Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Lithuanian banner at the Migration Museum

The Migration Museum in Adelaide holds a Lithuanian banner in its collection.  When the Museum opened in 1985, they invited communities to community groups to make banners representing their memories, hopes and dreams as immigrants.

Members of the Adelaide Lithuanian craft group at that time collectively produced a community banner.  It was designed by Architect Eugenijus Kalibatas.  

The patterns and colours are taken from the rich idiom of Lithuanian folk art. The wayside shrine, angels ploughing, and stylised flowers evoke memories of a peaceful and religious homeland. The knight and spearman represent the turbulent periods of Lithuanian history. The central design is a folk symbol of the sun depicting Australia, the ‘sunburnt country’. The new beginning, with its hopes of peace and freedom, are signified by the planting of a seedling. These hopes are also represented by the blue cross, Lithuania’s Liberty Bell and the birds. In the words of the designer, ‘all the different elements … form the larger themes of Homeland and Australia within the overall theme of memories and dreams’.
some of the contributing creators, E. Kalibitas, third from right

Made by A. Juospaitis, R. Pocius, A. Dainius, A. Vieraitis, J. Bagdonas, B. Sinickas, V. Morkunas, J. Brazauskas, E. Mikeliunas, N. Alvikis, E. Petraitis, J. Zinkus, A. Bauze, A. Patupas, G. Straukas, F. Kazlauskas, B. Jasiutis, and R. Kurauskas, 1986.

You can find out more about the banner collection at

Monday, 15 October 2012

Max Fatchen writes about Lithuanians

Max at his Angle Vale home using his beloved "Ivan the Imperial" typewriter. 

Today we mourn the death of one of South Australians most iconic writers.  

Max Fatchen, born 92 years ago at Angle Vale has entertained readers, both young and old with his stories in the Advertiser newspaper and his books.  He said of writing "Writing is living, dreaming, creating new worlds, inventing characters and bringing them to life for other people to enjoy and read.  My pen is always hand.  I watch and listen and my mind brings me rhymes and rhythms and my typewriter beats them out".

He wrote of everyday people and their extraordinary life.  In 1967, he met several Lithuanian's and wrote their story in the Advertiser.  Here is the article.

Lithuanians keep up artistic tradition

When the long icy winters hung over Lithuania, recalls Mrs Ieva Pocius, of Myrtle Bank, her mother put cotton wool and charcoal between the inner and outer windows of her home to absorb the moisture and keep the windows clear in the knife-edged cold.

This drought stricken summer Mrs Pocius, with many other Adelaide housewives, will be keeping out the dust.

She is more than a housewife.  I found her in her studio, if that’s the right name for the place where a sculptress works skilfully with metal, fashioning it into abstract shapes with a welding outfit.

She said: “Its easier than using a washing machine.  You have a feeling of power, melting metal down, controlling it”.

She paused to talk about the fulfilment of life in Australia and it was then she recalled the frost patterns on the window of that far off Lithuanian home, the tall dark trees of the forest where her father a forester and the way Lithuanians whittled with wood in the winter nights and made wood carvings one of the country’s notable arts.

Mrs Pocius has kept up the artistic tradition and it was here that she developed her talent at the South Australian School of Art.  She is now an accomplished sculptress, and a lecturer as well.

She is also an example of the way Lithuanians who came to Australia after World War II have adapted themselves yet retained something of their own culture to share with other Australians.

Lithuanians are looking back this month, for next Saturday a social at Lithuanian house, Norwood with its museum and hall and its reminders of this small Baltic country will recall the arrival 20 years ago of the first Lithuanian migrants after World War II.

Lithuanian are aware of the Communist domination of their country and their memories on this score are sad ones.  Yet they are determined and progressive people and they have fitted well into contemporary Australian life.

They’re shy about their success stories.  The fact that most of them have been successful is showing in the imposing list of engineers, architects, chemists, lawyers, doctors (including three in one family) and musicians among the 1,800 people of the Lithuanian community in South Australia.

It was 2am when Mr A Sliuzas first saw Australia in 1947.

Behind him were the refugee camps of Europe and ahead of him was a hope.  Later he wandered around Perth, amazed at the contrast with ruined Europe and surprised at the buildings and obvious signs of progress around him.

He came to Adelaide in 1948.  He worked on a waterworks project, later became a hospital orderly at night so that he could study engineering during the day.

Then he found it too much so he became a builder instead. He built service stations, bridges and even schools.  Now he has a property he is developing at Forest Range. As a naturalised Australian he also has a powerful feeling for his new country. 

When Mr Pranas Matiukas came to South Australia 19 years ago, he didn’t have many possessions but he brought his two violins. He had graduated from Kaunas Conservatory in Lithuania but intended making law his living.  The war ended all that. 

He found the sunlit vineyards of Renmark stimulating after the bitter European winter.  He picked grapes in the day time. At night he played the violin at social evenings while his employers wife played the piano, but it was several years before he could play professionally. 

His wife and daughter Emily (She’s 20 now and a kindergarten teacher) joined him from Europe.   He said “I worked as a hospital orderly, did some painting jobs. But I looked after my hands”.

He uses them now to good effect as a violinist with the South Australian Symphony Orchestra.   He said “Australian Symphony Orchestra compare very favourably with similar city orchestras in Europe. But I wish Adelaide had a permanent opera”.

He recalled that before World War II, the Lithuanian city of Kaunas with 150 000 people had a permanent opera company which performed for 10 months of the year. “And we had a ballet too”.

Mr Matiukas and his family still talk Lithuanian at their Everard Park home, because it is good for their daughter to have a second language and Lithuanian is meaningful to her. 

Life in Australia has meant readjustments.

Mr V Raginis, 57, President of the Lithuanian community smiles  when he contrasts his former job with his present one.  Now he’s a first class machinist. In Lithuania he was a senior inspector of taxation.  

He began by sweeping factory floors in Australia.  He was amused at the lecture by a well meaning major at Bonegilla migrant camp in Victoria soon after his arrival.  The major had said “ You must forget everything and start a new life.  Don’t look back”.  “Its hard” reflects Mr Raginis to chop the past. About 95% of Lithuanian's here are naturalised but the past is very real to us”.  But he keeps it in perspective. 

Sixteen year old Maria Neverauskas of St Mary’s and 14 year old Giedre Straukas of Highgate can tread the lively and graceful measures of Lithuanian national dancers but they are Australian born and contemporary in outlook. They enjoy the customs of Lithuania especially at Christmas.  “I think” said Maria “that these customs enrich your life.  After all Australia is forming its culture, and Lithuania has a very old culture.  One has something for the other”.

The Advertiser Nov 18th, 1967

Wednesday, 3 October 2012


Ambersail, is the name of the yacht that circumnavigated the globe to commemorate the Millennium of Lithuania celebrated in 2009.   11 crew of sailors on rotation took part in the voyage, a total of 120 sailors. In nine months, the yacht visited 26 Lithuanian communities in 20 countries in 5 continents.

Coming from Cape Town, the yacht arrived in Adelaide, on the end of its second leg,   Christmas Day 2008.  The yacht was greeted in Adelaide by members of the Lithuanian community.  Community president Elena Varniene gifted the sailors with a koala and didgeridoo.  The Captain brought greetings from Lithuanian President Vladas Adamkus and the displayed the Presidential flag.  The crew shared a Christmas meal with the community at Lithuanian House.

Ambersail crew and members of the Lithuanian community at Lithuanian House
Many turned out the following day to farewell them, calling out “Gero vejo”.  

The yacht then sailed to Melbourne and on to Sydney.

The crew on that leg:
Captain: Tauras Rymonis
Virginijus Rainys
Darius Liutkus 
Christmas meal with crew
Linas Ivanauskas 
Paulius Egidijus Kovas 
Rolandas Žentelis 
Arūnas Vilkauskas 
Gediminas Jurevičius
Romanas Borisovas 
Algis Patašius
Sigitas Daugnoras

 Ambersail is of the VOLVO 60 (former “Assa Abloy”) class. VOLVO 60 yachts are built to race in one of the most prestigious competitions around the world, the Volvo Ocean Race. These races take place over the southern latitudes of the Atlantic, Indian, and Pacific oceans where strong winds (up to 100km/h and stronger) and storms are common. During the storms, the waves rise up to 25 – 30 meters. This is why the vessels must be not only light and agile, but also extremely durable and reliable. 

The construction process of VOLVO 60 yachts involves cutting-edge technologies and materials. The hulls of these craft are made of Kevlar composite, the masts of carbon fiber, the stay of stainless steel strings. All deck equipment (winches, burtons, etc.) is made of titanium and other lightweight alloys. 

Ships details
Length – 19,25 m 
Width – 5,25 m 
Draught – 3,8 m 
Weight – 13,5 t 
Keel – 7,5 t 
Water ballast – 2 x 2,5 t 
Mast height – 26 m 
Sails: mainsail 117 m2, staysail 83 m2 and spinnaker 300 m2 
Year of production – 2001 
Designed by Bruce Farr 
Made in Green Marine Yard (UK)