A Lithuanian school teacher is planning to honour the friendship between Mahatma Gandhi – the preeminent leader of Indian nationalism in British-ruled India and the South Asian country’s ‘Father of the Nation’ – and Jewish architect Hermann Kallenbach in an unique style.
Vytautas Toleikis, who teaches ethics, has requested eminent Lithuanian sculptor Romas Kvintas to create a life size bronze statue of these two historic figures. The ‘Times of India’ daily reported that the statue would be built in Rusne – the birth place of Kallenbach.
Talking to the Indian media, Vytautas recently said that Gandhi’s philosophy influenced him a lot and he watched a film on the great Indian leader a number of times. The movie also helped him know about Gandhi’s friendship with Kallenbach. Later, Vytautas conducted a research on Kallenbach’s past and discovered that the architect was born in Lithuania.
Vytautas – a student of Jewish history – told the Indian daily that Gandhi’s doctrine of non-violence influenced the people of Lithuania especially during their struggle against the Russian occupation. “We fought the Russian without arms, inspired by Gandhi’s doctrine. I first became aware of Gandhi and Kallenbach’s friendship while watching the Ben Kingsley-starrer movie on India’s father of the nation. I then stumbled upon further historical record of the two in Lithuanian writer Leva Simonaityte’s works. It is important to popularise this friendship in Lithuania,” he stressed.
Vytautas explained that Kallenbach met Gandhi for the first time in South Africa and developed a close and long-lasting friendship after exchanging their views on different issues. Kallenbach, born in 1871 as the third of a seven children German-Jewish family, arrived in South Africa in 1896 to meet his uncles in Johannesburg. In Johannesburg, he also served as an architect.
According to Vytautas, Kvintas, too, wholeheartedly accepted his proposal to make a bronze statue in honour of the historical friendship between the two great characters. Vytautas also discussed the issue with the local City Council in Rusne for finalising the location where the statue would be installed. He also said that it would cost USD 100,000 to build the statue and local businessmen agreed to bear 50% of the total cost.
Meanwhile, Kvintas said that he has already prepared an initial model of the statue in plaster and the bronze statue would be ready by July 2015. Head of the Lithuanian Jewish community and lawyer Faina Kukliansky, too, welcomed Vytautas’ venture, saying: “Having such a sculpture is a great idea. It has to be agreed by the local community in Rusne. There are very few places across the world where prominent Jews are commemorated.”
In a separate development, the University of Calcutta is all set to honour Lithuanian traveler anthropologist Antanas Poska with a posthumous doctorate degree. Lithuanian Foreign Minister Linas Linkevicius confirmed the news, telling the Times of India over phone that Poska would be honoured by the Indian University at its next convocation ceremony in September.
In the eastern Indian city of Kolkata, Vice Chancellor of the University Suranjan Das said that they would honour the Lithuanian anthropologist for his role in symbolising “an eastern European’s inquisitiveness about India”. According to him, Poska made a valuable contribution in making India famous, especially in the Baltic region through his writings.