Aitvaras Geležinkelietis

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Aitvaras Geležinkelietis (1903 - 1942) was a Lithuanian statesman most notable for his role in colonizing Maasai and his books on that.

Aitvaras Geležinkelietis was born in Gardinas to Lithuanian parents. Participated in the First Great War following to which completed his education. He was increasingly fascinated with Africa over the time and spent a year there before enrolling to a university. In Africa he learned several local languages including Maa. When a decition was made by the Lithuanian government to aquire a colony Aitvaras Geležinkelietis, then doing his final year in university, was hired by the minister of colonization Kazys Pakštas, who has met Geležinkelietis previously on several occasions.

Geležinkelietis was sent to Eastern Africa where he used his knowledge of local culture and language as well as some friendships he has established during his year in Africa well enough. He signed a treaty of alliance with a prominent Maasai leader on behalf of Lithuania and ensured consolidation of a vast area. Cleverly using local political realities Geležinkelietis managed to make the previously unconquered "Fierce land" a Lithuanian colony. In 1934 the area was annexed to Lithuania as Naujojo Vilniaus apskritis and Aitvaras Geležinkelietis became its vadovas, a position he held until 1936 famine, when a military rule was established in the apskritis and Povilas Plechavičius became its vadovas.

Aitvaras Geležinkelietis continued to be an important local statesman. He was highly regarded by some people of African race in addition to Lithuanians due to his knowledge and respect for local traditions, although many blamed him for cheating local people by signing uneven agreements. He was a strong believer that the Lithuanian presence in the region brings mutual benefit both for Lithuanians and people of African race. As he put it down in his book:

The next day we have reached an endless plain where the grass was unspeakably green and the sounds of various animals who have previously existed only in our fairy tales were surrounding us magically. I have seen lions, weird antiloppes for which there is no name in our language yet... But the local people left the strongest impression, an impression I am sure not even a sixty years will wipe out from my memory. I cannot put into words their friendliness, their positive feelings. And what a tragedy it had been for me when I saw a local child dying from a disease that would be easily cured by our doctors (...) And when I looked over this plain again suddenly I saw how it will be, how it will most certainly be. The roads will connect the small villages that will then expand. The joy of locals shall increase further and no longer they will die because of povetry, no longer they will be unable to feed their children. We will come and help them work their land, we will show them the achievements of science and we will live side by side as friends... I want as many Lithuanians to see this land as possible as it is like an earthly heaven, it really is. And I want as many Maasais as possible to be able to get what they deserve - good food, order, medical treatment... And what a glorious feeling had swept through me when I realised that I am not some mole blind in the paths of sun, when I realised that I am capable of changing all these things, that I am capable of changing history.

Geležinkelietis is perhaps the most famous nowadays for his books on his experiences in Africa. "Afrikos nuotykis" ("African adventure", published in 1929) about his year spent in Africa, "Džiaugsmo žemė" ("Land of Joy" published in 1935) about the colonization of Maasai, "Vysčio aušra" ("The Dawn of the Civilization", published in 1938) about the changes in years 1934-1938 and "Ašaros nušluostė džiaugsmą" ("The Tears Have Wiped the Joy Away", published posthumously in 1950) about late Naujojo Vilniaus apskritis and the Pakštuva period. The last of these books is perhaps the most famous, especially its closing lines:

I am sure that Lithuania will be reborn in one form or in another. And I am sure that the Chinese and Ethiopian empires will collapse one day as all empires do. But in the same way I am more than sure that Pakštuva - with its unique fusion of cultures - shall never exist anymore. It is a closed page of history. And I feel great sorrow because of that. It is strange that it took me to spend a night in a besieged town hearing endless explosions to understand that - but now I can say for sure that Pakštuva was not a temporary refuge for me as I have tried to tell myself constantly for the past years. It was my homeland.

Aitvaras Geležinkelietis was killed a few minutes after writing these words in a manor in Kalnadvaris where Pakštuvan government spent its final hours during the Borderland War. The manuscript was saved by a Maasai servant and was published in Lithuania after the Second Great War ended.

This page was created by Abdul-aziz.
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