories and faith. The small pages contained not only memories, but also prayers, which helped to keep one’s spirits up and remain strong. The last group is functional textile handicrafts, which were used for decoration. A brooch, a pouch or a small box had more than just a practical purpose: it was used to conceal national symbols.

The handicrafts the photos of which are displayed in the exhibition were made in Soviet labour camps, where order was very strict. This preconditioned their small format. The prisoners sometimes received materials and yarn from Lithuania in parcels; however, they usually used everything what they could find in their households: fabric scraps, lining, scraps of coats or linen… They used to dismantle and pull threads from clothes, and make needles out of a fish bone, a comb tooth or a piece of wire.

Despite all the hardships, obstacles and dangers, women in the camps and in exile made handicrafts because they saw meaning in this activity. The small handicrafts were gifts for a loved one (mother, sister, father, brother, friend, etc.), helping to strengthen the bond, to preserve memories and to keep them alive. They contain individual stories and accumulated knowledge and become a message or sign to be sent and received. Authentic exile products and the stories of their makers are the essence of this exhibition. The exhibition combines the historical view with the artistic one: the museum’s treasures have become an inspiration for seven artists: Džiugas Karalius and Giedrius Bučis, Marius Jonaitis, Eglė and Rokas Kašėtos, Lina Jonikė and Greta Kardi-Kardišiūtė, who are presenting artistic installations in Kaunas Ninth Fort Memorial Complex.

The organiser of the exhibition – Kaunas Ninth Fort Museum
The exhibition is financed by the Lithuanian Council for Culture
Project manager and designer – Renata Vinckevičiūtė-Kazlauskienė (Kaunas Ninth Fort Museum)
Curator of the project – Eglė Pietarytė (Kaunas Ninth Fort Museum)
Historical content consultant – Auksuolė Čepaitienė (Lithuanian History Institute)
Photographer – Matas Laužadis
Authors of the artistic installations: Džiugas Karalius and Giedrius Bučas, Marius Jonutis, Eglė and Rokas Kašėtos, Lina Jonikė and Greta Kardi-Kardišiūtė
Main information partner – LRT
Information partners: “Kauno diena”, JSC “Baltijos vaizdinė reklama”
Partner – Lithuanian History Institute
Production – JSC “Cyanus”
For the means for the artistic installations we would like to thank: JSC “Dero”, business center “Drobės fabrikas”, JSC “Omrina”,
We thank to JSC „Patatos bistro“