For three hundred years, in the times of modern history, Lithuania and Switzerland have been united by little-known or forgotten ties: a lot of churches, monasteries and palaces in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania were built and decorated by talented Swiss architects and sculptors. Among the many buildings designed by them is Pažaislis Monastery in Kaunas. And vice versa, for half a century, from 1895 to 1945, more than one and a half hundred Lithuanian students studied at the University of Friborg. Mainly Lithuanian clergymen, priests and historians.
Once again, close ties were established during the interwar period: in 1922 the Consulate of the Swiss Confederation was established in Kaunas; in the same year, after the establishment of the University of Lithuania (later Vytautas Magnus University), the second wave of Swiss creators and scientists came to our country. One of them, Konstantinas Rėgelis, founded the Kaunas Botanical Garden; Juozas Eretas founded the Lithuanian journalism agency ELTA; Alfred Senn was a Swiss linguist, lexicographer and famous Balticist, and Pranas Brender translated the Lithuanian anthem into Latin.
When Kaunas became the capital, diplomatic missions of various countries were established in the city. Their locations and addresses changed depending on the new, representative buildings emerging in the city. Today, a sign hangs on the house standing on K. Donelaičio Street, marked with the number 45. It marks the place of the Consulate of the Swiss Confederation. It was working here from 1938 to 1940. So, it is a place that embodies both Kaunas modernist architecture and diplomatic history, becoming a part of Switzerland in Kaunas.
Text by Žilvinas Rinkšelis
Photos by Ž. Rinkšelis, 2020.