Lake Named Imandra

The lake that wanted to become the godfather

Poet Juozas Nekrošius, Imandra’s dad, 12-Feb-2014

Imandra on her dad’s arms in 1964

This happened at a time when we were still students. One afternoon in early September 1963, we, four students of Vilnius State University, met after our summer holidays and sat down at the legendary Vilnius Café “Neringa” to share our summer recollections.

Word followed word and soon my friends started telling about how they travelled further than the Arctic Circle, how they were catching metre-long salmon, struggling with pikes much like crocodiles size-wise, chatting up white bears.

– And the lakes, the wonderful lakes! Clear like tears… Maybe not even tears!.. You could just take a scoop and drink like champagne!.. told Vytautas Narvilas, traveller, naturalist, and a master of feature articles.

Imandra and her mommy Laisvutė in 1968

– Truly incredible nature, it was breath-taking, confirmed Justinas Karosas, who also travelled together with the friends. – For some reason we gave men’s oath: if any of us had a daughter, we would baptise her after that lake…

And here, as they say, a poetic heart could not stay still:
– Men, while you were chatting up bears, drinking champagne from a lake, I had a daughter!.. I need a name! What is it? Tell me right away…

– This is not that simple… You wouldn’t find this name in calendars, said Justinas with a serious face. – It is not for sale!.. Well, as for a friend… Maybe we could make an exception… But…

And so the negotiation started… I laid down my points… Today was the last day of the deadline for registration of the birth, the family did not have a unanimous opinion: possible options included Akvilė, Gabrielė, or Ramunė… All prayer-books, all calendars have been looked through and yet we did not manage to move past this point… The responsibility was trusted to me, as the father… They would do as I would say…

The friends looked at each other, conferred with each other – and I heard a verdict:
– Well, we will help on one condition: we will tell you the name only at the Civil Registration Department. We will go there right away… And after the name giving procedure, we would return to this table. It goes without saying that this table would not be empty… Three Armenian cognacs and no less!

Imandra with her oldest brother Arvydas

There was no way back… One cup of drink and we were heading to the Department for name registration.
– What is the name of the girl?
– I do not know, I answered.
The officer hit her pen to the table irritably.

The room became silent. The friends, who came with me, looked at each other and nodded at Narvilas. He approached the table, sat before me and said solemnly extending syllables:
– I-m-a-n-d-r-a…
– I have heard many things, but what kind of name is that?.. I will not register it…

Now the godparents got worried or even agitated. Luckily the prudent Justinas put a box of chocolates on the table and Narvilas started showing photographs and telling or rather gushing about the miraculous LAKE IMANDRA, friendly white bears, deer, water more delicious than champagne…

And the feelings have won!.. I was given a historical document – birth certificate – where I have read: Daughter IMANDRA!

Little Imandra with her grandmother Karolina

What was next?.. Naturally, a prolonged evening at Café “Neringa”… Congratulations, toasts, best wishes…

Then followed a rather long adaptation in the family, extended family, among acquaintances, and as for the public environment, this adaptation is still ongoing… Where is it from? Never heard before, interesting, rare… Both grandmothers had problems with pronunciation for a long time. But finally everybody came to terms with the reality and decided for now and forever: “It wasn’t the name that brought beauty to a person, but a person’s work made him famous”.

Here this is almost the whole story about Lake Imandra far up North – Imandra, which weirdly and playfully made its way as the daughter’s godfather. But there some questions still unanswered… One could wonder, if a different name of the girl was written on the documents, let us say, Izabelė, Akvilė, Ona, instead of IMANDRA, would she have a different destiny, other twists and turns in her life, other interests, creative aspirations, chums, friends and girl friends? One could wonder, if the Lake – Godfather was sending positive energy from its clear depths to his Goddaughter, if aurora borealis glowing above it sometimes lift her spirits up, strengthen her creative powers, give wings to her fantasy?..

One could only wonder?… But all this stays in the past! There were no lies, no fruits of fantasy… The Lake is still sending its waves to the shore just like it did in the past, but it is said that during starry North nights it sometimes looks to the West as if it was waiting for unexpected guests.

Vytautas Narvilas

Extract from book “Duokime žmonėms kalnus” [Let’s Give Mountains to the People], 1977


<… Out of the many days in the North, this one probably brings back the brightest memories. With the shore of Imandra. With clouds. With never setting sun. With bright, good thoughts. With a great desire to come back.
It is a strange thing how people’s destinies intertwine. They are tied with thousands of invisible treads. Some of them are thin and barely visible, others are very strong and serve us many years. We take these threads and weave friendships. Sometimes just for one day, for one trip, and sometimes for a very long time.
As we returned from our trip, my fried had a daughter. All his options for names could not hit the right spot. He could not find a name to please everyone. And then the name suggested its candidacy itself: Imandra. As if we had gone to the North to bring it back.
The goddesses of the mountain lake favoured the chosen one with brightness and blue eyes. Now almost a grown-up fair maiden Imandra walks around Vilnius proud of the gifts bestowed upon her by the goddesses dreaming of seeing their kingdom with her own eyes.
If you ever meet a girl with such an unusual name, take a close look at her eyes: they reflect the depths of the Northern lakes, the colour of sunken clouds…>