Odyssey Of Hope is the life story of Joseph Kazickas, a Lithuanian immigrant who found freedom and success in America after a dramatic escape from his country during World War II but never lost his longing and devotion for his beloved homeland. The Kazickas “journey”- finding courage in the face of danger and home in the world of exile- spans most of the 20th century.
Born on the steppes of Russia to Lithuanians already in exile, banished by the Czar for the 1863 uprising, Kazickas and his family returned home to Lithuania when he was four. At Vilnius University he met his wife to be, Alexandra Kalvenas, a raven-haired, athletic beauty who captured the heart of the budding scholar. Her deeply felt, candid and poignant diary entries in the book reflect her fears, hopes and dreams throughout the turbulent war years and the family’s early days in the new world.
The book traverses the globe and covers the history of Lithuania from independence in 1918 through the Nazi invasion and 50 years of Russian occupation. When finally independence was regained in 1991 after the many years he and others worked to keep the dream alive, Kazickas embarked upon a mission to help bring economic prosperity to democratic Lithuania. His riveting and inspiring stories prompted one reporter to write: “Courage and confidence are a double helix in Kazickas’ DNA.” He took improbable risks to bring his family to America. He turned chance encounters with royalty and high society into life long friendships.
Despite adversity, he became a successful entrepreneur but nothing held his heart or drove his ambition like his love for Lithuania and his burning desire to see his country free again one day.
Excerpt: Now The Day Was Upon Us
“We were strolling down Gedimino Prospect when suddenly we heard a roar of airplanes overhead. I’d hardly had time to notice where they were heading when there was an explosion, then another. The air-alert sirens went off, and we realized it was war! Hitler had finally started his battle with Stalin. Our country had been waiting for the day when the Germans would lock horns with the Russians for a long time. And now the day was upon us.”
—Page 58, Odyssey of Hope.