The most famous person linking Japanese and Lithuanian diplomatic relations and intensively stimulating cultural exchanges between both countries Chiune Sugihara was giving “life visas” during World War II and saved more than ten thousands of Lithuanian, Polish and German Jewish lives. Because of such merits for the history of both countries memorial museum of Sugihara house was founded in the former Japanese consulate in Kaunas. When VMUs Center for Asian studies moved from the 2nd floor of the building, the museum had the larger place of the house back in order to pursue educational activities and develop existing expositions.
The idea of repair was developed quite a while ago, but the financial status was the main concern. However, when Japanese started collecting funds for Sugihara‘s house support, renovation works became reality. There were around 20 thousands euros collected in the cities of Tsuruga and Kobe in order to reconstruct and maintain the museum, so internal renewal has already started. According to Sugihara museum manager R. Janulaitis, repair work aims to reconstruct authentic interior of that time. Huge attention is put on even small details such as electric sockets ordered in Germany, light switches, window handles, radiator valves with Lithuanian inscriptions of „hot-cold“ and many more which will allow visitors to feel the specifics of interwar period modern architecture in Kaunas.
Since the 2nd floor now completely is the property of the museum, the staff is planning on expanding the exhibition and including the explanatory exposition of Lithuanian historical background because the visitors, more than 16 thousands of which come to the museum every year, cannot quite comprehend the political situation and historical context of Lithuania of that time. The main room which once was dining and living room of the Sugihara family is going to be turned into a hall in which the movies about the Japanese diplomat will be shown and the event organized by the museum and the Embassy of Japan in Lithuania will be held. Such interior reconstruction is scheduled to be completed this year, external facade holds bigger concern however.
It is said that the last time when the facade has been repaired was in 1980s, so the roof and yard reparation is necessary. The museum intends to repair the roof and the wall plaster, to repaint the house in the authentic color, to restore the fence which used to surround the yard, to secure the yard slope and to build the pergola which used to be there as the neighbours recall. The Japanese are also willingly contributing to the reconstructions of the Sugihara house. The brigade of Japanese volunteers is expected to come to Lithuania to repaint the facade of the house; the special dye will be bought in Lithuania, however, since the repair must be carried out in accordance with instructions of cultural heritage institutions. But the main priority at this moment is roof reparation for which special authentic tiles will be used and therefore huge finances are required. As R. Janulaitis said, Sugihara‘s house receives financial support from private individuals so far, part of which is thought to be the descendants of the saved Jewish people, but it is also expected to obtain support from the municipal of Kaunas and foreign sponsors because the interest in this project is rapidly growing. More and more Japanese companies are offering their assistance; however, any kind of support would be useful, so anybody who is willing to donate may find the main information on the official museum web page http://www.sugiharahouse.com/lt/support-us, or devote the 2 percent support.
Authors: Viktorija Purlytė, Ugnė Radvilaitė