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The Schengen Story – A Lithuanian Novel

The Schengen Story – A Lithuanian Novel

Borders are abolished, gates have opened – on 21 December 2007, Lithuania joins the Schengen area, granting its residents access to any place in Europe. Three young Lithuanian couples who made friends at a rock festival have a Pre-Christmas get together at the small farm area of Pienagalis in a remote village to celebrate the historic event and share their plans for the future. Ingrida and Klaudijus talk about moving to London. Andrius and Barbora want to settle down in Paris. Renata and Vitas are fond of Italy. Upbeat, adventurous and full of self-confidence, they believe they will feel safe and secure whenever they go. Baby nurses, dog walkers, cleaners, porters, gardeners, street clowns are what they should be to stay afloat in the unknown land lying out there…

While they toast the ‘Schengen midnight’ at the festive table, an old man approaches limping on a wooden leg, the Lithuanian-Polish border far away from Pienagalis (which means ‘the roots of milk’). He waits until the guards lift the barrier – once and for good – and comes through. He becomes the first Lithuanian to cross the dividing line without having to present a passport. His name is Kukutis and he knows Europe like the back of his hand. He lost his leg in the First World War and survived in the Second World War. As Kukutis hitchhikes from Poland up to England, he calls some regions he expects to see by their historical names like Eastern Prussia (part of Germany) or Zhemaitia (part of Lithuania) and pays old-fashioned silver coins in pubs. The ‘never dying’ wanderer is a symbol of all Lithuanians spreading across Europe and a bridge between the nation’s Past, Present and Future. A long road stretches ahead of him, intertwining his fate with that of the three young couples…

With his books translated into 36 languages, Andriy Kurkov is the most popular Ukrainian Russian-language writer abroad. He says, “The Schengen story is the first visa-free regime novel in Ukraine. It focuses on the internal migration within the EU. Lithuania has already lost 30 percent of its population – this is what happens to a small country when no borders exist and you dissolve into a cultural mix of nations.”

People flee their homes not in pursuit of prospects but in pursuit of fruitless dreams. Perhaps everybody and everything in the world must have their own roots, even milk…

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