Plunge, Lithuania


Abel & Glenda’s Visit

17-21 April 2016


Memory and Tolerance Education in Lithuania

From Abel Levitt

28 April 2016

Since our first visit to Lithuania in 1998 Glenda and I have been regular visitors to this small Baltic country. After our first family visit in 2001 we have travelled to Lithuania every year, sometimes twice when the need arose, and even three times for special occasions.

It was after that Levitt family visit in 2001, that we pledged to the late Yacovas Bunka that we would help to refurbish the mass graves  in the forest near Plunge, and with help from the family this was achieved. And with the extra money that was given , and with the savings effected on the project, we helped to start a Tolerance Education Centre (TEC) in the Saules Gimnasium in Plunge, known to our parents and grandparents as Plungyan. Thereafter, following a visit with us by Ronald Harwood, winner of the Oscar for the screenplay of the Holocaust classic "The Pianist" and his late wife Natasha, we established the Ronald Harwood Art Competition.(RHAC)  Ronnie was my childhood friend growing up in South Africa. His father, like mine was born in Plungyan. This year the 10th Anniversary of the competition, embracing all forms of Art, theatre, writing, singing and dance, music and painting, was celebrated in Plunge – the principal reason for the rushed visit at this time.


The local municipality, recognizing the work done by the TEC, under the leadership at first by Danute Serapiniene and thereafter by her successor Yolanta Mazukne, and the significance of the RHAC's contribution to the teaching and understanding of the Holocaust, decided this year to provide  support for the event. Instead of the prize-giving taking place in the small school hall, the impressive local cultural centre was made available to the school.


The selected works of art, from the first year of the RHAC, until the prize winning art from this year's competition were displayed in the foyer, with students from the local schools, Plunge citizens, and the many visitors, both children and adults being able to view the works.


Representatives of the government from Vilnius, from the Plunge Municipality, Ingrida Vilkiene, the project coordinator who oversees the work of the now +130

TEC's in Lithuania, the Director of the Gimnasium , Algamantas Budrys, Eugenijus Bunka, Chairman of the Yacovas Bunka Charity and Sponsorship Fund, Glenda and I were welcomed at the Municipal Offices and watched a powerpoint presentation of the work of the TEC. Thereafter we visited the mass graves at Kausenai,

Memorial candles were placed on the graves, and at the "Alley of the Savers" erected in tribute to those Lithuanians who helped to save Jews.

This visit was followed by a luncheon for those who had participated in the meeting.


The cultural centre theatre was filled to capacity when we arrived. Visitors included teachers and coordinators of many TEC's from different towns and cities in Lithuania.

The first performance was that of the International School in Vilnius. Last year they had performed their musical "Bomba's Dream" to the amazement of those privileged to have been there. This year, they performed a musical, specially written and produced for the 10th Anniversary of the RHAC, with a cast of 150 performers. The theme of the musical was the stages of the Jews of Vilna from the independence of Lithuania, through the pre-war period, the Sovie occupation, the Nazi invasion, the aftermath of the Holocaust and finally the establishment of the State of Israel and the Aliyah of the survivors.

It was hard to imagine that here were non Jewish children, singing in Yiddish and Hebrew, dressed in costumes of the time, wonderfully rehearsed and giving an outstanding performance.

Thereafter followed sketches by the schools, not only from Plunge but from further afield, depicting scenes of the tragedy that befell the Jews of Lithuania, and musical performances.


The prize-giving was a happy affair, with the children being thrilled with their certificates, medals and cash prizes.

Glenda and I were delighted to be able to award a special prize to a child from Alytus, in the south of Lithuania. (The child's outstanding work did not qualify for a prize, )  The judges this year were interestingly the students of the art school of Plunge. But Glenda found it of such quality that she asked if we may award a special prize to the artist. The teacher, Miele, and the young girl , Gabriele, were very moved by the unexpected gesture. We have done this in the past when we felt that a work, or a performance, did not win a prize but was of merit.


Our thanks must go to the coordinators of the TEC's, and the teachers for their efforts and to the young people who showed a deep understanding of the Holocaust and it's tragedy in their work.

And to Mr and Mrs Allan Cimbler of London for their generous support


And to our dear friend Eugenijus, an integral part of the RHAC, whose understanding and effort is invaluable


Glenda joins me in wishing you well and for the support we have received during the past 18 years


Abel Levitt