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 http://genocid.lt/muziejus/en/  
Ruta Chocolate Museum   http://www.sokoladomuziejus.lt/en/exposition/chocolate-in-ruta/ 
Adamkus Archives Library http://adamkuslibrary.lt/biblioteka/?lang=en 

Saturday, 30 August 2014

A new breed


I loved Lithuania long before I ever set foot on her shores.  It is the land of my grandparents, the place where they were born, grew as a child and left as young adults.  The country that was always their home, their mother tongue, their history.  A land that they never returned to, to live, but was always dear to them.  

I have just returned from a visit to Lithuania where I spend a month travelling around the country, catching up with old friends and meeting new relatives.  I grew up in Australia and was always a little sad that our family was so small.  I was still better off than most as my paternal grandfather has his siblings here, but it still added up to a small group that could all sit around one large dinner table.  This year I met my parents cousins for the first time, and am amazed at how my family has suddenly expanded.  I wish my parents had this extended family growing up, they missed out on so many family gatherings, gossip and squabbles. For me, finding family overseas has given me deeper roots to the country that has played such a big part in my life.   I returned home clutching a precious photograph of my maternal great grandparents, which I never had seen, and a photograph of my grandparents wedding, we have one photo but had never seen this one.  I now have images of my grandfather as a young man and images of him mourning the loss of his father at his funeral.   My new found family took us to visit the graves of my maternal great grandparents and extended family, I had no one to visit in cemeteries in Adelaide. 

My roots grow deep and strong in Lithuania, but new sprouts are growing and expanding in Australia.  While Lithuanian blood may flow through my veins, I realise that growing up in a different country makes me not Lithuanian.  I speak an accented, grammatically poor, old fashioned version of the language, I am unaware of the slang, local jokes, have no idea of music, films and tv from years ago.  Nor do I have the experience of growing up in an occupied country under a regime that was enforced upon you. I am a new breed, a 'litho', an Australian born of Lithuanian decent. I will always belong in two places. 

Sunday, 3 August 2014

Balt artist at Woodside - Rukstele


The painting which hangs in the foyer of the Adelaide
Lithuanian House
TOP - A SYMBOLIC Oil painting by Antanas Rukstele foremost Lithuanian artist, now at Woodside Migration Centre, depicting the effort by thousands of Lithuanians to escape when the Russians invaded their country. A woman is shown clutching a handful ofher native soil before embarking. LEFT Rukstele with his wife, Helene, and their three children Beatrice (10), Saulius(8), and Raminta (12).
Antanas Rukstele, one of Lithuania's best known artists, is now a displaced person at Woodside migration centre.After years of wandering almost penniless with his wife and three children, tall, thin faced, 42-year-old Rukstele hopes Australia is "journey'send."In Lithuania before the Russian invasion he was a popular portrait painter and landscape artist. His minimum price fora portrait was £27/10/, and special portraits brought £50. When the Russians came Rukstele, who was a strong anti-Communist, gathered his family and fled. To have remained would have been certain death.

They walked out of their home without even a suitcase.Their only possessions were the clothes they were wearing. Ultimately they got to Germany, where Rukstele was drafted to labouring work. After the war he was discovered by UNRRA and set up in a studio, where he painted portraits of scores of American servicemen. "My waiting room was crowded like a dentist's parlour", he said.  Rukstele said he would be happy to work for two years as a labourer in Australia. Then he would like to take up painting again. He intends to study our art and believes both our artists and he can benefit from an interchange of ideas. Tomorrow, he will hold an exhibition of about 30 of his pictures in the camp to mark the official opening of Woodside as a migration centre. Arrangements are being made for Hans Heysen to see his work.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Adelaide National Dancing group goes to Port Lincoln

In 1964, the Adelaide Lithuanian National Dancing group travelled to the tuna capital of Australia, Port Lincoln. January 24 – 27th 1964, the annual Tuna festival was held, attracting tourists from all ends of Australia and even around the globe.  The dancing group was invited to the festival led by Bronė Lapšienė.  Friday evening, 28 dancers where chaperoned by Bronė and Vytautas Vosylius aboard a bus that would take them 400 miles from Adelaide. 

Although they were tired, not having slept much during the night bus ride the dancers gave an excellent performance at the festival.  The public were spellbound, the two performances were did not satisfy them.  The group preformed another time on the Sunday evening.

Before every dance, student Antanas Stepanas would broadcast over the microphone a brief introduction to Lithuania, its people, culture, customs, songs and described the dance to be seen.   Antanas then introduced each dancer by name.  During the break, Germanaitė gave a lovely solo recital on the accordion.


The dancers were accommodated in a private home before boarding the bus once again for the long journey home.  The bus driver was able to show some of the highlights of the local area before departing the sea side town.

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Balys Dičiūnas

Balys Dičiūnas

ALB Adelaide Committee vice-president, Lithuanian Caritas vice president, Lituania choir patron and an active member of almost every other Lithuanian group in Adelaide.
He was one for the first to organise the Young Christian group and assisted in their summer camps.

His truck was a real asset to the community, one which Balys was extremely generous in using it for the community’s needs.  Travels to and from scout camps, when the school needed a Christmas tree, Balys found one, cut it down and transported it to the school.   His time and truck were donated for free.


He was well known for his putting his head down and working hard.  He worked tirelessly on the Adelaide Lithuanian Church’s Christies beach property, building fences, sports area, levelling the site, creating a garden and path and planting the lawn.

Article on Balys Dičiūnas as he celebrated his 50th Birthday (Teviskes Aidai 24 Gruodzio 1958.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

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.

In 1982, an advertisement was inserted into the Advertiser by  V. Stalba, a member of the Adelaide Lithuanian community.

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.

The Adelaide Lithuanian community produced a small brass plaque in Kalanta's honour, which was blessed by the priest in a ceremony that brought together many members of the community. The plaque is located in the Adelaide Lithuanian Museum. The plaque can be seen in the photograph above.