Thursday, 11 December 2014

The back yard

My grandparents and Uncle in front of a fruit tree in their back yard.
My maternal grandparents were both raised on farms in Lithuania, so having vegetables and fruit trees was a must on their new property.  They had one of every fruit tree (apple, pear, grapes, olives, apricot, plums, mulberry, mandarin) nut trees (almond and walnut), and vegetables of every kind.  Grandma loved her geraniums and roses.  

Vegetables grew all year round, tomatoes, beetroot, capsicum, cucumbers, nettle and sorrel.  My grandfather loved sorrel and would always make us eat a few leaves before a meal.  Needless to say, the bitter taste of sorrel was not to my liking, but I didn't mind the sorrel soup grandma would make.  My family would always leave grandma house with enough food for a week. 

Preserving fruit and vegetables was common, grandma would preserve the stone fruit or make jam, preserve the olives and pickle the cucumbers.

The back yard was a mini market garden.


Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Housing part II

Elena with Gintaras and Ruta near their house, c. 1954
Having spent several years in the Displaced Persons camps in Germany, living frugally was not foreign to many Lithuanians.  Work was easy to come by, it may not have been in your field but unskilled labour job was easily obtained.  Having saved a deposit for land, the next stage would be to built a permanent dwelling.  Before that could occur, a temporary dwelling was often quickly constructed out of readily available material until something more permanent could be constructed.  My grandparents purchased a ¼ acre block of land at 2 Fifth Ave, Woodville Gardens for £150.  They had saved £50 and another £100 was loaned by two good Lithuanian friends.  

Their first home on their new block was an empty caravan laid with clean straw.    My grandmother recalled going to the Cheltenham racecourse and with very limited English made herself understood that she need straw.  Needless to say the man was quite taken aback when he realised it was for her family and not for animals.  Cooking was done on a simple primus stove outdoors. Water was put on the block when they purchased it. 

My grandfather was fortunately handy with wood and built a two roomed wooden house at the rear of the block, mainly from old packing crates from Holden’s.  A main living area one bedroom, small kitchen and bathroom was better than the caravan at least.  

There remained an odd verandah on the house, which I was told was to have been part of a large bedroom.  As materials were still scarce the Council required a slight reduction in the size of the dwelling.  When building their house they would purchase concrete by the bags a few at a time.  Weekends and evening were then spend on constructing the permanent home at the front of the block.  Once in their new house they rented out the wooden one to migrants. It was common for people to rent out rooms for extra money.    The wooden home became my grandfathers shed, where he spent many more years building furniture for family.

There were several Lithuanian families in the surrounding streets.  Grandfather not much of a social person did not mix with them, but my grandmother did.  My grandmother appreciated the socialisation with people who spoke the same language, who understood her culture and supported her.  

My grandfather worked at the Holden’s factory but later travelled to Adelaide Uni where he worked as a groundsman and my grandmother sewed clothes for Myers. The proximity to work, cheap land close to transport made the area ideal for their needs.

About half the houses in the streets were Housing Trust homes, those that weren’t were new migrants from Eastern Europe. 

Friday, 14 November 2014

Where did the Lithuanian's live?

Pimpe residence, Fifth Ave, Woodville Gardens. New house in the background.
I have often wondered where all the Lithuanian lived when they first arrived in Adelaide. I wondered if they tended to live in close proximity to each other, if they socialised together?  In an attempt to better understand the community I plotted 472 Lithuanian residences in 1963 using Google maps.  Why 1963?  I had access to a Sands and McDougall directory.  It confirmed what I presumed but raised more questions.  

I had presumed that there would be clusters of Lithuanian's, and assumed that they would know of each others presence if they lived close by.  I knew that there was a cluster in the Woodville Gardens area and Edwardstown.  I assumed that many built their own house and lived in the same house pretty much until they died.  

Woodville’s population almost doubled between 1947 and 1961, from 38 to 71 000.  There had been a change from a predominately Australian born makeup to a quarter being of European decent.  For those who arrived first, the Housing Trust gave preference to Australian ex-servicemen and meant that private accommodation or your own dwelling would need to be sought.  While housing could not meet the current increase in population neither could the demand for building material. However at Woodville North, most of the area south of Grange road and at Seaton and Royal Park had plenty of cheap land. Royal Park was especially popular with migrants because land was cheap.(A history of Woodville, Susan Marsden p 25).

If anyone has information regarding where the early Lithuanian's lived, I would love to get some information from you.

I will post more on housing shortly.

You can now access Sands &; Mac Directories (1864 - 1973) online for free from the State Library of SA. 
SA Directories

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

International Festival 1965

On 28th August 1965 the Adelaide Lithuanian choir sang several songs at the Octagon theatre as part of the International Festival.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Adelaide Lithuanian Amateur Photo Club

Adelaidės Lietuvių foto mėgėjų klubo
Adelaide Lithuanian Amateur Photo Club

Several Adelaide Lithuanians with an interest in photography got together and established an amateur photo club.  The aim was to help each other perfect their work.  At the first meeting on 18 October 1959, which was held at Vytautas Vosylius flat in Mile End the group produced its guidelines.
A Krausas viewing the exhibition in 1968

The first president was Vytautas Vosylius and the secretary Petras Snarskis.   The document was also signed by Kazys Požera,  Alfonsas Budrys,  Pranas Šatkus and Juozas Vebrys.

The Photo club organised several exhibitions in Adelaide and also during the Australian Lithuanian Festival Days as part of the Art exhibition.  They usually received over 50 works and in the 1968 exhibition had 95 on display.  The categories included Black and white, colour, portraits and landscapes.

Not surprisingly members Alfonsas Budrys and Vytautas Vosylius did exceedingly well in the competitions.  Both were active in Australian amateur photographic clubs as well.

The group was active until 1970.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Weekend school and me

Attending Lithuanian schools on weekends included many things I did not like, mainly dictation and grammar.  I enjoyed the history, the dancing and singing and of course playing with your friends.  On occasion we were asked to write in Lithuanian about a particular topic.  Mine always came back covered in red ink and would use a much simpler language than I could speak. It included alot of repetitive words as that filled up lots of space.   If we were allowed to do this at home, it really was my parents work. 

Homework was usually left to the Saturday morning when there was a rush to get it done and ready for school.  

Below are some examples of essays, unfortunately I don't know who wrote them or what year, but it was before 1980.  They are very loosely translated.

Weekend school and me
I rise at 8:00am and prepare for school.  10:00am the bell rings and we go to class. We say prayers and start work. We sing and dance. At 12:00pm we go to lunch.  The teachers go to eat in another room.  We play a little and then return to class.  Sometimes with Mrs Mazelis and other girls we do some weaving. The other children who do not weave go to watch films about Lithuania. 

 Every Saturday we leave home at 9:00am to go to Lithuanian House.  We gather in the Library where our class is. One week we have history, the other Lithuanian grammar and language.  Every second week we have dancing and weekly signing. The last week of the month, we weave.

This school has 8 year levels, five classes and kindergarten. It is now easier for me to write letters and talk about history. English school it is easy to do projects about Lithuania as I have learnt alot.  I like Lithuanian school very much.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Adelaide and Lithuania, closer than you think

While in Lithuania I was very excited to find several links with Adelaide. The first time was in Siauliai visiting the Rūta chocolate Museum.  In 1913, Antanas Gricevičius established Rūta, a tiny sweet workshop. As foreigners owned most of the companies in Lithuania at that time, Mr Gricevičius called the shop, Rūta, after a plant found in Lithuania (Rue), in a bid to highlight its national character.

Rūta gradually established a reputation for itself and, by the 1930s, the factory had more than 100 employees and produced around 300 different types of chocolate. In 1929, Mr Gricevičius built a new factory with shop premises to the design of the famous architect, Kārlis Reisons. Since 2012, the building has been a museum.  

The above mentioned architect is actually Karolis Reisonas, who ended up living in Adelaide and was instrumental in refurbishing the current Adelaide Lithuanian House. 

Further into the Museum, there was a display on the Rūta chocolate boxes over the years. I was rather bewildered to see a familiar one.  The tin with Darius and Girenas on it is used in the Adelaide Lithuanian Museum to keep the keys to the display cabinets in.  The tin was produced in the 1930's.  I now look at it with different eyes, and wonder if it was donated by Reisonas?

In Kaunas, I met a friend who works in the Vytautas Magnus University.  She took me to see her work place. As it was holidays there were few people around, but I did get to meet a staff member working on the Adamkus archives.  Former president of Lithuania, Valdas Adamkus has donated many personal items which will be kept at the University and hopefully one day become a museum.  Amongst the items was this plate presented to Adamkus when he came to Adelaide with the American Lithuanian basketball team in 1964.  It's hand made and painted with the places and dates visited.

On my last day in Vilnius, I went to visit the Museum of Genocide Victims (KGB Museum).  Under Soviet occupation mail from outside the Union was closely scrutinised.  One display showed publications issued abroad which had been confiscated by the sensors.  To my surprise it was a program from the Australian Lithuanian Days held in Adelaide in 1962.

I was never far away from home. 

Museum of Genocide Victims  
Ruta Chocolate Museum 
Adamkus Archives Library