Sunday, 25 January 2015


Petras Andrijaitis
When I think of growing up in the Lithuanian community and going to Lithuanian House, it is always with the memory of this man. We all knew him as Petriukas.

Petras was born in 18 September 1925, not far from Raseinis.  The war interrupted his schooling, when he was forced to flee Lithuania for Germany where he spent years in Displaced Persons camps. He arrived in Melbourne onboard the General M B Stewart on 13 April 1949.
Petras loved sport, he played basketball and volleyball.  He was very active in the Adelaide Vytis sports club, all his life in Adelaide and was made an honorary member.  He held several positions in the Club, sports manager, basketball manager and treasurer.  He would spend several nights per week in sports halls watching Vytis teams play.  If a player was missing, he would also been known to don a uniform to fill in. Twice he went to USA with Australian Lithuanian players.

Petriukas lived in the house on Grey street, Norwood and acted as caretaker to Lithuanian House.  You would see him every Sunday helping out in the kitchen, locking and unlocking doors, cleaning up.  He often made Sunday lunches, he was there to make lunches for the Saturday school children.  For his hard work and dedication he was made an Adelaide Lithuanian life member. 
Petras was a bachelor with no family in Australia.  In Lithuania he had a sister whom he was very close to. His nephews came to visit him in Adelaide at some point.

Prior to his death, Petras moved into the Baltic homes.  His last wish was that this would be written on his headstone. Čia ilsisi lietuvos sūnus toli nuo tėvynės. (Here lies a son of Lithuania far from his homeland).  Petriukas passed away on the 17 February 2007.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Alison St, Athol Park


At the end of Alison st, Athol Park, lived four Lithuanian families.  In number 19 lived the Jučius family, in 21 lived Alfonsas and Birutė Budrys.  Birutė’s sister Emilija had married Antanas Mikeliunas and lived next door in number 23. Directly opposite the Jučius house in number 20 lived the Tirva family, next to them in number 18 lived the Šerelis family until 1960.  They had two daughters, Jučius three girls and a boy, Tirva had a girl and Šereliai had two boys and a girl.  So with 10 young children of similar age they did spend a lot of time together.  Living close by was a young Russian girl who would join in, and was soon speaking Lithuanian as the children were told to speak Lithuanian.   Not everyone got along, Tirvienė and Šereliene were at odds, maybe a reason why they moved.

Between numbers 19, 21, and 23 there were no back fences built at first.  In essence the kids had a huge back yard to play in, one that was filled with fruit vegetables chicken and ducks.  When fences were eventually built they included a gate which would still allow access to each other’s property.

Jučius was a carpenter and assisted his neighbours with building their houses.  The men in the morning would ride their bikes to work at the Holden’s factory.

The Jučiai moved many years later to be closer to family in the east of Adelaide.  The others remained and still remain.

21 Athol st

Tuesday, 30 December 2014

4 Avon st

Another home story written by Jonas Mockunas.

Jonas holding Jonas jnr & Brone outside their new home
Jonas and Brone Mockunas arrived in Australia in February 1948.  After a few days at the Graylands transit camp in WA and a few weeks at the Bonegilla migrant camp in WA they moved to Adelaide where they lived at Calvary hospital, Torrensville and Mile End before finally being able to afford to build their own new home at Grassmere (later Kurralta Park).  

The two bedroom brick house was designed by Karolis Reisonas but I don't think any Lithuanians had a part in its construction.  I remember my father, possibly with the help of neighbouring Lithuanians, erecting corrugated iron fences and doing other improvements to the bare block which had been horse paddocks/farming land until that time. 

 The family moved into their new home in April 1956.  Although plans were drawn up in the 1950s for extensions, including another bedroom, they were never implemented.  The large backyard had lots of fruit trees, a big lawn area, lots of flowers, grapevines, strawberries and a small vegetable patch. Inside, the house had a feature wall with a traditional Lithuanian motif (stylised flowers) painted on the wall.

As to social interaction, we had close ties with most of the neighbours, in particular the Radzevicius, Andriusis, Matiukas, Kurauskas, Puodzius and Arlauskas families. The proximity to other Lithuanian families was undoubtedly one of the reasons that location was chosen for the new house.  Transport was another; it was very close to buses going along Anzac Highway and South Road.  It was also close to a Catholic church and primary school, which must have been a consideration for a young family (however as they subsequently found out it was quite a long walk to the nearest kindergarten at Plympton).  It was close to the city (only about two and a half miles to King William Street) and the Lithuanian centre at Norwood.

My father worked at the MTT (Municipal Tramways Trust) for most of the 19 years he lived there until his death; having a car was essential, irrespective where you lived, to get to and from work as his bus driving was shift work.  My mother worked more regular hours at the typing pool at Kelvinators (Anzac Highway, Keswick - just a few bus stops away) where she worked for some years with our neighbour p Arlauskiene. Mom lived in the family home for 40 years before moving to Canberra.

Thankyou Jonas for sharing part of your family history.  It helps to paint a bigger picture of the community.

Thursday, 25 December 2014

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year

Wishing all my readers a very Merry Christmas and New Year.  I am always overwhelmed with how many people read this blog, and thank everyone for doing so.

For awhile I thought I may have run out of ideas to write about, but something always seems to comes up.  Next year I would love to feature more personal stories from members of the community. If you have one to share I would love to hear from you. If you would love to know something I have not written about, I will do my best to gather information. Let me know.

Here's to 2015 being a history filled year.

Monday, 22 December 2014

Housing; another story

Agota and Stasys by the fence Stasys made.
Agota Galinskas was a single parent when she married Stasys Mikalainis.  After having two children, Stasys passes away.  During WWII the family took in borders to make ends meet.  One of these was Stasys Kerulis whom Agota later married.  The family fled to Germany avoiding the Soviet occupation.  A year was spent in a Displaced Persons camps in Bosse, Bavaria before being transported to Memmingen.  

In 1948 the family now with four children immigrated to Australia. Stasys and the second eldest son, worked on the SA railways, laying line at Oaklands Park. 

Once there was enough money to purchase a block of land for £100 at Caramar Ave, Edwardstown.  Building material was still in short supply and Stays made his own bricks by hand.  Initially a timber shed was built to store materials like sand and cement in readiness to build the house.  Mary and her parents slept there while the house was being built.  Stasys made besser bricks as they dried in the sun and didn’t need to be kiln dried.  

Many Lithuanians were involved in the building of the house.  They drew up the plans, laid the foundations, put on the tiled roof and someone plastered it inside and out. 

It was a two bedroom home with kitchen, lounge and dining room.  Stasys made the front fence with old railway material, he was a welder by trade. 

Everyone in the family worked in the rubber mills on South Road, Edwardstown at one stage.

The house was demolished sometime after Stasys died in 1987.  

Thursday, 11 December 2014

The back yard

My grandparents and Uncle in front of a fruit tree in their back yard.
My maternal grandparents were both raised on farms in Lithuania, so having vegetables and fruit trees was a must on their new property.  They had one of every fruit tree (apple, pear, grapes, olives, apricot, plums, mulberry, mandarin) nut trees (almond and walnut), and vegetables of every kind.  Grandma loved her geraniums and roses.  

Vegetables grew all year round, tomatoes, beetroot, capsicum, cucumbers, nettle and sorrel.  My grandfather loved sorrel and would always make us eat a few leaves before a meal.  Needless to say, the bitter taste of sorrel was not to my liking, but I didn't mind the sorrel soup grandma would make.  My family would always leave grandma house with enough food for a week. 

Preserving fruit and vegetables was common, grandma would preserve the stone fruit or make jam, preserve the olives and pickle the cucumbers.

The back yard was a mini market garden.


Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Housing part II

Elena with Gintaras and Ruta near their house, c. 1954
Having spent several years in the Displaced Persons camps in Germany, living frugally was not foreign to many Lithuanians.  Work was easy to come by, it may not have been in your field but unskilled labour job was easily obtained.  Having saved a deposit for land, the next stage would be to built a permanent dwelling.  Before that could occur, a temporary dwelling was often quickly constructed out of readily available material until something more permanent could be constructed.  My grandparents purchased a ¼ acre block of land at 2 Fifth Ave, Woodville Gardens for £150.  They had saved £50 and another £100 was loaned by two good Lithuanian friends.  

Their first home on their new block was an empty caravan laid with clean straw.    My grandmother recalled going to the Cheltenham racecourse and with very limited English made herself understood that she need straw.  Needless to say the man was quite taken aback when he realised it was for her family and not for animals.  Cooking was done on a simple primus stove outdoors. Water was put on the block when they purchased it. 

My grandfather was fortunately handy with wood and built a two roomed wooden house at the rear of the block, mainly from old packing crates from Holden’s.  A main living area one bedroom, small kitchen and bathroom was better than the caravan at least.  

There remained an odd verandah on the house, which I was told was to have been part of a large bedroom.  As materials were still scarce the Council required a slight reduction in the size of the dwelling.  When building their house they would purchase concrete by the bags a few at a time.  Weekends and evening were then spend on constructing the permanent home at the front of the block.  Once in their new house they rented out the wooden one to migrants. It was common for people to rent out rooms for extra money.    The wooden home became my grandfathers shed, where he spent many more years building furniture for family.

There were several Lithuanian families in the surrounding streets.  Grandfather not much of a social person did not mix with them, but my grandmother did.  My grandmother appreciated the socialisation with people who spoke the same language, who understood her culture and supported her.  

My grandfather worked at the Holden’s factory but later travelled to Adelaide Uni where he worked as a groundsman and my grandmother sewed clothes for Myers. The proximity to work, cheap land close to transport made the area ideal for their needs.

About half the houses in the streets were Housing Trust homes, those that weren’t were new migrants from Eastern Europe.