Global True Lithuania Encyclopedia of Lithuanian heritage worldwide

Completing a circle: from Scotland to Lithuania

Sometimes getting to know Your roots is not that easy and straightforward. This is what happened to Colin White, a Scottish Lithuanian, whose parents never talked to him about his Lithuanian heritage. Eventually, this made him so interested to find that out, Colin started digging himself, not only he started learning Lithuanian and considering moving to Lithuania but also engaged himself into a legal process of, first of all, getting a certificate of Lithuanian descent, and then applying for the citizenship of Lithuania under the simplified procedure. So how did this all happen and how a certificate of Lithuanian descent may change Your life.

Tell us a bit of your life story: where were you born, where you lived?

I was born in Glasgow in 1957. I am an only child. I lived in the East End of the city, about 20 minutes walk from where my Grandparents lived when they came to Glasgow. My father worked very hard, but in Scotland in the 1950s through to the 1980s, unless you had a professional job, the pay was very low. Also, the standard of housing was very poor for many people. Until I was 10, we lived in a one-room flat which had an outside toilet for 3 families. Because there was only one room, I slept in my Grandmother’s (maternal grandmother) house every night. She had a bigger flat with a spare room. When I was 10 we moved to a three-room flat with a separate kitchen and bathroom. This was on the 18th floor of a block of flats in a housing scheme. These housing schemes were very similar to the ones developed in Eastern Europe during Soviet times. After about three years, it became a very difficult place to live because of a growth in crime and the poor quality of design and construction of the building.

It was only when I qualified as a teacher that I was able to move out and also make sure that my parents (who were retired by that time) also could move out and live somewhere more peaceful.

From an early age, I wanted to be a pilot, either in the Royal Air Force or with an airline. However, I had to start wearing glasses when I was 14 and this ambition became impossible. I did, however, qualify for my Private Pilot’s Licence when I was 18 and held this for over 30 years. I studied for a Higher Diploma in Hospitality Management (a degree equivalent) because I hoped to be able to work in Canada or Australia where the medical regulations were not so strict and I could become a professional pilot in these countries. However, when I qualified, Canada and Australia changed their immigration requirements and this wasn’t possible. After qualifying, I worked as a manager in the Health Service, in charge of hospitality services for staff and patients in large hospitals in Glasgow. After a few years of doing this, I decided to become a teacher and studied for another degree and teaching qualifications. I have been doing this now for a long time!

Colin white (second from the right) during the 100th anniversary of Lithuania as celebrated in Scotland

Colin white (second from the right) during the 100th anniversary of Lithuania as celebrated in Scotland

When did you visit Lithuania the first time in your life? What were your impressions then?

I visited Lithuania for the first time in October 2012. My wife, son, and daughter came too. We stayed in Kaunas. We loved it! At this time I was beginning to try to find out more about my family history: I didn’t know how close to the home of my Grandparents I was at the time!

We didn’t have a lot of time in Lithuania then, however, we really enjoyed exploring the city, walking by the river and enjoying our few days there. The autumn colours were beautiful. On our last full day, we decided to visit the Ninth Fort just outside Kaunas. This was very interesting, but what we also found remarkable was how helpful people were. We got on the bus the hotel told us to take, but when it came to the terminus it was clear that the Ninth Fort was not on the bus route. We asked a passenger how to get there and although she only spoke a little English, she understood and spoke to the driver, who went out of his way to take us there: we were amazed!

We also liked other small things. One evening at a restaurant, a basketball match was being shown on the television (B.C. Zalgiris were playing) and there was a power cut. All the lights went out and the screen went blank. Everyone just kept on talking quietly and enjoying their evening until power was restored. This was a very different reaction to what would have happened in Glasgow.

We loved the Rotušės Square (and the CH Chocolaterie) and I also made a point of finding the bridge that Jurgis Kairys flew under. There were many beautiful buildings we visited, including the Church of Christ Resurrection and the Sobor in Freedom Avenue. My son especially liked the National Vytautas Great War Museum.

Most importantly, we felt very comfortable there and although I didn’t then realize just how close I was to the home of my Grandparents, I did feel a strong ‘sense of place’.

Colin White in Vilnius (2017)

Colin White in Vilnius (2017)

Why have you decided to get the certificate of Lithuanian descent?

This is a very good question. For a very long time, even since I was a boy, I had a vague feeling that there was something missing, something I didn’t really know about. This may sound a little odd, but I remember starting High School aged 12 and being drawn to look at the map of the Baltic Sea and surrounding countries. A few years later, when looking through a box of old documents, I found an Army Paybook with my Father’s name written beside another name which had been scored out with red ink (my Father was in the Army from 1941-46 and in the reserves until 1959). I asked about this but all that I was told was that his name had been changed. No further discussion was ever encouraged. From speaking with my surviving cousins, they all had very similar experiences in which the family history was very much kept secret (my cousin Isabel was born Isabella Naujokas: when she was 10 she came home from school one day and was told ‘Your name is now Isabel Miller’. It was never mentioned again). We guessed that the reasons for this may have been as follows.

1 When Lithuanian people first came to Scotland over 100 years ago, they were treated very badly indeed. There was a great deal of prejudice against them. They were accused of living on a diet of lamp oil and garlic and of being uncivilised. No attempt was made to understand their language and people were given English names if it was thought that their Lithuanian name was too difficult to spell or pronounce. Children were bullied and made fun of at school.

I note however that my Grandparents remained registered aliens for their entire lives in Scotland.

2 Even after 1945, when many soldiers from Eastern Europe were trying to remain in the UK, there was still a great deal of bad feeling (‘they’re stealing our jobs’, ‘they’re working for less pay than we would’ etc. – how little things change). Factories had signs outside which read: ‘Vacancies: Poles need not apply’. So, even although my Father and all his brothers were born in Glasgow, their Lithuanian names would have made finding work and housing difficult. There was also prejudice against those who were Catholics, something which has only recently started to fade.

3 Finally, the ‘Cold war’ was at its height in the 60s-80s. Everyone in the west was afraid of everyone behind the ‘iron curtain’. As late as 1985, they used to test the nuclear attack warning sirens. One Sunday, the sirens sounded. Everyone turned pale and felt very afraid as it was the 3-minute warning. I was at home and just stood counting down the seconds. It was, of course, a test and they had forgotten to publish this or give a radio or television announcement. This was the last time that the alarms sounded.

Colin's father Pranciškus Bujauskas during World War 2 in Italy, serving the British army

Colin's father Pranciškus Bujauskas during World War 2 in Italy, serving the British army

I suppose what I am saying is that although my family thought that there were good reasons for not being open about the family history, I did have a genuine sense of there being something missing, or ‘not quite right’ for a very long time. Finding all this out is really about having a better sense of who I am and where I come from. The Certificate of Lithuanian Descent is completely tied up with this and my feeling for the past, but now may lead to new paths for the future. I will always be grateful for Your amazing professional help with the Certificate of Lithuanian Descent and the way in which You represented me.

I am amazed and truly delighted with my family history discovery and wonder where this would have led if I had found all this out when I was younger.

Can you speak Lithuanian? Was it spoken in your parents' family (if not, why)?

I don’t speak Lithuanian although I have started learning at a basic level. I plan to become as competent as I can in the language. My Father and all his brothers and sisters must have spoken it when they were young.

What bits of Lithuanian culture do you think you 'inherited' that would make you different from others?

I’m sure that there are parts of Lithuanian Culture that I have inherited. Perhaps it is better if I say a little more about myself and ask if you can identify them?

I have a strong sense of humour and sense of the ridiculous

I can be quiet and reserved sometimes unless I am with people I know well

I take responsibilities seriously, especially when people are making an effort to help me (for example, I will prepare particularly thoroughly for my work in Marijampolė College)

I can keep working through difficult situations, even if they last a very long time

I love music. I used to sing in a choir and play guitar and piano

I can be suspicious of people in high authority

Family is very important to me

I like cooking

What have your parents told you about Lithuania and your family history?

Practically nothing: they were very secretive about it. My cousin Isabella’s mother was Marijona, my oldest Aunt and the only child of my Grandparents to be born in Lithuania. Isabella knew a little in that she realised that her mother was from Lithuania (Marijona also married a member of the Lithuanian community in Glasgow) as when her neighbours would say ‘Oh, here’s Mary the Pole coming’, Marijona would tell them very firmly ‘I am not Polish, I am Lithuanian!’

What have been your jobs in life?

When I was 18, after I was told that I couldn’t become a pilot and before I started college, I worked in a big shop in Glasgow. Most of the time I worked in the toy department and I liked selling toys to people.

When I finished college, I worked in the Health Service as a Hospital Catering Manager. My last role was as the Deputy Manager for Victoria Infirmary Group.

I started teaching in 1985 and have held positions as a Senior Lecturer and Head of Section. Now, because of restructuring, they don’t need as many managers and I am back to working in an unpromoted post. However, I was asked to become an External Verifier by the Scottish Qualifications Authority and I do this in my spare time.

For three years, in between teaching jobs, I was a Project Manager for Enable Scotland, providing a service for people with learning disabilities and working with the Social Work department.

The family of Colin White

The family of Colin White

How about your family? What do your wife and children think about Lithuania?

They love Lithuania and want to go back. My son Sam came to the Embassy in London with me when I received my Certificate of Lithuanian Descent. He enjoyed this and will also apply for the Certificate in the nearest future, once it is possible.

What relatives you have in Lithuania and how many contacts you had with them before now (both recently and when Lithuania was under the Soviet occupation)?

I have been told that Bujauskas is not a very common name and that I will probably be related to at least some people.

What do you think your life will be after another 3 years?

Getting a certificate of Lithuanian descent was a tremendously important step for me. Having received it, after a while I applied for Citizenship of the Republic of Lithuania under the simplified procedure. I have just been granted Citizenship of the Republic of Lithuania and although I will have to renounce UK Citizenship, which will surely create some problems for me to overcome here just now, I am positive that it is the right decision for me. For the next 2 years or so, I will have to keep working here because of family responsibilities (my wife's father is very old), however, I plan to buy a house in Lithuania in the not too distant future. Probably something old and in need of a lot of repairs, but which has a little bit of land. I have always liked old things and have enjoyed restoring items which would otherwise have been thrown away. I plan to work as a volunteer and also, if people want me to, to still teach. It is my aim to spend a lot of time in Lithuania and to help in some way, however small. It's like I say: completing a circle.

Interested in getting a certificate of Lithuanian descent Yourself? Read more here: