Background to the Journey
In my mind, Vishtinetz — now called Vištytis — had assumed the aura of a far-off, mythical place. It is a small village in Lithuania, and I grew up hearing its name because both my paternal grandparents emigrated from there to Canada in the mid-1880s. I had read other travellers' accounts of trips to the village, most notably Bert Oppenheim's 1995 journey. Spurred by these examples, and by curiosity, my wife and I decided to travel to Vistytis in June of 2005.
We were greatly aided by Dr. Ruth Leiserowitz, whom we visited in Berlin in February 2005. Ruth has researched and written about the pre-WWII presence of the Jewish population of East Prussia and Lithuania. Ruth kindly introduced us to Ruta Puisyte of The Vilna Goan Jewish State Museum in Vilnius. Ruta agreed to arrange and accompany us on our visit to Vistytis.