From Lithuania to New Minas

Wendy Elliott
Published on January 23, 2013
Karen and Randy Purves show off some of the items from Lithuania they sell at their New Minas business. The couple, who lived in Lithuania for 14 years, are bringing a piece of their adopted country home to Canada through their business
Wendy Elliott

By Wendy Elliott

Just over two years ago, Randy and Karen Purves returned to Canada after living 19 years abroad, 14 of them in Lithuania. Once settled in New Minas, they began importing amber and natural linens from Eastern Europe.

They say it was quite natural for them to launch Anchor Imports to “bring some of the beauty of Lithuania back to Canada.”

While amber is rare here, Randy says, it is very common in that part of Eastern Europe.

“You’ll find it on the beach after a stormy day,” adds Karen, washed ashore after it’s been stirred up from the bottom of the seabed. “It’s just a normal part of life there.”

Added Randy, “Our first present from a family there was a massive hunk (of amber).”

Living there, they began hearing about the health benefits of amber. For centuries, Karen said, it has been worn as a natural remedy for pain relief, to promote faster healing and to boost the immune system.

Babies wear necklaces of amber when they are teething, for example, but it is also believed to have analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties. Baltic Amber naturally contains three to eight per cent succinic acid, which is an analgesic and anti-inflammatory, Randy said.

“I’ve experienced the therapeutic value with my arthritic knees, when I had a sprain,” Karen said.

Baltic amber dates back 44 million years and is one of the largest known deposits. She says that they learned the fossilized tree resin works as an organic deterrent to fleas and ticks, so the Purves’ created Flick pet collars.

A former RCMP officer, Randy uses skills he developed installing new wiring for the telephone company to make the collars and pieces of jewelry.

“Pet owners don’t want to use chemicals that are components in nerve gas,” he said.

According to Karen, the benefits of wearing amber were also known by the ancient Chinese. In Lithuania, amber is part of the national costume.

“Just in the last 10 years, young people are seeing it as a bit old-fashioned.”

Lithuania has a rich history of manufacturing linen dating back four millennia, Karen said.


“I absolutely love linen. This craft is very important to Lithuanian heritage and modern plants are now producing high quality linen.”


Her husband chuckles and adds that Karen has become a walking billboard for their exports.

Anchor Import’s linen products are 100 per cent natural fabric. Linen is available by the metre or can be special ordered into pre-made products.

They say that learning to become entrepreneurs was part of their re-entry into Canadian society.

“It was a major culture shock,” Karen says. “We’re adaptable, but we have to earn money. After almost 20 years, we didn’t have a pension plan.”

Their non-traditional employment does give them time to serve in ministries like Open Arms in Kentville and volunteer with Inn From the Cold. They also enjoyed the community theatre group, Stage Prophets. But the Purves’ stay focused. They want to audition for CBC’s Dragons’ Den and have just returned from an exploratory sales trip to Newfoundland.

Missionary work

Karen and Randy Purves served as missionaries during their time abroad, which included initiating projects to help the marginalized during the renewal of a nation that was under Soviet occupation for many years. 

Karen says their last assignment was running a retreat centre.

“We have contacts now all over the world,” she says.

They were affiliated with Youth With A Mission (YWAM), which is an international, inter-denominational, non-profit Christian short-term missionary organization. It was founded in 1960 and the family of ministries launched the Mercy Ships in 1979.

YWAM now includes people from over 150 countries and a large number of Christian denominations. The organization has over 16,049 full-time volunteers and trains 25,000 short-term missions volunteers each year.