Work to construct the state-of-the-art Lost Shtetl museum in Šeduva, Lithuania is under way.
Ground was broken and the symbolic cornerstone laid in a ceremony Friday attended by Lithuania’s Prime Minister, Speaker of Parliament, Foreign Minister, senior diplomats, Jewish leaders, and other VIPs.
“It was a busy and meaningful day,” Project Manager Sergey Kanovich told JHE.
Embedded in the cornerstone is a quotation from the novel Shtetl Love Song by the award-winning author Grigory Kanovich — Sergey Kanovich’s father. The novel is a fictionalized memoir rooted in Kanovich’s family story in the Lithuanian shtetl Jonava. The quote reads:
It was bitter to realize the truth that from now on it was the fate of that dead tribe to be born and live only in the true and painful words of impartial memory in which it was impossible to drown the echoes of love and gratitude towards our forebears. Whoever allows the dead to fall into oblivion will himself be justly consigned to oblivion by future generations.
Designed by the Finnish company “Lahdelma & Mahlamäki Architects,” which also designed the award-winning POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews in Warsaw, the museum complex, slated to open in 2020, will be a key component in the unique Lost Shtetl memorial complex, which includes sites in and around the town, located in north-central Lithuania, 175 km northwest of Vilnius.
The museum will be sited next to the sprawling Jewish cemetery at Šeduva, which was completely restored and opened in 2015 as part of the memorial.
The complex also includes monuments at three separate sites of Holocaust mass executions and burials, and a symbolic sculpture in the middle of the town. A historical study about Šeduva Jews also was carried out as part of the project, as well as a documentary film, “Petrified Time,” directed by Saulius Berzinis.
The Lost Shtetl web site says the museum
will tell the story of the life of what was once the largest European Litvak Jewish population living in shtetls. Lifestyle, customs, religion and the social, professional and family life of the Jews of Šeduva will serve as the centerpiece of the museum exhibition. Museum visitors will be taught the tragedy of Šeduva’s Jewish history, which ended in three pits near the shtetl in the early days of World War II, concluding five centuries of the history of the Jews of Šeduva.
In a statement read at the groundbreaking ceremony by an advisor, Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaitė said the laying of the cornerstone “heralds the reconstruction of an important part of Lithuanian history closely interlinked with the history of Lithuania’s large Jewish community and its tragic fate.” She added, “The Lost Shtetl Museum will bring back from oblivion the names and faces of many families, friends and neighbors, as well as their customs and traditions.”
“This unique museum will capture not only the memory of the Šeduva but also the Jewish communities of Lithuania as a whole,” said Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius.