Although this column is meant to offer our readers a post-Hicksville glimpse of a past teacher or administrator, in this case, it makes sense to begin with some pre-Hicksville background about Dr. Kumpikas.

  • She was born in Lithuania, early in WW II.  The sounds of bombing raids still rank high in her childhood memories (she said in a 2020 interview that the sound of routine noonday sirens still make her cringe).
  • Her family was on the run from warfare and marauding armies until 1944, at which time it had made its way west through the war to an Allied-controlled portion of Germany, and was given refuge in a “Displaced Persons" camp.
  • They remained in the refugee camp for FIVE YEARS, until the summer of 1949, when they were able to get visas to the U.S.
  • They then started a new life from scratch in Williamsburg, Brooklyn – coincidentally, in the same immigrant neighborhood, and in the same primitive tenements, in which my own immigrant grandparents had settled more than 50 years earlier.

What has she done after leaving Hicksville?

  • She continued -- and continues -- to teach!  She is a Full Professor (Adjunct) at LIU/Post, where she’s now in her 25th year.
  • She produces (and in the past hosted more than 1,000 weekly broadcasts of) a New York radio show that addresses the needs of Lithuanian-Americans and their descendants.
  • Several years ago, Dr. Kumpikas produced an award-winning short film, in part filmed on-site in the Czech Republic and Lithuania, that documented her father’s 1934 flight over Nazi Germany from Prague to Vilnius (he was a celebrated early Lithuanian pilot).
  • She serves, and sometimes heads, non-profit organizations that help and guide new immigrant Lithuanian families as they find their way in America.  These organizations also promote awareness of Lithuanian culture and arts, providing Lithuanian Americans with a link to their ancestral past.  In recognition of her work, Lithuania has honored her at a ceremony in Vilnius.

Where does she like to spend her time?

  • Early summers often are spent in France, visiting long-time friends.  Her passion for the French language and the attendant culture in which it flourishes, which I first observed as her student n 1962, continues unabated.
  • She also visits Lithuania, where she lives in the apartment that was her family's pre-war residence!  Well... not exactly.  During the Soviet era, the government of the day broke the dweilling into smaller flats.  After Lithuania regained independence, Giedré purchased one of those flats, and much later was able to purchase the remainder.  She then had contractors re-consolidate the units, and restore the rooms to their original configuration, so that her family apartment exists once again.
  • During the academic year, she’s mostly around New York City, or in the Hamptons.  I last saw her in person in 2019, at the 55th reunion of “my” HHS Class of 1964.
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