- February 14, 2013
Invitation from the Vilnius Alps of Laimis – the Lucky Man
In Vilnius Lipówka at “Laimio kalnas” mountain (also known as Góra Szczęściarza [the Lucky Man Mountain] as well as the Vilnius Alps) the conditions for skiing, snowboarding and other winter activities are excellent.
There are three ski lifts and five ski runs. One can find a well-equipped ski rental and licensed ski and snowboard school. The mountain also operates its own snowmaking system. All of the above make this place—by the way, almost the immediate vicinity of “Kurier Wileński”—a popular one not only in Lithuania, but also abroad.
“Laimis’s” Mountain did not emerge when the God was creating the world. It was not even formed by glaciers which once covered the area of Lithuania. The mountain owes its erection to a zeal of one fellow—“the Lucky Man.”
— After 20 years of service at fishing boats I started to work as an electrician in the Vilnius factory “Vilija.” Once I went with my family to the Caucasus Mountains. After coming back home I was thinking about nothing but mountains. My ski adventure begun when I was already 40. I set up a ski club. However, a problem occurred: there were no suitable mountains for skiing and we couldn’t afford to go elsewhere. That is how arouse an idea of making a ski run. This conception appealed to the next 40 families, the members of which eagerly participated in the undertaking—mentions Laimis Janutėnas, “the creator” of the highest point in Vilnius.
Once in this area of Vilnius Lipówka there was just an ordinary knoll and a cavity. Rubbish were lying here and there. Yet, when Laimis noticed that place, he was immediately sure that was it. He did not even expect that he would get that involved. With some soil he wanted to make a small ski run. However, he soon realized that he would not content himself only with this. It was Laimis (in Lithuanian meaning “a Lucky Man”) Jaunutėnas who in 1982 cleverly directed here stacks of dumpers which were removing unwanted ground from building sites in the capital.
His life between 19 and 40 was strongly bound up with water. At first, soon after the military, he served in the Marines. Subsequently, he graduated from Kłajpeda Maritime School and started to work at fishing boats. He even shot those times showing the way fishermen lived, worked and, of course, how they pulled out the fishing nets full of fish.
Laimis sailed the length and breadth of the Atlantic Ocean. Africa, Canaries and the American seashore were the places of the most frequent hauls. He travelled almost all over the world. This is that kind of a man who cannot just stand still. He is curious about the world!
A man divides his life into two stages. The first one—a radio frequency engineer at fishing boats—from 1966 to 1980. The second one—a creator of the mountain in Lipówka—from 1982 to 2000.
— I remember the truck wanting to spill out unnecessary ground and building remains somewhere near the knoll in Lipówka. I asked them to carry the rubble to the top—the trucks were moving as if riding in the Caucasus Mountains. Clouds of smoke billowed behind them. These were old, soviet vehicles, Kamaz[s]. The drives covered the distance with great difficulty, though they tried to help. The whole Vilnius knew me as I was moving from one building site to another asking people to carry the debris right here—says Laimis Janutėnas with a hint of nostalgia in his voice.
While a truck was spilling out rubble, men were looking for bulldozers to push it all along. Drivers were paid with vodka, since everything was done at own expense. The labour, which lasted 18 long years, was managed by Laimis. He is really grateful to his friends for their participation in this great undertaking and immediately recalls his closest friend, Józef, who helped him as a young boy. Instead of “cutting a rug” with his friends, Józef rolled—like Sisyphus—stones up the hill.
Józef’s son, Tomek, also took part in the labour, starting when he was a young boy. With a smile on his face, as a mountain’s “father,” Laimis points out that it was Tomek who turned out to be the bravest and the most inquisitive worker.
Today, Józef with his wife, son Tomasz and daughter Patrycja are really professional skiers—affirms Laimis.
Right here, in Lipówka, he spent all his spare time. The days he was taking his friends to the hill, Laimis recalls with nostalgia. Some people were wondering what he was doing there and some caught “the mountain disease” along with him. The place appeared to be a huge pulled down building. People often considered him to be a freak or insane but it did not bother him—in his own mode, he worked, ate, rested and practised sport on the mountain. The mountain which seemed to be a dangerous sliding volcano.
— Of course when the erection of the mountain was in progress, but the conditions were still not really adequate for skiing, we were so impatient that we decided to ski regardless. During the day men were removing stones, directing dumpers with rubble to an appropriate place and in the evening we were doing our favourite sport—recounts the “Lucky Man.”
In 1984 was created a first ski lift and “Šlaitas” club. That was the first result of incredibly hard work that absorbed not only Laimis, but his family and his friends’ families.
— With great pleasure I observed my mountain growing and becoming more and more popular among citizens of Vilnius and the whole Lithuania as well. Deep in my heart I felt that the thing I am doing is necessary. It gave me great satisfaction. There was nothing like overworking!—jokes Janutėnas.
He recollects men’s talks about the weekend plans. It was obvious that on “Laimis’s” mountain. Thus, it is not surprising that “the father” of the mountain has the right to have the stone at the top with “Laimio kalnas” inscribed. After taking great pains to “roll” it, “the giant” was at the top. At first, his friends made the inscription on a plate but vandals ripped it off. Therefore, the inscription was engraved on the stone. Presently the name “Laimis” is officially recognized by the state. In this period there were 4 ski lifts and 14 runs. People skiing downhill the longest run speeded even 100 km per hour.
— My wife has always been there for me. When I worked here she was the queen of those mountains. In the free time she skied. Likewise spent their spare time my sons, Marius and Dainius. Now also my grandson Žilvinas and granddaughter Lukrecija became eager skiers—says the mountain’s founder.
He is completely devoted to skiing. There was not even a single day without skis. Until the late night hours he was teaching people how to do that sport. The interviewee claims that work gave him a goal he could pursue—he felt no weariness and was in good health. It was because he did what he really enjoyed. There was no time for watching TV endlessly, reading newspapers or self-pity. He did a hard physical work. This might be a reason, presumes Laimis, why he remains strong and healthy.
Over the mountain was even flying a famous aerobatic pilot—Jurgis Kairys.
Before regaining the independence, the airport authorities ordered to reduce the height of the mountain by 10 meters, as they say it interfered with landing planes. However, Jaunutėnas quietly reduced it by 3 meters…
“Laimis’s” Mountain is commonly compared with Vilnius symbol—Gediminas. Yet, the interviewee jokes that he doubts whether the duke had ever held a shovel and scattered rubble around.
Now, he emphasizes, the mountain is higher not only from Gediminas, but also from skyscraper of the current capital city’s host—Zuokas.
Today, Jaunutėnas introduces himself as an instructor since his “opus,” which he was constructing for 18 years, now belongs to “Vilniaus slidinėjimo sporto centras” and “Žiemos trasa.”
Unfortunately, he did not manage to privatize the mountain; yet, he is really elated that they can still be together—he and his beloved mountain. Its creator, despite being 73 years old now, still teaches skiing to eager people and practice this sport without the slightest difficulty.
— The mountain should be available all year. In winter one can do winter sports; in summer, spring and autumn ski lift should be operating as well—there can be organized activities for youth riding scooters, roller-skates, skateboards or mountain bikes. I already have some of the equipment and will gladly share it among other people. I guess that many eager people would come—says Laimis Jaunutėnas.
Often called “the king” of the mountain, Laimis points out that he was doing these things not for money or fame. He did everything because of love. Asked whether he would erect a mountain once again if forced to do so, without hesitation he clearly states: “Yes, if I were still healthy! There is nothing more I need!”
— From 1946 to ca 1965 this place was a rubbish dump. It’s terrible what was going on here! A stench was horrible. Trucks were carrying a tones of rubbish here. Then it didn’t even crossed my mind that such a thing [the mountain] can be erected in this place. I remember it very clearly. I’ve been living next to this mountain for over 60 years. My kids used to sledge here; there were some knolls and trees. Their children, so my grandchildren, however, had an opportunity to ski here. Thanks to Laimis, who created it. Now even my great-grandchildren ski—says, almost 90 years old, Czesław.
The interviewee stresses that the creator of the mountain deserves the highest respect. It’s a great man, honestly big-hearted and dedicated.
— The idea of making such a thing at a rubbish dump hadn’t even spring to somebody else’s mind. For many years following the dump closure people were throwing rubbish out there. It didn’t frighten him anyway. Out of nothing he created something big! I remember when Kamaz[s] were carrying ground and many old unnecessary things. Jaunutėnas together with other men, women, kids and even elders were working with shovels in their hands. I took many stones away as well and my son worked here really hard—says the inhabitant of Vilnius Lipówka.
Mr Czesław states that in winter so many people come here that some of them ask to leave their cars in his backyard. They come not only from Lithuania but from all over the world. Thanks to this mountain Lipówka became well-known worldwide.
235 m high “Laimis” mountain features 5 ski runs, one of which, called “varlinukas,” is a nursery slope used by people learning to ski.
A ski lift of the easiest run is about 100 m long. The second ski run, called north, is very complicated, with the lift 350 m long. It is used only by professionals.
The remaining ski runs are occupied by intermediate skiers. 3 ski lifts and 2 snow cannons are in operation. There are also ski instructors.
In the cafeteria one can have a cup of coffee or eat some dinner.
Tuesday to Friday: 3 p.m.—7 p.m.
Saturday: 10 a.m.—7 p.m.
Sunday: 10 a.m.—6 p.m.
Have a nice skiing time!
SERVICES AND EQUIPMENT PRICE LIST
1.5 h…….……20 Lt,
2.5 h…….……25 Lt,
3.5 h…….……32 Lt.
Tłumaczenie Hanna Hołub w ramach praktyk w Europejskiej Fundacji Praw Człowieka, www.efhr.eu. Translated by Hanna Hołub the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.