Monday, 8 February 2016

Relatives from Lithuania

Before Netflix, internet downloads, even DVD's, videos were the latest technology back in the 1990's.  To make its way to Adelaide, a world away from Lithuania came a tv series called Gimines (Relatives). 

The series dealt with the various problems in a newly independent Lithuania.  Issues of land reclamation, racketeers, mafia and love triangles. The series ran from 1993 to 2007.

The series came as 10 videos (40 episodes), available for borrowing from the Adelaide Library for only $3 per week per video.  One needed to request the videos as the whole Adelaide Lithuanian community seemed to want to watch it (Duplicate copies were made).  The serial was purchased by the Adelaide Lithuanian Community Council and Adelaide Lithuanian Union.

It seems almost laughable now, that something so small as this caused a great stir in the community.  But Lithuanians in Australia would have never seen a program on tv in their native language, and for those who never returned home it gave them a glimpse of what life was like in Lithuanian then.

Cast of Gimines 20 years later

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Genocide memorial in Klaipeda

On the crossroad of I. Kanto and Simonas Daukanto streets in Klaipeda a memorial to victims of Nazi and Soviet occupation during 1940-1990 was unveiled and blessed in 1997.  On the other side of Simonas Daukantis street you will find a building that during communist occupation was used to torture Lithuanian men and women.  Prisoners could not stretch out, nor lie down, they were held down in water until they passed out.  The building was the KGB offices.  The memorial is located in a square named for those exiled, shielded by a wide canopy of leaves from the 200 year old oak tree that grows there.  By the tree political prisoners and exiled people erected a statue from a large stone, in memory of those who perished between 1940 – 1990.  Near this memorial another was erected from Lithuanian stone with the names and dates of those who were killed or died. 

Many fathers, brothers, sisters of those who fled Lithuanian were tortured or died in Siberia or in the Partisan war.  To memorialise your family you needed to write their details and send it to Lithuania along with $50 US.  The Adelaide President at that time was collecting payment for anyone from Adelaide who wished to participate.
In the square also stands a statue, "Kančia" ("The Suffering") created by Juozas Genevičius.   It depicts a sitting prisoner with steel wire around his head.  It is similar to the old Lithuanian symbol - Pensive Christ; the difference is that instead of crown of thorns, a steel wire is strapped. In front of the sculpture are plaques with the names of the victims.

The survivors from all Lithuania – deportees, prisoners or their relatives brought black granite and field stones with carved names of martyred persons. There are about 500 such stones.

The plaque reads:

šie krauju ir ašaromis aplaistyti
vardiniai akmenys žiauria komunistine ir nacistine
lietuvos okupacija 1940-1990 m.
Blood and tears wet the named stones
as we remember the cruel Communist and Nazi occupation of Lithuania 1940-1990

Monday, 18 January 2016

Australia recognises Soviet Union occupation of Lithuania 1974

Australian Lithuanian demonstrator in Canberra
On August 3, 1974, with no forewarning, it was announced that the Government had recognized, de jure, the annexation of the Baltic States by the Soviet Union. It was soon revealed that it was Labor Prime Minister Gough Whitlam Whitlam’s own decision, taken without cabinet or caucus debate, to give legitimacy to the forced annexations by the Soviet Union of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia, carried out in 1940 by a mixture of military force, terror and political fraud under the secret terms of the Nazi Soviet Pact of August, 1939.
Balts in Australia were horrified and began to campaign against the decision.  Recorded in a Lithuanian newspaper in Boston was a poem coined by an Australian Lithuanian.

I’m glad I’m a Lithuanian,
I’m happy I am free
I wish I was a big dog,
And Whitlam was a tree.

Vienybe 1974.IX.27

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Baltic Games 1973

Baltic Games 1973

For a time every two years, from 1969, Baltic Games were held in Australia over the Anzac long weekend.  When held in Adelaide the Forrestville basketball stadium was a hive of activity as Latvians, Lithuanians and Estonians came to compete with each other in volleyball and basketball.  Created to help strengthen ties among young Australians of Baltic descent, 200 competitors, some top of their field would compete.
Among the Latvian basketballers, Andris Blicavs[i], SA State player Peter Vitols, NSW state player Maris Jaunalkanis for the men and Ilze Blicavs[ii] for the women.

Lithuanians had American born Frank Chickowski and superstar Karen Maar[iii] will be the Estonian top women basketballer.
The Estonians had a strong volleyball team, all members of their team had played State volleyball.  Their women’s team contains only one player who hasn’t played State and were coached by national women’s volleyball coach Juhan Olesk.

Dual Olympic basketballer Mike Dancis was the opening flag bearer for the opening of the games by Don Dunstan.

[i] Blicavs played for the Australia men's national basketball team during the 1970s. He competed for Australia at the 1974 World Championship in Puerto Rico and the 1978 World Championship in the Philippines. Blicavs also represented Australia at the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal.

[ii] Blicavs played for the Australia women's national basketball team during the 1970s and competed for Australia at the 1975 World Championship held in Colombia

[iii] Karin Maar-Fields-McRobert (born 11 June 1953)

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Lunch at Lithuanian House 1976

This article was written by Brone Mockuniene in July 1976 for Mūsų Pastogė.  Times have brought changes to the community lunches and the function of Lithuanian house, but here is how it was seen by those who built it.

A typical Sunday at Lithuanian House.  Cars drive slowly looking for a park.  Adelaidians after Sunday mass at St Casimir travel to Lithuanian House for lunch.  Today Vilniaus scout troop have prepared lunch.  Some arrive for lunch with the whole family, while others may bring Australian friends to try cepeliniai.  By the kitchen door a table stands with various cakes, all homemade.   Bagels, žagarelių and honey cake are brought to try and to take home.   Another table is piled with bottles, prizes for the lottery.  Adelaidians have generous hearts and happily open their wallets to buy lottery tickets, which is drawn at the end of lunch.  “One needs to support the scouts for their national camp” said one to a neighbour.
The scouts are happy with their takings, rubbing their hands together saying “Lunch was good”.  After lunch some may move into the bar to drink a glass of beer, others to the Library to see any new additions or to purchase a record, others may go and play billiards.  The youth have moved outside to play basketball.  Another may venture to Talka for some finance transactions, or view the Archives and museum.  Those at Lithuanian house are in little Lithuania.  What would one do if we didn’t have Lithuanian House? Our lives would be uninteresting and awkward.  Can you remember the time when Adelaide did not have a Lithuanian House, or Catholic centre, nor our own church.  We prayed at St Joseph church while Father Jatulis kept an eye on the clock so as to not run overtime, because the Poles were behind the door waiting for their time slot. We gathered for national dancing in numerous premises.  It is incredible that only five years after arriving in Australia, Adelaide already had a house committee established.  For several years they studied what would be the best way to buy a premises.  It was decided that a non profit organisation ‘Lietuviu Sajunga’ (Lithuanian Union) aimed as a legal entity would acquire and dispose of immovable and other assets.  The first committee consisted of President V Raginis, Vice President J Kalvaitis, Secretary J Pyragius and treasurer A Šliuzas.

Lithuanian House is where our children learn Lithuanian, dance national dances, play basketball.  How many weddings were held here, concerts, various meetings?

Monday, 30 November 2015

Book review - Lithuanians roots in American soil

I think I have read every autobiography concerning Australian Lithuanians, and so thought I would give an American Lithuanian story a read. 

Lithuanian Roots in American Soil: A Memoir of the Barunas Family by Audrone Barunas Willeke      2014

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Australian Lithuanians - Litho's

If Lithuanian Jews are called Litvaks and Lithuanian Americans are known as Lugans, what are Australian Lithuanians known as?  Australians shorten everything so its no surprise that Lithuanian become Litho's.  While on the outside we look like any other Australian there are some things that make us different.  Here are a few.