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Kamariškės Manor revives and invites you to create and live slowly

Kamariškės Manor, located in the Zarasai district, on the border between Lithuania and Latvia, has long been a completely neglected cultural heritage site. The manor is finally coming back to life and is being opened to the public thanks to the efforts of Innovators' Valley and the support of the European Economic Area (EEA) Financial Mechanism.
"We had been dreaming about the estate for some time, and when we bought it, our acquaintances looked at us without understanding why we were doing it and why we needed it," say Arūnas Survila and Monika Stankevičiūtė, representatives of Innovators Valley, who bought the Kamariškės estate in 2019.
When the bird sat down, the bricks just fell
Kamariškės Manor impressed its new owners from the very first visit. The history of Kamariškės dates back to the 16th century Duchy of Courland, and the estate has been sold, inherited, lost and lost to debt many times. The manor also had a candy factory. Šarūnas Subatavičius, the historian of Kamariškės, even discovered an old recipe book of the Kamariškės mistress, which includes the recipe for the famous caramel 'Karvutė' candy. This is where they were made.
However, when they look back at their beginnings, they do not hide the fact that they faced a number of challenges. It is difficult to describe the state of the estate at that time. Kamariškės was no longer called a manor, but a ruin.
"We loaded more than forty tonnes of household rubbish. We dug up explosives left over from the war. We found collapsed ceilings and roofs in all nine buildings on the estate. Bricks just fell when a bird perched. There was nothing within a kilometre and a half radius, so we had to create a fully functioning infrastructure in the middle of nowhere," says Survila about the beginning.
The EEA Financial Mechanism's Culture programme gave the project a major boost. More than EUR 600 000 was allocated from this programme.
"We trusted the adventure of Kamariškės Manor. The European Economic Area Financial Mechanism's Culture Programme aims to bridge the cultural divide between Lithuania's major cities and the country's remote areas, to involve local communities and to make cultural places come alive. Culture is an important part of human development, and we need to make it accessible to all as far as possible. Kamariškės is already carrying out activities that are becoming an attraction for the region and beyond. It is good to contribute to the implementation of such meaningful projects," says Sandra Remeikienė, Head of the European Economic Area and Norway Programme Unit at the Central Project Management Agency (CPVA).
Bringing the world through culture
"The Innovators' Valley astovis reveal that, although it is difficult to predict what the project will eventually become, they see it as primarily a co-living complex. It will be a place where creators will reside for both short and long periods of time, with a strong focus on cultural experiences and the development of creativity. Survila notes that creativity is already identified as a generic capacity, so by developing creativity we can address the problems of exclusion.
"We now have professionals from all over the world coming to Kamariškės. A young local person can see how electronic music is made with twenty soundtracks, and understand that the world is a little bigger and more colourful. If a young person doesn't have the opportunity to go out into the world, we can bring the world to them through culture," says Ms Stankevičiūtė. 
At the same time, the estate wants to offer an experience of slow life, a chance to get away, to detach, to be in nature, and therefore a lot of attention is paid not only to historical but also to nature studies. As soon as the owners acquired the estate, they carried out a biodiversity survey of the park.
"The survey has helped us to find out who lives in our park and how to take care of and protect them. For example, we learned that amphibians need hibernation, pond, as well as which trees not to touch, because they are home to bats. We tried to catch a beetle of impressive size - the gloomy-coloured golden beetle. We knew that the conditions were right for them here - they need ancient wood, lots of sun. The search took a while, but finally we found the beauty. We were very happy because there are very few of them in the world", says Survila.
History is alive
Authentic experiences of Lithuanian history will also remain important in the Manor House. "Over sixty Lithuanians and Latvians living in the surrounding area have been involved in the historical research of the Manor House through the initiative of Innovators' Valley.
"As soon as we bought the estate, we celebrated Midsummer there. And then it turned out that when the Richter family owned the manor, Midsummer was the main celebration of the inhabitants. Now we know where the tables were set for this celebration. Nice coincidences. I believe that all these forgotten historical details inspire not only us, but also the local population. We feel it," shares M. Stankevičiūtė.
The interlocutors say that a certain turning point in the community took place when the first roof of the palace was put on. The inhabitants of the surrounding area, who had previously been sceptical about the restoration of the manor house, finally believed in it, got involved and today actively participate in the organised clean-ups and events.
"This is very important to us. We want to bring the community together. We want people to appreciate their history, to discover Kamariškės. Sometimes it is hard to understand why we invest so much in new buildings in Lithuania, but we let our roots disappear. I believe that cultural heritage is not just about rebuilding bricks. It is even the process that is the result," says Survila.
Kamariškės, according to the speakers, will never be a typical museum. The idea is to allow people to fully experience cultural heritage - to smell, touch, taste, try it. History is alive, and it is right here, next to us.
About the Culture Programme
Thanks to the European Economic Area Financial Mechanism's Culture Programme, more abandoned Lithuanian heritage sites are being revived: the Merkines Manor - a former soap factory, one of the buildings of St Stanislaus Church in Kuļi, Pragiedrulių Homestead in Panevėžys, a barn in Kintai, and others. The projects aim to strengthen cultural education, especially in the country's regions, improve access to high quality cultural products and services, and promote local cultural entrepreneurship. The EEA Financial Mechanism has allocated a total of €8.23 million for the Culture Programme, of which €7 million is from Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway and the rest from the national budget. The implementation of the projects is supervised by the Central Project Management Agency.

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