Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Center of Europe, Part 9

If one person could represent the Center of Europe - that is, the diversity of the continent and the changes occurring at its geographic center, which happens to be Lithuania - it would be Regina Pikasi.

Regina, 32, was born in Kazakhstan to parents of Russian ethnicity and moved with her family to Lithuania at the age of 2. Like many of her country's young and educated people, she left Lithuania, where jobs and opportunity are scarce, for the West. She spent several years in England, working as a waitress and in other jobs, all the time improving her English language skills.

She met a Greek, a oil rig worker, now working off the coast of Algeria. She became pregnant and returned to Lithuania to give birth to their daughter, Sofia, now 9 months old. Regina has been teaching English in Rokiskis, and her partner visits on leave from his job about once a month. He doesn't care much for Lithuania's cold weather. Eventually, she thinks, the will move somewhere else.

In the meantime, she is raising her daughter to speak Lithuanian, Russian (so she can communicate with her grandparents) and English (to communicate with her father).

There's something old and traditional in Regina's beauty and quiet demeanor, but there's nothing traditional about her attitude, which is modern and feminist and skeptical of social norms and habits of Eastern Europe. Conversation with her is intriguing, delightful and unpredictable. From the way I see it, where Regina is going is where Lithuania is going. More on that next time.

1 comment:

Alan Hendrixson said...

This might seem like nitpicking, but Regina's father is actually ethnic Lithuanian and her mother is an ethnic Kazakh.

I (a native Kansan) taught her English while I was working at the college in Rokiskis in 1995-1997.

By the way, I've enjoyed your 'Center of Europe' articles.