Long Journey Home: Great Discovery
If ever there was a collection of documents that were surrounded by intrigue, the Gylys document collection fits the bill. The object of much speculation for over 80 years, the collection of bilateral treaties negotiated during Lithuania‘s brief period of independence (1918-1940), was first sent to the Lithuanian Embassy in Sweden for safe keeping in 1939. The Second World War was looming and the diplomatic Head of the Mission in Sweden, Minister Vytautas Gylys received a number of boxes containing documents from the Ministry of Foreign Relations headquartered in the provisional capital city of Kaunas, Lithuania. From this point on, mulitple twists and turns surround the documents. There was speculation about the actual content of the boxes, no clear evidence that the documents were transported to Canada when Vytautas Gylys and his wife, Vanda immigrated to Toronto, Canada in 1949. Subsequent attempts to verify their existence and value failed, and finally, the conclusion was reached that the documents were lost or never reached Canada and their fate would remain a mystery.
Photos from “A Long Way Home”, an exhibition on the life of diplomat Vytautas Gylys. Prepared by the Republic of Lithuania’s Embassy in Canada, sponsored by Danutė Garbaliauskienė and held at the Lithuanian Museum Archives of Canada on November 2, 2014.
Lithuania’s Ambassador to Canada, Vytautas Žalys presents the exhibition.
Republic of Lithuania Diplomatic Pass, 1938.
Telegram sent by Vytautas Gylys to the Ministry of Foreign Relations to protest the occupation of Lithuania by Soviet troops.
Notice to the Foreign Minister of the intention to immigrate to Canada.
The Gylys residence in Toronto.
All of this changed with one phone call to the Lithuanian Museum Archives of Canada (LMAC) in the spring, 2021 and a conversation with Canadian Charles Hopkins. We learned for the first time that the documents had reached Canada afterall, and through the efforts of the Gylys‘ neighbour, Charles Hopkins, were saved from permanent destruction. Lithuania’s Consul-General Vytautas Gylys died suddently in 1959 without passing on his collection of documents. Upon the death of his wife, Vanda Gylys in 1979, her residence was being prepared for sale by a commercial company and boxes of documents were placed by the roadside as refuse. Some documents were damaged from exposure to rain that had fallen that night. Knowing the story and the value of the documents, Mr. Hopkins, when he saw them on the street, managed to salvage a large number of them and stored them at his home. Previous efforts to donate them to the Lithuanian community were unsuccessful until Mr. Hopkins and his wife contacted LMAC with the intention of donating the collection to an organization tasked with the preservation of Lithuanian artefacts in Canada and who had knowledge of the historical significance of the material.
UNESCO Chair in Reorienting Education towards Sustainability
York University, Toronto
The documents arrive at LMAC.
An inventory of the collection revealed that it contained 30 bilateral treaties, 14 folders containing Lithuania‘s Ministry of Foreign Relations working documents, 8 single documents and a small number of damaged documents covering the time period from 1920 to 1939. The historical significance cannot be understated. After 123 years of rule by Imperial Russia, Lithuania declared independence on February 16, 1918. The newly formed government was establishing itself within Lithuania and was anxious to show a presence internationally. Among the first treaties the Republic of Lithuania negotiated was the Peace Treaty with Soviet Russia establishing clear borders and responsibilities of two sovereign nations (signed in Moscow, July 12, 1920). Another important bilateral treaty with Latvia gave Lithuania direct access to the Baltic Sea (signed in Riga, January 25, 1931).
Lithuania-Russian Federation Socialist Republic Peace Treaty.
From l to r : Peace Treaty signed 1920.VII.12, Moscow, Ratification instrument signed 1920.IX.9, Moscow.
Ratification instrument of the Extension of the Peace Treaty 1926.IX.28 signed 1931.VI.28, Moscow.
Folders containing Lithuania‘s Ministry of Foreign Relations working documents
Treaty between Lithuania and the Evangelical Upper Church Council in Berlin regarding the status of the Evangelical Church.
Venceslas Sidzikauskas, Heinrich Borchert, Dr. Hermann Kapler
Plein Pouvoir granted by Antanas Smetona for trade agreement negotiations with Latvia
President Antanas Smetona, Stasys Lozoraitis
Prisoner Exchange Protocol between the Republic of Lithuania and the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic
Jurgis Baltrušaitis, B. Stomoniakoff
Ratification document for Lithuania joining the International Court of Justice.
President Aleksandras Stulginskis, V. Jurgutis
Lithuania – United States Treaty for the regulation of a moratorium on a deferred loan
Bronius Balutis, Andrew Mellon, President of the United States of America, Herbert Hoover
Plein Pouvoir (Power of Attorney) granted to Maxim Maximovich Litvinov to sign an agreement between the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic and the Lithuanian Democratic Republic related to matters of granting Lithuanian citizenship.
Vladimir Ulyanov (Lenin), Nikolai Gorbunov, 3rd signature (?)
The photographs of the treaties below reflect Lithuania‘s journey through 20 short years of independence. They demonstrate its dealings with political issues that it, as a sovereign nation negotiated and concerning which it reached bilateral agreements that were then signed by leaders of nations, many of whom are recognizeable, major historical figures.
Peace Treaty between Lithuania and the Russian Federation Socialist Republic (Soviet-Lithuanian Peace Treaty or Moscow Peace Treaty)
Tomas Naruševičius, Petras Klimas, Simon Rozenbaum, Juozas Valokaitis, Vytautas Račkauskas; Adolf Joffe, Julijon Marchlevskij, Leonid Obolenskij
Peace Treaty between Lithuania and the Russian Federation Socialist Republic (Soviet-Lithuanian Peace Treaty or Moscow Peace Treaty) – Ratification instrument
Mikhail Kalinin, Avel Yenukidze
Extension of the Peace Treaty signed 1926.IX.28
Mikhail Kalinin, Avel Yenukidze
Peace Treaty between Lithuania and Ukraine
A Ivanov, Ermoprenku (?)
Moscow / Kharkiv, 1921.II.14 / 1922.IV.5
Extradition Treaty between Great Britain and Lithuania
King George V of Great Britain
To determine the situation of the Catholic Church in Lithuania, and to establish the rules of stable religious affairs in the Republic
Pope Pius XI
Trade Agreement between Lithuania and Austria
Wilhelm Miklas President of the Republic of Austria
Treaty between Denmark and Lithuania concerning Reciprocal Extradition of Criminals and Judicial Assistance in Criminal Matters
King of Denmark Christian X
Treaty between Iceland and Lithuania for Trade, Commerce and Navigation
King of Denmark Christian X
Fisheries Treaty between the German Weimar Republic and the Republic of Lithuania – Ratification instrument
President of the German Weimar Republic Paul von Hindenburg
Arbitration Treaty between the United States of America and Lithuania
President of the United States of America Calvin Coolidge
Friendship Treaty between Turkey and Lithuania
President of the Republic of Turkey Gazi Mustafa Kemal
Lithuania-Latvia Border Deliniation (detail report based on the Agreement made by the Special Lithuania-Latvia Border Commission 1921.V.14)
Lithuanian and Latvian Delegation Members
Convention with Latvia, Estonia and Lithuania on Bills of Exchange and Promissory Notes
President of Latvia Karlis Ulmanis
Lithuania-Holland Extradition Treaty Ratification Instrument
Queen Wilhelmina of Holland
Copenhagen, date unknown
Convention with Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania on Cheques
President of Estonia Konstantin Pats
Tallin, date unknown
Treaty between the United States of America and Lithuania defining military service, naturalization and double nationality - Ratification
President of the United States of America Franklin D. Roosevelt
Friendship Treaty between Mexico and Lithuania
President of Mexico Lazaro Cardenas
Friendship Treaty between Lithuania and Chile - Ratification
President of the Republic of Chile Arturo Alessandri
Treaty of Commerce and Navigation Between Japan and Lithuania - Ratification
Emperor Hirohito of Japan
Imperial Palace, Tokyo, 1931.X.5
Through the efforts of Lithuania‘s Ambassador to Canada, Darius Skusevičius, working with LMAC and the Lithuanian Canadian Community Executive, and Charles Hopkins, the document collection has finally reached its rightful place – Lithuania. All speculations, twists and turns surrounding the documents can now be put to rest and we will leave it to historians to uncover the treasures that have returned to Lithuania.
From left to right: Katrin Kohl Executive Coordinator to the UNESCO Chair in Reorienting Education towards Sustainability – C. Hopkins wife, Charles Hopkins UNESCO Chair in Reorienting Education towards Sustainability, York University – neighbour, Danguolė Juozapavičiūtė-Breen LMAC Director, Joana Kuras Canadian Lithuanian Community Executive, Darus Skusevičius Ambassador of Lithuania to Canada.
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An overview of the Gylys collection story prior to 2021 was written by Raimundas Klimavičius entitled „Dingę tarp Stokholmo ir Toronto“ („Lost Between Stockholm and Toronto“). It is found in „Tėviškės Žiburiai“ (Lights of Homeland Lithuanian-Canadian newspaper issues: January 21, 2020 pg. 4 (part 1) and February 4, 2020 pg. 4 (part 2). To read the article (which is written in Lithuanian) go to spauda.org.
Prepared by: Danguolė Juozapavičius-Breen Director, LMAC
Editing and translation: Sigina Katkauskaitė, Gabija Petrauskienė
This post is also available in: LT