Evolution of Science and Technology / Mokslo ir technikos raida, Vol 4, No 1 (2012)

Joseph Ehret: Lithuanian Activities after his Return to Homeland

Aldona Vasiliauskienė


The article reviews the life and activities of Joseph Ehret (18/10/1856–13/3/1984) after his return home to Switzerland. During the years 1919 through 1940 he worked in Lithuania, his second motherland, gained its citizenship, but was forced to leave it by the Soviet occupants.

Having returned home, prof. J. Eretas proceeded with his Lithuanian activities which unfolded in his public and academic endeavours. He joined the activities of the Lithuanian immigrant community in Switzerland. In 1954 he was entrusted with the responsibilities of a member of the honorary court.

Witnessing his wife Ona Jakaitytė’s inability to put down roots in Switzerland and her homesickness, he sought to create the Lithuanian atmosphere in their home, meaning only the Lithuanian language was spoken in his so much treasured family and while away from home, the children used to write letters to their parents only in Lithuanian.

Joseph Ehret’ affection for Lithuania and the reasons why he had moved away were disclosed by him in his public lectures in which he tirelessly raised the issue of Lithuania’s freedom. He successfully refuted the prevalent opinion in Switzerland that the Lithuanian refugees were committed followers of Hitler because they had run away from the “kind uncle” Stalin.

The professor’s articles published in foreign languages in various magazines consolidated Lithuania’s image in the West that the occupied country will be free in the future. Concerned about the fate of the Lithuanian state and the Lithuanian exile, Joseph Ehret wrote “A Trilogy of Exile”, a study about the lost Balts, Baltic nations and their fate, about the Lithuanian language and its archaic wealth. The study presented his vision of Lithuania’s way out of this situation.

Joseph Ehret was an academician of the Lithuanian Catholic Academy of Science (1936) and its honorary member (1979). He stood at the starting point of the academy’s revival in the West (Roma). His lecture on Stasys Šalkauskis acted as a mediator between Vladimir Solovyov’s philosophy and the philosophical trends of the West and contributed to the LKMA’s emergence on the international level.

Resorting to his numerous reminiscences, in his three monographs he immortalized the celebrated members of the Catholic academy. He viewed the academic, political and cultural life of the country and the nation through the distinguished persons of Lithuania such as Stasys Šalkauskis, Kazys Pakštas and Prelate Pranciškus Juras.

The reminiscences of Dr Vaclovas Dargužas (6/1/1920 – 22/10/2009) and Julija Eretaite – Kollar, daughter of the professor, included in the article, are offered to the academic public for the first time.

Presented for the first time, the bibliography of publications about Joseph Ehret in Lithuania will serve as an important source for the investigators considering the ways and forms of perpetuating the professor’s memory.

Prof. Joseph Ehret’ participation in the life of the Lithuanian community in Switzerland can be a stimulus for the contemporary immigrants to become actively involved in the Lithuanian activities of the exile. His personal life is an excellent example for all those Lithuanian immigrants who have started mixed families and who are now talking loud about the importance of preservation of Lithuanian identity, but do not care to teach their spouses or even their own children some Lithuanian. At least a few greeting expressions in Lithuanian would be welcome for the start.

The ideas raised by prof. Joseph Ehret have not lost their importance at the present day. His name is known by the Lithuanians not only in Lithuania, but in Switzerland as well.

Article in Lithuanian

Article in: Lithuanian

Article published: 2012-06-10

Keyword(s): Professor Joseph Ehret; Swiss; nurturer of Lithuanian identity; Lithuanian Catholic Academy of Science (LKMA); Stasys Šalkauskis; Kazys Pakštas; Prelate Pranciškus Juras; exile; Balts

DOI: 10.3846/est.2012.05

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Mokslo ir technikos raida - Evolution of Science and Technology ISSN 2029-2430 eISSN 2029-2449