Tuesday, 9 January 2018

100 Aciu - Victor Baltutis

Victor BaltutisWe recommend Victor Baltutis for recognition for his service and commitment to the Adelaide Lithuanian Community and also the wider Australian Lithuanian Community.

We believe Victor deserves the recognition for everything he has done without asking for anything in return.

Reason for recommendation:

Victor Baltutis has volunteered diligently and selflessly for the Adelaide and Australian Lithuanian Community since arriving in Australia in 1949 on the second boat of displaced people to arrive from Europe. A displaced person was the term previously used for what is currently referred to as a refugee. His achievements include creating the Australian Lithuanian Archives (a ten year undertaking) which is currently housed at St. Casimir's Lithuanian Parish at 6 Third Avenue Saint Peters. These archives are the history of the Lithuanian Community in Australia from arrival in the late 1940's as displaced people to current times. These archives are now of significant historical value and protected from export by the Australian government.

Although Victor Baltutis is over 90 years of age, he continues to be active in the community, helping organise and coordinate Saint Casimir's Parish to have a priest presiding over Holy Mass for the parishioners every Sunday. Victor continues to assist younger Lithuanians who contact him for guidance and advice around various Lithuanian matters. He wrote and edited the Adelaide Lithuanian Bulletin on his own computer for many years. He just recently reduced his workload due to health reasons. The Adelaide Lithuanian Bulletin comes out every fortnight and is the highlight for the elderly Australian Lithuanians who may no longer have easy access to their community or written language. Victor still contributes to writing in this and other national and international Lithuanian publications.
Due to Victor’s work in the Adelaide Lithuanian and Australian Lithuanian Communities, he is well known and highly respected in the Adelaide Lithuanian Community. In 2017 he won the Norwood, Saint Peters and Payneham City Councils Australian Citizen of the Year Award for his work. Victor very reluctantly accepted this award, as he views his contribution to the Adelaide and Australian Lithuanian Communities as a “natural thing to do”. Victor has always been humble and working tirelessly to promote and maintain the Lithuanian heritage in Adelaide and Australia. He previously declined an Order of Australia award due to his humility and considers his thousands of volunteer hours he has contributed to Australian Lithuanian Community as a normal way of life.

Significant achievements/contributions include:

• Lithuanian refugee from World War II – Migrated to Australia as part of the second group of Lithuanian refugees in Australia in the late 1940’s

• Coordinated the Lithuanian Parish and Community events

• Helped establish the Adelaide Lithuanian Catholic Church (Saint Casimir's Parish) and until recently due to health reasons, was one the handful of people who did the readings in the Lithuanian language.

• Until late 2016, was part of the Adelaide Lithuanian Catholic Church Committee and has been for many years

• Was a Leader of the Adelaide Lithuanian Catholic Church Committee for many years

• Was the President of the Adelaide Lithuanian Community and Australian Lithuanian Community

• Volunteered as a Justice of the Peace for the Adelaide Community.

• Established the Adelaide Lithuanian 5EBI FM Radio Programme which continues to this day on 5EBI 103.1 FM every Saturday from 9 am to 10 am

• Established the Adelaide Lithuanian Building Society Co-Op 'Talka"

• Wrote and funded the publication of 2 books about the Lithuanian Community in Australia (in Lithuanian)

• Created the Australian/Lithuanian archives

These two books and the Australian/Lithuanian archives are an important resource for historical academic research of Lithuanian’s in Australian and their immigration to Australia.

• Taught Matriculation students the Lithuanian language

• Regularly contributes to the National Lithuania Newspaper ‘Mūsų Pastogė’ (Our Homeland)

• Organised and presided over a number of the Biennial National Lithuanian Cultural Festivals

• Organises and participates in a weekly Adelaide Lithuanian Men’s Billiard Club and Support Group

• An inspirational leader and confidant for the Adelaide and Australian Lithuanian Communities.

Nominated by his daughters, Dana & Anita and son-in-law Craig Clarke.

Friday, 5 January 2018

Ačiū Jura Reilly

Jura Reilly (Jūratė Vitkūnaitė-Reilly)

Since her high school days in Adelaide, Jura has inspired other with her pride in her Lithuanian heritage. She has written 3 books about Lithuania, that have certainly shared her love of Lithuania with not only in South Australia, but throughout the whole world.

Jura was born in 1952 in Adelaide, South Australia. Her parents, Liuda and Alfredas Vitkūnas, came out from to Australia as refugees after WWII. They met and married in Adelaide. As guardians of their Lithuanian culture, they sent Jura, along with her brothers Rimas and Robert, to the Adelaide Lithuanian Saturday School.

Whilst Jura was at Adelaide Girls High school, and later Adelaide University, they encouraged Jura to teach Lithuanian language at the same Saturday School. She was also member of the Adelaide Lithuanian Scouts, and danced with the folk dancing group Žilvinas that was taught by Vytas Straukas.

After graduating from Adelaide University, with majors in English & International Politics, Jura married Ted Reilly, from Brooklyn Park: they moved to Victoria, where Jura completed her Diploma of Teaching at Rusden Teachers College.

They have 2 children, Anita and David, both of whom have been active members of Geelong Vytis Basketball teams. Jura taught History and English for 35 years in 3 Victorian high schools and completed post-graduate studies in Education Administration.

In Geelong, Jura re-established the Geelong Lithuanian Community's Saturday School, and helped out with the Lithuanian radio program. In 1991 she was invited by the Lithuanian Ministry of Education to teach ESL, and returned five times in a consultative capacity.

In 1983, Jura published a book of poetry, Lithuanian Lady. In 2013 she translated her Lithuanian aunts' memoirs of 37 years of exile in Siberia into English, and published it as a memoir, A Wolf At Our Door. This book has been translated into Russian and Spanish.

In 2014, Jura founded an International Baltic FaceBook group, Baltica. She also is the administrator for the FB group, Baltics in Australia. Through these groups, Jura regularly promotes South Australian Lithuanians' achievements and events, all over Australia and the world. She also promotes them in her role as administrator for the FB page, VilNews and The National Amercian Hall of Fame.

As a result, an American based FB group Lithuanian Traditions, now regularly highlights The Adelaide Lithuanian Saturday school's program.

In 2016, Jura published an historical novel, Circle of Amber, which was loosely based on her maternal great grandmother Magdalena Vilkiene, and was set in Lithuania and Australia. Both books are available at the Adelaide Lithuanian House bookshop. 

Jura's latest novel, Sylvia's Book Smuggler, is due to be released online on 16 Jan. It is based on her paternal great- grandfather, Tomas Žičkauskas, who was a teacher and book smuggler from Marijampolė.

Her other interests include making amber jewellery, as publicised on the FB page, Amber by Jura. She is also kept busy visiting her two children & four grandchildren, and travelling around the world with her husband.

Nominated by her husband Ted Reilly.

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

100 Aciu 100 Thankyou's

February 16th is the most significant date in Lithuania’s history. On this day, we celebrate the restoration of an independent state of Lithuania. In 2018 it will be 100 years since the Independence Act was signed. It is a reason to celebrate and reflect the significance of the past.

The Lithuanians who came to Australia became the guardians of their tradition and culture. They were the family members, teachers, friends and leaders who instilled in the younger generation a little bit of Lithuania. They’re our community heroes. They may not have been famous, but they should be remembered.

In 2018, the Adelaide Lithuanian Community would like to celebrate at least 100 people who inspired pride in their heritage. We are asking community members to nominate a person who shared their love of Lithuania with you. They must have an Adelaide connection and can be a living or deceased. You are welcome to submit multiple entries.

To participate, write a short biography of the person followed by how they shared their love of Lithuania with you. It can be in Lithuanian or English. Include a photo or two. This need not be more than an A4 page. 

We will share these stories throughout the Lithuanian community.  

For further information or to send your completed person please email Daina Pocius on riverhorse at internode.on.net or call on 0427617214.

Say thankyou! Padėkok!

Adelaidės Lietuvių Bendruomenė
Adelaide Lithuanian Community





Monday, 27 November 2017

USAT General Stuart Heintzelman - 70 years

Yesterday at the Adelaide Lithuanian House we celebrated the arrival of the General Stuart Heintzelman ship 70 years ago.  Below is the speech presented at the event.

World War II for many in Europe brought sweeping changes. For the Baltic States their independence of 22 years was crushed by Soviet Russians, during the months of June and July 1940. As the war progressed, the German Army replaced the Russians and by 1944, the reverse happened, the Germans were replaced once again by the Russians. It was at this time that many people left Lithuania, making their way west, to Germany.

The refugees became known as Displaced Person’s, or D.P’s.  

The displacement was thought to be temporary, that they would soon be able to return home. When the D.P’s realised that their return would not be in the near future they considered immigration.

Australia’s vulnerability of foreign invasion was highlighted during the Second World War. This fear combined with the desire of economic growth saw the introduction of a large scale immigration scheme, proposed by Arthur Calwell, the Minister of Immigration at that time.

It was hoped the scheme would attract British migrants, but this was not to be, as they were still feeling the repercussions of war, other sources were sought. The search for similar compatible people was found in the refugee’s camps of Europe.

Between 1947 and 1951, 54 000 Lithuanians were resettled around the world. Just over 10 000 came to Australia, 9906 came under the Government scheme, while 140 came unassisted. 

The General Stuart Heintzelman was the first ship that carried Displaced Persons from war torn Europe to settle in Australia. 

The General Heintzelman was commissioned first in the US Navy as a troop transport ship for Army personnel. At the end of 1946 the ship was converted to the DP operations in Germany and Australia.

The ship is named after US Army General Stuart Heintzelman, born in November 1876. He fought in WWI and was promoted to Major General in 1921, the rank he held until his death in 1935.

At 4:00pm on the 30th of October the ship General Heintzelman left the port of Bremehaven in Germany.

The first transport brought 843 refugees to Australia, 87% were men, 13% women. Lithuanians were the largest contingent, numbering 439, followed by 262 Latvians and 142 Estonians. The oldest on board was 40, the youngest 12 years old. 

A 15 page booklet was produced on board to commemorate the journey. On page 1 it is written;

We have ceased counting the days, which have passed since we lost sight of the European coastline. With each hour more and more miles increase the distance between us and the hopelessness and idleness in Germany, bringing us nearer to a new worthy life in a new land. We are animated by gratitude for the rehabilitation, which we are offered by the Australian Government in conjunction with the IRO. We are determined to become good citizens of our new country and we fervently desire to take once more our place in a community, which will accept us as its members, each one of us working to the best of our ability with regard to our individual aptitudes.

These abilities and aptitudes are a heritage from our native countries on the shores of the Baltic Sea, our only native countries for which there will always be a feeling of longing and reverence in our hearts. We are all sons and daughters of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania and such we will remain, remembering with pride the prosperity and achievements that once were ours. The fate and sufferings of the Baltic peoples are known to the greater part of the world, to the rest we shall untiringly tell them until the day our native countries regain their freedom and independence.

This ship is a link between our distant native country and our new refuge. 

The booklet continues about daily activities on the ship

The days pass, one very much like any other, sunny and bright. Mealtimes with their inevitable queues, clatter of metal plates and thronging in the mess hall have become milestones in the course of each day. English lessons, choir rehearsals, basking in the sun and the mild wind fill the other parts of the day, and in the evening, we suddenly realise that one more day has passed.  

We can always be assured that each day our reliable engines are bringing us 400 miles nearer to our destination, where a new life and new responsibilities await us. We shall arrive there refreshed, tanned and imbued with renewed self reliance in our strength, impaired by the years of despair and misery in Germany. (Page 5)

On board, the Lithuanians formed a choir, published a news sheet called Baltic Vikings and commemorated All Saint's Day, and the Lithuanian Armed Forces Day on 23rd November. 

Before the departure of the first transport for Australia, Borisas Dainutis was authorised by both the Lithuanian Scouting movement and the International Scouting Bureau to organise and lead Lithuanian scouts in Australia. A scout leaders' committee meeting was held on 9 November 1947, on board the ship. The following day an order was created to establish a Scout Rovers troop (Skautų Vyčių Draugovė) incorporating all scouts. 

The first meeting of the Division was held on deck on 10 November 1947 with strong, emotional words. Dainutis reminded listeners of their purpose in Australia, of the importance of maintaining high scouting ideals for the sake of their homeland. The echoes of scout and folk songs resonated across the waves of the Red Sea, uniting all in friendship.

At a meeting on 15 November, the leaders discussed practical matters. It was decided to document personal and scouting details of all scouts and guides. Each scout unit was to study scouting theory and were to prepare a joint campfire with the Latvians and Estonians.  

25 years old Antanas Kanisauskas, was onboard that ship, he wrote a diary on the journey.

Antanas made Adelaide his new home. 

Shortly into the journey he wrote.

We are sailing on the Mediterranean Sea and only sea water and water, nothing else around us. Australia is still 3 weeks away. I am not certain I am doing the right thing, travelling so far. We will have to start from scratch.

On the 26th November, the day before arriving in Fremantle he wrote;

We will start a new life in a foreign country. This is something that I never thought of, to travel and live so far away.

Today my fellow travellers are cleaning up, showering and shaving before disembarking and tonight they organised a dance in the mess hall as a farewell. All the young people are dancing, happy to disembark in their new home country to be.

My mind always yearns for my own dear Lithuania where my family live. I will never forget my birth place, where I grew up.

The following day;

Thank God the journey has ended. Today in the morning we reached the shores of Australia. At 10:00 o’clock we disembarked. Almost immediately my thoughts have changed when I saw how people lived. Now I think that it was not a mistake to come to Australia.

The ship docked in Freemantle where the migrants spent a week before being placed on the ship Kanimbla sailing to Melbourne. Here they were met by Immigration Minister Arthur Calwell. Calwell told them that they would be undertaking hard jobs that Australians didn’t want. From the ship they were placed onto a train bound for the processing camp at Bonegilla.

The Lithuanians did not forget their homeland, this house where we meet is a testimony to that.

I can only imagine what it would be like to leave everything behind, to start again in a new country, with a new language, new culture. But this is what 10,000 Lithuanians did. They did not forget their homeland, their roots and their culture. They survived and prospered. And 70 years later, their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren say Aciu, thankyou, we are proud of you and we will not forget out roots.


Attending the event were four men who were on the ship. From left Jonas Kildisas,
Algimantas Pranckunas, Aleksas Saulius, Juozas Doniela


Below are some of the Lithuanians from that transport who settled in South Australia.



Monday, 28 August 2017

St Dominics College New Australian’s

St Dominic's Priory College first opened its doors in Molesworth Street, North Adelaide in February 1884. A Catholic school run by the Dominicans sisters the heritage buildings of the school make an imposing impression in a corner of North Adelaide. The students would have been from the same background since the school opened, that is until the arrival of post WWII migrants. They were obviously different enough to  warrant a mention in their history book. 

In 1945 we see Petruskivius, Plokstis, Dobrowonlny, Tretjakevitis and Bloffwithch, and by 1955 there were at least twenty such discernible names.  In the 1948-49 magazine we read of Nijole Plokstis.

                Commences first year intermediate work this year with us; has lately arrived from Lithuania.  Welcome Nijole!

In the following year, Nijole writes a short account of her arrival in Australia entitled ‘From a New Australian’ in which she sates:
I was very sad to leave my lovely country and come so far away.  The Sisters were good to me and my sister Regina, and gave us a place in the boarding school.

From the year book;

Gaile Mikeliunas: Is fast becoming an ‘Old Australian’ and a very nice one too.
Danute Navakas: Is gracious and earnest and quite one if us, although she has been little more than a year in our land.

Viliya Petruskevicius: A most promising pupil [As spelt in the book]

Raminta Rukstele: Struggling valiantly with our language.

While the girls may have struggled in their new environment, I do hope that they were comforted be each others presence.  

Chapel, cloisters and classroom reflections on the Dominican sisters at North Adelaide by Stephanie Burley and Katherine Teague
Image from Flickr MM_Andamon  

Monday, 24 July 2017

III Australian Pan Pacific Scout Jamboree 1948/49

On a rainy day on December 28th, 1948, the Pan Pacific Jamboree began, 30 km from Melbourne at Wonga Park.
11,000 scouts gathered for the twelve-day camp, representing over 20 countries.  Amongst them were a contingent of 30 Lithuanian scouts who hadn’t been in Australia for more than a year. 
Borisas Dainutis leader of Lithuanian scouts in Australia, had kept in touch with scouts and guides by correspondence since arriving in Australia.   It was the first time many of them had seen each other since they left Europe.    Special permission was granted to the Lithuanian contingent to participate as a separate unit.  Vytas Neverauskas who later settled in Adelaide, acted as contingent leader.

The Lithuanian camp at the Jamboree was described as ‘one of the finest’.  The gateway, decorated with gum tree sprays held a carved name plate with the word ‘Lietuva’ and a sun symbol.  Inside the camp two flag poles were erected, flying the Lithuanian and Australian flags.  A wooden cross housing a carved ‘Rupintojėlis’ (Pensive Christ) was carved by Jonas Urbonas, who was working in South Australia.  Close to the flag poles, red bricks pieces, small stones and sea shells were styled into a Vytis. 
In the scout tradition, each scout made their own bed from wood and rope.  An altar was constructed as were benches, crockery stand, shoe rack and towel rail.  A scout table was dug around which all meals were taken. 

One tent was set aside to display traditional Lithuanian folk craft, symbols, dolls in traditional dresses and amber.  Also included was literature about Lithuania, scout literature, Lithuanian money and postage stamps.  This was organised by Vytas Neverauskas, and received between 2-3000 visitors per day.
Dainutis presented a doll dressed in Lithuanian national costume to Australia’s governor General, His Excellency Mr W.J McKell at the official opening of the Jamboree.

In the evenings the Lithuanian camp came alive with singing, dancing and skits performed around a camp fire.  Jonas Mockunas and Algis Grigonis played the accordion. 
The camp ended on January 9th, 1949.

Monday, 10 April 2017

The Choir's little black book

Adelaide Lithuanian Choir

The Lithuanian choir established in August 1949 as a male choir and later a mixed choir, conducted by Vaclovas Simkus.  After several performances, the choir having given the name, Lituania.   Amongst the choir where several talented members, who had studied singing or music before fleeing Lithuania at the end of WWII.

The choir created a hard-bound book with Lituania embossed in gold letters across the front. 

Beginning in 1949 the book Commemorating milestones was important to the community. Significant years were celebrated with concerts that were recorded with the program and signatures of audiences.  Ornately hand written congratulations and compliments were lovingly recorded by Lithuanian and Australians. It was important to the Lithuanians to make a commanding impression in their adopted country.  They were proud of their culture and their talents, and wanted to be recognized as being more than the labourers that they were on arrival to Australia.

The choir performed at a variety of non-Lithuanian events such Royal South Australian Society of Arts Annual Christmas Party, International concert in aid of the World Student Relief at the Teachers College, Good Neighbour Council of SA and the Loreto Mothers Club Concert held at Loreto on Saturday 14th June 1952.

Hand written in blue ink, Constance W. McCarthy, President of the Loreto Convent Mothers Club and Monica B Walsh, Secretary left this note.

 This has been a most enjoyable evening the singing was very lovely and the dancing so interesting.  Our only regret was the entertainment was all too short.  We do sincerely thankyou and hope you will come again.