As Lithuania's economy grows, increasingly many expatriates who have left the country since its accession to the EU are considering to return, a survey shows.
Povilas Jankauskas is busy serving cakes, biscuits and muffins to clients at his small bakery in Vilnius. He started the business after returning from Northern Ireland seven years ago.
Povilas had been one of the estimated 260,000 Lithuanian nationals living abroad, but has joined the growing number of expatriates who decided to return to their home country.
“There was nothing to think about – from day one when we left, we knew we would come back to Lithuania,” Povilas tells LRT TV.
His original plan was to work in Northern Ireland long enough to save up for a home in Lithuania. “We ended up living there for seven years,” he says.
There are more people like Povilas who would like to return to Lithuania. A survey among Lithuanian expatriates commissioned by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs shows that over two thirds think about returning: 19 percent said they had plans to do so, while 60 percent would not rule out the possibility of moving to Lithuania in the future.
While the United Kingdom has long been a favourite destination for Lithuanian migrants, Brexit is not the main reason for the change of mood, says Marijus Gudynas of the Foreign Ministry.
“We don't see any correlation with Brexit, only 3 percent of the respondents who were planning to return from the UK said it was because of Brexit,” he says. “All the others, if they want to come back, have other reasons.”
Lithuania's growing economy and improving standards of living were among the pull factors, he adds, as were opportunities to reunite with family and friends.
Meanwhile the worries that deter Lithuanians from coming back include low wages, fear of intolerance and xenophobia, relations between employers and employees, the survey shows.
Some returning expatriates fear that employers will discriminate against them, says Dalia Asanavičiūtė, the leader of the Lithuanian community in the UK.
“Oftentimes, businesses are reluctant to take risks, since they can't check a person's work experience,” she tells LRT TV. “Perhaps the government could offer tax exemptions or split the risks with employers who hire expatriates.”
Rasa Jusionytė, editor of the magazine What Do People Do, left for the UK when she was 19. Having graduated from a university and spent six years in the country, she returned, because she saw more opportunities for herself in Lithuania.
“It was a Christmas break and I came back to my mum for Christmas. I was walking in Vilnius, down its streets, and all I was seeing were opportunities, all the things I could do here, all the things I could accomplish,” she says.
“In London, you feel like a small cog in a machine, while here, it seems, there's so much space to create things.”