The longtime Woodhaven resident and civic leader recently had some of her work published in the Newtown Literary Journal, a semi-annual literary publication devoted to writers from and writing about Queens and on Sunday, Giedra was part of a panel of writers that took part in a public reading at the Queens Museum.
And now Giedra has begun another project, one which dives deep into the arts, history and politics of Lithuania.
Some of you may know Giedra Kregzdys from the monthly Town Hall meetings sponsored by the Woodhaven Residents’ Block Association, for which Giedra serves as Vice President. But the civic leader has been honing her craft at monthly meetings of a poetry club that meets right here in Woodhaven.
Iron Horse Poetry (the name is an allusion to the Elevated train that runs through our neighborhood) was launched by local poet and fellow Woodhaven resident Christine Barbour in 2010.
Giedra has been writing poetry for many years but it was through the Iron Horse meetings that she gained the confidence to start submitting her work and reading it at public gatherings. This year marks the second time her work has been accepted by the Newtown Literary Journal, and the first that she took part in one of their public readings.
“I always liked to dream that my photography would be featured in a museum such as this,” she said to the audience on Sunday, “but reading my work here is just as exciting.”
Although Giedra enjoys writing about everything from nature to wildlife, some of her more personal work draws on the life experiences her family endured during and after World War 2.
“My parents were taken from Lithuania and shipped into Germany to live in forced labor camps. After the war, it was too dangerous to return home so they ended up at Schwäbisch Gmünd, a Displaced Persons camp. They remained there for over 4 years and during that time my mother served as a teacher for students who were living in the camp.”
Her parents ended up immigrating to the United States, settling down here in Woodhaven where there were a number of other Lithuanian families.
Giedra’s fondness for the struggles of Lithuania and the triumph of their eventual victory for independence can be found in several of her poems including “The Song’s Echo,” which she read at the Queens Museum, at first in Lithuanian and then in English.
Giedra has combined her interests in poetry, the Lithuanian language and her country’s history to begin translating the works of Danute Andriusiene, who was jailed for writing poetry.
“Her family had been shipped to Siberia, where she was raised for 20 years,” Giedra explains. “She came back to Lithuania after World War I but watched in horror as other family members were forced on to boxcars and shipped to Siberia.”
Andriusiene began writing poems, recounting the madness that was going on around her and she began sending some of her poems anonymously to the government as a form of protest.
“They eventually figured out it was her,” Giedra says, “She was arrested and sentenced to spend more time in Siberia.”
A family member shared the poems with Giedra who has begun translating them into English.
“We take our rights for granted sometimes,” she says. “It’s an honor to help share her words with the world.”
The Iron Horse Poetry group generally meets every 3rd Tuesday at the Avenue Diner (90-01 Jamaica Avenue) and new members are always welcome. Please email Christine Barbour at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 718-849-0093 for more information.