Lithuanian girl’s letter from Polish pen pal delivered 51 years late

A letter written to a 12-year-old girl in Lithuania has been delivered 51 years after it was sent by a pen pal in Poland.

“I thought that someone was pranking me,” said Genovefa Klonovska after being handed the letter, which included a handmade rose and two paper dolls.

The letter, and 17 others, fell out of a ventilation hole last summer as a wall was demolished in a former post office on the outskirts of Vilnius, Lithuania’s capital.

“The workers suggested we throw the old letters away, but I called the post office instead,” said Jurgis Vilutis, the owner of the building. “I’m so happy they got interested.”

The letters, from the late 1960s and early 1970s, were likely hidden by an unscrupulous postal worker after he searched them for cash or valuables, Vilutis said.

Lithuania was then part of the Soviet Union and the senders were emigrant relatives or pen pals from places such as Australia, Poland and Russia.

Street names and their numbering have changed in Vilnius, and post office workers spent months looking for the right houses and talking to current tenants and neighbours, tracking down where the recipients moved to. Only five recipients were found. In several cases, children of deceased recipients were handed a lost letter.

“We felt a moral duty to do this,” said Deimante Zebrauskaite, the head of the customer experience department at Lithuania Post.

“One lady compared the experience to receiving a message from a bottle thrown into the sea. People were emotional. Some felt they saw a part of the daily life of their deceased parents.”

In the letter to Klonovska, stamped in 1970 and delivered in December last year, a girl named Ewa complained that buses no longer reached her village, forcing her to walk in -23C (-9.4F) cold. She also asked for pictures of actors.

Now in her 60s, Klonovska has no memory of the girl. She probably wrote to Ewa after finding her address in an advertisement for pen pals in a newspaper, and the relationship ceased after the letter was undelivered.

“It’s so good that the letter was inconsequential. The loss was not life-changing,” said Klonovska. “What if they delivered a lost letter from a suitor to his love, and their wedding never happened?”

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