Ukraine and Lithuania have a common past, colonial in particular. Throughout decades both states underwent language, political and cultural persecutions by the Soviet authorities that could not forgive them, freedom-loving people, the existence of neither UIA (Ukrainian Insurgent Army) nor Forest Brothers movement (insurgency by Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia). In this context themes, that were supposed to become central for biographies and historical books, abiding popular among readers for many years, have lost their heroes. Writing about science in the atmosphere of conspiracy paranoia, that was dominating in the USSR, was also impossible. In such a reality it was hard to imagine that a book like “Hiroshima” by John Hersey could actually be published… Books about medical herbs, various dictionaries and encyclopedias were the maximum possible quantity of useful works.

Jūratė Čerškutė, a famous Lithuanian literary scholar, notes that “non-fiction in Lithuania has its complicated history — half of the 20th century this genre was very much committed to political censorship”, and the amount of it made the genre unable to function and almost disappear. Book publishing was indeed strictly controlled in the times of the Soviet occupation. Vaga publishing house was responsible for fiction, for non-fiction, or more precisely publicism — Mintis. Let’s not forget that on the territory of the USSR the majority of books were mostly published in the Russian language.

“In the Soviet times publicism, as a genre, underwent severe propaganda, and it was well realized by literary sketches that accomplished socialist doctrine and were popular among readers, — Jūratė Čerškutė writes. — Together with it a series of translated biographies that were considered to be appropriate for new soviet men flourished.”

It is clear that any development of literature became possible only after the liberalization of authorities and the long awaited “wind of change”. That is why the appearance of the memory book “Lithuanians by the Laptev Sea” by Dalia Grinkevičiūtė about her deportation to Siberia, published in 1988, was significant for the history of the Lithuanian documentary prose.

Having declared its independence, Lithuania needed some time to build a new state. When democracy finally superseded communism, the time has come to reinterpret the past and make studiously hidden things visible to everyone. This was the task of non-fiction literature, which was in full bloom in Lithuania in the 2010s.

So, historical non-fiction. It remains core for Lithuania. This trend has several themes. The first one is an armed rebel to the soviet authorities after WWII. With some instances of this trend Ukrainian reader can become familiar thanks to “Liongino Baliukevičiaus — partizano Dzūko dienoraštis” (“The diary of a partisan: a year in the life of the postwar Lithuanian resistance fighter Dzūkas”), published in Ukrainian translation by the Kalvaria publishing house, which narrates about a life full of dangerous situations, audacity and implacable faith in the struggle, or memoirs by Juozas Daumantas “Forest Brothers: The Account of an Anti-Soviet Lithuanian Freedom Fighter” (published in Ukrainian by Krok publisher) that tell about how Soviet occupants changed German ones and how thousands of Lithuanians refused to accept this having no other choice. The theme is expanded by a biography of a partisan Monika Alūzaitė written by Marius Ėmužis (“Partizanė: Monika Alūzaitė – moteris laisvės kovose”), not translated into Ukrainian, unfortunately.

The next powerful theme of Lithuanian historical non-fiction is Holocaust. According to the data by Yad Vashem 250,000 of Jews lived in Lithuania in 1939, at the end of 1941 — 40,000… Aneta Anra, in her documentary novel “Jehudit. Pasaulis galėtų būti toks gražus”, wrote about Poles who stayed in Lithuania and saved Jews during the Holocaust, about people who survived the hell of concentration camps or resisted the nazi, about women who were young at these terrible times — she wrote about this, and even more. “Diary of the Vilna Ghetto” (“Vilniaus geto dienorastis”) by a fifteen year old Jewish boy Icchokas Rudasevskis became one of the most important written testimony of Holocaust atrocities in Lithuania. The boy’s notes were found in 1944 in the attic of one of the houses in the ghetto. The book contains not only his personal sorrows and experience but also tells about the struggle to survive of all Jewish community of the city. A book by Zigmas Vitkus “Atminties miškas. Paneriai istorijoje, kultūroje ir politikoje” (“Forest of Memory: Ponar in History, Culture and Politics”) is dedicated to a place of mass executions of Jews, Romas, Poles and Soviet prisoners of war in the suburbs of Vilnius.

When it comes to the past, every nation strives to find heroes and moral voices in it. That is exactly where interest in biographies or memoirs comes from. For example, in a book “Magnetic North: Conversations with Tomas Venclova” by Ellen Hinsey (Dukh and Litera publishing house) the author writes about Lithuanian dissidence movement and its representatives, founders of Lithuanian Helsinki Group. The publication of letters written by brothers Jonas and Adolfas Mekai to their mother “Gyvenimo lai(š)kai”, who took a flight from the USA to a small Lithuanian village to unite the most precious people once divided by the war tells not only a story of a particular family but also covers almost forty years of social, political and cultural changes, demonstrates how different the lives can be when it is all about freedom vs persecution. A biography by Ona Šimaitė “Epistolophilia: Writing the Life of Ona Šimaitė”, A Righteous Among the Nations, a librarian at Vilnius University who saved Jews during WWII and hid valuable books from the Nazis, not only presents a biography of an outstanding personality but also testifies for the existence of another important cultural phenomenon — the literature of Lithuanian emigrants or their descendants who preserve national identity while working with the themes of historical memory.

The rich past of Lithuania gives quite a lot of content for historical non-fiction. Imperial ambitions of the Kingdom of Lithuania, transatlantic flight and secret death of Lithuanian-American pilots Stasys Girėnas and Steponas Darius, forcible deportation of Lithuanians to Siberia, breach from Gulag (system of labor camps) and return to motherland to fight occupants, secrets of Vilnius, culture of sexuality and its ban in the Soviet times, Lithuanian architecture of the mid-war period, development of design during the cold war, development of the society from the point of view of psychology of trauma — all this variety of topics helps to form an image of a state that was before and remained after the disintegration of totalitarian Soviet empire.

The focus on history has revealed a lack of non-fiction that would describe what is important in the life of contemporary Lithuania — books on cultural studies, political science, investigative journalism, books on natural or exact sciences, etc.

We have started this article with reference to the common past of Ukraine and Lithuania. Both states had a common enemy which is not gone by now and is trying to conquer, subject and completely destroy what survived and revived. Realization of the assault, gratefulness to Ukrainians who restrained the Russian monster, and still do, have caused the appearance of a humble but very important trend in Lithuanian non-fiction about the Russian-Ukrainian war. It is represented by a book “Donbass Jazz” by Jonas Ohman. A Lithuanian journalist of Swedish origin writes of his activity as a volunteer — his help to defenders in the East of Ukraine, and reflects upon annexation of the Crimea by Russia and that Baltic states will be the next object for the aggressor’s intrusion. He also states that a narrative of endless struggle for freedom is characteristic not only for Ukraine, but also Lithuania. In 2017 a book by Dovydas Pancerovas, a well-known Lithuanian journalist, “Kiborgų žemė: pasakojimas apie Rusijos karą prieš Ukrainą” (“The Land of Cyborgs: The Story of Russia’s War Against Ukraine”) was published, and it covers events of the Revolution of Dignity and the start of Russian occupation of Ukrainian territories. Pancerovas puts material maximum close to real life without political feeling, underlining that only states that survived soviet occupation not so long ago realize that the war in Ukraine will be long…

With gratitude to the Lithuanians for their support, and in anticipation of Ukraine’s victory and the books that will certainly be written about the way it has been reached, we are putting an end to this review, but not to the Lithuanian Accent project.