“Society is the miracle of moving out of oneself” is a well-fitting - and probably our favourite - quote by Emmanuel Levinas, a Kaunas-born philosopher who spent most of his adult life in France where he moved to in 1924.
Philippe Jeantaud, Ambassador of France in Lithuania, announced on February 7th a centre for Levinas is planned to be opened in Kaunas. There’s already a location for the centre – it’s the former building of the French embassy on V. Putvinskio street. The building was used by the embassy before WW2, when Kaunas was the temporary capital of Lithuania, and is currently a police station. It has been also announced the Kaunas municipality will contribute to the project, including the renovation of the building.
The building was designed by Vytautas Landsbergis-Žemkalnis, one of the busiest architects of interwar Kaunas, and belonged to Juozas Landsbergis. The French embassy used it as its office from 1929 to 1932; the ambassador reside here until 1940.
Emmanuel Levinas, professor of the Sorbonne University, is one of the most famous people that were born and raised in Kaunas. Members of his family that remained in Kaunas after he moved to Paris were killed during the Holocaust.
Michaël Levinas, the son of Emmanuel Levinas, is a musician based in France. He’s also the committee member of Litvak World Forum, an event planned by the Kaunas - European Capital of Culture 2022 team.
In order to record his legacy and roots in a more proper way than it has been done so far (there’s a memorial plaque on his family house on Spaustuvininkų g.) a group of enthusiasts pitched for a Levinas memorial square in Kaunas and a space for that was designated near the Žaliakalnis funicular. The idea was approved at the municipality level, so, de jure, the space is already called Levinas square. The actual creative work for the memorial is said to start later this year.