Students from the Lithuanian school in Longford with large handmade kites. The kite is the symbol for the school, representing 'childhood, friendship, happiness, peace, joy and dreams'.
A Lithuanian school has been established in Longford under the dedicated eye of native Renata Rapkauskiene.
Renata is a teacher at the facility and when she arrived in Longford a few years back, she realised very quickly that there was a growing need for such a school in Longford town.
So, together with her husband Alvydas the pair established the school just over two years ago and the couple’s two daughters are also enrolled there.
“We worked on bringing the Lithuanian particles back to the school here in Longford,” said Renata, before pointing out that those principles would stand the children in good stead regardless of where life tookthem.
“Our daughters attend the school and eight-year-old Skaiste and Eva (16) are a huge help to me.”
Meanwhile, Renata says that it is important for children to be aware of their own heritage, no matter where in the world they reside.
“In Ireland or elsewhere Lithuanian born children should know where their parents and grandparents come from,” she continued, before pointing out that it it was also important that they were aware of Lithuanian traditions, culture, history and language.
The Lithuanian School in Longford was established in 2015 and has gone from strength to strength in the intervening two years.
“There are 13 official Lithuanian schools in Ireland - Longford is the thirteenth,” smiled Renata.
“We remain very optimistic and positive about the future of our school here.
“And, in addition to all of this, the fact is that Ireland is a great country with nice, friendly people.
“We feel at home here.”
Students of the school meet every Saturday in the Temperance Hall where they not only learn the Lithuanian language, but they also sing, dance, play games and participate in various activities and projects.
In the local St Patrick’s Day Parade back in 2016, the school emerged victorious in one of the categories.
“We became large handmade kites for the day and it was most colourful,” laughed Renata before pointing out that the Kite was in fact the symbol of the school.
“In that lives childhood, friendship, happiness, peace, joy and dreams.”
As a result of an initiative that she undertook herself, Renata received ethnic clothes from the Lithuanian Ministry of Education and as a direct result of that, she holds a national trad festival every year.
“We have contributed to the global organisation ‘Save The Children’ too,” Renata added proudly and in the autumn we hold a sports festival in the Albert Reynolds Peace Park.
“That has been a wonderful promotion for Lithuanian children and the community.”
This year the ‘Letters from Lithuania’ project was established and it has been an extremely successful venture for the local Lithuanian school.
“For this project we went onto the streets of Longford town and asked local people if they had heard of Lithuania and if so what was it about the country that they knew,” continued Renata.
“Irish people very kindly answered our questions, and we gave them brochures about Lithuania and invited them to visit sometime.
“Later we had a children's painting competition on the asphalt near the Lithuanian shop - Lituanica - and we received great support from everyone on the day.”
Longford’s Lithuanian School has 11 students and two teachers including Vaida Vilkiene and Renata.
“I would also like to take the opportunity to thank Vaida for all her help and support and thank you also to our photographer Algirdas who takes the most beautiful photographs.
“I also want to thank the entire Lithuanian community here in Longford.”
For more details check out the school on Facebook.