Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Lithuania's Honorary Consuls: Rimas Chesonis

Another installment in our continuing series profiling Lithuania's Honorary Consuls in the United States. Thanks to Aiste Zalepuga who conducted the interviews with each Consul and collected additional materials. 

Rimas Chesonis has been involved in the Lithuanian-American community for more than thirty years. He began as President of a local chapter in Grand Rapids, Michigan and continued to serve much later as President of another local chapter, this time in Atlanta, Georgia. He has served as a member of the Board of Directors as well as a member of of the National Executive Committee of the Lithuanian-American Community of USA. Mr. Chesonis has been appointed the Vice President of the  Lithuanian World Community.

New York is the U.S.'s third most populous and seventh most-densely populated state. It is also the home of New York City, Amercia's single most populated city with more than 8.3 million people. In addition to serving as the leading center of banking, finance and communications in the United States, New York State is also a major agricultural producer, contains a large manufacturing sector, and exports approximately $70 billion worth of goods each year. "We are proud to boast a vibrant high-tech community, universities which lead the way in many areas including medicine, laser technology and business, a family-friendly environment, and our own seacoast, affectionately known as Lake Ontaro," Mr. Chesonis said of the state.

New York is fortunate enough to have within its community a number of dynamic organizations dedicated to the promotion of Lithuanian culture, such as local chapters of the Lithuanian-American Community, the Lithuanian Heritage Society, Baltu Vaikai, and weekly Lithuanian language radio broadcasts. These organizations coordinate concerts, invite singers and dancers from Lithuania to perform at special events, and conduct a Saturday Lithuanian Language School, which teaches not only the Lithuanian language, but the culture and customs as well. Three years ago, Rochester also held a Lithuanian Catholic Parish. It has since been sold, but the preservation of the Lithuanian identity still exists within another local church. 

To further increase ties with the old country, Rochester has formed a sister city relationship with Alytus, Lithuania. The mission of the Alytus-Rochester Sister Cities Committee is to nurture and strengthen the bonds between the people of Alytus and Rochester and, in so doing, strengthen those between the Republic of Lithuania and the United States of America. "We have enjoyed much success," says Chesonis, "in developing and executing projects in the areas of commerce, education, culture, sports and philanthropy.

For Mr. Chesonis, sustaining relations with Lithuania is as much personal as it is societal. He was born in Lithuania and relocated to America only after World War II; he was 12-years old and displaced. Because of his parents' efforts to retain the culture in their new lives, he continued to speak the language, and practice the customs and traditions. "I have remained a Lithuanian at heart throughout my life," he explains.

Like the other Honorary Consuls we've espoused in this series, Chesonis' central task is to represent, maintain and improve Lithuania and Lithuanian relations with America. He regularly provides consular assistance, help in questions of citizenship, property rights, and other similar matters. At present, his main project is to help locate companies that would like to invest in Lithuania and to promote commerce between the two countries. When necessary, he provides a voice to Lithuanian citizens who live in the area "I keep an active profile in our various organizations and assist them whenever and wherever I can."