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

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Health in migrant communities

I was fortunate to recently meet a historian who is researching health in post war migrants to Australia.  Our conversation raised many questions about health in migrants communities, which of course I wanted answers to.

What would new Lithuanians do in the first years if they needed a doctor?
I know there a quite several Lithuanian doctors who came to Australia.  To practice medicine in Australia, the new migrants would have to undergo further study.  This would have been extremely hard for any new arrival.  Firstly there was the language, secondly you would have to work your two year contract before you were free to pursue a career and thirdly you had to work to support yourself and family.   

Language would have been an important factor.  To be able to communicate personal detailed information in your own language and to understand treatment would have been vital.  If no Lithuanian doctor was available, going to a doctor of a similar migrant background would suffice.

Did the community provide support to its members?
One of the principle aims of the Lithuanian Women's Society and Lithuanian Catholic Women's Society was to offer assistance, financial or in kind to members in need.  Some aims of the society were to visit the sick in hospital and assisting disadvantaged families, assist with payment of school fees, medicine.  The society’s focus has always been on the elderly members of the community.  The society in its formative years remembered Lithuanians still displaced in Germany, they sent monetary donations twice a year.

The Society has a focus on older members of the community that are alone, or have not adapted well to Australian environment.  Their moral and material needs are supported by the Women’s Society.  In exile we are one large family.
How was mental health issues viewed in the community?
Cases of suicide and detainment in mental institutions are recorded.  But are these figures any greater for one ethnic group?

I will do some more research on this, but in the mean time if anyone has stories or information to share, please do.

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Useful sites

From time to time I come across some great resources relevant to Lithuanians in Australia.  Here is the latest.

The Lithuanian Studies Society at the University of Tasmania has produced an annual journal for 28 years. It features articles about Lithuania written in English on a variety of subjects. It is a great read and from this year the publication is only available online. You can view and download it here for free.
lithuanian papers vol 28 2014

ORT and Displaced Persons Camps

The letters O-R-T form the Russian acronym for "Obschestvo Remeslenovo i zemledelcheskovo Trouda", meaning The Society for Handicrafts and Agricultural Work.  This reflects the conditions that prevailed when ORT was conceived, when the acquisition of agricultural and manual skills were the key to employment. ORT is one of the largest non-governmental education and training organizations in the world.

It is a private, not-for-profit organization that meets the educational, and manpower training needs of contemporary society with more than 3,000,000 graduates worldwide since its inception.  It maintains a non-sectarian, non-political position in its education and training provision. 
ORT was founded in St Petersburg in Tsarist Russia in 1880 to provide employable skills for Russia’s impoverished Jewish people.
ORT have made a website on the organisation and its involvement in Displaced Persons camps after WWII.  It contains general information on camps which may be of use.