Monday, 30 March 2009

February 16, 1949

Lithuania’s Independence day on February 16th 1949 was celebrated in the Indian Ocean. A group of Lithuanians onboard the Nea Hellas organized themselves into preparing a festival for the occasion. On the morning of February 16th mass was held in the hall, near a prepared Lithuanian flag, crosses and a picture of Aušros Vartai (Gates of Dawn). Mass was conducted by a Ukrainian priest from the Greek Orthodox faith. Throughout the service Lithuanian hymns were sung. 

The main commemoration was held on the Sunday. On that day at 9pm by a decorate flag, gathered the leaders of the ethnic groups, soldiers, sailors and the ships crew. The opening words in Lithuanian, German and English were spoken by Aleksandras Stulpinas. The Lithuanian and Greek national anthem was sung ,after which salutations were heard from the Latvian, Estonian, Polish, Ukrainian, Yugoslavian, and Hungarian delegates. The Latvians in particular gave a very moving greeting and an octet sang a Latvian song about Lithuania. Mr Mickevičius lead the men’s choir and Mrs Ivoškienė and Mrs Milaknienė led the children’s national dancing group. Genovaitė Vasiliauskienė sang four solo Lithuanian songs. 

 The captain who had attended the celebrations was presented with a Lithuanian flag and spoke in English. The ships newsletter had printed in English a memorable write-up of the day which all passengers received. On the Monday 21st an extra edition of the News Bulletin was printed in Greek and Lithuanian. Albinas Pocius wrote the Lithuanian version. The transport had 174 Lithuanians who arrived in Bonegilla from Melbourne on the 24 February.

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