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                      2010-2011 School Year at Alexandra Kazickas Lithuanian School

     On September 18th, 2010, Alexandra Kazickas Lithuanian School started its fifth school year with an opening ceremony. After the Lithuanian Anthem was sung, Grace Episcopal Church pastor Mary Guard invited everyone to say a prayer for the health of Mrs. and Dr. J. P. Kazickas. School Principal Neila Baumiliene read a congratulatory letter from the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Lithuania, Mr. Audronis Azubalis. The Principal extended best wishes from Dr. J. P. Kazickas and gave an update on the health of Mrs. Alexandra Kazickas who was still very ill, but in good spirits. Dr. Kazickas’s letter gave an insight on the Kazickas Family Foundation’s grant making efforts for various programs in education in Lithuania and the US, and informed about an event in November, 2010, where Jurate Kazickas, among 10 refugees, would be honored at the IRC(International Rescue Committee) 2010 Freedom Award Dinner in NYC. A congratulatory speech was given by Professor Emeritus of Civil Engineering Rimas Vaicaitis of Columbia Univeristy and Consul General of the Republic of Lithuania in New York Valdemaras Sarapinas who visited the school with his wife Vyte. The Consul had just been appointed and AKLS was one of his first visits to Lithuanian communities of the US. He gave a very enthusiastic speech saying: “to see all of you here is insanely fantastic.”

     In October, a group of thirteen from AKLS went to visit Mrs. and Dr.Kazickas in East Hampton. The purpose for the visit was to present Mrs. Alexandra Kazickas with the AKLS album for her 90th Birthday. Mrs. Kazickas was very happy and in good spirits, but frail. She asked many questions about the school, plans for the future and then children. This was AKLS last visit with Mrs. A. Kazickas.

     During the 2010-2011 school year, older students studied the Lithuanian language, literature, history and geography. Students took part in contests organized by the Educational Council of the Lithuanian Community of US (LEC). The essay contest celebrated the memory of Lithuanian heroes and survivors of the Soviet regime: freedom fighter’s – partisans and  survivors of those exiled to Siberia. Every student wrote about a family member or a family friend who had special place in the history of Lithuania because of his or her life story. The Assignment for the drawing contest was to draw the most beautiful place in Lithuania.

     The school was opened for thirty three Saturdays consisting of four academic hours (45 minutes each). Twenty six students attended the school. The website www.akazickasls.org was administered by Gintaute Genender. The faculty consisted of kindergarten teacher Rita Klimaviciene with her assistant, former AKLS student Gabriele Petrauskaite, Lithuanian language teacher for the elementary level Ramune Kurbanoviene, Lithuanian language teacher for the intermediate and advanced levels Renata Petrauskiene, geography and craft teacher Jolanta Vilcinskiene and Lithuanian history teacher Algirdas Vysniauskas. Daiva Matoniene was the treasurer. Renata Cheshire was the head of the parent committee. The principal of the school was Neila Baumiliene.

     AKLS hosted trips and events. In the very beginning of the school year, a charter bus was rented and school children with their families and friends went on a trip to Philadelphia, PA. The chair of the parent committee Snieguole Furajeviene booked tours to see main sites and attractions in Philadelphia. In October, students went to Pumpkin town, and celebrated Halloween at the end of the month. A fudraiser yard sale took place to cover costs of a wig made for a girl suffering from alopecia in Lithuania. Mrs. Violeta Naskauskiene, mother of AKLS students Grantas and Patricija, came up with an idea of a fundraiser where a big group of AKLS kids and adults went to clean up Violeta‘s friend‘s property and were paid to cover the cost of the wig. Thanks to the fundraisers and care of the AKLS, the girl who lost her hair to autoimmune desease alopecia at age 7, now age 9 attended school in Lithuania in her new long natural hair wig made from AKLS girls‘ hair. Another fundraiser was organized in February as a Velentine‘s day dance and auction to raise money for prosthetic legs for a boy in Lithuania who lost both legs in an accident. The school continued participating in Operation Christmas Child while filling shoe boxes with basic goods as gifts for children around the world. Christmas performance was a puppet show based on a popular Lithuanian book „Wedding of a Spider“. All the paper puppets were made by AKLS teacher Jolanta Vilcinskiene. Mardi Gras celebration consisted of making pancakes and masks. Easter was traditionally held by decorating eggs, rolling them and playing outdoor games.

     The school year, comparing to other years, was very quiet, fewer events, more rigor during classes. It almost mirrored the quiet mood in the Kazickas Family where Mrs. Alexandra Kazickas was getting very weak. AKLS kept sending students‘ essays and drawings, cards and pictures to lift Mrs. Kazickas‘s spirit. During phone conversations with Dr. Joseph Kazickas AKLS principal could feel the anticipation of the inevitable. Dr. J. P. Kazickas was saying that Mrs. Kazickas was gravely ill, but remained devoted to her Lithuanian heritage often asking to listen to Lithuanian songs and music.

     On June 4th, 2011 in the center of the fifth school year closing ceremony was a balloon in the shape of number 5 and a traditional carrot-pineapple cake made by Martina Ulskiene, long time AKLS monitor and grandmother of two AKLS students Kotryna and Smiltene. All the students were presented with certificates and many were given letters of Honor. Mother Mary, pastor of Grace Episcopal Church gave a blessing and said a prayer for Mrs. Alexandra Kazickas. AKLS principal read a letter from the principal of Maironis Lithuanian school in Queens, NY who wrote: “Congratulations on AKLS 5th Birthday. We wish you long years and one day to have 50 candles on a cake just like Maironis School this year!”. Principal wished everyone to have a safe summer and come back to school on September 10th, 2011.

     Neila Baumiliene was granted permission by Dr. J. P. Kazickas to visit Mrs. Kazickas. AKLS principal brought a bouquet of white flowers on behalf of AKLS less than a week before Mrs. Kazickas passed away on her 91st Birthday on June 17th, 2011. Students, all dressed up in AKLS uniforms, parents and administration came to say their final good-byes and attend Mrs. Kazickas’s wake. On June 19th, after the Holly Mass in Most Holy Trinity RCC in East Hampton, Mrs. Kazickas’s ashes were laid to rest in Most Holy Trinity Cemetery in East Hampton right beside her son Alexander Kestutis Kazickas (1953-1976).

     Mrs. Alexandra Kazickas was deeply committed to the preservation of Lithuanian identity for young people growing up in the US. Her generosity in 2006 enabled the founding of the first heritage school on Long Island, NY Alexandra Kazickas Lithuanian School. In 2011, the year of Mrs.Kazickas’s passing, the Kazickas Family Foundation established the Alexandra Kazickas Grant Program (AKGP) to support all Lithuanian Heritage schools of the US. This program honors the memory of Alexandra Kazickas, (1920-2011) the late wife of Dr. Juozas P. Kazickas and the mother of Jurate, Joseph, Alexander (d. 1976), Michael and John.

     Special thanks to the Alexandra Kazickas Lithuanian school families, staff and friends for their generous contributions: Daiva and Kestutis Jankunas, Renata and Jeff Cheshire, Snieguole Furajeviene and Jolanta Vilcinskiene for taking pictures on every occasion, Vilma Bendarinaite and Algirdas Vysniauskas for the music and technical support on disco nights. Gratitude to Professor Emeritus of Civil Engineering Rimas Vaicaitis of Columbia Univeristy who came to school every Saturday to spend time with students and faculty. Thanks to the Lithuanian Educational Council of the US and the Lithuanian Foundation for their support.

     AKLS extends gratitude to Dr. Joseph P. Kazickas, his daughter Jurate, sons Joseph, Michael and John, and their families for continuous financial support of AKLS.

    Neila Baumiliene
    Southampton, NY
    April, 2013