We are a diverse group


Some of us were born in free Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania before World War II; some of us were born in one of the three Baltic countries during the Soviet occupation; some of us were born during the flight to freedom; some of us were born in refugee camps; some of us were born in the USA; and some of us were born in the once again free Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania — what brings us all together as one is the fact that we are all proud to be Americans and proud of our Baltic Heritage as Estonians, Latvians and Lithuanians.

Three years ago, we came together under the auspices of the Baltic American Society of New England to plan and organize the Baltic Centennial in Boston 2018 with the goal of showcasing and honoring our rich cultural heritage during a weekend full of exciting events to recognize and honor the 100-year anniversary of Baltic independence.

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The Lithuanian American Community Inc. (LAC), USA

The Lithuanian American Community is the largest Lithuanian emigrant community in the world. Its activity is founded on the principles set forth in the 1949 Lithuanian Charter of the Supreme Committee for the Liberation of Lithuania, urging every Lithuanian to preserve and promulgate his or her cultural heritage, language, and traditions and to pass on “Lithuanian spark” to future generations.

LAC in the USA has a well-organized structure and thanks to its gregarious leaders, it is able to support and establish Lithuanian schools, organize cultural events, song and dance festivals, athletic competitions, sport events, science symposiums and foster other numerous Lithuanian activities in the USA.

Lithuanians residing in the USA are affiliated with 10 districts, based on the place of residence. A region can cover one or several states. Regions are subdivided into local chapters, at this time there are 52 active chapters where Lithuanian traditions and culture are fostered - overall in 27 states and in Washington D.C.

The Lithuanian American Community functions under the leadership of Lithuanian Community Council body. Usually the Council has 70 members - 60 elected representatives from various chapters and 10 regional chairs. The LAC National Executive Committee consists of 20 members who are responsible for different areas of activity. The Committee executes actions planned by the Council. All who participate in the activity of the organization do so on voluntary basis.

This organization, uniting all American Lithuanians, has not only ties with other Lithuanian organizations in the US, but also with governmental and public organizations in Lithuania. It contributes to promulgation of Lithuania’s name in diaspora, helps Lithuania to establish and develop contacts with the US government and business representatives.

LAC tries to involve Lithuanian youth – it collaborates with the Lithuanian American Youth Association, organizes seminars, and encourages youth to join LAC and get involved into communal activity. LAC has been providing internships for US born Lithuanian youth in Lithuania based on their chosen profession. Internships in Lithuania help students to improve their Lithuanian language skills and they are exposed to culture of their ancestors’ homeland. The goal of this program is to introduce American youth of Lithuanian origin to Lithuania, to encourage to take interest in their roots, their cultural heritage, and Lithuanian language.

LAC broadly introduces their activity through social network, publications, US and Lithuanian media. Many LAC chapters have their own websites where people can find specific information on Lithuanian community, its activity and events. LAC publishes magazine JAV Lietuvių Bendruomenės naujienos, for those who do not read or speak Lithuanian there is a publication in English called Bridges, and for elderly there is a magazine Pensininkas. Other Lithuanian newspapers in the USA like Draugas, Cikagos aidas publish LAC news as well. Another great source of information is LAC website www.javlb.org or check them out on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/JAVLietuviuBendruomene/

The biggest financial funding for the activity of this organization comes from Lithuanian Foundation Inc. LAC is a part of World Lithuanian Organization which unites Lithuanians who live in 42 countries all over the world. On March 7, 2018, during festive Lithuanian Centennial Gala at Washington DC, Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Linas Linkevicius awarded Lithuanian American Community the honorary award – Lithuanian Diplomacy Star for fostering Lithuanian cultural identity and spreading Lithuanian culture. “Today we are celebrating Lithuanian Independence and Lithuanian-American partnership amongst large group of friends. I would like to thank each of you personally, but my special thank you goes to Lithuanian American Community who has always been working and fighting for Lithuanian independence, for the preservation of our traditions and culture. I want to express my gratitude from the bottom of my heart”.

Today one can boldly state that without numerous and active Lithuanian American Community, there would not be any special Lithuanian relation with the USA, therefore main LAC goal these days is to encourage the collaboration between different Lithuanian American generations, to encourage them to work together, join this biggest Lithuanian American organization and work together to preserve Lithuanian heritage .

THE BALTIC AMERICAN SOCIETY OF NEW ENGLAND, INC.

Excerpt from an article in Latvian newspapers Laiks and Latvija Amerika in April 2010, by Juris Šlesers, about the Baltic American Society of New England.

The Baltic American Society’s origins date back to the Second World War. Before that Baltic immigrants in the United States generally organized themselves with each nationality separately – each community cultivating its own national cultural heritage in the new homeland. The new World War and the Soviet occupation of their native lands changed the situation abruptly, explained the organization’s president Dr. Keto Soosaar (Estonian). Soviet invasion and the deportations and brutal repression of the inhabitants of the Baltic countries demanded united action – to explain these events to the government and the public of the United States. Realizing this, representatives of Baltic Americans living in the greater Boston area jointly established the Baltic American Society of New England, which was incorporated on September 21, 1941 – by which time one occupation in the Baltics had already been replaced by another, equally brutal occupation. The Society’s goal was to strengthen ties among our three communities and promote mutual understanding with other immigrant groups making up the American society, enlisting them in a common struggle to regain freedom for the Baltic countries – by educating the local public about their culture and their brutal foreign occupation. Anthony O. Shallna (Lithuanian) was the first president to be elected, and was succeeded by Ludwig Juht (Estonian) and later by Jēkabs Graudiņš.

The end of the war gave rise to a tidal wave of refugees that soon reached the American shore. Among them was a large number of musicians and artists, many of whom settled in New England. Naturally, they need a chance to perform in the new land. On the initiative of the Estonian violist and conductor Endel Kalam, in 1956 this role is taken on by the Baltic American Society by establishing its Baltic Concert Series. With few omissions, it continued yearly to enrich the cultural life of New England. Likewise the Society organized a variety of exhibits. With the end of its anti-Communist political agenda, the Society’s leading motive became Baltic cultural cooperation.


MISSION


To increase knowledge, understanding and appreciation of Baltic culture and history locally in New England by sharing traditions from Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania with all centennial participants.

To connect the younger generations to their Baltic heritage and for them to carry on the traditions and culture.

To strengthen ties among our three communities and promote mutual understanding with other immigrant groups that enrich the mosaic of American society.


OUR TEAM MEMBERS


Our planning committee is made up of a dynamic group of passionate individuals who carry the spirit and love of their homeland deep in their hearts.

They are committed to making this Centennial a memorable and moving experience for all!

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ANNE-REET ILVES ANNUNZIATA, PHD

ESTONIAN HONORARY CONSUL FOR MASSACHUSETTS AND RHODE ISLAND GERIATRIC NUTRITION CONSULTANT

Born in Eesti (Estonia) and being part of the post-WW2 diaspora, she has always had a passion for the cultural richness and history of her birth country. She has been an active member of the Boston Estonian Society and the folk dancing group. After Estonian re-independence, Anne-Reet conducted research in Estonia, with UNICEF support, to study the health and nutrition of young children. Today a special part her life is being able to spend summers at her family farm in Estonia. Being the leader of the film festival team allows Anne-Reet to share her interest in Estonian film.

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Gintaras Cepas

Gintaras Cepas is a board member and past president of the "Taupa "Lithuanian Credit Union in Boston, President of the Matulaitis Nursing Home Board in Putnam, CT, and has been active in the Lithuanian American Community for the past 30+ years holding various positions including Boston Chapter president, member of the National Board of Directors and New England Region chairperson; and past board member and chairperson of the Finance Committee of the Lithuanian Catholic Religious Aid organization in New York. At the end of 2016, he retired after 53 years as a commercial real estate appraiser with Meredith & Grew Inc., and Colliers International. Gintaras Cepas is very grateful to his life-long partner for her loving support in all organizational matters. In his own words: "Whatever I was able to achieve in all of these activities, it was only through the support and assistance of my bride, Valentina."

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HANNAH LIISI ARNOW, BA

Hannah is the Secretary of the Baltic Centennial Committee. She is the granddaughter and great granddaughter of Estonian refugees and early on she was instilled with a love of Estonian culture. Following her graduation from Tufts University, she received a Fulbright Full Research Grant to Estonia in 2015. Her research explored the evolution of the Estonian Identity and what it means to be Estonian today.

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REGINA BALCAITIENE, MD, MHA

CHAIR OF BALTIC CENTENNIAL CELEBRATION BOSTON 2018, PRESIDENT OF LITHUANIAN AMERICAN COMMUNITY OF NEW ENGLAND DISTRICT, SECRETARY OF LITHUANIAN AMERICAN COMMUNITY NATIONAL BOARD OF DIRECTORS, CARDIOLOGIST

Regina is an active member of the Lithuanian-American Community, Inc. serving in many leadership roles. Her goal is to foster connections with Lithuania and the unity of all three Baltic nations, as well as to reveal their history and culture to the American population. Regina was born in Lithuania, studied medicine at Kaunas Medical University. As a cardiologist by profession, she has trained and conducted research extensively in Germany and in the USA. Regina moved to Boston following in the footsteps of her grandparents who arrived in the US following WW2. She continued her professional career studying at Suffolk University and working in Boston's leading hospitals, MGH, Tufts Medical Center, BWFH.

Regina is a dedicated individual with strong family values fully focused on the positive advancement of the Baltic Nations and the US.

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KARIN VÄRNIK BARRETT, B ARCH

BALTIC BOSTON 100 FOUNDER, ARCHITECT

As a board member of the Baltic American Society, and a past board member of the Boston Estonian Society, Karin carries on the legacy of her parents who emigrated as children during the WWII migration. She has known since her formative years that she was born in Boston, but her roots are Estonian, raised in a family that balanced the American culture of everyday life with the Estonian customs and culture of holidays and special occasions. Karin is the founder and leader of Baltic Centennial in Boston 2018. Professionally Karin is a practicing architect. She was awarded a Fulbright Grant in 1999 to study architecture in Estonia.

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INGA DANKERS, MS

RESEARCH SCIENTIST, ARTIST

Inga is the Co-Chair of the Art Exhibit. Careerwise she has worked as a research scientist and as a bookkeeper, but her passion has always been in the field of art. Being Latvian and maintaining the culture and traditions of Latvia have always been essential to Inga. Working with the Baltic American Society to plan the Centennial celebration is especially important for her, "My father Janis Gabliks was always fighting for Latvia and he always said the Baltic countries need to join up and do more together and be stronger."

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RIMA MARIJA GIRNIUS, MA, MS

PRESIDENT OF BOSTON LITHUANIAN COMMUNITY, MEMBER OF THE LITHUANIAN AMERICAN NATIONAL BOARD PROGRAM COORDINATOR/ANALYST, COMMONWEALTH OF MASSACHUSETTS

Rima, President of Boston Lithuanian Community, is a member of the Lithuanian credit union Taupa board of directors, and a member of the Lithuanian American National Board. Rima was born in Lithuania and has conducted graduate studies in industrial/civil engineering, journalism and communications in Lithuania and applied sociology in the USA. She currently works in the healthcare insurance field.

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Mrilem Soodla Ferentinos, MEd

Website Content Manager
Secretary of Baltic American Society of New England, Inc.

Marilem is an active member of the Boston Estonian Society. She recently retired from an extensive career in competitive intelligence in the biotech industry and as a science educator. She has always had a passion to share her Estonian heritage. Presently she is writing a memoir of her family's escape from Estonia during WWII, of living in a refugee camp in Germany and of growing up in a multicultural community with a large Estonian population in southern New Jersey. She has studied Estonian handicrafts in Finland, Estonia and the USA, and has interpreted them to contemporary designs and items.

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NELE KAPS

DESIGNER, FREELANCER

Nele grew up in Estonia and now lives in the suburbs of Boston. She is a graphic designer, freelancer, and creative problem solver. She likes to make things. When she is not working with her clients or working on her creations, you can find her riding her bike, browsing at the local garden center or buying more art books. She is an active and contributing Boston Estonian Society member and a former President of the Boston Estonian Society.

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ANASTASSIA KOLDE, M MATH

STATISTICIAN

Anastassia came to the Boston area from Estonia a few years ago to support her husband when he was conducting postdoctoral research at Harvard. Anastassia is a statistician by training and is currently in the middle of her PhD studies. In Estonia she worked as a statistician for the government, at a university and in the private sector. She is currently a stay-at-home mom with two young children. In her spare time, she enjoys knitting, especially traditional Estonian Haapsalu lace shawls.

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ILONA KUDINA, MM

PRESIDENT OF THE BALTIC AMERICAN SOCIETY OF NEW ENGLAND, ILONA KUDINA QUINTET, MUSIC DIRECTOR AT WILLOW FLUTE ENSEMBLE

Ilona, the President of the Baltic American Society of New England, is a multitalented, multifaceted flute player, vocalist, composer and educator. Although versed in classical music, she is known for her jazz playing with many recordings. Before moving to Boston in 2001, she was a flutist with the Latvian National Symphony Orchestra. Ilona has more than 20 years of experience as an educator and has served as a panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts. She holds a Diploma from Berklee College of Music, and a Master of Music degree from the Latvian Academy of Music.

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POVILAS MECYS, BFA, MSC

WEBSITE DESIGNER & DEVELOPER, ADJUNCT PROFESSOR

Povilas was born in Kaunas, Lithuania and at the age of eleven, his family moved to North Providence, Rhode Island in search of job opportunities and better living conditions. Educated in the USA, he holds a Bachelors of Fine Arts in graphic design and Master of Science in online marketing. Povilas is currently working in advertising and marketing at a public relations agency. He also teaches website design and development at Rhode Island College. Working on the Baltic centennial is a way for him to reconnect with his Baltic roots.

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GAILUTĖ URBONAITĖ-NARKEVIČIENĖ, MA

DIRECTOR OF THE BOSTON LITHUANIAN SCHOOL

Gailutė is the Director of the Boston Lithuanian School. She received her Master’s degree in Linguistics from the University of Vilnius, and also later taught at the Department of the Lithuanian Studies. In addition to her role as principal of the Lithuanian School, she has authored the Lithuanian Practical Dictionary and co-authored several textbooks and other teaching curricula, for use with adults and other students.

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MART OJAMAA, M ARCH

BOSTON LIAISON WITH EV 100 TRAVELING EXHIBIT,ARCHITECT

Mart arrived in the United States when he was nine years old. Growing up in America he has maintained his connection to his homeland throughout his life.

He studied architecture at the Cooper Union in New York City and has a Master of Architecture from the Harvard School of Design. Mart practiced architecture in Boston, the greater Boston area, as well as nationwide for fifty years. Currently Mart is the Boston liaison with the EV100 Rändnäitus, the Estonian Republic 100 Traveling Exhibition which presents an overview of Estonian history, culture and people.

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RITA P. PETERS, PHD

ASSOCIATE OF HARVARD UNIVERSITY’S DAVIS CENTER FOR RUSSIAN AND EURASIAN STUDIES, SENIOR LECTURER IN POLITICAL SCIENCE, UNIVERSITY OF MASSACHUSETTS

Rita is an active member of the Baltic Centennial Committee and the Baltic American Society of New England. She is Associate of Harvard University’s Davis Center for Russian and Eurasian Studies and, until 20l7, Senior Lecturer in Political Science, University of Massachusetts-Boston. Her research has been published in various scholarly journals, including the Journal of Baltic Studies. Rita is a Life Member of the Association for the Advancement of Baltic Studies (AABS), and of the American-Latvian Association (ALTS).

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EPP KARIKE SONIN, BS, MM

MUSIC DIRECTOR

Epp Sonin, an active member of the Boston Estonian Society, has performed at the organization's events for many years. She has been a frequent soloist with orchestras and choruses in oratorios, masses and cantatas, most recently with the Lexington Symphony and the Boston Landmarks Orchestra. She has given recitals in major cities in the U.S., Canada, and Europe. Epp is a member of the Cantata Singers and was a soloist with the Estonian State Symphony in a gala celebrating Estonia’s newly reestablished independence. In 1985 Epp founded the Lexington Music School.

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ERIC SUUBERG, SCD, SCM

VICE PRESIDENT OF THE ESTONIAN AMERICAN NATIONAL COUNCIL

A Professor of Technology Entrepreneurship at Brown University, Eric is also Vice President of the Estonian American National Council and a long time member of the Baltic American Society of New England. In his professional life, Eric is a Professor of Technology Entrepreneurship and was one of the founding members of Brown's Chemical Engineering program. His research interests have been in the areas of energy and environmental engineering. Eric is also the co-founder of Brown's new master’s Program in Innovation Management and Entrepreneurship.

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INARA SUUBERG, JD

CHAIRMAN OF THE LATVIAN HERITAGE FOUNDATION IN BOSTON

Inara chairs the trustees of the Latvian Heritage Foundation in Boston. She is the immediate past president of The Latvian Lutheran Church of Boston, and a lawyer by profession. She celebrated her 30th wedding anniversary this year with husband Eric, with whom she has a daughter. They have frequently traveled to Latvia and Estonia for business and pleasure.

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ZIVILE SYMEONIDIS, MA

PROFESSIONAL TRANSLATOR, AUTHOR

Zivile, fluent in five languages, is a professional translator and a writer, having translated twenty books (fiction, poetry and nonfiction) that have been published by various publishing houses in Lithuania. In 2016 she coauthored a book “Alle tai, ko near”. Zivile has several degrees for graduate work in literary studies, literature translation and education from the Vytautas Magnus University in Lithuania and from the University of Texas. Zivile is a member of the American Translation Association.

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JURIS ŠLESERS, MD

TREASURER BALTIC AMERICAN SOCIETY OF NEW ENGLAND, MEDICAL DOCTOR

Juris has been the Treasurer of the Baltic American Society of New England for many years. He is a member or the editorial board of the Latvian literary magazine “Jaunā Gaita.” Juris was born in Latvia and studied medicine in the USA. He is a physician, specializing in Internal Medicine.

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Aivars ZANDBERGS, BFA

PRESIDENT OF THE FRANKLIN ART ASSOCIATION, COMMERCIAL ARTIST AND DESIGNER

Aivars is a commercial artist and designer. He was born in Latvia and is a graduate of the School of Practical Art now known as The Art Institute of Boston. He was the Art Director of the 6th Latvian Song and Dance Festival held in Boston in 1978. He was voted into membership of the Latvian Artists Guild in 1996 in Riga, Latvia. Aivars is a member and president of the Franklin Art Association and a signature member of the Rhode Island Watercolor Society.

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Krisīte (Krissy) Skare, MM, EdM

Director Saturday Baltic Choir and Dance Concert

Boston Latvian Choir Director

Boston-based conductor, teacher, performer and arranger, Krissy Skare is the co- founder and director of Neighborhood Rocks, a multigenerational community choir, as well as the founder and director of the Boston Latvian choir. She enjoys working with young Latvians as a music teacher at the Boston Latvian School and the New York Latvian summer camp in the Catskill Mountains. As a singer, Krissy performs jazz, contemporary and Latvian folk music, often with her husband, guitarist and singer Michael Glashow. She is the recipient of several awards and commendations from the Republic of Latvia’s Ministries of Culture and Education, the American Latvian Association, and the Latvian Heritage Fund. She earned her masters degrees at the New England Conservatory of Music and Harvard University.

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Ieva Smidt, MS

Vice President, LAC Youth Affairs/JAV-LJS representative

Ieva Smidt was born in Lithuania and emigrated to the United States as a child. She has been active in the Lithuanian community since that time, currently serving as the US Lithuanian Youth Association representative to the Lithuanian American Community. Ieva grew up in Florida and attended Florida State University, earning both a bachelor's and master's degrees in Political Science. Ieva is a political fundraiser and consultant, applying these skills to help plan events that celebrate the rich cultural heritage of her home country.

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Kima Bacevicius, BS

Board Member of South Boston Lithuanian Citizens Association

Kima serves on the Board of Directors of the South Boston Lithuanian Citizens Association, is active in the Lithuanian Scout Organization and is a member of the folk dance group Sambūris. She is the granddaughter of Lithuanian refugees and has been instilled with the Baltic culture throughout her life. She has been fortunate to visit, study and intern in Lithuania. Kima works on the Batlic Centennial Committee to share the history and importance of the Baltic countries and is excited to celebrate this milestone with all of the Baltic neighbors. Kima's expertise is in business management.

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Rita Stuopis BFA Arch

Baltic Centennial Boston 2018 Commemorative Book Designer

Rita was born in Boston to WW2 immigrant parents, who instilled in her, a strong Lithuanian identity. She has been deeply involved in the Lithuanian community from childhood to present day. In 1981 she received a BFA in Architecture from R.I.S.D. and has worked as an architectural designer with several Boston area firms. She held the position of Boston Lithuanian School Principal 2000-2011More recently, Rita has shifted her focus to 2 dimensional design and is currently sole proprietor of CatbirdDesign.

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Dr. Aldona Lingertat, Ph.D.

Dr. Aldona Lingertat, Ph.D. is the Director of the Master of Arts in Ministry Program and Professor of Religious Education and Pastoral Care at St. John Seminary, Boston. She received her Ph.D. from Boston College in Theology and Education in 2007. Her specialty fields are Adult Faith Formation, Spirituality, and Theology of the Laity. She is a Boston native active in the Lithuanian community.

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Birutė Banaitis

Birute Banaitis retired after 19 years at American International Group‘s Property Underwriting Department. From 1991 – 1996 held the position of Chief Guide for the Girl Scouts of the Lithuanian Scouts Association and from 1997 – 2002 held the position of President & Director of the Lithuanian Scouts Association for both the Girl and Boy Scouts. Currently Birute is President of the Lituanian Scouts Foundation and President of the National Lithuanian Society of American, Boston Chapter. Birute volunteers at the Plymouth Center for the Arts where she is in charge of the registration for arts shows and co-chairs the Education program.

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Jack McGowan, BA

Jack has been working on the art exhibit committee. He has a strong interest in art and has continued to develop his skills in pastels and acrylics. Jack’s mother is a second generation Lithuanian. Jack has taken up the study of the Lithuanian language, culture, and traditions. Last summer he attended the Lithuanian dance festival in Vilnius as part of Boston’s Samburis group and took a language and culture course at Vilnius University. He also sings in the choir at St. Peter’s Lithuanian Parish.

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Gita Ligure

President of ALTS (ANLL American National Latvian League), software engineer

Gita is a member of the Baltic Centennial's film festival committee and sees it as a unique opportunity to bring the three Baltic communities closer and share their cultures. As a president and member of ALTS, Gita has organized and hosted concerts, art exhibitions, theater guest visits and celebrations for the Boston Latvian community. Gita graduated from UMass Boston with a BS in Computer Science and Bentley University with a MS in HFID. Her interest is in interactive data visualizations and the usability of software products. Gita grew up in Riga, Latvia and now lives in the Boston area. Gita loves to cook and bake for her family and friends.

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Aija Dreimane - Holohan

Chair of Boston Baltic Film Festival, Illustrator, former Script supervisor

Aija grew up in Riga, Latvia, where she spent her first professional years in the film industry as a script supervisor, working for Riga Film studio’s, as well as German and BBC movies. Aija relocated to USA in 2007, due to her husband’s work. Since 2008, she has led a life devoted to Latvian culture and arts. Aija is a board member, secretary and event planner of ALTS (ANLL) - American National Latvian League. She sings in the Boston Latvian Choir, works as a Folklore, Art teacher and event planner in Boston Latvian school. Aija studied Children's Book Illustration through London Art College. Her greatest inspirations are her three kids Shannen, Scarlett and Daniel.

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Milda Petersone

Milda is from Latvia and came to Boston less than a year ago when her husband received a scholarship from the Baltic-American Freedom Foundation. Since then they have both joined Latvian community as history teachers in the Boston Latvian School, Milda sings in the Boston Latvian Choir and is part of the film festival team. Before coming to Boston she studied in Norway and worked in international organizations in Belgium and UK. Her expertise is Environmental Analysis and Project Management.

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Kirsten Laaspere

Kirsten is a local New Englander with deep ties to her Estonian heritage. The second generation born under a surname created by great-grandparents to deepen their family ties to Estonia during times of oppression, Kirsten has visited Estonia multiple times and is now officially an E-Citizen. When not using her background in Rhetoric to help with communications and design for the Baltic Centennial, you can find Kirsten working in Cambridge at Akamai, exploring new restaurants, or attending hockey games, concerts, and shows.