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Author Topic: Orthodoxy and Lithuania  (Read 1948 times) Average Rating: 0
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Orthodoc
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« on: July 15, 2004, 11:53:58 AM »


The following is an email I just received from my adopted son.  He is on vacation in Lithuania and then onto Germany.  He used to work for an American pipline company as the eastern european  manager and as such, was back and forth between the U.S. and Lithuania for  a few years.  He missed the many friends he made there so decided to go back for vacation.

One of the things he used to tell me is that Vilnius has many Orthodox Churches and how surprised he would be at seeing so many Roman Catholics worshipping and lighting candles in them.  Including many Roman Catholic nuns.

He used to tell me that the Lithuanians were told their country was pagan until the 14th century when they accepted Roman Catholicism.  I used to argue with him that Lithuania was predominately an Orthodox country until the marriage of the Lithuanian king to a Polish princess creating the Polish-lithuanian empire and the country was turned into a Roman Catholic one.  His email picks up on the story because I don't think up until now he really believed me.

Orthodoc

=========

Paki i Paki,

Got here in Lithuania on Monday.  My baggage didn't
get here until the following evening.  On Tuesday, I
went by Saint Nicholas and met Fr. Vasillii for a
drink.  Earlier that day, I had bougtht a "Vilnius in
your Pocket" guide that tells you all the events for
the month, plus new restaurants, etc.  They had
several very sarcastic remarks about the Orthodox
Church - I read them to Fr. Vasilii and he said that
he doesn't even get upset any more, he just disregards
them.  He said it's very disingenuous of them - they
knock down the Orthodox, yet the Orthodox Churches in
Vilnius happen to attract more tourists.  For example,
the guide was describing how on the West side of
Gediminas Prospect lies the Katedra (RC Cathedral) and
on the East side the Orthodox Church of the Sign and
was that a coincidence - in other words, the RC
represents west and progress and the Orthodox, east
and backwardness.  Fr. Vasillii had a better take on
it.  He said "yes East meaning the Light, and West
meaning Darkness" I told him I loved his analogy.

He explained to me how they have falsified their
history - Lithuania being pagan until mid 14th century
and all.  In fact in the 12th century, there were
already Orthodox cemeteries.  He has just completed
Volume One (abt 200 pages) of the History of the
Orthodox Church in Lithuania.  He wants to tell the
true story of how Lithuania was an Orthodox country at
one time.  He is currently trying to raise money to
publish - about $7000.  I will probably make a
contribution.  I know that you are very interested in
the subject.  The primary audience of the book will be
young Russians and Lithuanians.  If you feel
appropriate, you can share this project with Fr. Dan
and Saint Stephen's.  Fr. Vasillii didn't ask for
anything, but he made it clear that contributions to
this very worthy cause will be much appreciated.

Another thing I found interesting was that half of the
names that he'd read during the proskomedie on Sunday,
would be RC's.  A lot of times he'd ask why they come
and ask him to pray for them, and the usual response
would be: "Bacause your Orthodox prayers are more
powerful."  When I was in the church, I saw a RC woman
go and light a candle in front of the Golgotha and
pray.  I took Jura to the Monastery Church yesterday,
and what she said was that although she didn't
understand all the Slavonic (Vespers was being
served), she felt that this place was very warm in her
exact words, "felt like being home or going home." She
said that the Catholic Church never exuded that
warmth.  I found this to be the case when talking to
other people, and from personal experience as well.

I told Fr. Vassillii that "Lithuania was Orthodox" was
your pet peeve and how you gave me a book that attested
to that.  He asked me to tell you that you were
absolutely correct.

I hope you're feeling better.  The weather here is in
the 50-60s.  Yesterday and today hasn't rained, which
is good.  Yesterday I had some fried Zeppelini and
Blini with Meat - they were excellent!

Will talk to you later,

A

P.S.  Arch. David currently lives in Moscow, but comes
to Vilnius quite often.  I will leave a brief note at
the hotel where he used to live and they'll give it to
hime.  That way he'll get Fr. Dan's greeting and thanks.



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« Reply #1 on: July 15, 2004, 01:42:58 PM »

I've been to Lithuania, though not Vilnius.  I was in Kaunus (sp) for a week, and I liked it very very much.  There are very many churches there, but I only saw 3 Orthodox.  In the downtown there is a HUGE Orthodox cathedral built in 1895 I think.  Lithuania seems like a cozy little country, definately worth visiting.
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« Reply #2 on: July 15, 2004, 02:30:01 PM »

Orthodoc,
as always thanks for the good read.  The part in the e-mail on how some non-Orthodox value the Orthodox church is interesting.  It seems that a lot of people really like the fact that the Orthodox Church exists -- as the woman said, that "Orthodox prayers are more powerful."  Yet why don't more people become Orthodox?  I just don't get it.  So many like to enjoy Orthodoxy "at arm's length" but seem afraid of growing closer.  Is it the fear of commitment?  The reluctance to abandon a certain faith that they happened to be born into?  The thought that Orthodoxy is a nice museum that's good to visit from time to time?

It's interesting, though, to know that Lithuania was once Orthodox.  I had always associated it with Roman Catholicism.  I know that +Fr Alexander Schmemann was from one of the Baltic countries, I think Estonia.
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« Reply #3 on: July 15, 2004, 03:31:36 PM »

If one is refering to the territory of present day Lithuania then yes Orthodoxy was present.  If you are refering to the Lithuanian people they were pagans until the 1200's when Mindaugas converted and became the first king.  Some say he apostatized after a defeat by pagan forces.  He was later assasinated and subsequent rulers were pagans although some showed signs of wanting to convert.  With the crowning of Jagiello Lithuania becomes officailly a Christian country but pagansim persists until the 1400's.  Also of note is, even after Mindaugas accepted Latin Catholicism, attacks from the Teutonic Knights did not cease and continued until they were crushed by Jagiello at the Battle of Zalgiris (Grunwald, Tannenberg).  However, the Lithuanian people were never Byzantine Christians.
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« Reply #4 on: July 15, 2004, 04:45:23 PM »

[If one is refering to the territory of present day Lithuania then yes Orthodoxy was present.  If you are refering to the Lithuanian people they were pagans until the 1200's when Mindaugas converted and became the first king.]
 
 
  [However, the Lithuanian people were never Byzantine Christians.]
 
========
 
 
988-1385: Early Development
With the unification of Belarusian principalities into the centralized and powerful the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the civil authorities exhibited increasing interest in the well-being of the Orthodox Church as the stabilizing factor in the life of the state and became especially concerned when, after the Mongol destruction of Kiev in 1240, the Kievan Metropolitans abandoned Kiev eventually moving to Moscow.

In response, the rulers of Lithuania gained from the Patriarch of Constantinople the appointment of the separate Metropolitan for the Orthodox Church of Lithuania, who was installed in 1316 in Novahradak. This autonomous Metropolitanate, which, in addition to Novahradak, included the eparchies of Polatsk and Turau was accorded the 82nd place by the Ecclesiastical Synod in Constantinople. The Orthodox Church of Lithuania had its own Metropolitans who, when Kiev itself became a part of Lithuania, bore the title "Metropolitan of Kiev and All Rus'". The Church continued its steady growth and development until the calamitous year of 1385.
1385-1596: Struggle for Survival
The ill-advised Act of Union between the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Kingdom of Poland dealt a disastrous blow to the Orthodox Church of Lithuania. The Union, the personal union of dynastic houses, was reached in order to thwart the advances of the German Teutonic Knights. One of the provisions of the Act required the Grand Duke Jacob (formerly Jahajla) of Lithuania, a baptized Orthodox Christian, and the rest of his dynasty and the nobility, to be baptized in the Latin Roman Church. The result of the Act of Union was the intrusion of the Roman Church into the religious and the temporal affairs of Lithuania. The Orthodox Church, which had spread the true Apostolic faith without coercion or compulsion, was faced with a rival that had no qualms in using whatever means necessary to gain power and influence.

After the death of Metropolitan Kyprian in 1413, the Patriarch of Constantinople sent Photius to be the Metropolitan of Kiev and All Rus'. Metropolitan Photius, preferring the centralized Moscow to democratic Lithuania, fled to Moscow. In response, Grand Duke Vitaut of Lithuania and the Orthodox bishops, demanded that the Patriarch appoint another Metropolitan. The Patriarch remained silent and so Metropolitan Ryhor(Tsamblak) was elected by a Sobor(Council) held in Navahradak in 1415. The Patriach made no attempt to remove Metropolitan Ryhor recognizing autonomy of the Metropolitanate of Lithuania. Thus the Orthodox Metropolia of Lithuania became autocephalous (self-governing).

The Roman Church, unable to gain the adherence of the Orthodox faithful, forced the government to pressure Metropolitan Ryhor to attend a Roman Council in Konstanz in 1418. At this council an attempt was made to unite the Orthodox Church of Lithuania with Rome. The Metropolitan refused and was forced to resign upon his return to Lithuania. These intrusions did not pass unnoticed by the growing power to the east, Moscow, which began to assert itself as the sponsor and defender of Orthodoxy in Lithuania and throughout eastern Europe.

Meanwhile, in 1448, a meeting of bishops in Moscow elected its bishop Iona to be "Metropolitan of Moscow" without Patriarchal approval. The siege and subsequent fall of Constantinople in 1453 prevented the Patriarch from responding.

Pressure on Orthodox hierarchs by the Poles and Roman Church authorities continued unabated. King Kasimir of Poland, in 1481, forbade building or even repair of Orthodox churches in the Polish-Lithuanian state. The Polish kings granted Orthodox churches, monasteries and Church property to Catholic lay people and nobility.

Meanwhile, to the east, the Muscovites in 1514 occupied Smalensk and in 1513, following the Livonian War, occupied Polatsk, both of which where principal cities of the Lithuanian nation.

Poland took advantage of Lithuania's weakened position to annex the province of Padlassa and the Ukrainian possessions of Lithuania. Seeing themselves under attack from both sides Lithuania had no choice but to agree to the Union of Lyublin with Poland in 1569. Though the Union formally ended the independence of Lithuania, the Grand Duchy remained a separate entity within the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and defended and preserved its autonomy to the end. 1596-1839: In Partial Union with Rome
Pressure on the Orthodox hierarchy of Lithuania for union with Rome rose dramatically following the Union of Lublin. With the establishment of the Patriarchate in Moscow in 1589, and the expected new pressure from Moscow, the Union of Bierascie(Brest Litovsk) was forged in October 1596 which created the Uniate church. The Union was expected to raise the social status of the Orthodox, but since most of the upper class had already become fully polonized and Roman Catholic, the anticipated reprieve was not realized for even the Uniate church was prosecuted and proselitized by fanatic Latin-rite Catholics under the leadership of Jesuits.

In 1620, Patriarch Theophan of Jerusalem restored an Orthodox hierarchy for Lithuania and Ukraine. Seeking a moderation in the terror against the Orthodox populace in order to gain support for his war with Moscow, Polish king Wladyslaw IV issued the "Points of Contentment" in 1632, which recognized the rights of those who remained Orthodox. Because it was considered harmful to Catholicism, Pope Urban VIII urged its rejection by Latin and Uniate Catholics alike, and the oppression continued unabated.

The Treaty of Pereyaslav in 1654, between Moscow and the Ukrainian Cossacks, gave Moscow the opening required to begin its march into Lithuania and Ukraine as anti-Orthodox persecution raged out of control in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. The Belarusian language was outlawed in public life. Those who converted from Catholicism could receive the death penalty; non-Catholics were not permitted to serve in the legislature, courts or any other official commission or committee. Spokesmen for non-Catholics were considered enemies of the state.

The Polish Seim (parliament) forbade the Orthodox to be in contact with the Patriarch of Constantinople forcing them to look for Moscow. The primary effect of the Union of Lublin and its resultant massive persecution of the Orthodox in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was to encourage Moscow to undertake its mission of imperialism under the pretext of defending Orthodoxy.

=========

Orthodoc
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« Reply #5 on: July 15, 2004, 06:28:01 PM »


I was sent a private email asking me for the website I got my information from.  Sorry that I forgot to include it -

http://www.belarusguide.com/culture1/religion/BAOC.html

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« Reply #6 on: July 15, 2004, 06:42:30 PM »

And this is the key:

"With the unification of Belarusian principalities into the centralized and powerful the Grand Duchy of Lithuania"

I am not denying the Orthodox Church existed within the Grand Duchy, but it was the Church of the Belarusans the Lithuanians had subjected, not of the Lithuanians themselves.

I would also add the site from which you pulled your quote is not without its own agenda which you selctively did not post.

http://www.belarusguide.com/culture1/religion/BAOC.html

"Note on the names used in the text:
Belarus is the present-day name of historical Lithuania. Although the origin of the name "Lithuania", or "Litva" in its native pronunciation and transcription, is still debated, there is no doubt at all that the former Grand Duchy of Lithuania was a Slavic state in which the old Belarusian language and culture along with the Orthodox faith were dominant. It should be noted that the present-day Republic of Lithuania, or "Letuva", constitutes only a small province of the former Grand Duchy of Lithuania and until the beginning of the twentieth century was known as Samogitia. The use of name "Byelorussia" was forced upon the ancient Lithuanian nation by the Russians after the annexation of Lithuania at the end of the 18th century, and the name Lithuania was assumed by the province of Samogitia. For more information on the genesis of "Belarus" and related names see "Litva, Belaja Rus',..."

I am sure the Lithuanians would be surprised to hear their language and culture are figments of their imagination.  Lithuanian is a language totally unrelated to both the Slavic and Germanic languages, which by itself shows they are not Slavs.  That the Lithuanians controlled large parts of Belarus during its histroy is without contest, this does not make Belarus into Lithuania, nor Belarusans into Lithuanians, nor Lithuanians into Byzantine Christians.

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« Reply #7 on: July 15, 2004, 07:16:04 PM »

["Note on the names used in the text:
Belarus is the present-day name of historical Lithuania. Although the origin of the name "Lithuania", or "Litva" in its native pronunciation and transcription, is still debated, there is no doubt at all that the former Grand Duchy of Lithuania was a Slavic state in which the old Belarusian language and culture along with the Orthodox faith were dominant. It should be noted that the present-day Republic of Lithuania, or "Letuva", constitutes only a small province of the former Grand Duchy of Lithuania and until the beginning of the twentieth century was known as Samogitia. The use of name "Byelorussia" was forced upon the ancient Lithuanian nation by the Russians after the annexation of Lithuania at the end of the 18th century, and the name Lithuania was assumed by the province of Samogitia. For more information on the genesis of "Belarus" and related names see "Litva, Belaja Rus',..."]

Kinda  like Ukraine being at times under Polish authority and at other times under Russian authority.  Yet Ukrainians still claim their ancient territorial rights.  Lithuania at one time had a larger territory than it does now.  But it was part of Lithuania before the 1400's when their history claims they were pagans and left paganism in the 1400's to become Roman Catholics.   Prior to 1400 there were six million Orthodox within the Lithuanian province and one million Roman Catholics.  So which was the predominate religion Fr Deacon Lance?

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« Reply #8 on: July 15, 2004, 07:43:22 PM »

Thanks for the interesting info. on my ancestor's homeland.  Someday I hope to visit there.  

Does the Orthodox church in Lithuania use only Slavonic or do they use Lithuanian in their services?

I'd love to get myself a copy of the Divine Liturgy and/or Sluzhebnick in Lithuanian.  

Daniel
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« Reply #9 on: July 15, 2004, 07:45:39 PM »

The may have been the majority but they were Slavs not Lithuanians which is the point.  If one wants to say that histoirc Lithuania had lots of Orthodox Slavs with in its borders is one thing to insinuate the Lithuanians ( and by Lithuanian I mean ethnic Lithuanians not peoples subgugated by them and under their rule) were ever anything but pagans who converted to Latin Catholicism is dishonest.

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« Reply #10 on: July 15, 2004, 09:20:37 PM »


http://ldmuziejus.mch.mii.lt/Naujausiosparodos/Orthodox_Church.en.htm
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« Reply #11 on: July 16, 2004, 08:10:40 AM »

Please note it says some of dukes were Orthodox, the Lithuanians themselves were not baptised en masse until Jagiello.
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« Reply #12 on: July 16, 2004, 09:13:05 AM »

[Please note it says some of dukes were Orthodox, the Lithuanians themselves were not baptised en masse until Jagiello.]

What it says is -

"Until the middle of the fifteenth century, more than 40 Lithuanian dukes were Orthodox believers, one of them, duke Daumantas received an Orthodox name of Timothy and became canonized by the Orthodox Church."

More than 40 is hardly what one would call SOME.  

Here is a response from the Indiana.list regarding this subject that I am posting with the permission of the writer.  Guess as he says, it depends on how you want to look at it historically or in light of todays reality.

Once again, there is no doubt that what was considered as historical Lithuania from the 10th century until the creation of the Polish-Lithuanian kingdom had a majority of Orthodox Catholic population and the majority of the aristocracy were Orthodox.
=========

Glory to Jesus Christ!  Glory forever!

Regarding your question about Orthodox Christianity in Lithuania,
it depends on what you mean by "Lithuania."  In an ethnic sense,
Lithuania is a small country on the Baltic Sea inhabited by
Lithuanians, a people of Baltic stock.  In a historical sense,
Lithuania was a multiethnic empire that included today's
Lithuania, Belarus and western Ukraine, whose full name was the
"Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Samogitia and Rus'" and counted Balts,
Jews, Slavs and even Tartars among its inhabitants.

For a long time, many Belarusians described themselves as
"litviny" or "lits'viny" ("Lithuanians"); "Litvin" or "Lits'vin"
remains a common family name there.  Jews from Belarus were called
"Litvaks" ("Lithuanians") in Yiddish, as opposed to Jews from
Ukraine, who were called "Galitzianers" ("Galicians," from the
western Ukrainian region of Galicia).  Even today, in the
Belarusian-Ukrainian borderland of Pales'sye, where the Prypiats'
Marshes have enforced a sense of physical isolation where many
cultural and historical archaicisms persist, Ukrainian speakers
still refer to their Belarusian-speaking neighbors as "lytvyny"
("Lithuanians").  And you may recall from history that the western
Belarusian city of Brest, nowhere near Lithuanian ethnic
territory, was called Brest-Litowsk ("Lithuanian Brest") into the
20th century, to distinguish it from another Brest in Poland.

When ancient Rus', which was a network of principalities formed on
older East Slavic tribal lines and Scandanavian Viking trade
routes (rather than a monolithic nation-state in the modern
sense), broke up due to the incursion of Mongol forces from Asia,
it created a geopolitical vacuum in the area.  The Lithuanian
Balts advanced from the north into what is now Belarus, and the
local East Slavs for the most part welcomed them, to remain free
of the Mongols.  (Earlier in primitive times, much of Belarus was
inhabited by Balts whom the Slavs assimilated during their
expansion in Eastern Europe, so there was some kinship and
previous contact there.)  Through military alliances and dynastic
marriages, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Samogitia and Rus' came
into being.  At its height, it stretched from the Baltic Sea to
the Black Sea.

When this state came into being, the East Slavs had the upper hand
culturally.  Having previously converted to Orthodox Christianity,
they had a written language, a legal system, and a sense of
statehood and European civilization.  The Balts were still pagan,
had no written language and were tribal in organization.  As a
result, the East Slavic element, through intermarriage, political
expediency and diplomatic capabilities, ended up playing a major
role in the grand duchy.  As a matter of fact, an old form of
Belarusian actually became the official state language.  Their
religious influence was felt too: many Lithuanian Balts ended up
converting to Orthodox Christianity.  (It should be noted that
many of the leading Balts were quite fickle in terms of religion
though, switching between Orthodox Christianity and Roman
Catholicism or reverting to paganism whenever it suited their
political and military ambitions vis-a-vis their Slavic and
Germanic neighbors.)

So between the Baltic and East Slavic elements in the Grand Duchy
of Lithuania, Samogitia and Rus', it is no exaggeration to say
that Orthodox Christians were the vast majority of its citizenry
in its early days.
 Things began to change when the grand duchy,
in response to the expansion of Mongol and Muscovite Russian
forces, began to pursue a relationship with neighboring Poland,
first through dynastic intermarriage and later through political
union.  It eventually became part of a new confederation, the
Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, which became less and less of an
equal partnership as time wore on.  The Poles gained the upper
hand, and their Roman Catholicism, language and culture began to
predominate more and more.  In the process, the Lithuanian Balts,
still pagan, nominal or freshly converted, began to identify more
heavily with Roman Catholicism and Polish culture, since it
offered more political, legal and economic advantages.  With the
rise of modern nationalism, they asserted their own Lithuanian
language and identity, but kept the Roman Catholicism intact, for
the most part.

But Orthodox Christianity has long roots in Lithuania.  Your
friend may have even heard of Saints Anthony, John and Eustathius
of Vilnius.
 (The city of Vilnius straddles an ethnic borderland
of Belarusians, Lithuanians and Poles; my maternal grandmother's
family, Orthodox Christian Belarusians, hailed from the Vil'nya --
as it is called in Belarusian -- region.  My parents were married
in a Brooklyn, New York parish founded by immigrants from Vil'nya,
Hrodna and Minsk.)  These saints were 12th-century soldier
converts to Orthodox Christianity who were martyred by pagan
members of the Lithuanian military establishment when their
fasting habits gave away their new faith in the Lord Jesus Christ,
for which they readily laid down their lives, rather than give it
up.  (I'm not sure if they were Balts or Slavs.)  Their holy
relics are enshrined in the city's Holy Spirit Monastery, a major
destination for Orthodox Christian Belarusian and Lithuanian
pilgrims.  The Church honors their holy memory on April 14.
 They
are greatly venerated among Orthodox Christians in both countries;
after Saint Euphrosyne of Polatsk, I'd venture they're among the
most popular saints in Belarus.  They are the patrons of the
brotherhood at the Minsk cathedral well-known for its
catechetical, liturgical and publishing work in the Belarusian
language.

One final interesting tidbit: After his ministry as North
America's first archbishop, Saint Tikhon the New Confessor was
bishop of Vilnius during World War I, when the region was occupied
by Germany, before his election as patriarch of Moscow and primate
of the Church in Russia.  He was well-known there for his
magnaminous spirit and tireless efforts to provide relief and
support for the war-torn population of the region.

I hope this background information proves helpful and interesting
to you.

With prayers and good will,

Gregory Orloff

===========

 
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« Reply #13 on: July 16, 2004, 12:03:04 PM »

Thanks for the additional information.

Fr. Deacon Lance
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« Reply #14 on: April 12, 2010, 12:52:23 PM »

Somewhere here I've posted about the Orthodox members of Lithuania's ruling family, like Vaisvilkas, who was baptized Orthodox and became a monk, giving the title of Grand Duke of Lithuania to his Orthodox relatives in Galicia:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vai%C5%A1vilkas

this is what you find in the crypt of Vilnius' Latin Cathedral, the "Mother Church of Lithuania"
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/b0/Fresco_in_Vilnius_Cathedral_crypt.jpg
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and urgent strife sheds blood.
If you blow on a spark, it will glow;
if you spit on it, it will be put out;
                           and both come out of your mouth
mike
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« Reply #15 on: April 12, 2010, 01:04:53 PM »

Don forget about the Three Martyrs of Vilnius.
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