Emigrants feed budding grave maintenance business

  • 2012-05-10
  • By Linas Jegelevicius

TIDY: Professionals keep the graves of loved ones taken care of.

KLAIPEDA - Are you busy as a bee coping with all your work? If yes, your deceased loved ones’ souls very likely watch you fretfully from the skies, as their graves’ conditions deteriorate, and weeds grow over the gravestones. Professional grave maintenance is a business that is growing.
Most order lower cost, petty jobs

Lietuvos Rytas, a Lithuanian daily, notices that more Lithuanians, unable to regularly visit their dead relatives’ graves and, more importantly, take care of them, entrust the duty to professional maintenance service providers. “These kinds of services are still not very popular in Lithuania, but abundant Lithuanian emigrants help keep a few grave carers in business. Frankly, I am taking care of only four tombs now. Most people want single services, and just one client ordered a year-long grave maintenance,” Gintaras Kazlauskas, a grave carer says.
He says more potential clients give him a call inquiring about the service before major holidays. Especially before All Saints Day and  Mother’s Day.

“Some ask me to just to light candles; other want me to put some flowers on the graves. Some request to trim the grass or plant flowers, and a few wish to have the graves maintained completely,” the man says. He provides the unusual, for most Lithuanians, services in eastern and central Lithuania.
“Like in all fields, in the grave maintenance business as well, Lithuanians are earnestly looking for as many as possible services for an as little as possible price,” Kazlauskas says.

However, most clients want him to do the aforementioned petty jobs and very few ask to lay out decorative grave slabs or put down pebbles.
“Most pay about 100 litas (a bit less than 30 euros) and ask to send several snapshots of the grave after the work is finished,” he relates.
Foreign influence changes habits
He notes that, when it comes to grave care, most clients would rather do major grave maintenance work themselves than entrust it to the professionals. “Sure, the factor of larger price kicks in. On the other hand, there aren’t these kinds of traditions formed in Lithuania,” the grave maintainer says.

He also points out a third reason: having seen British or Scandinavian cemeteries with modest, grass-trimmed impeccably maintained graves, many Lithuanian emigrants strive to bring this fashion onto their relatives’ graves. “A sheer majority are amazed at what they see in cemeteries abroad and marvel at professional grave care services in them,” Kazlauskas notes.

Due to the foreign influence, Lithuanians are gradually getting rid of heavy gravestones and breakstones, and prefer having moss, little flowers and more greenery in general on the graves.
Fulfilling year-long orders, the professional grave carer says he attends the graves once a month in all seasons but summer, when he comes to them twice a month. “It’s understandable, as a grave requires a lot more care in summer – weeding, watering and trimming plants. I usually ask 800 litas for year-long services. If a client wants me to take care of a grave just once, I charge only 80 litas,” Kazlauskas revealed.

He says his sister, who lives in London, brought him the business idea. “She told me these kinds of services are a hundred times more popular in the UK than in Lithuania. People are way richer and capable of paying for the services. Grave maintenance service providers thrive abroad, but they are only budding in Lithuania,” Kazlauskas notes.
Orders surge, especially before Mother’s Day
Algimantas Motiejunas, director of Kelmukai, a company specializing in grave maintenance services, says that the enterprise is not short of clients. However, he notes, the bulk of clients are emigrants. “We mostly work in the central part of Lithuania, as a lot of people from there have left for Vilnius and cannot take care of their relatives’ graves themselves,” says Motiejunas.

He says that his grave carers work very scrupulously and rather inexpensively. “I’d describe our working style as reminiscent of the pagans’ burial traditions: a lot of natural boulders and wooden details,” the man says.
He notes that increasingly more Lithuanians decide to completely cover the graves with decorative grave slabs or larger stone plates. “Lithuanians want to save everywhere, even in cemeteries. Therefore, many leave just a patch of soil for a single flower or two in the slab-covered grave,” says the businessman.

He, however, didn’t elaborate on prices, saying that at the beginning of May, before Mother’s Day, Kelmukai was swamped with orders. “We even had to call off some orders,” he admitted. Most of his clients are emigrants, too.