Romas Zabarauskas: How I translate Vilnius as a friendly city

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What is most important in life? Eeeeh yes love! And it doesn't matter at all - you are a pig or a filmmaker. Today, my interlocutor is public figure and artist Romas Zabarauskas!

I won't talk about his young age and how much he has achieved, but I have to admit that Romas is very impressive, and not just because of his achievements: he is brave, bright and has something to say.

This time, it's about a project he and his collaborators are working on to make Vilnius
a friendlier city for everyone.

...Well, and in the future, perhaps even expanding to the whole of Lithuania.

So, I invite you to get to know, or get to know even better, today's hero: Roman Zabarauskas. Let's get started!

Hi, Rome. First of all, introduce yourself. In five sentences or less - who are you?

I am a filmmaker who has made a short film "Porn melodrama" (2011) with Marius Repšius, "Strike" (2013) with Beata Tiškevič. And I've just finished my latest long film "You Can't Escape Lithuania (2016)which will be launched in Lithuania, probably in the autumn.

I am also an active citizen of Lithuania, so I often advocate for equal rights for LGBT people and others, and I try to contribute to that good. You can also find me on Facebook.

Do you often challenge yourself? Where would you place yourself on a ten-point scale from the cowardly Nuobodila to the superhero Batman?

I would give myself an eight - not Batman, but Robin for sure: I keep coming up with impossible things and then I do them.

Tell us about the challenge you took on? And why?

This time - making Vilnius a friendly city for all. It has materialised into a major project "Friendly Vilnius".

Before that, we implemented the "LGBT Friendly Vilnius" initiative with like-minded people. We tagged various clubs, cafes and bars in Vilnius that agreed to show their support for the LGBT community.

And then we thought we should extend the concept of friendliness even further, by labelling different businesses according to their friendliness to people with disabilities, other ethnicities, vegetarians, parents with young children and others.

What criteria do you use to label businesses? How does the whole process work?

We go to those businesses that we find friendly - where we are greeted and greeted with a smile. Unfortunately, this is not so common in Lithuania. After all, we are used to not even saying hello, or just muttering something angrily under our noses. Why?

After all, it's better to smile and interact more often so that everyday experiences lift your spirits, not the other way around.

That's how it works: we write letters to different companies inviting them to join. Sometimes different companies apply themselves. However, we do not accept places with a reputation for tax evasion, unfriendly service or unfriendly customers.

Are such Friendly initiatives only in Lithuania?

Actually, I have not heard of a project that combines very different categories of friendship. I think it is a unique idea that benefits both the different communities and the general public who are just looking for friendly places.

But in general, there are city maps with different shades both abroad and in Lithuania. The only difference is that we want to not only make a map, but also to colour it and expand it a bit.

And are there many businesses in Vilnius that refuse to be labelled "friendly"? What are the most common arguments of such institutions?

So far, very few have refused - they didn't find the idea useful, that's all. Everyone chooses which map to be on, there can be no coercion.

So how is this project coming along? What is the biggest obstacle in your way of achieving your goal?

At first, I was doubtful and nervous about how things would work. But businesses are eager to join! We have only just started to develop this platform and we already have over thirty friendly places.

Self-confidence and perfectionism get in the way. It's like, "What if everything doesn't work out perfectly, what if I make a mistake, what if I screw up somewhere?".

But we learn from our mistakes, so we must cherish them and move forward.

What did you learn from this challenge? What is there to learn?

I realised that many businesses in Lithuania are very progressive and want to contribute to positive change in our society. This is great news - together we can do a lot.

I am also learning patience and courage!

Have you achieved what you wanted to achieve?

It certainly is! Two long-form films, various civic initiatives - these are achievements I am proud of. Now I think more about the pursuit of personal happiness than about achievements.

Aspirations are necessary, but you also have to remember to enjoy life, with all its advantages and disadvantages, along the way.

What helps you to keep going, to enjoy life with all its advantages and disadvantages?

Friends who write smart books or bake me cabbage pies. Family who will always answer my call. Films, especially those made earlier - they seem to have more creativity, metaphors, experimentation.

Do you have any advice for people who would like to do similar initiatives? And is there room for volunteers? 

Seek out like-minded people, ask for advice and help from those who know better. The most important thing is to have a good idea, and then move on. And volunteers are welcome, yes! Write to:

Thank you for conversation, Rome!

Then I wish everyone to keep on enjoying life - with its drawbacks and advantages. Attention and tolerance are the answer to a healthy and happy life. Yes - scientifically proven.

And me... I'm trying to spread the spirit of friendliness in my city. Because who else will do it but you and me?

In conclusion, I recommend:

  1. Article by Milena of Clouds, how to find peace with those around you;
  2. Guide, how to create your own positive movement to change the worldsimilar to Friendly Vilnius or other initiatives;
  3. And a call for real change today.

Because if Vilnius can be friendly, why can't Kaunas, Panevėžys, Jurbarkas and the rest of Lithuania be friendly?

Until next time,
Pig Antanas

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