They looked like two beautiful princesses. Big blue eyes, long blonde hair, and a smile. An imaginary one, because I could not see it. Jelena and Olivija are two Lithuanian teenagers. They love to swim in a small swimming pool in the backyard, watch movies and learn English from an old dictionary.
They have high IQ, big hearts, and heads full of dreams. What they don’t have, is a normal family, nor a normal home.
And that really messes everything up.
Jelena and Olivija are sisters. They live in an orphanage in a small Lithuanian town called Kretinga.
The building is 100 years old. A few decades ago there was no place to put orphans in this region, so year by year, one by one, all the kids were brought here.
Leaking windows, scratched walls, dark halls and tiny bathrooms for 50 kids living there. No privacy. No place to store your things. Just a crowded room and a small diary to write down your dreams of having these few simple things a teenager needs to be happy: loving parents and perspectives for the future.
Jelena and Olivija agreed to answer some of my questions. A curious traveling journalist who was arrogant enough to think she can make a decent interview with kids from an orphanage… How much I haven’t expected this tremendous lesson I was about to get! Luckily, my two beautiful teachers who looked like blond-haired, blue-eyed princesses were kind enough to deliver the class of how to communicate without using any verbal language any of us knew.
So when did you start living here? – I asked in English, with a polite smile, a bit intimidated by the perfectly made bed I was sitting on. As soon as the sound of Lithuanian translation echoed in the room, Jelena and Olivija burst into tears. Just sitting there, holding hands, looking at me with eyes that could tell more stories than the 100-year old building they were living in.
And then Olivija and Jelena started to talk. In Lithuanian, from which I understood exactly nothing. But it didn’t matter because my two blonde heroes expressed everything so deeply and so clearly that absolutely no words were left behind.
A few hours later I left Kretinga to head to another Lithuanian town. Two beautiful princesses, armed with the crushing power of vulnerability, delivered an unforgettable class of communication without the borders of language and perhaps haven’t even realized it. They just said ‘good bye’, which, translated by the eyes looked like ‘thank you’. They didn’t smile back.
See the video footage from the place:
For more stories about Roadtrip Lithuania, check my Wind Blows collection.