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Afghan translators’ families made Shrovetide masks

Members of four Afghan families that aided Lithuanian armed forces began learning about Lithuania’s culture at the National Museum – Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania by making Shrovetide masks.
The seven women and twelve children, who arrived in Lithuania last year, looked at the historic masks worn by Lithuania’s magnates and created their own interpretations. Seema Wafa, who came to the museum with two children, said that workshops like this one were an excellent opportunity to not only become familiar with Lithuania’s culture and traditions, but also to interact with other Afghan families. “We are always at home, we have no one to visit, so this is great for us to meet and see one another, to have a nice time together”, explained the woman.
Not a single man came to the workshop. Wafa said that some were working, while others were trying to find work. “My husband works nights, so right now he’s sleeping”, she explained. The wife of the Afghan who aided Lithuania’s troops said that the arrival of spring would be celebrated somewhat differently in their country. “In Afghanistan, we make seven dishes for the arrival of spring, serve seven types of fruit, and put on new clothing”, Wafa said. Nowruz, the New Year’s celebration, is marked in many Islamic countries. It coincides with the astronomical spring equinox and is celebrated each year between March 20 and 22.
Learning to communicate in Lithuanian
As the kids grew bolder at the workshop, they eagerly repeated “ačiū, mokytoja” [thank you teacher], “labai patinka” [I really like it] and several other phrases in Lithuanian. The children from these families, mostly living in Vilnius and Kaunas, attend Lithuanian kindergartens and schools and are learning to communicate in Lithuanian.
Once the activity ended, the families said they were keen to take a walk through the museum too. Head of the Education Department at the National Museum – Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania Lirija Steponavičienė, who accompanied the visitors to the permanent expositions, received questions about what the Vytis meant, who defended Lithuania’s grand dukes and how. The women and older children took photographs of themselves in the museum’s spaces and said they would gladly visit another time, so as to learn more about Lithuania’s history.
The Afghan women who visited the exhibition hall where Ukraine’s Baroque sculptures were being exhibited, brought in from the Borys Voznytsky Lviv National Art Gallery, spoke about Ukraine compassionately as they knew all too well how terrifying it was to live in an unsafe country.
Educational programmes – all year round
This special programme for Afghan families is being organised by the National Museum – Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania in cooperation with the Ministry of Social Security and Labour and the Order of Malta Relief Organisation. The goal of these activities is to familiarise the Afghan translators and their families who aided Lithuania’s armed forces personnel with the culture and history of Lithuania, and help them become better integrated into society.
“Integration may be a "government-speak" type of term, but it’s still a good one. We simply wanted the families to have something to do, and taking part in these kinds of activities, or walking around the museum, will help them learn about our country”, Lirija Steponavičienė, the head of the Education Department at the National Museum – Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania told the BNS news agency. According to her, the first activity was intended to gain a better understanding of the families’ expectations. “During this kind of game, or workshop format, we can examine our guests’ interests, their attitudes, how comfortable they feel in surroundings that are not very familiar to them”, said Lirija Steponavičienė. “Generally, our activities are intended for families, but if our cooperation will prove to be successful, and if they’ll want to come back and get together, for example, as a women’s-only group, perhaps we’ll be able to offer them those kinds of activities as well. We cannot say as yet whether there’ll be men present”.
These Afghans were brought to Lithuania in August last year, when the Taliban took over control of Afghanistan as the last US troops were leaving the country. The ten-day mission consisting of Lithuanian soldiers and diplomats, known as the Kabul 11, helped evacuate more than 170 Afghan translators who had aided Lithuanian armed forces, along with their family members. They were granted political asylum in Lithuania in September last year. 


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Published:: 2022-02-28 08:46 Modified: 2023-08-21 08:58
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