“So you’re a Jew-girl? Oh my, how fine!” Bella Shirin gets this reaction from a Lithuanian woman as they chat while waiting at the doctor’s. Born and raised in Kaunas, she went to Israel with her parents during the Soviet era, and two months ago she returned to live in Lithuania.
True Litvak Family
Bella isn’t upset by the stranger’s words. “All of us Jews are fine,” she replies to the surprised Lithuanian woman. “Lithuania and Israel are for me like two children of the same mother. I love both equally. Our families have been in Lithuania from the time of Gediminas. We are true Litvaks,” Bella exclaims with evident pride.
The energetic and svelte 70-year-old greets us in one of the old apartment houses on E. Ožeškienės street. Bella rents a room here. Her courtyard is well known; it’s the site of the “Courtyard Gallery,” with the walls of the surrounding buildings painted with portraits of the Jews who lived here until the Holocaust. “I wouldn’t like my picture taken in front of them. One should know history, recall the past, but look to the future. We need to talk more about bright examples, about living together peacefully,” she explains.
Full story in Lithuanian here.