OCA #35 SUMMER 2020 WWW.OCAMAGAZINE.COM interview prepared by Saniya Seilkhanova
INTERVIEW: ALDONA GRUPAS
Born in Riga, Latvia, to Lithuanian parents, Aldona Grupas later moved to Klaipėda in Lithuania, before resettling in the UK, where she embarked on a geriatric-nursing career. She has written books for Lithuanians who move to the UK to help them settle and has reflected upon her own personal and professional journeys to help others navigate their new lives. OCA Magazine got the chance to ask Grupas a few questions about how her own experience has embodied the feeling of Eurasianism that many readers and members of the Eurasian Creative Guild (ECG) have been expressing over the years.
OCA Magazine: What is “Eurasianism” for you?
Aldona Grupas: For me it is about the opportunity to be a member of a group with similar views. It is about taking part in multicultural events such as the Open Eurasian Literature Festival & Book Forum or the Eurasian Film Festival. And then, building on that it provides the opportunity to publish information and articles in English on platforms such as this magazine. Finally by bringing people together it provides the opportunity for exchange of ideas and feedback of experienced from experts, writers and readers.
OCA: Who are your favourite artists?
AG: I have a few but probably my favourite is Bob Proctor, a world-renowned speaker, motivational coach, author of bestselling books, as well as a Law of Attraction teacher. I’d also cite American novelist Margaret Mitcheel. And Tina Turner is a pretty good singer and actress!
OCA: Have you taken part in the events of the Eurasian Creative Guild (London)?
AG: Yes, I participate in guild events. I have been to literary weeks in London, forums and the Open Eurasian literature and book forum festival in Brussels.
OCA: What does the Eurasian Creative Guild mean to you, and how does it influence your work and creativity?
AG: It provides me with the opportunity to participate in the Open Eurasia literary competition and other ECG projects. It is also a meeting place for professionals providing a wide range of activities and serving as place for discussion of their work with each other.
OCA: What projects have you participated in and which ones do you plan to participate?
AG: I participated in the competition ‘Small Prose’ in the category ‘Literature’ in the nomination Woman’s writing. And I was awarded 2nd place in this nomination. I also participated in an online competition #NOcovidECG.
I have published my new book, “It Is Not Easy To Be An Angel” with Hertfordshire Press and I am planning to present the book at the literary week in London. I also plan to participate in some competitions.
OCA: What would you say to the members of the Guild, just starting their career?
AG: When a writer sets out on their career, they need a community of interest to help them negotiate the creative world. The Eurasian Creative Guild (London) was established to stand up for the career of writers and creative people. The ECG is your friend in the business.
OCA: Do you have a personal project that you would like to talk about?
AG: Yes, I do. My editor, David Stanford, is currently working on a book on the Lithuanian community in West Anglia after World War II. It is called ‘West Midlands Ho! The Community Life and Personal Tales of Lithuanian Refugees since World War II’. This book, is a revised and updated edition of a book published in 2014 under the title “Lithuanian Community in the West Midlands after the Second World War (1947–2012)”.
I produced the original book with the help of a wide range of people, mostly members of the Lithuanian community in the West Midlands. The focus was on the personal tales of refugee families who had settled in this corner of England after World War II. In addition, I provided some historical information on the Lithuanian community as a whole, including its social and cultural activities over several decades.
OCA: What can you tell us about Lithuanian society in the UK?
AG: There are more than 100,000 Lithuanians in London and over 200,000 in the UK. The largest Lithuanian communities can be found in London, Birmingham, Manchester, Nottingham, Bradford, and in Scotland.
Lithuanian student associations have been established at the universities of Birmingham, Edinburgh, Huddersfield, Cambridge, Leeds, London, Manchester, Newcastle, Nottingham, Oxford, Southampton and Warwick.
Lithuanian schools, kindergartens, children’s clubs, language, ethnocultural, art studies were founded by Aberdeen and Fraserburgh (Aberdeenshire), Armagh, Birmingham, Bolton, Colchester, Crawley, Dungannon (Northern Ireland), Glasgow, Ipswich, Leyton, Kingston upon Hull Lithuanians from Lincoln, London, Luton, Cambridge, Corby, Great Yarmouth, King’s Lynn, Norwich, Nottingham, Peterborough, Portadown (Northern Ireland), Scunthorpe, Wolverhampton.
The Lithuanian Youth Union of the United Kingdom is also active. There is a British Lithuanian Basketball League and a British Lithuanian Sports Association,
Our feature is diligence and appreciation and preservation of culture.
Our pride is basketball.
OCA: Being a nurse,what made you decide to write a book?
AG: My second book (Nurse, give me a pill for death…) is different from the first – as this book highlights much of my own journey. It is important to me that it is not seen as a self-indulgent autobiography, but rather I tell from my unique perspective both the experiences newcomers have who come to make a life in the UK from overseas– and also from the perspective of my work. Both my husband and I have professional qualifications and experiences in the medical field – this book shows our struggle to join this field in the UK. I wanted the book to be challenging as well as heart-warming too.
OCA: What inspires you to write about peoples’ lives?
AG: My hope is that whilst you may be challenged and compelled to see things in a new light –most of all, you will be inspired by people who not only come to the UK from Lithuania but also from many other countries.
OCA: Why do you think that medicine is important in literature?
AG: The book has been and remains an important source of spiritual and cultural human development. Artistic text is a complex phenomenon: it is both a means of communication, and way to store and transmit information, a reflection of the psychological life of a human, a product of a certain historical era and reflection of national culture and traditions.
The image of a doctor is present in a large number of works of classical and modern literature, which gives us the right to argue: the profession of a doctor at all times has been in demand in society.
OCA: How does your working day now look during the Covid-19 pandemic?
AG: There are no particularly big changes in my work. I do my job as always. Helping people feel better. Of course, precautionary measures are strengthened. We protect our patients and we must protect ourselves for those who need us.
Panic and stress are the main difficulty. Not knowing what will happen next. Mostly I think about my team and patients. Our team supports each other and our patients with a positive attitude.
OCA: What would you advise people during this pandemic?
AG: I have no special secrets. I can only advise what they say everywhere on the radio or TV. Wash your hands! Disinfect surfaces. Don’t eat food or handle dishes or utensils touched by a sick family member. Don’t share a towel with anyone in your household who is sick. Don’t shake hands, kiss or hug people. Practice good hygiene.