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Lukas Simkus


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Hinsdale South High School

High School
2020 - 2024


  • Desired degree level:

    Master's degree program

  • Majors of interest:

    • Computer Science
  • Not planning to go to medical school
  • Career

    • Dream career field:

      Computer Software

    • Dream career goals:

      Martin Simutis Memorial Scholarship
      As I gazed out the window at the Lithuanian countryside, I thought about how lucky I was. It was my first time on a train, and I was pleasantly surprised by the experience. The beautiful forests, creeks, and rivers passed by in a blur of color fascinated me. I headed to a small town called Telsiai, where my grandparents resided. I was excited to see them, as I only reunite with my relatives once every few years. I was looking forward to taking bike rides with my cousins, going on a fishing trip with my uncle, and playing chess against my grandpa. However, I was most excited to spend time with my grandmother, who is my greatest inspiration. She survived many hardships, and I cherish the stories that she tells of her past. As the train ride neared its destination, I remembered one story about my grandmother that stood out in particular: my grandmother’s first journey on a train. Sadly, her first experience with riding a train did not have the same exciting atmosphere as mine. Hers was a plunge into darkness and uncertainty. After WWII, the Soviet Union began mass deportations in Lithuania. Families that owned large plots of land for farming, like my grandmother's parents, were targeted first. In the middle of the night, Soviet troops surrounded her house and packed my grandmother and her family into cattle cars. At ten years old, she had to experience a long and arduous journey, during which many didn’t survive the nearly 3000-mile trek across the continent. After what felt like an eternity, the train stopped, and the captives were released from their containers. A blanket of snow covered the lifeless landscape, and their breath seemed to freeze midair. In Siberia, she was forced to endure the harsh climate and lack of resources. Eventually, my grandmother was allowed to return home, but she could not regain the years of her childhood that she lost... A distance of thousands of miles divides my family. I feel alienated from Lithuanian culture and heritage. However, my parents have given me a way to connect with the rest of my relatives by following the traditions they celebrated in Lithuania before immigrating to America. Even though we are a world apart, celebrating traditions creates a sense of connection, as even though we are a world apart, we still observe the same customs. One of my favorite traditions is “Kučios.” On the morning of Christmas Eve, the busy day starts in the kitchen as the preparation of 12 meatless dishes begins. Each of these dishes symbolizes the 12 months of the year or 12 apostles and serves as an offering for God’s blessings. As night falls, my family and I set the table in preparation for a feast. It is believed that this evening, souls of deceased family members come to visit, so I set an extra plate at the table so that they can take part in the feast as well. Before eating, we pass around “kalėdaitis,” a Christmas wafer that symbolizes the spirit of sharing and giving. Finally, the commemoration begins. There is a rule that every family member must try each of the 12 dishes on the table. After eating, we leave the food, plates, and a lit candle on the table so that the souls of the deceased can eat into the night. “Kučios” is only one of many traditions that my family and I celebrate, but it’s small customs like these that connect me to my Lithuanian roots.