Monday, 24 August 2015

Catholic Women aid Lithuanians in Poland

In 1981 the Adelaide Lithuanian Catholic Women society contacted the United Lithuanian Relief Fund of America (Bendras Amerikos Lietuvių Fondas A Šalpos)  (BALFAS).  The society had decided that it would like to outreach to Lithuanians in the Suvalkija triangle.  Suwałki Region is a small region around the city of Suwałki in northeastern Poland near the border with Lithuania. The territory was disputed between Poland and Lithuania after World War II.

A Stepenienė from Adelaide knew that BALFAS had connections with that area and asked for families to contact.  BALFAS had for many years had been providing aid, mainly in the form of clothes.  Each month they sent 40-50 parcels of good clothes and food.

The letters written in Lithuanian usually gave an outline of the dire straits families were living in.  No specific requests were made, just asking for assistance.  In that year the society received about 32 letters, to which all were responded to.  The women collected clothing items, sorted into packages based on what was mentioned in the letters.  Clothing, shoes, coats, jumpers, ties and children’s clothes were packaged some up to 18 kg and posted.

The United Lithuanian Relief Fund of America has been able to assist thousands of Lithuanian refugees in Europe and elsewhere with some much needed food, clothing, and medicine. Significant aid and clothing contributions came from the Catholic hierarchy. The rest came mainly as personal donations from thousands of Lithuanians in numerous parishes, Clubs, and societies throughout the United States.

Sunday, 9 August 2015

Four days at youth camp

In October 1963, 45 young men and women aged between 14 and 22 gathered at O’Sullivan’s Beach for a camp.  The camp was organised by the Catholic Association.

The camp was an opportunity for Adelaide youth to develop and strengthen their character.  The camp program was organised to include something new and interesting all the time.  There were discussions and debates to broaden ones thoughts.  Sport, games, excursions, singing, the evenings around a camp fire and being so close to the beach, swimming.

The main benefit of the four days was for the youth to feel like real Lithuanians, not just in language but in thought.  One questions raised for thought and discussion was ‘is it worth being a Lithuanian in Australia?’  Discussion was lively and of course got of tract.  There was much discussion over ‘young’ and ‘old’ and how each views the other. 
The write up about the camp for the newspaper was written by a parent at the camp, who was impressed with the maturity of the participants.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

1990 Song festival in Vilnius

The climate in Lithuania had changed by 1990 that it seemed possible that group visits could occur.  It was at this time that the Adelaide Lithuanian National Dancing group Žilvinas were gearing up to participate in the 13th Lithuanian National song festival to be held in Vilnius.  It would have been the first time that most of us would have travelled overseas and to Lithuania. 
Lithuania had just regained its Independence on 11 March 1990.  Russia was not overjoyed at this and so an ultimatum was issued on April 13: drop all talk about independence or face economic sanctions in the form of a blockade.  Lithuania did not retreat, and the Soviet government introduced sanctions against Lithuania as of April 18.

The blockade conditions meant that visas were not granted to everyone in Adelaide Dancing group.  Practising weekly with our teacher, Vytas Straukas, there were about 15 in the group.  A fortunate six got visas and were able to travel to Lithuania to partake in the Song festival.

Birute Stalbaite
Dana Baltutyte
Julija Bakutyte
Bronius Sabeckis
Andrius Dunda
Paul Rupinskas

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

A day in the Bush

A day in the Bush or Diena Australijos Šila, was produced for the newly arrived Lithuanian youth to Australia who would be unfamiliar with the Australian bush and animal life.  Many would not have known English on arrival,  and a book in Lithuanian would help them to remember their native toungue while introducing them to Australian life.
It is published by Užuovėja (Shelter). Translated from English by J. Ap – nis. (full name not given) Published in Bathurst 1949.
A day in the Bush by Nan Fullarton is a charming Australian children's picture book about a rabbits search for the monster he thinks is in his burrow. All the bush animals help him find the unknown creature that gave him a fright.  The drawings by the author make this an ideal story for any age.

Nan Fullarton is the author of several picture books.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Military Academy celebrates 50 years

First President of Lithuanian Antanas Smetona's Military Academy

The Military Academy began to operate on 8 March 1919. Due to the shortage of officers in the emerging Lithuanian army, courses were short lasting only several months. The first graduates of Lithuanian officers were in July 1919. In 1920 the course lasted for one year, then from 1921 it increased to two years. From 1935 it became a three year course.  

Initially the school was in Kaunas then during the Soviet occupation of Lithuania the School moved to Vilnius in September 1940.

50 years after the schools creation, members of the Adelaide Lithuanian Community commemorated the occasion. Graduates of the Lithuanian Military Academy honoured those who died and living graduates. They vowed to continue to battle with all their strength to assist their homeland and fight for its freedom.

Donations were collected that would go towards Lithuania’s fight for independence.

A beautiful hand written and decorated document featuring a Vytis in the background was created for the occasion.

Monday, 25 May 2015

A neighbourly helping hand

War experiences would have been traumatic and many had long term consequences.  It is not surprising that some would be admitted to an institution.  Here is a moving article, that talks about how the community responded.

In a small cafeteria sits 14 men.  From their appearance you can tell that they are Lithuanian.  Some of them have nicely tanned faces, clean shaven and wearing clean clothes.  We talk of everyday things, about the weather, food, autumn. If you look more closely at them in their eyes you can see a warm Lithuanian palpable sorrow. They miss genuine freedom.  On the table is piled a package for each person in which you will find fruit, biscuits, sweets, cigarettes, tobacco, Lithuanian newspapers, handkerchiefs, tooth paste and other small items.  Inside the room are two Adelaide Women Society members who have brought the packages.  They have known these men for a long time.

They talk to each one of them. “I could leave, the doctor would let me, just there is no one who will give me work.  I am bored here”.

Others have been here for 12 years, and from appearance you would think they could live like us.  Some have been here 6, 8 or 9 years, they all speak lovely Lithuanian, some of them are real Žemaičiai (Samogitians), Dzukai or Aukštačiai (Highlanders) (References to the regional groups of Lithuania). After an hour we say our goodbyes.  We visit 2 women and one man lying in hospital. Going through the doors, the guard unlocks and then locks, the doors with large rattling keys.  The sound goes through your heart.  On the other side of the door are our blood brothers.  Born on Lithuanian soil, grown up in the Lithuanian countryside, through grass and forests they ran as children.  Today there are 17. Only a few remember them, only a few visit.  Every 4-6 weeks they receive small gifts from the Adelaide Women’s Society, so they are not forgotten.

The outside is beautifully kept, the lawn and flowers trimmed, by the gate you notice a modest sign, “Parkside Mental Hospital”.

Bledzdingėles prie Torrenso, Lietuvių Isikurimas Pietų Australijoj 1947 – 1962

Friday, 15 May 2015

In memory of Romas Kalanta

In memory of Romas Kalanta
Romas Kalanta (February 22, 1953 – May 15, 1972) was a Lithuanian high school student known for his public self-immolation protesting Soviet regime in Lithuania. Kalanta's death provoked the largest post-war riots in Lithuania and inspired similar self-immolations.

Kalanta became a symbol of the Lithuanian resistance throughout the 1970s and 1980s.
At noon on May 14, 1972, Kalanta poured 3 litres of petrol on himself and set himself on fire in the square adjoining the Laisvės Alėja in front of the Kaunas Musical Theatre, where in 1940 the People's Seimas declared establishment of the Lithuanian SSR and petitioned the Soviet Union to admit Lithuania as one of the soviet socialist republics.  He died about 14 hours later in a hospital.  Before the suicide, Kalanta left his notebook with a brief note on a bench. Its content became known only after the declaration of independence in 1990 and opening up of secret KGB archives. The note read "blame only the regime for my death.

After his death rumours spread that a few of his classmates formed a patriot group, and that they held a lottery to determine which of them would have to carry out the mission. The official Soviet propaganda claimed that Kalanta was mentally ill.
Kalanta Romas: In memory of Romas Kalanta who 10 years ago, died in Kaunas Lithuania, in protest of Soviet Russia’s oppression of all human rights of his people.  Your sacrifice has not gone unnoticed and will always be remembered.

Advertiser inserted by Viktoras Stalba (Adelaide) 1982
Image taken from Lietuvos Rytas