Sergey Kanovich, Manager of the Lost Shtetl Museum Project. Photo by Evgenia Levin.
The construction of the Lost Shtetl Museum, devoted to Litvak shtetl history, culture, and remembrance, has begun in Šeduva. With its state-of-the-art technology, it will be a rare jewel in the museum world.
The best museum specialists and architects in the world are building the Lost Shtetl Museum. Based on the history of the Jews of Šeduva, it will tell the story of shtetl communities and commemorate their inhabitants that were killed during the Holocaust. “What is being recreated here is the shtetl life of what once was one of the largest Jewish diasporas in Europe,” says Sergey Kanovich, Lost Shtetl Project director and founder of the Šeduva Jewish Memorial Foundation.
Below is Sergey Kanovich's speech delivered when construction of the museum began.
Your Excellences, Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear Guests:
As the project manager, I thank all of you who have gathered here. I am also endlessly grateful to the people of Šeduva for their help and goodwill, the Šeduva eldership and mayor of Radviliškis Antanas Čepononis and the municipality for close cooperation. I sincerely thank all the international team that is working on the creation of the museum – the architect from Finland, Rainer Mahlamaki; Augustas Audėjaitis and his colleagues; the design company, Ralph Appelbaum Associates, from the United States; the Swiss company ECAS and David Duffy; Jonas Dovydaitis, the director of the Šeduva Jewish Memorial Fund; the large team of international consultants; Milda Jakulytė, the Curator of the Museum as well as her colleagues; the construction supervision company Ekspertika and Kastytis Skiečius; as well as the construction company Agentus. A huge thank you goes out to the patrons, without whose hard work and financial support this project would be impossible.
When we talk about the past of Lithuanian Jewry, we often say that “time was merciless”. Merciless to human beings, merciless to things they had created, merciless to heritage and memory. But time is not anonymous. We cannot put all the blame and guilt on it. We create time. It depends on us what time will be like. It depends on the here and now. Memory is the responsibility of all of us.
There is no museum yet. We are only about to start building it. We do this in order to create a “time” the next generations could not call merciless.
Now we are near the restored Jewish cemetery, and beneath its every stone there rests the remains of a person. A person who lived and worked, loved and prayed, sewed and cured. Not far from here, there is a place of eternal rest of those who were brutally murdered, for whom some of their former neighbors showed no mercy.
That is why we are about to build another monument – the Lost Shtetl Museum. To remember all of them. You can abandon a cemetery and steal the remaining gravestones from it. You can kill a person, loot their home, steal their belongings, burn their temple, but it is impossible to kill their memory. Lithuanian Jews and their legacy cannot live only in commemorations and solemn speeches. No matter how beautiful they are. We have left traces under the Lithuanian sky. And this museum will commemorate them.
We have decided to put the following words from the novel Shtetl Love Song by Grigory Kanovich into the symbolic time capsule marking the beginning of the construction:
„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.“
Now I would like to invite Giedrius Puidokas, an 11th grade student of the Šeduva Gymnasium and Gabriela Jeliasevič and Gabija Kondratavičiūtė, 11th grade students of Vilnius Sholom Aleichem Gymnasium, to place a symbolic time capsule marking the beginning of the construction of the Lost Shtetl Museum.