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">http://earlylithuaniansinaustralia.blogspot.com.au/2016/06/the-last-great-grain-race-1939.html#links">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.
https://www.amazon.com/Circle-Amber-Jura-Reilly/dp/0995386803/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1475576217&sr=8-

There is also a Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/jurasamber/about/?entry_point=page_nav_about_item&tab=page_info&__mref=message_bubble
 

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Have you seen her?

This appeared in the Advertiser on Saturday 6 September 1952.  Her surname is spelled incorrectly, it should be Kulisauskas.  This article appears twice but there is no follow up as to is she was found.  Tragically her father had been killed 18 months previously when the motorcycle he was travelling on collided with a bus at Largs North. 
 
I wonder what happened to her?

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Farewell picnic for Father Jatulis

Picnic at Christies Beach

On a Sunday afternoon on the 25 August 1957,over 400 Lithuanians gathered at the Caritas property at Christies Beach for its first picnic and blessing of the house. Mass was said by Father Jatulis whose sermon emphasised a common house, common work. The choir, Lituania even came and sung. 
Not sure if this photo is of the actual event described but it was taken at Christies Beach

After mass, tables were set up, placed in rows and the Women’s committee brought out the home made, lovingly prepared food.  The occasion also served as a farewell to priest Paulius Jatulis who had been summoned by the church to go to Italy. 

Speeches were spoken every head present, from by ALB President, Stasys Čibiras, Theatre group head, Juozas Gusčius, Youth group leader Juozas Lapšys, Lithuanian Society President, J. Raginis, Scout Leader Vytas Neverauskas, Sports President J. Jaunutis and Ateininkai head, A. Kubilius. Instead of a farewell gift, the community gathered over £100 for Jatulis for his new path in life.  All present sand Ilgiausiu metų (Longest Years, sung on any special occasion) followed by more singing and joking before those present made the long journey back to Adelaide.

Sunday, 11 September 2016

Australian Lithuanian Student Assembly 1958

The third Australian Lithuanian Student Assembly was held in Adelaide in December 1958.  It opened on December 27th by T. Žurauskas.  Present was Pulgis Andriušis, Kristina Česnaitė (Melbourne), V. Martišius (Canberra) and I. Venclovas (Sydney), Secretary Daina Maželytė (Adelaide).

Žurauskas in his address stated that in 1958 in all of Australia and New Zealand over 100 Lithuanians were studying at University level.  In 1957 13 students finished, Sydney 5, Melbourne 5 and Adelaide 3.
Pulgis Andriušis took the stage and gave an interesting reading about ideas and values in life and its place in the English world.   The first day finished with singing of the Lithuanian National Anthem, followed by dinner and fellowship.

The 28th featured an outing to the beach where several hours of swimming and games was allowed.  In the evening participants gathered at the Giruckus home at Richmond.
The following day, there was an outing to the Art Gallery, Museum and other cultural institutions.  At 3:00pm the delegates regathered at Lithuanian House to continue discussions. That evening the Reisonas home was open.

In all, 19 students from around Australia assembled and 25 from Adelaide. J. Mikužis, dr E.  Petrikaitė, Dr N. Šurnaitė, Dr V. Aleksandravičienė, and Aldona Navakienė spoke.  
December 30 and 31 was left open to visit friends while others organised a trip to the Barossa Valley.

New Year’s Eve was celebrated with a ball organised by the Adelaide Community.

The following year the Student gathering would be held in Canberra.