Today is another rainy day and I’ve looked through my shelf of books of another interesting story to share. I came across a book I have kept among my journals for many years of my travels: a biography and work of my Grandfather: Pranciškus Baltrus Šivickis. I was named Aušra Pranciška Šivickytė – in his honour and my half-brother is Baltrus Šivickis. As if that is not enough, there is also a school and a street in Lithuania by his name! So what has this man done to deserve such recognition? I set out to research about his life surprisingly finding quite a bit of information online, but in strange places such as the archives of University of Philippines!
Some interesting facts about his life:
Born and raised in the Lithuanian countryside Pranciškus took great interest studying nature. In the future his work focused on zoology, marine biology and parasites.
Hearing that he was on the list of people to be executed, in 1906 he fled the Tsarist Occupation aged 24 to study to the USA. There he worked in sales and handy man jobs to pay for his living and studies. He received his PhD at the University of Chicago and in 1922 left the USA to work as a professor of Zoology at the University of Philippines.
In 1928 he returned to Lithuania and bought a 13,5 hectare island where he lived with his family (wife and 5 children!) and continued research and teaching work.
Growing up my mother had mentioned that Grandpa had an island but that’s all I knew about it back then. After some research I find that this island is now called ‘apple island’ (http://www.appleisland.lt/en) and is made into a group events camping site. It was taken away from my Grandfather by the Bolsheviks (a political Russian party) and made property of the government until bought by the camping business.
Grandfather returned to his homeland aged 48 and married a Lithuanian woman. Of his 5 children my father is the last one. The children write in the memoirs that they loved Grandfather not only for being a loving and strict but also for his sensitivity to their needs and his introduction to love of nature.
This very basic biography shows about his life and work. In several articles it describes about his interest in photography and filming also learning some of the local language and culture. I can only imagine what this was like so many years ago…
*If you would like to learn more about his life here is an article in English with photos of his interesting and challenging life. There are also several published books in Lithuanian language.