Sun, 27 January 2008
Hi there, I’m Jack and welcome back to Lithuanian Out Loud and the month of January which in Lithuanian is…sausis.
Today is the 63rd anniversary of the Battle of Memel. Lithuania’s only seaport is on the Baltic Coast. This city has had two names. Its German name was Memel and its Lithuanian name is Klaipėda. In 1938 the Nazi party won 26 of 29 seats in elections of the local assembly or Landtag. You see, for hundreds of years Klaipėda or Memel was populated mostly by Germans. They were the descendants of the German Crusaders we’ve mentioned in previous episodes. In 1939 the Klaipėda area was at least 80% German and this German population was caught up in the nationalistic fever that swept over German populations in Europe when Adolph Hitler came to power.
Nazi Germany pressured the Lithuanian government to hand the city and the surrounding area over to the Third Reich so as to include it in “Greater Germany." Seeing that neither France nor England were willing to stop the Nazi demands and since the population was pro-unification, the Lithuanian government was forced to give up the area.
This capitulation disappointed Geman generals and admirals who had drawn up amphibious invasion plans for the area. Lithuania could not have possibly defeated the combined German army and navy.
Adolph Hitler himself sailed to Klaipėda in 1939 on a warship and was greeted by jubilant crowds of the city. Today you can still see the balcony where he addressed the populace in a downtown square. Click on the link on the Lithuanian Out Loud blogpage to see a youtube video of the crowd greeting Hitler in the city. In this video you’ll see a man enthusiastically painting over Lithuanian words on a sign in deference to German words.
Later, as Germany was losing the war on the Eastern Front to the communist Russian forces, Hitler ordered the evacuation of all Germans to the west. The German army stayed behind to defend the city but at the Battle of Memel, 28 January 1945, the city fell to the Soviets.
The story of the German people retreating from the Russians is a sad one. Many boarded German transport ships, others joined wagon-trains for the oveland trip. It was winter and bitterly cold. To stay was to face cruelty, murder and rape at the hands of the Russian troops looking for revenge on a German population.
The few Germans who stayed behind were expelled by the communists. Tens of thousands of people lost their homes, their belongings, their communities and their lives. Many Germans who had lived in Klaipėda for untold generations tried to return after the end of World War II to the only home they’d ever known - but were denied. Today only some 1,000 Germans live in Klaipėda.
When I’m in Lithuania taxis are essential, but, of course, we’ve got to be able to communicate with the driver. Here are some words and phrases we can’t live without when you’re in the back seat of a taxi.
Kaip pasakyti lietuviškai? How do you say it in Lithuanian?
The word for taxi is – taksi
now, we need to be able to tell our taxi driver where we’d like to go.
štai and čia both translate as, here
į kairę to the left
now, if you’re really feeling up to a challenge, here’s an entire sentence for you to learn…
palaukite manęs čia penkias minutes, prašau wait for me here five minutes, please
alright, we’re at our destination, time to say goodbye to our taxi driver.
geros dienos! have a good day!
Yeah, it’s kind of funny, I think the taxi driver would look at you like…what are you thinking about? Gero vėjo! Right! What do you think? Do you ever hear gero vėjo? Yeah, around friends maybe, it’s kind of – joke, you know, a little bit of a joke, but it’s cute, it’s cute you know, gero vėjo, oh that would be interesting to hear with the accent…
you may have guessed correctly this is an old nautical term for goodbye, but you don’t have to be on a boat to use it. gero vėjo! gero vėjo! good wind! goodbye!
labos nakties! good night!
Now, could you really, would you say this maybe to a taxi driver, or not? Yeah, sure. Oh, okay.
of course, you can use these expressions with anyone you like, not just a taxi driver. If we’re being dropped off at the airport our driver might say…
gero skrydžio! have a good flight!
If the driver is dropping you off at the bus station, train station or airport he might or she might say, have a good trip!
geros kelionės! have a good trip!
į kairę and į dešinę are examples of a declension we haven’t discussed yet. This is the accusative case or the accusative declension also known as galininkas in Lithuanian. On the next episode we’ll start working on this common declension. Congratulations for getting through another lesson. Šaunuoliai – Congratulations!
Alright, that’s it for today, we’d like to thank you very much for listening, we appreciate it.
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Thanks to CCMixter.org, Ditto Ditto and Vieux Farka Toure for the podcast music.
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I’m Jack and I’ve never met a Lithuanian I didn’t like. Viso gero! Sudie!
Hitler arrives in Klaipėda, Lithuania, 1939, youtube video, one minute 15 seconds long