In November, 2018, a third edition of Joseph Kazickas’ autobiography was published in Lithuania, commemorating the 100th anniversary of his birth – Vilties kelias niekada nesibaigia (Odyssey of Hope – the journey never ends.).
When Kazickas died in 2014, the family found a cache of more than 100 letters that he had written to his beloved wife, Alexandra, on special occasions and during his extensive business travels around the world, mostly in the 1950s. (The hand-written letters were transcribed and translated into English by Neila Baumiliene, the executive director of the Kazickas Family Foundation. )
They are beautiful love letters, filled with emotion, poetry and romance, reaffirming his abiding devotion to Alexandra and his children.
The letters also include Kazickas’ vivid and detailed impressions of the many exotic places he visited in Europe, Asia and Africa mostly in the 1950s when he was traveling for business.
The special edition of Vilties Kelias , which is only available in Lithuanian, features excerpts from 20 letters, including one written on April 20, 1958 from the Peninsula Hotel in Kowloon, Hong Kong.
“Most Beloved Alyte:
I have sent you a million thoughts, a million impressions. Everything has been so strange, so difficult to describe, difficult to tell.
It was nighttime. I was lost in thought, looking through the window. On the other side, Hong Kong seemed to be drowning in all different colors…
An entire family was paddling a small boat, standing up. Women with children strapped to their backs with scarves were pushing and pulling the oars, hurrying somewhere. The tiny heads of the little children peaking out of the scarf would snap back with every mother’s motion. Other babies, seemingly even smaller ones, were completely covered, looking like some sort of bundles attached to hard-working women. Over there again, on another boat, six or seven-year old children were rowing frantically. I stood watching, mesmerized, with a milion questions, a million thoughts filling my mind. Why? How? What do they feel, what do they think when they lift their eyes and see people just like me standing and watching them, stunned, or, in my case, looking at them and feeling compassion, sympathy.
Again, after dinner I headed in the same direction (only about 200 meters from the hotel), where rickshaw drivers were aggressively offering a ride. But to ride, to see an exhausted sweaty man pulling you, makes you feel ashamed and sad. And it is difficult to get rid of him because he is motivated by hunger and probably has several children, a wife and parents at home.
And I do understand that even if the richest man gave away all his wealth to these people, it would not be enough help, it would not really change anything. Then what can be done? And here, Hong Kong is the richest place in all of the Orient. It is the most beautiful – only to the tourists, of course. Those who sleep hungry on the streets, do not see the beauty.“
Here is the last letter we found. Alexandra had been quite ill and it grieved “Juozukas” (as she called him) very much to see her in pain. She died two years later. I think writing down his thoughts and feelings gave him some comfort. And as always, the letter radiates with his unshakable optimism, joy of life and his belief in the power of love. They were married for 70 years.
My most beloved, my dearest Alyte,
Christmas of 2009, as I am sitting, immersed in thought, and thinking about our life, and these beautiful holidays, sadness inescapably seeps into my heart. It is not so much because we are alone and forgotten, and our children are not with us. It is not because I know that most possibly these are our last Christmases together. The sadness takes over me because you, joy of my life, are suffering from pain and depression, and cannot see the beauty that surrounds us or find peace and hope in the grace and the meaning of our days.
Could there be anything more beautiful, more joyous than our being together, than our singing lullabies, Alyte, than seeing the rays of sunshine, listening to the rustle of the sea, and having such caring help. Most importantly we can wish each other good morning – good morning, Juozukai, good morning, Alyte. When you smile, everything around us turns to magic, unforgettable, unmatched. I know then how exceptional and happy our life is.
This year, as you know, I do not have a gift for you. I have only one heart, that is beating only for you, that is embracing you day and night, and that will be in your haven until its last beat. In my thoughts, I have only one wish. Smile, my darling, become stronger in your body and soul. We are together. Our love, more pure and strong, enables us to celebrate the most beautiful Christmas and New Year of our lives.
The family shared a few of these letters with the public in the hope they will inspire readers to speak more openly of their love and affection for family and friends and perhaps even to write the occasional love letter to the dearest person in their lives.
— Jurate Kazickas, December, 2018