Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Friends of Lithuanian Minor Adelaide Branch

Adelaide Mažosios Lietuvos Bičiulių Draugijos

Lithuania Minor is a historical ethnographic region of Prussia, later East Prussia in Germany, where Prussian Lithuanians or Lietuvininkai lived.  Lithuania Minor enclosed the northern part of this province and got its name due to the territory's substantial Lithuanian-speaking population. Today a small portion of Lithuania Minor is within the borders of modern Lithuania and Poland while most of the territory is part of the Kaliningrad Oblast of Russia. 

On 25 January 1953, over 200 people gathered in the Excelsior hall in Adelaide for a Klaipėda region commemoration.  The event was to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Klaipėda Revolt. The region was detached from the East Prussia of the German Empire by the Treaty of Versailles and became a mandate of the League of Nations.  It was placed under provisional French administration until a more permanent solution could be worked out. Lithuania wanted to unite with the region (part of Lithuania Minor) due to its large Lithuanian-speaking minority of Prussian Lithuanians and major port of Klaipėda – the only viable access to the Baltic Sea for Lithuania.  The Lithuanians organized and staged the revolt. The rebels established a pro-Lithuanian administration, which petitioned to unite with Lithuania citing the right of self-determination.  The League of Nations accepted the fait accompli and the Klaipėda Region was transferred as an autonomous territory to the Republic of Lithuania on February 17, 1923.  After prolonged negotiations a formal international agreement, the Klaipėda Convention, was signed in May 1924. The convention formally acknowledged Lithuania's sovereignty in the region and outlined its extensive legislative, judicial, administrative, and financial autonomy. The region remained part of Lithuania until March 1939 when it was transferred to Nazi Germany after the German ultimatum.

The commemoration began with Dorothy Oldham playing the Australian and Klaipėda region national anthem.  The event was opened by the Friends of Lithuania Minor president Valentinas Zalkauskas.  He honoured those who had died for Lithuania and the Klaipeda regions freedom. Mr Reinke gave a speech which was followed by a concert.  Eglė Rūkštelienė and Paulius Rūtenis sang a folk song.  They have a flair for interpreting songs and their song choice was very apt.  The songs beautifully showed their love of their homeland.  They sang ‘Sėdžiu prie langelio’ (Sitting by a window) and ‘Giedu giesmelę’ (I sing a song).

Adelaide theatre student Kučinskas gave an impressive recital of Prosčiunaitės “Vėjai iš rytų’ (wind from the east).

Dorothy Oldham was an outstanding Adelaide pianists, she is not Lithuanian but would often play piano for members of the community. 

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