Ghost In Your Closet — or In Your Burger:
Covering one’s bloody tracks for profit
During the Soviet Era, the camp in the peaceful wooded hills at the confluence of two rivers had been a summer Pioneer Camp for the kids whose parents worked in the adjacent paper mill. In early post-Soviet times, it was leased to a nonprofit organization that continued to provide children a refreshing summer break from their families.
Lithuanians living abroad sent their children to the camp to become acquainted with their cultural heritage, the camp objective being to explore the traditions of these unique people who spoke a language so old that it more closely resembles Sanskrit than any other living European language. The kids came from neighboring Russia, Poland, Latvia, Belarus, Ukraine, and other Eastern European countries with many not speaking or understanding Lithuanian. Kids became best buddies with others with whom they could barely communicate.
Volunteer Lithuanian college students, whose training was my responsibility, comprised the staff. On spring weekends, I facilitated interactive team building workshops to prepare them for the approaching cross-cultural challenge. Throughout the summer months, I lived at the camp to provide consultation and support as needs arose.
As partial compensation for my services, I lived in a cabin at the camp from early spring until as late in the autumn as I could endure the cold. The cabin was neither heated nor winterized.
In a real house, beyond an apple orchard with a milk cow grazing among the trees, lived the camp caretaker with his family year-round. As we got to know each other, my curiosity about his life, his work, the Soviet Era, and the paper mill next door came to the fore. One day, he took me on a tour of the mill.
It was still operating, but at minimal capacity, with most departments closed completely, at least for the time being. The economy was in major flux with the country transforming from a stable well-planned future to the invading free-for-all capitalism of the invading West. The director’s salary was already 66 times that of the common laborer’s, an inequality never dreamed of in Soviet times.