King’s Lynn Lithuanians form their own Society

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But whatever happens in the EU referendum in a few days time, the town now has an established Lithuanian community keen to find employment and make a new life here.

The newly-formed King’s Lynn Lithuanian Society hopes to go some way towards breaking down barriers and building good relationships so that they can play a part in the wider community.

The Society has been set up by Dovydas Paulionis, Gintaras Simanskis and Mantas Laibinis who have all been in West Norfolk for several years.

Their aim is to offer a point of contact and advice to fellow Lithuanians, fight exploitation in the workplace, resolve language issues , and encourage them to play a part in community life in Lynn.

At the same time they will help Lithuanians cherish and celebrate their own country’s traditions and customs and open them up to other nationalities demonstrate them to others. And they stress that it will also be open to non­-Lithuanians.

The chairman is Dovydas who came to Lynn with his mother 16 years ago to find a better life. He was only nine at the time and found himself in school hardly knowing a word of English.

Now he speaks the language perfectly, many of his close friends are English and he works for AMA Waste Management at North Lynn.

He said: “I remember my teachers going out of their way to help and encourage me.

“It meant everything to me and I would love to meet up with them again and say thank you.”

His experience makes him well placed to help and encourage fellow immigrants and he hopes the new society will bring them and other nationalities, including the British, together and turn any negativity about their presence here into something positive.

Although settled and happy here, Dovydas is still proud of his Lithuanian roots and the country’s heritage and this is also something that he hopes the new organisation will encourage.

Around 40 children took part in a celebration at Easter and there are hopes for further traditional celebrations including a festival to mark Jonines (St John’s) Day next summer and Christmas festivities.

The society has already done some fundraising for Help for Heroes.

“Social activities will play a large part in the programme and we hope everyone will join in,” said Dovydas.

He estimates there are more than 2,000 Lithuanians living in and around the town and feels that blocking them from coming here to work could have a massive long-term impact especially on the agricultural industry where most are employed.

“Lithuanians are hard-working people and family life is important to them. We don’t always get the best press and there are always going to be some bad apples but that applies to any community.

“My message to Lithuanians and to their neighbours is to be open-­minded about each other’s way of life.

“We are holding an open meeting in the next couple of months and we hope it will be well supported.”

They also plan to establish a website and send out newsletters in the future. In the meantime they can be contacted on Facebook through King’s Lynn Lietuviu Bendruomene.