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.

Monday, 30 March 2015

Dark history part V

Dark history part V


On February 22 1954 police were called to a cliff side in the Sydney beach suburb of Tamarama where a car had plunged over the edge. The body of 44 year old Lithuanian born Dr Joseph Blank washed up in the surf.   While police were puzzling over why he had driven off the cliff the remains of another person were thrown up by the sea.  They were identified as Lithuanian woman Judy Arane 27, whose family said she had arrived seven years earlier after being held in a German prisoner of war camp and was 'just beginning to enjoy life'.  It was a mystery as to why she was in the car'.

A 29-year-old Lithuanian fettler was found dead in the railway quarters at Dulbydilla Siding on Sunday afternoon.
He was Bruno Paulauskas. A .22 rifle was found lying near the body. 
Police say there were no suspicious circumstances.

Western star (Toowoomba)  15 January 1954


Lithuanian George Hayes killed a man, shot four other people, then suicided.
Bruce Clark shot in chest while visiting the Weate’s. Killer shot 5 in locked room George Hayes, 22 year-old Lithuanian migrant, who committed suicide Saturday afternoon after shooting up the family of pretty Beverly Weate, former girlfriend, at their Ivanhoe home.

Beverly's f a t h e r was killed and three members of the family and a friend were wounded, as Hayes, formerly Jurgis Vazelis, sprayed them at lunch time with a .38 pistol.
Then he locked the lounge room and shot himself dead.

Mr. Hector Weate, 45, who tried to disarm Hayes after he had shot Daryl Weate and Bruce Clark, both 17, lay dying in the hall with a bullet in his brain, when neighbours and police arrived.
Mrs. Weate, 40, was shot in the shoulder as she' fled from the kitchen with her daughter Mirim, 3, whose head was grazed.

Police believe Hayes went to the Weate home in a rage after phoning from a nearby box, and being- told by Mr. Weate to keep away.  

Police were told Beverly was walking through a park near her home recently when Hayes approached her. After an argument, Hayes fired a shot.
Hayes' only relative in Australia is a brother working in the country.

Mr.Weate had recently bought a hotel near Benalla, and owned a chain of frock shops and some trotters.

He died in St. Vincent's hospital an hour after he was shot.
Police rushed Beverly from Ivanhoe to her father's deathbed.
Funeral of killer Lithuanian George Hayes at Fawkner Cemetery.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Dark history part IV

Dark history part IV

A drink sodden migrant stabbed his lover
A Lithuanian migrant sodden with drink on August 8 had acted like an automaton when he stabbed his de facto wife through the heart with a knife, Mr. F. W. Vizzard, Public Defender, suggested on Wednesday to M. Justice Clancy at Central Criminal Court.   
'The woman said  ‘stab me' said Mr Vizzard 'The man's ears were working, his eyes were working his hands were working, but there was no co-ordinating mind behind them.  'On the woman's invitation, as it were, the machine worked automatically and he stabbed her through the heart.'
Silvestros Visockis 45, labourer, had pleaded guilty to staying Mrs Dorotny Irene Denang at their home in Arthur St. Surry Hills. Blonde stocky, pug faced Visockis was making his second appearance in a Darlinghurst court in two years. He had the story of a hard life written all over his leathery sallow face.  Visockis had been charged with murder Mr C. V. Rooney, prosecution had said the Crown accepted Visockis' plea to man slaughter because it was conceded that the killing was the 'culmination of a sordid drinking episode.' Det Sgt Holmes, of Darlinghurst said Visockis came to. Australia in 1949. He was known to be addicted to drink and when under the influence became quarrel some and violent.
Red Army Conscript  
Sgt Holmes said Visockis claimed to have been a conscript in the Red Army from 1941 to 1943, to have been captured and imprisoned by the Germans until 1945 Holmes, said Visockis had been involved in other trouble and police had been called to his home several times.   On Xmas Eve 1951 he had gone to a New Australians' club at Greenwich with several other migrants. They ordered a meal and after eating it refused to pay the 5s a head due.  Visockis' companions left the club, said Sgt   Holmes. Visockis remained. The others returned about 9 p.m.   They wanted liquor supplied free or money to buy it.   The demand being refused, Visockis and his companions wrecked the premises.
Damage was £309.   Visockis was charged with causing malicious damage and was released on bond to pay £62 10s compensation.   On August 8 this year, said Sgt. Holmes Visockis invited several New Australians to join himself and Mrs. Denangle at a Surry Hills hotel for a drink about lunch time. Between 5 and 6 pm Visockis and Mrs. Denangle started for home On the way, apparently, he was struck severely in the mouth by some men who tried to take Mrs. Denangle away from him.

Plunged knife through heart
At home Visockis got a knife and 'was going to kill the party who hurt him.' Mrs. Denangle was sitting on her bed said Sgt. Holmes. She said 'I have saved your life if you want to kill any one, kill me.' Visockis immediately plunged the knife into Mrs. Den angle's heart. said Sgt. Holmes. She had been 'perfectly de fenceless.' Visockis had later told police that Mrs. Denangle being dead, he had nothing to live for Mr. Justice Clancy asked Mr. Vizzard: What are the prospects of having him sent back to his own country. Mr. Vizzard: I haven't considered that. I don't know whether he would be accepted back to his own country. Having read the depositions, Mr. Justice Clancy remanded Visockis for sentence and directed that a psychiatric report be prepared. His Honor commented: 'In a non-legal sense he was mad with drink, there's no doubt about that. He had certainly been attacked by somebody and there was an element of concussion that may have had a bearing.'

Truth (Sydney) 29 November 1953

He got 9 years.