Early history of the Lithuanian Free-Market Institute and Atlas
If my dates are correct, on April 20, 1990, a delegation of Lithuanians visited the Institute for Humane Studies (I.H.S.), in Fairfax, Virginia. As most senior staff of I.H.S. were out, they asked me to host them. Atlas was located at I.H.S. and we shared our president (John Blundell). Helping me was Eduardo Marty, who later founded Junior Achievement in Argentina. I believe that Jeffrey Tucker, now at the Mises Institute, and Saul Anuzis, still a leader in the Republican Party of Michigan, were the ones who made the initial contact.
The delegation was going to be composed by Filomena Jaseviciene, Kestutis Glaveckas, Kestutis Baltramitis, Algis Dobrovolskis, Vytenis Aleskaitis, Romaldus Visokavicius, Visvaldas Lacis (Latvia, tentative, ...).
Algirdas Degutis, who became a key player in Lithaunian free-market circles, arrived late. He recently reminded me that I picked him up at a Metro station, and gave him one of the T-Shirts with the logo "The Party is Over" produced by our good friend Borut Prah. Degutis had a long affiliation with the Lithuanian Culture Research Institute, and also with the Lithuanian Free Market Institute.
Kestutis Glaveckas, was professor of Elena Leontjeva, who grew the Lithuanian Free Market Institute to prominence. He was a co-founder of the institute. I had the privilege of meeting some of them again 20 years later in Vilnius. I will write more about both experiences, but I hope that some of the actors send me some memories as well. Kestutis Glaveckas heads the budget committee in today's congress (2011).
Eduardo Marty, remembers the meeting:
"Impossible to forget! Beautiful people starving for freedom, desperate to make connections and support for their freedom cause. People irradiating energy and the joy of life living, but surviving in a difficult environment where not only freedom but food were absent. I still remember an incident during our meeting:
We met in a fancy restaurant where we had invited our guests to talk to us about their experiences and their plans for the future .
When food came , instead of eating the fancy food that was
offered to them, they chose to eat the fresh legumes and fruits decorating it. We asked them why and the answer was :
"the last time we had access to this fresh food was 10 years ago during a Russian celebration..... "
That was indeed memorable. But the other memorable incident was that despite we kept the location of our dinner "secret," and 45 minutes out of town, during the middle of the dinner, the Russian, Soviet, consul arrived just to show that they knew we were there. He said hello (I imagine in Russian) and left . . . Eduardo then asked our Lithuanian heroes if they were not afraid. Their answer still rings fresh in my mind.
There was a moment of silence, then, one of our Lithuanian guests said: "Look around us. All of us around the table have been detained or have relatives who have been detained or sent to prison. We regard this stance against the Soviets not only as our best chance, our only chance, but also as our last chance."
Also for Lithuania, in late 1992, thanks to the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation we were able to send a small donation of $1,000 to a budding think tank, Nuosavybes Santykiu Institutas? also in Vilnius. The effort was directed by Algirdas Degutis. Hope I spelled the name well
Larry Horist sent this email to Jameson Campaigne who then forwarded to me:
"When Jill [Horist] and I were in Lithuania, the Russians had just retreated and were bivouacked in the forest outside of Vilnius. We visited the vice president in the presidential palace. We had to wear our coats because the Russians had cut off the public heating system. The sandbags from the fight for independence were still in the windows. We had to eat dinner in public restaurants by one candle at any filled table to conserve electricity. The energy of the people, however, was at max. You could feel the rush of freedom everywhere. When I asked an official if they were concerned that the Russians were still surrounding the city, he laugh and said “they are afraid of us, not us of them. They will not dare to enter the city. They are only here because Russia will not bring them home. I think they are as angry with Russia as we are.”