Monday, 10 April 2017

The Choir's little black book

Adelaide Lithuanian Choir

The Lithuanian choir established in August 1949 as a male choir and later a mixed choir, conducted by Vaclovas Simkus.  After several performances, the choir having given the name, Lituania.   Amongst the choir where several talented members, who had studied singing or music before fleeing Lithuania at the end of WWII.

The choir created a hard-bound book with Lituania embossed in gold letters across the front. 

Beginning in 1949 the book Commemorating milestones was important to the community. Significant years were celebrated with concerts that were recorded with the program and signatures of audiences.  Ornately hand written congratulations and compliments were lovingly recorded by Lithuanian and Australians. It was important to the Lithuanians to make a commanding impression in their adopted country.  They were proud of their culture and their talents, and wanted to be recognized as being more than the labourers that they were on arrival to Australia.

The choir performed at a variety of non-Lithuanian events such Royal South Australian Society of Arts Annual Christmas Party, International concert in aid of the World Student Relief at the Teachers College, Good Neighbour Council of SA and the Loreto Mothers Club Concert held at Loreto on Saturday 14th June 1952.

Hand written in blue ink, Constance W. McCarthy, President of the Loreto Convent Mothers Club and Monica B Walsh, Secretary left this note.

 This has been a most enjoyable evening the singing was very lovely and the dancing so interesting.  Our only regret was the entertainment was all too short.  We do sincerely thankyou and hope you will come again.



Monday, 27 March 2017

Australian Guides assist make new Australians

New Australians make keen Guides

Every second Saturday at Woodside, the Girl Guide Movement is helping new Australians conquer their shyness and showing them the way to good citizenship.

Many of the girls have been Guides and Brownies in their own country and so have a link with their new land.  Others are learning the Guides lessons of good fellowship for the first time.
At a recent meeting of the Woodside Guide company the only Guide uniforms were those worn by two Guiders.

The three patrol leaders Irena, Genovaite and Lolita wore their colourful Latvian and Lithuanian costumes.
Round them were girls, large and small, most of them with scarves tied round their heads and wearing long, woollen stockings.

The plaits, braided across their hair and the tiny, hoop earrings distinguished them from Australian girls.

Learning the signs
Adelaide Guiders who visit Woodside to conduct these meetings were rather puzzled how to begin, because many of the children did not understand English.

They drew some of the Guide tracking signs, and immediately there was a ripple of excitement, and a dozen more signs appeared.

Hand signals and whistles have also proved helpful. Now more children understand the commands, act as interpreters for the others.

It was a very lively meeting that I watched. When the Guiders arrived, there seemed to be children everywhere.  Finally they resolved themselves into two crowds — 22 Guides and 34 Brownies, not to mention at least six small brothers, who insisted on joining in.

Like competitions
The children co-operated in games and Guide training.  They were shown the Australian flag, and listened to an explanation of its significance.  The Southern Cross fascinated them. They will be looking for it in our skies now.

They have a delightful sense of fun, and when the various patrols had a competition to collect the most brown objects there were ' peals of laughter, and the resulting piles included a heap of earth in a handkerchief, one brown stocking, a camera case, several brown shoes, and some tree bark.

The task of calling the Brownies' roll has been solved by the Brown Owl (Miss Marjorie Noel) .  By the name of each Brownie, there is a space for each meeting. In this space each one draws something — a tree, a cat, a bird.
Guiding in Europe began after World War I., and followed the ideals of the movement, which began in England in 1909 as an offshoot of Scouting.

In Lithuania the special task of the Guides was the preservation of their traditional games and dances, and national costumes were worn at all their festivals.
A characteristic feature of Lithuanian Guide camps is the arrangement of patterned borders along the paths.

These are strips of gleaming white sand with designs made with pine cones and coloured patterns of black charcoal, red, and pounded brick and green pine tips.
Soon the Woodside Guides will have Guide scarves, which South Australian Guides are helping to buy for them. On Christmas Eve, the Adelaide Guides are planning a party for them which will make their first Christmas in Australia one they will remember.

Miss Elise Wollaston is in charge of the Woodside company. She sometimes covers the nine miles from her home at Bridgewater by bicycle.
Not only are these young new Australians enjoying all the fun of guiding, but they are learning that, when they go to their new homes, there will be Australian Guide companies waiting to greet them as friends and fellow Australians. — Helen Caterer.

Mail, Saturday 17 December 1949 p. 17

Monday, 6 February 2017

Sunday Voice, Catholic newspaper

Šventadieno Balsas (Sunday Voice)

Soon after arrival in Australia it became evident to Lithuanians that a newspaper in their own language was needed, as many did not speak English at the time.

When Father Jatulis arrived in Adelaide there was no Lithuanian church and he would conduct mass in Lithuanian in several Australian churches.  A newspaper would serve to keep parishioners informed.  On 29 March 1953, Father Jatulis began to print a bulletin on a copying machine, the Sunday Voice (Šventadieno Balsas) was born. 

Jatulis produced the bulletin until he was recalled to Rome, when the following priest, Father Kungys took up the role.   The editors was always the priest, following Kungys was Kazlauskas, Dauknys, Spurgis.  If they were will or away the task was passed on to Pranas Pušdešris.
Each edition would feature a religious article, thankyous, coming events and notifications.  Some advertisements were used to offset the cost of production.

The bulletin was funded by Lithuanian Caritas Inc which comes from the parishioner’s donations.  For many years two couples Valerija and Bronius Masionis and Petronelė and Antanas Dancevičius would fold and post each paper.

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

The dissident Professor visits Adelaide

Vytautas Skuodis (b. March 21 1929, Chicago) - Lithuania geologist , natural sciences, associate professor, dissident movement participant. Although born in Chicago, his parents returned to independent Lithuania in 1930.

In 1988, Professor Skuodis visited Australia. From September 9 to 26, he visited the larger Lithuanian communities. He arrived in Adelaide on the 15th, and gave his first appearance on Saturday 17th. At Lithuanian House he gave a presentation followed by an opportunity to speak to him. The following day he attended mass at St Casimir’s, and was free after lunch to mix with people. He flew out from Adelaide on the 20th.

From 1941 - 1948 he studied at Panevežys Gymnasium. Following which he furthered his education at the Vilnius State University where he gained geologist qualifications, 1948 - 1953. From 1964 – 1969, he studied for his PhD at the manufacturing-scientific engineering research building institute in Moscow.

Vytautas was a member of the Helsinki Group, a Catholic Committee, 1978 - 1979 m. He was initiator and editor of the illegal underground magazine " Outlook ". In 1980 he was arrested for anti-Soviet activities and sentenced to 12 years imprisoned. Skuodis had been arrested for signing the Baltic 45 memorandum, which on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the signing of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, demanded that the Baltic states be granted their guaranteed right to self-determination. However Skuodis' signature was not among the 45.

He spent six years in a concentration camp and six years in Siberia until his release in 1987. He was then exiled to the United States.

He has written a many books and articles about geology and devoted many to the issues of genocide in Lithuania and Lithuanian independence.

Vytautas Skuodis now 87, lives in Lithuania.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

The mystery of the Sea Captain and the unidentified soldier

This story begins with a link sent to me by Jonas Mockunas to a document of Lithuanians who were involved in shipping in some form before WWII.  There are several men listed who came to Australia.  I was intrigued to find a former sea captain who ended his days in Port Lincoln, South Australia, someone I had not heard of before. 

I was able to find some information on him and as I delved further into Port Lincoln history to try and understand his life, I found some interesting information.

Feliksas Marcinkus (Marcinkevičius) was born on 7 March 1905 in Kaunas.    From a young age he showed his love for his homeland and freedom, so much so that as a 15 year old he left school to enlist in the army.  He fought in the Širvintai-Giedraičių war with Poland in 1920 after the Poles had occupied Vilnius.

When he first saw the Baltic sea he became so enchanted with it and decided to become a sailor. He studied at the Aušra Gymnasium followed by 1923 to 1925 at the Seamen’s School under Kaunas Technical College. Practical experience was then undertaken on-board G. Eriksson’s barge Olivebank from 1925 – 1927.

He graduated from Abo Navigation Institute (Finland) in 1930 and worked in the port, where he was acting Captain on board vessels, Locas, Birutė and Aušra.

From 1935-1936, he was the navigator on board the steamships Rimfrost and Barfrost (Utena).  From 1936 – 1940 he was master on board steamships, Barfrost, Šiauliai, Panevėžys, and Marijampolė.  Feliks married Stefanija in 1936.

From 1941 to 1944 he resided in Kaunas.  Following the occupation of Lithuania, Feliksas and his family, Stefanija and children, Rimas (born 11 July 1938) and Nijolė (5 Feb 1940) fled to Germany. For the next four years they resided in Wurttemberg, Fellbach Displaced Persons camp close to Stuttgart.

In April 1949 the family began a new chapter in their lives as they arrived in Australia.

In Australia he found work as a navigator on board Australian vessels including passenger ships in Port Lincoln.  His wife and children however had a family home in Hurtsville NSW, where Stefania worked as a Laboratory Technician and Nijole a telephonist.

On the 30 September 1961, at only 56 years of age, Feliks suddenly collapsed while in a bar in Port Lincoln.  The cause of death was given as heart failure.  At that time, he was working on the MV North Esk, a general cargo vessel.

His body must have been transferred closer to his home as he is buried in Rookwood Cemetery, Sydney.

I wanted to know what would have brought Feliks to Port Lincoln.  When learning more about Port Lincoln history, two names are prominently mentioned in the maritime history of Port Lincoln, Axel Stenross and Frank Laakso.  They were Finish sailors who settled in Port Lincoln and opened a ship building business.  Axel’s home is now the Axel Stenross museum.  Reading more about them, I noted they came out on the ship Olivebank in 1927.   The Olivebank was built in Glasgow in 1892, owned by Gustaf Adolf Mauritz Erikson a ship-owner from Mariehamn, Finland, famous for the fleet of windjammers he operated to the end of his life, mainly on the grain trade from Australia to Europe.  Feliks was gaining practical experience on board the Olivebank at the same time.

Axel and Frank had stopped several times in Port Lincoln to load wheat.  They liked the place and decided to stay.    I wondered if they knew each other and why Feliks 20 years later ended up in the same location as Axel.  The South Australian grain trade was virtually the only profitable use for windjammers, and then only if the ship owner minimized costs as much as possible. Erikson supplied his ships adequately with crew and supplies as these were necessary for his ships to sail quickly and efficiently. Erikson's large four-masted barques would routinely sail on voyages of 30,000 nautical miles (56,000 km) with less than 30 crew.  With only that number of crew aboard they surely crossed paths. Were they friends? And is that why 20 years later Feliks worked in Port Lincoln while his family resided in New South Wales. 
(Jonas had written an blog entry on the last great grain race and a Lithuanian connection) Early">">Early Lithuanians in Australia: The Last Great Grain Race 1939

Delving deeper into the life of Axel Stenross, I came across photographs from the museum loaded onto the internet.  One photograph was labelled 'Axel at the time of his national service' showing a young man in military uniform.  I was surprised when I saw this photograph as the uniform appears to me to be Lithuanian.  The lapels bear the ‘columns of Gediminas’, the badge on the pocket bears a ‘cross of Vytis’ and he cap bears the coat of arms.
I contacted the Axel Stenross Museum and queried the photograph. There is nothing written on the reverse of the photo and they are also doubtful it is Axel.
Could it be Feliks?  Could he have given Axel the photograph while on board the Olivebank?  Were they friends?  Or is it another Lithuanian whom Axel had met at some time?

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Vaclovas RAGINIS

This portrait of Raginis painted by Neliubsys
hangs in Adelaide Lithuanian House
A testimonial life to Lithuania

Vaclovas was born to be a public figure. He was born in the middle of winter on 5th February 1910 in Vilnius. After the first world war he attended Švenčionių school where he was active in literature and sport clubs. At only 14 years he was producing a fortnightly school newsletter “Vienybe’ (Unity). He spoke several languages, as well as Lithuanian he spoke Polish, Russian and German. His activeness in Lithuanian activities, instigated the Polish government calling for his removal from high school. At this time Vilnius region was occupied by Poland.

In 1926 he was able to enrol in Vilniaus Lithuanian seminary and later to Vytautas Didysis school. In 1929 he organised the famous Ažusilės Lithuanian song festival where 2000 people participated.

Sensing that his Lithuanian activities were coming to an end he fled to independent Lithuania. Here he enrolled in the War School where he attained a junior lieutenant position in the Army Reserves. After the course completion he returned to civilian life.

He enrolled in Vytautis Didysis University in Kaunas, where he studied economics in the evening and worked at the Finance Ministry during the day. Kaunas at that time served as the provisional capital and the country’s political, economic and cultural centre. In 1939 he returned to Vilnius to continue his studies at Vilniaus University. Two years later he was employed as a tax inspector for Švenčionėliuose and later Švenčionyse. He married Monika Šluckaitė on 7 October 1933.

As WWII progressed it became apparent to Vaclovas that he would have to leave Lithuania as the Russian army returned. He and his wife withdrew to Germany.

Now displaced, living in temporary accommodation hoping Lithuania would become independent once again he joined the US Army Labour Service Company. He was a Lieutenant in the DLK Algirdas company (4129 Labor Service Company). He served from 2 January 1947 from its formation to the time it was disbanded on the 12 September. From here he was transferred to the 4027 Labor Service Company in Bamberge (Baltic corps). He was discharged only when he received confirmation that he was emigrating to Australia. 

Travelling on the ship Mohammedi, it arrived in Melbourne on the 14th May 1949. After completing his compulsory work agreement with the Australian government, he settled in Geelong. Before long he was actively involved in Lithuanian affairs and was instrumental in establishing a Lithuanian branch of Australian Lithuanian association.

He later moved to Adelaide (1954) where he became involved with the community. Raginis understood that a community house was very important and formed the Adelaide Lithuanian Association of which he was President for ten years. During that time money was collected for purchasing a community house. He was awarded a life member of the Adelaide Lithuanian Association.

In 1963 he and his wife Ona were invited by the Government of South Australia to attend the Royal Music Festival at which Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip were present.

Unfortunately, his health failed him and he withdrew from some community commitments. In 1970 he formed an Adelaide branch of the Lietuvos Atgimimo Sąjūdžio skyriaus (Lithuanian Nationalist Movement).

Raginis life work was for the country he left behind, he felt strongly for the youth and encouraged them to keep their heritage. 

On June 14, 1971, the whole Lithuanian community attended his funeral and commitment at Centennial Park. He passed away three days earlier in hospital after a hefty illness. He was survived by his wife.

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Circle of Amber

A novel by former Adelaide resident, Jura Reilly, Circle of Amber.
Set in Lithuania and Australia, " Circle Of Amber" explores the themes of murder, vengeance, loss and betrayal against the back drop of two World Wars. The main characters are forced to make decisions that wrench them from their families and friends. A recipe section has been included at the back of the novel.
Kristina's life in the tiny village of Ventuva, northwest Lithuania, seems idyllic until her husband Romas is brutally murdered. Forced to raise three young children on her own, she relies on the ancient gods and her mother Elena for guidance. Trying to retain her country's traditions during two world wars, Kristina battles to overcome poverty and the villagers' suspicions. On the other side of the world, in Australia, Gaila fights her own demons. Then she finds a small leather bound book amongst her mother's possessions. Does it hold the key to a family mystery?

Bonus recipes in the back of the book.

You can purchase the book through Amazon.

There is also a Facebook page.