Irena Brokas Chambers: 2015 Woman of the Year

No Place To Go To Exhibition Opening, August 24, 2014, Balzekas Museum, Chicago: Ried and Irena Chambers, Dace Kezbers, and Siim Soot

No Place To Go To Exhibition Opening, August 24, 2014, Balzekas Museum, Chicago: Reid and Irena Chambers with the “No Home To Go To” exhibition committee Latvian and Estonian Co-chairs: Dace Kezbers and Siim Soot

On October 17,  the Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture will present the 2015 Award of Excellence to Irena Brokas Chambers, curator of “No Home To Go To: The Story of Baltic Displaced Persons, 1944-52” exhibition now on view at the Balzekas Museum in Chicago. Her passion for the subject and extensive knowledge and experience in developing exhibitions for the Library of Congress and other institutions, have contributed greatly to the “No Home To Go To” exhibition’s ongoing success. She receives the award for her professional achievements and for her dedication to capturing, preserving, and educating others about the history of WWII refugees from Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.

Temporary travel documents issued to members of the Brokas Family for entry into the United States: (Top) Irena Brokas (left) with her mother, Uršulė

Temporary travel documents issued to little Irena Brokas and her mother, Uršulė, for entry into the United States:

A former displaced person who fled Lithuania with her family and spent her early childhood in DP camps before immigrating to the United States, Chambers’ motivation in capturing Baltic DP stories is more than personal. She claims the subject matter is as important and worthy of attention as any she has researched and exhibited in her career. In her own response to the “Baltic DP Questionnaire” used to collect individual DP stories, she writes:

“My career has been spent on exhibitions, featuring the famous (Freud, Churchill, Jefferson, Lincoln, Charles and Ray Eames, Frank Lloyd Wright) and the not so famous; the histories of long past civilizations and emerging ones.  I know that some stories may be more devastating, some more immediately compelling, but gathering this history is vital.  I believe that this World War II DP story is as important as any I have dealt with.” [Read the Brokas Family questionnaire. ]

The emotional response to the exhibition, particularly from the former WWII refugees who contributed many of the photographs and other personal objects on display, suggest they too feel compelled to tell the story of their own wartime experiences. For these individuals, the exhibition and the accompanying questionnaire offer a way to revisit a difficult time and place in their past and to document, preserve, and share these memories with others. Chambers hopes that former Baltic DPs and their families will continue to submit their stories so that this history can be told.

“No Home To Go To” exhibition opening at the Lithuanian Embassy in Washington, DC, on October 6, 2014: Ambassador Žygimantas Pavilionis; “No Home To Go To” Exhibition Curator, Irena Brokas Chambers; President of the Balzekas Museum, Stanley Balzekas Jr.; Priminister of Lithuania, Algirdas Butkevičius

At the “No Home To Go To” exhibition opening at the Lithuanian Embassy in Washington, DC, on October 6, 2014, from the left: Ambassador Žygimantas Pavilionis; “No Home To Go To” Exhibition Curator, Irena Brokas Chambers; President of the Balzekas Museum, Stanley Balzekas Jr.; and the Prime Minister of Lithuania, Algirdas Butkevičius

The Balzekas Museum Award of Excellence is the highest and longest-running honor bestowed by an American Lithuanian institution. Past honorees include Lithuanians and non-Lithuanians alike, who have shown leadership and distinction in their careers and/or the community at large.  The Excellence Award Gala will take place at the Museum on October 17, 2015 and will coincide with the official opening of the reinstalled exhibition.  Gala attendees will have a first look at the many new artifacts collected since the exhibition opened last August.   The Gala will also kick off preparations for the Museum’s much-anticipated 50th anniversary festivities next year.

Everyone is warmly invited to attend this convivial and elegant event and to join in paying tribute to an exceptional individual.   In addition, former Lithuanian, Latvian, and Estonian displaced persons who have not yet completed the Baltic DP Questionnaire or who wish to contribute items to the exhibition are encouraged to do so as soon as possible so this material can be included in the exhibition reinstallation. Reserve your gala tickets today through the Balzekas Museum’s online gift shop.