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My BAFF professional internship helped me to learn more about my own country and its history

Before leaving for her one-year long internship to New York, Agnieška Avin had imagined learning more about the sometimes complicated American history and lose herself in the bustling streets of the Big Apple. However, during the time at YIVO Institute of Jewish Research, she happened to discover hidden parts of Lithuanian history and learn more about the once flourishing Lithuanian Jewish community than she could have ever learn at school.

Agnieska together with her colleagues, Julius Pranevičius, Consul General of the Republic of Lithuania in New York, and Remigijus Šimašius, Vilnius Mayor, at YIVO

Being at YIVO created a feeling of being close to home. The YIVO Institute of Jewish Research was established in Vilnius (the hometown of Agnieška) in 1925. After WWII, YIVO was re-established in New York. It has become the leading Jewish research institution and it’s Archives and Library represent the single largest and most comprehensive collection of materials on East European Jewish civilization in the world.

Agnieška was involved in the Edward Blank YIVO Vilna Collections Project, prepared reports on the Lithuanian educational system, was translating educational courses and helping out in the Archives. Her supervisor Roberta Newman, Director of Digital Initiatives, was truly the greatest teacher and also friend. “I was amazed by the staff working at YIVO. I could consider each and everyone working there as a highly intelligent and engaged person and with a great sense of humour. It was just like – WOW. The high IQ was floating in the air! It really motivated me to learn and discover more!”

Friends exploring Alaska – after reaching the Artic Circle

Thanks to the Baltic-American Freedom Foundation Scholarship, Agnieška brought home one more valuable lesson – the power of active citizenship. “I did volunteer in a Bronx children’s day center, participated in various demonstrations and protests supporting immigrants’ and women’s rights. What I have learned: if we want to live in a more just society, we need to act and be involve in our local communities and participate in democracy on all levels.

A moment from the Women’s March 2017 on Washington D.C.

“What Agnieska wishes for future Fellows? Don‘t forget to travel while living in the USA! Having visited more than a dozen of National Parks, she carries a great respect for American nature and wildlife. “It really teaches you to respect yourself and your surroundings”. John Muir, the famous naturalist, wrote in his journal that you should never go to Alaska as a young man (or a woman) because you’ll never be satisfied with any other place as long as you live. “And there’s a lot of truth to that”, Agnieska says.

Written by: Agnieška Avin, Lithuanian PIP