The Neris Memorial Museum, Kaunas

Salomeja Neris lived here from 1938 to 1941 with her husband, Bernardas Bucas and her young son Saulius, born in 1939. Designed by Bucas, a Lithuanian painter, sculptor and architect, this wood-framed country house had an original architecture with oak doors, pine wood flooring, a terrace and wooden balconies, which afforded stunning views of surrounding woodland and nature, inspirational for the poet. The house was built for their way of living, with a window in the Neris’ study which enabled her husband to see her desk from the passageway and whether she was working or resting and a window through which she could observe her husband in his workspace, even while in the kitchen.

Whilst living there, Neris published her best book of poems, I Will Turn into the Absinthe Flower, in 1938, for which she received the prestigious State Literary Award and as a socialist and key cultural activist in the period 1939-1940s, member of the People’s Seimas (Parliament) and elected member of the delegation sent to the Supreme Council of the Soviet Union to appeal for adoption of occupied Lithuania into the Soviet Union,  she also completed a poetry commission glorifying Stalin, which was awarded the Stalin prize posthumously in 1947, amongst other pro-soviet poems.

Salomeja Neris embodied the contradictions of the time as a socialist woman. In addition to her poetry writing and political activism, she was a scholar of the German language and Lithuanian literature, who worked as a teacher at the third gymnasium in the city of Kaunas, eight kilometres away, to support her family, as well as being a wife and mother with domestic responsibilities in the home, including: child rearing, shopping, cooking and gardening.

With the outbreak of World War Two and the German occupation, Neris was evacuated with her son to Moscow in 1941, where she spent duration of the war. After returning to the house at Kaunas in 1944, she became seriously ill and died of liver cancer at a hospital in Moscow on July 7th, 1945. Salomeja Neris was buried in a square of the museum of Culture in Kaunas and later in the cemetery at Petrasiunai. Her last poems show deep affection for Lithuania.

In 1962, a memorial museum was established to commemorate Salomeja Neris’ and Bernardas Bucas’ work, housing six thousand exhibits. This was reconstructed in 2004  with memorial rooms, the family living room , bedroom and work spaces. Bucas’ former summer workshop, a spacious hall, displays Salomeja Neris’ poetry and way of life.

Lithuanian playwright, Gabriele Diena has written a new work set in the memorial house. ‘Salute’ has been adapted for performance by GoodDog Theatre Company.

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