Sisters of St. Casimir of Chicago and Lithuania on a July 2016 visit. From left: Sr. Jone Sofija Budryte of the Lithuania community with her memoir; Sr. Margaret Petcavage of the Chicago community; Sr. Birute Semenaite, who lives with Budryte; and Sr. Virginia Gapsis of the Chicago community. (Courtesy of the Sisters of St. Casimir)
Sr. Regina Dubickas had every reason to go to Lithuania before 1992. Her parents fled the country in 1945 to escape the Nazi occupation of World War II, and some relatives still lived there. She grew up speaking Lithuanian, steeped in the country's culture. She even joined a religious community, the Chicago-based Sisters of St. Casimir, with strong ties to the old country.
For 100 years, the Chicago congregation and the Sisters of St. Casimir in Lithuania have stayed close despite distance, Soviet repression and the fact that for decades, the congregation's existence in Lithuania was illegal and operated only underground.
In those decades, some Sisters of St. Casimir did travel from the United States to Lithuania and came back with stories of communist repression, bugged hotel rooms and restrictions on whom they could visit and where they could travel. But not Dubickas.
"I would hear those stories and say, 'I'm never going to go when it's like that,' " Dubickas said.