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.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Flying Officer Karpys


Antanas was born on 2 Jan 1938 in Taraugė.  He arrived with his parents Domas and Kaze and brothers Tomas and Victoras.  They arrived at Sydney on the Protea 25 March 1949.  

Antanas enlisted in the RAAF, and was attached to the 76th Squadron, as a Flying Officer.

Flying Officer Antanas Karpys, was killed instantly when his Mirage crashed during aerobatic manoeuvres near the base on 29 September 1967, aged just 29 years.
The Mirage jet crashed 60 feet from the married quarters at Williamtown Air Base, disintegrating into what searchers described as "a million pieces".

Karpys was doing a series of solo stunts at 500 feet when the jet broke up on its 500 up on third roll, brushing trees and TV aerials on houses in the quarters where he had lived.

The RAAF inquiry team searched the crash area for pieces of the $2.4 million aircraft, which cut a swathe 80 yards by 700 yards north east of the base.  Since their introduction to the RAAF in 1964, five Mirage aircraft have crashed and two pilots, including Flying Officer Karpys, killed. Another Mirage crashed at the end of the month, but fortunately the pilot was ejected from the plane and survived. 

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Record launch for Vaskas


On 3 August 1969, at the St Casimir church hall, Genovaitė launched her USA produced record. It was the first record launch for the Adelaide Lithuanian community and 120 people attended.  The table were beautiful laid with tablecloths on which was placed hot tea and coffee and cake.  On a long table to the side of the hall a table was used to display Genė’s programs from her concerts, over 100. If one was to place programs from every appearance of the singer in the last 20 years, there would be several hundred on display. 

The evening began with J. Stepanas saying a few words.  A congratulatory telegram was then read, sent by Australian Community President Narušys.  Adelaide Lithuanian Cultural committee president Petkunienė also spoke.   Pranas Pusdešris also spoke of Genė’s talents and read several comments made after several of her performances. 

The record has eleven songs, of which three were recorded live.  The men’s octet Klajunai sang a cheer for their director. 

Genė sang two songs on the evening.




 MP 1969 rugp 19.