Never home

Jonas Mekas returning to Lithuania in 1971. Photo by Viktoras Kapočius. Lithuanian Central State Archives.

It was at the end of 1949, having spent years in displaced persons camps after fleeing their Nazi-occupied home country of Lithuania, that Jonas Mekas and his brother arrived in New York City aboard a UN refugee ship. Soon after, he had scraped together enough money to buy the 16mm Bolex camera with which he would start to document his time in the US, thus beginning decades of filmmaking that would see him called “the godfather of American avant-garde cinema.” This diary entry was written by Jonas shortly after arriving in New York, unaware of the many successes that would come.

The Diary Entry

January 11, 1950

I seem to live on moods, ups and downs. And I seem to be repeating the same mistakes over and over again. Some mistakes are beautiful. There is a beauty in mistakes that you can’t find anywhere else, maybe that’s why. And I keep avoiding any definite ties with anything and anybody. There are places and moments during which I feel that I would like to always remain there. But no: next moment I am gone. I seem to enjoy only brief glimpses of intimacy, happiness. Short concentrated glimpses. I do not believe that they could be extended, prolonged. So I keep moving ahead, looking ahead for other moments. Is it in my nature or did the war do that to me? The question is: was I born a Displaced Person, or did the war make me into one? Displacement, as a way of living and thinking and feeling. Never home.

Always on the move.

Further Reading

There are essentially three volumes of Mekas’ diaries—all published by Spector Books, each volume chronologically overlapping the next:

Diary entry excerpted from I Seem to Live: The New York Diaries Vol.1 (1950–1971), published by Spector Books. Used by kind permission of the Jonas Mekas Estate.

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