Tuesday, 30 December 2014

4 Avon st

Another home story written by Jonas Mockunas.

Jonas holding Jonas jnr & Brone outside their new home
Jonas and Brone Mockunas arrived in Australia in February 1948.  After a few days at the Graylands transit camp in WA and a few weeks at the Bonegilla migrant camp in WA they moved to Adelaide where they lived at Calvary hospital, Torrensville and Mile End before finally being able to afford to build their own new home at Grassmere (later Kurralta Park).  

The two bedroom brick house was designed by Karolis Reisonas but I don't think any Lithuanians had a part in its construction.  I remember my father, possibly with the help of neighbouring Lithuanians, erecting corrugated iron fences and doing other improvements to the bare block which had been horse paddocks/farming land until that time. 

 The family moved into their new home in April 1956.  Although plans were drawn up in the 1950s for extensions, including another bedroom, they were never implemented.  The large backyard had lots of fruit trees, a big lawn area, lots of flowers, grapevines, strawberries and a small vegetable patch. Inside, the house had a feature wall with a traditional Lithuanian motif (stylised flowers) painted on the wall.

As to social interaction, we had close ties with most of the neighbours, in particular the Radzevicius, Andriusis, Matiukas, Kurauskas, Puodzius and Arlauskas families. The proximity to other Lithuanian families was undoubtedly one of the reasons that location was chosen for the new house.  Transport was another; it was very close to buses going along Anzac Highway and South Road.  It was also close to a Catholic church and primary school, which must have been a consideration for a young family (however as they subsequently found out it was quite a long walk to the nearest kindergarten at Plympton).  It was close to the city (only about two and a half miles to King William Street) and the Lithuanian centre at Norwood.

My father worked at the MTT (Municipal Tramways Trust) for most of the 19 years he lived there until his death; having a car was essential, irrespective where you lived, to get to and from work as his bus driving was shift work.  My mother worked more regular hours at the typing pool at Kelvinators (Anzac Highway, Keswick - just a few bus stops away) where she worked for some years with our neighbour p Arlauskiene. Mom lived in the family home for 40 years before moving to Canberra.

Thankyou Jonas for sharing part of your family history.  It helps to paint a bigger picture of the community.

Thursday, 25 December 2014

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year

Wishing all my readers a very Merry Christmas and New Year.  I am always overwhelmed with how many people read this blog, and thank everyone for doing so.

For awhile I thought I may have run out of ideas to write about, but something always seems to comes up.  Next year I would love to feature more personal stories from members of the community. If you have one to share I would love to hear from you. If you would love to know something I have not written about, I will do my best to gather information. Let me know.

Here's to 2015 being a history filled year.

Monday, 22 December 2014

Housing; another story

Agota and Stasys by the fence Stasys made.
Agota Galinskas was a single parent when she married Stasys Mikalainis.  After having two children, Stasys passes away.  During WWII the family took in borders to make ends meet.  One of these was Stasys Kerulis whom Agota later married.  The family fled to Germany avoiding the Soviet occupation.  A year was spent in a Displaced Persons camps in Bosse, Bavaria before being transported to Memmingen.  

In 1948 the family now with four children immigrated to Australia. Stasys and the second eldest son, worked on the SA railways, laying line at Oaklands Park. 

Once there was enough money to purchase a block of land for £100 at Caramar Ave, Edwardstown.  Building material was still in short supply and Stays made his own bricks by hand.  Initially a timber shed was built to store materials like sand and cement in readiness to build the house.  Mary and her parents slept there while the house was being built.  Stasys made besser bricks as they dried in the sun and didn’t need to be kiln dried.  

Many Lithuanians were involved in the building of the house.  They drew up the plans, laid the foundations, put on the tiled roof and someone plastered it inside and out. 

It was a two bedroom home with kitchen, lounge and dining room.  Stasys made the front fence with old railway material, he was a welder by trade. 

Everyone in the family worked in the rubber mills on South Road, Edwardstown at one stage.

The house was demolished sometime after Stasys died in 1987.  

Thursday, 11 December 2014

The back yard

My grandparents and Uncle in front of a fruit tree in their back yard.
My maternal grandparents were both raised on farms in Lithuania, so having vegetables and fruit trees was a must on their new property.  They had one of every fruit tree (apple, pear, grapes, olives, apricot, plums, mulberry, mandarin) nut trees (almond and walnut), and vegetables of every kind.  Grandma loved her geraniums and roses.  

Vegetables grew all year round, tomatoes, beetroot, capsicum, cucumbers, nettle and sorrel.  My grandfather loved sorrel and would always make us eat a few leaves before a meal.  Needless to say, the bitter taste of sorrel was not to my liking, but I didn't mind the sorrel soup grandma would make.  My family would always leave grandma house with enough food for a week. 

Preserving fruit and vegetables was common, grandma would preserve the stone fruit or make jam, preserve the olives and pickle the cucumbers.

The back yard was a mini market garden.


Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Housing part II

Elena with Gintaras and Ruta near their house, c. 1954
Having spent several years in the Displaced Persons camps in Germany, living frugally was not foreign to many Lithuanians.  Work was easy to come by, it may not have been in your field but unskilled labour job was easily obtained.  Having saved a deposit for land, the next stage would be to built a permanent dwelling.  Before that could occur, a temporary dwelling was often quickly constructed out of readily available material until something more permanent could be constructed.  My grandparents purchased a ¼ acre block of land at 2 Fifth Ave, Woodville Gardens for £150.  They had saved £50 and another £100 was loaned by two good Lithuanian friends.  

Their first home on their new block was an empty caravan laid with clean straw.    My grandmother recalled going to the Cheltenham racecourse and with very limited English made herself understood that she need straw.  Needless to say the man was quite taken aback when he realised it was for her family and not for animals.  Cooking was done on a simple primus stove outdoors. Water was put on the block when they purchased it. 

My grandfather was fortunately handy with wood and built a two roomed wooden house at the rear of the block, mainly from old packing crates from Holden’s.  A main living area one bedroom, small kitchen and bathroom was better than the caravan at least.  

There remained an odd verandah on the house, which I was told was to have been part of a large bedroom.  As materials were still scarce the Council required a slight reduction in the size of the dwelling.  When building their house they would purchase concrete by the bags a few at a time.  Weekends and evening were then spend on constructing the permanent home at the front of the block.  Once in their new house they rented out the wooden one to migrants. It was common for people to rent out rooms for extra money.    The wooden home became my grandfathers shed, where he spent many more years building furniture for family.

There were several Lithuanian families in the surrounding streets.  Grandfather not much of a social person did not mix with them, but my grandmother did.  My grandmother appreciated the socialisation with people who spoke the same language, who understood her culture and supported her.  

My grandfather worked at the Holden’s factory but later travelled to Adelaide Uni where he worked as a groundsman and my grandmother sewed clothes for Myers. The proximity to work, cheap land close to transport made the area ideal for their needs.

About half the houses in the streets were Housing Trust homes, those that weren’t were new migrants from Eastern Europe. 

Friday, 14 November 2014

Where did the Lithuanian's live?

Pimpe residence, Fifth Ave, Woodville Gardens. New house in the background.
I have often wondered where all the Lithuanian lived when they first arrived in Adelaide. I wondered if they tended to live in close proximity to each other, if they socialised together?  In an attempt to better understand the community I plotted 472 Lithuanian residences in 1963 using Google maps.  Why 1963?  I had access to a Sands and McDougall directory.  It confirmed what I presumed but raised more questions.  

I had presumed that there would be clusters of Lithuanian's, and assumed that they would know of each others presence if they lived close by.  I knew that there was a cluster in the Woodville Gardens area and Edwardstown.  I assumed that many built their own house and lived in the same house pretty much until they died.  

Woodville’s population almost doubled between 1947 and 1961, from 38 to 71 000.  There had been a change from a predominately Australian born makeup to a quarter being of European decent.  For those who arrived first, the Housing Trust gave preference to Australian ex-servicemen and meant that private accommodation or your own dwelling would need to be sought.  While housing could not meet the current increase in population neither could the demand for building material. However at Woodville North, most of the area south of Grange road and at Seaton and Royal Park had plenty of cheap land. Royal Park was especially popular with migrants because land was cheap.(A history of Woodville, Susan Marsden p 25).

If anyone has information regarding where the early Lithuanian's lived, I would love to get some information from you.

I will post more on housing shortly.

You can now access Sands &; Mac Directories (1864 - 1973) online for free from the State Library of SA. 
SA Directories

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

International Festival 1965

On 28th August 1965 the Adelaide Lithuanian choir sang several songs at the Octagon theatre as part of the International Festival.

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Adelaide Lithuanian Amateur Photo Club

Adelaidės Lietuvių foto mėgėjų klubo
Adelaide Lithuanian Amateur Photo Club

Several Adelaide Lithuanians with an interest in photography got together and established an amateur photo club.  The aim was to help each other perfect their work.  At the first meeting on 18 October 1959, which was held at Vytautas Vosylius flat in Mile End the group produced its guidelines.
A Krausas viewing the exhibition in 1968

The first president was Vytautas Vosylius and the secretary Petras Snarskis.   The document was also signed by Kazys Požera,  Alfonsas Budrys,  Pranas Šatkus and Juozas Vebrys.

The Photo club organised several exhibitions in Adelaide and also during the Australian Lithuanian Festival Days as part of the Art exhibition.  They usually received over 50 works and in the 1968 exhibition had 95 on display.  The categories included Black and white, colour, portraits and landscapes.

Not surprisingly members Alfonsas Budrys and Vytautas Vosylius did exceedingly well in the competitions.  Both were active in Australian amateur photographic clubs as well.

The group was active until 1970.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Weekend school and me

Attending Lithuanian schools on weekends included many things I did not like, mainly dictation and grammar.  I enjoyed the history, the dancing and singing and of course playing with your friends.  On occasion we were asked to write in Lithuanian about a particular topic.  Mine always came back covered in red ink and would use a much simpler language than I could speak. It included alot of repetitive words as that filled up lots of space.   If we were allowed to do this at home, it really was my parents work. 

Homework was usually left to the Saturday morning when there was a rush to get it done and ready for school.  

Below are some examples of essays, unfortunately I don't know who wrote them or what year, but it was before 1980.  They are very loosely translated.

Weekend school and me
I rise at 8:00am and prepare for school.  10:00am the bell rings and we go to class. We say prayers and start work. We sing and dance. At 12:00pm we go to lunch.  The teachers go to eat in another room.  We play a little and then return to class.  Sometimes with Mrs Mazelis and other girls we do some weaving. The other children who do not weave go to watch films about Lithuania. 

 Every Saturday we leave home at 9:00am to go to Lithuanian House.  We gather in the Library where our class is. One week we have history, the other Lithuanian grammar and language.  Every second week we have dancing and weekly signing. The last week of the month, we weave.

This school has 8 year levels, five classes and kindergarten. It is now easier for me to write letters and talk about history. English school it is easy to do projects about Lithuania as I have learnt alot.  I like Lithuanian school very much.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Adelaide and Lithuania, closer than you think

While in Lithuania I was very excited to find several links with Adelaide. The first time was in Siauliai visiting the Rūta chocolate Museum.  In 1913, Antanas Gricevičius established Rūta, a tiny sweet workshop. As foreigners owned most of the companies in Lithuania at that time, Mr Gricevičius called the shop, Rūta, after a plant found in Lithuania (Rue), in a bid to highlight its national character.

Rūta gradually established a reputation for itself and, by the 1930s, the factory had more than 100 employees and produced around 300 different types of chocolate. In 1929, Mr Gricevičius built a new factory with shop premises to the design of the famous architect, Kārlis Reisons. Since 2012, the building has been a museum.  

The above mentioned architect is actually Karolis Reisonas, who ended up living in Adelaide and was instrumental in refurbishing the current Adelaide Lithuanian House. 

Further into the Museum, there was a display on the Rūta chocolate boxes over the years. I was rather bewildered to see a familiar one.  The tin with Darius and Girenas on it is used in the Adelaide Lithuanian Museum to keep the keys to the display cabinets in.  The tin was produced in the 1930's.  I now look at it with different eyes, and wonder if it was donated by Reisonas?

In Kaunas, I met a friend who works in the Vytautas Magnus University.  She took me to see her work place. As it was holidays there were few people around, but I did get to meet a staff member working on the Adamkus archives.  Former president of Lithuania, Valdas Adamkus has donated many personal items which will be kept at the University and hopefully one day become a museum.  Amongst the items was this plate presented to Adamkus when he came to Adelaide with the American Lithuanian basketball team in 1964.  It's hand made and painted with the places and dates visited.

On my last day in Vilnius, I went to visit the Museum of Genocide Victims (KGB Museum).  Under Soviet occupation mail from outside the Union was closely scrutinised.  One display showed publications issued abroad which had been confiscated by the sensors.  To my surprise it was a program from the Australian Lithuanian Days held in Adelaide in 1962.

I was never far away from home. 

Museum of Genocide Victims http://genocid.lt/muziejus/en/  
Ruta Chocolate Museum   http://www.sokoladomuziejus.lt/en/exposition/chocolate-in-ruta/ 
Adamkus Archives Library http://adamkuslibrary.lt/biblioteka/?lang=en 

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.

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Father Spurgis

Budriene and Father Spurgis
The second Catholic priest to minister to the Adelaide Lithuanians was Father Albinas Spurgis.  He was born September 6th in 1907 in Panevežys.  He attended the Ukmergė school and later the Seminary in Kaunas.  He was ordained a priest on June 23rd 1932.  From 1932 he spent two years at St Peters and Paul’s church in Panevežys and three years in Panevežys cathedral. From July 1938 he was at the Gelažių parish and Simonys. From December 12th 1943 he held the office of the Dean of Kupiškas.

He left Lithuania in 1944 and made his way to Germany, Oberfalce in Bavaria in the town of Weiden, where he assisted the church.  He established a Lithuania camp where he was the chaplain and Weiden Lithuanian school director.

He emigrated to the USA in 1949 and lived in Cleveland in the St Joseph’s church.  He was here for four years.  In 1953 he left for Rome and entered the Marian congregation, where he remained for  two years.  He returned to Chicago and entered pastoral work and travelled to Lithuanian congregations.  In 1958 he was appointed to the Marian newspaper “Friends’.

In 1969 he arrived in Adelaide and became the second Catholic priest for St Casmir’s.  He arrived on 27 November to a community meal with 60 parish members present.   During the evening Father Spurgis told those present that he had heard alot about the Adelaide community in Chicago, mainly from J. Bačunas and Bishop V. Brizgys

Father Spurgis died on 7th October 1985 10 07 in Adelaide.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

The first year of the Adelaide Lithuanian Women's Catholic Society

1961, the Lithuanian Catholic Women's society had been active for one year.  This is their first annual report.
Father Kungys, centre with members of the Adelaide Lithuanian Catholic society

St Joseph's and later St casimir church decorations and cleaning.  Flowers for the church with a roster ending at Christmas for the year.

Catering for the St Casimir volunteer workers.  From 3 March 1960 to 16 April 1961 they organised 35 lunches, feeding over 500 volunteers.

Organised Father Kungys 15 year jubilee as a priest.

Buffets prepared for various balls throughout the year, Sunday Voice newsletter ball, SA Lithuanian Catholics Ball, St Casimir’s opening of the church where over 200 people attended.

Together with parents organised supper for children receiving their first communion.
Supper for the school children end of year program.  Tea, coffee and snacks for the break during Lithuanian school.

Community Christmas Eve meal where 83 people attended.

Organised church clothing, including, 6 chasubles, alter and tabernacle, coverings for the altar, cross and statue.

The women collected 8 packages of donated clothes and footwear to be sent for the clergy at the St Casimir seminary, Rome.

The women’s committee members attended the Australian Lithuanian Catholic gathering.
The years earnings was £748.14.4 of which over half was used to purchase food and befet furniture.  Treasuer was A. Mainelienė.

A new committee was elected, A. Mainelienė, E. Kervelienė, S. Pusdešrienė, M. Gerulatienė, A. Uldukienė, G. Opulskienė, K. Dičiūnienė.

Teviskes Aidai 1961 gegužes 9d. Nr 18

Friday, 13 June 2014

Annual remembrance of Baltic holocaust

The Baltic people in Australia have never forgotten the mass deportations of their countrymen in 1941.  Each year around the anniversary of the deportations the Estonian, Lithuanian and Latvian communities come together to remember.  

It continues today, the 62nd annual commemoration service and concert to be held at St Peter;s Latvian Hall on Sunday 15th June 2014 at 3:00pm.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

We are in Australia now. A letter from Australia, 1947

National Archives of AustraliaHMAS Kanimbla arrives at Melbourne with the first group of displaced persons (Dec 1947) from where they will join the train bound for Bonegilla Migrant Camp. They had travelled from Europe to Fremantle on the GENERAL HEINTZELMAN and transhipped to the KANIMBLA.

This translation is from a two part article, of which this in number 2. It was cut out from the newspaper with no other parts.  Written by Juozas Šilainis, who arrived on the General Heintzelman.  The first ship bringing post WWII migrants to Australia in December 1947.  This letter was published in ‘Žodis’ a DP camp newspaper in Detmold, Germany, Jan 8 1948.

An ordinary job can earn you £5-6. Food is cheap, housing in expensive.  We work five days per week, eight hours per day.

We will in Fremantle until December 2nd, then will sail east to Melbourne.  From there by train 200 kilometres to Bonegilla where we will be for about a month.  Here we will rest, learn English, become familiar with the region and work customs until we are allocated work. 

On the journey to Australia we are looked after by a Lithuanian working for the IRO, Vladas Žibas.  He gives us 200 cigarettes a week, soap and other toiletries.

In Diepholz we elected a committee for the journey.  Under the committees direction we remembered All Saints day and on November 23rd in the Indian Ocean.  We held a religious hour where the English class choir performed, followed by a Baltic music and song concert.  A delicious meal was had at the end.  The Lithuanian scouts were active on board the ship.  When we reached the equator they organised an impressive camp fire evening.  The sailors watching laughed along even though the words could not be understood. The ships newsletter was translated to Lithuanian and printed on the rotatarium ‘Pabaltijo Vikinga’ (Baltic Viking).

We feared sea sickness, and some suffered as soon as they set foot on the ship.  In the middle of the ocean one Lithuanian had an appendix operation but all left the ship healthy.

The Australian cities, people, and living conditions for the newly arrived Europeans were so interesting and surprising that in the short time we have been here we have not been able to evaluate everything.   Leaving Germany we thought we would find a primitive society, but instead modern colourful cities, cheap living, social equality, freedom, cheap transportation, fabulous films and theatre.  While in Perth, not far from Fremantle, are beaches, gardens, no poverty to be seen.

In the town and suburbs you don’t see many people on foot or on bikes, they have cars.  If you walk out into the street and hail a car, someone will stop and ask where you would like to go.  Australians know that a pedestrian usually means you are a new immigrant who would have no money.  They ask many questions which with limited English is hard to answer.  Many however speak, German, Russian or French.

Australians are practical and thrifty, and encourage the new migrants to be the same.  They say don’t send letters by air as it is too expensive, but suggest by sea as it is cheaper but will take longer.  

Not many Australians smoke cigarettes, but deftly roll tobacco in paper to smoke.  They are known as ‘bankrutkes’ as tobacco is cheap and cigarettes expensive.

To earn money quickly you can work as crop or sugar cutting or sheep shearing.
There are a few Lithuanians families already living around Perth and Fremantle, the children growing up in Australia speak Lithuanian.  They live well, have their own cars, houses and say that if you are not afraid of work, don’t drink away your income then very quickly you can buy whatever you want.  They also started with nothing.

On 1 December 1947, we gave the local Lithuanians gave a singing concert to an excited audience.  We sang a dozen songs they have not heard and brought tears to their eyes. Australians were also at the concert and asked for a translation of the songs.

We temporarily belonged to the immigration minister who concerned with our welfare, organised the Salvation Army Red Shield War Services to donate items of clothing, food, shoes and other small items.  They also allowed us to send letters to Europe.

Juozas Silainis

Fremantle 1947.XII.1

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Alfred Vitkunas remembers

Alfredas Vitkunas was an active member of the South Australian Lithuanian community.  These are his memories about his leaving Lithuania and arrival in Australia. 

Thankyou to Jura Reilly, who gave permission for her father's memory to appear here.

“Faster! Faster! Can we go any faster?”. Our two horses froth at the mouth, their breathing is as laboured as mine, as I sit petrified with fear, alongside my family who are huddled together inside the cart.

I’m 18 again and just a few hours earlier, while I was working at the Kaunas post office, I took a peek at some very official documents that had arrived. They are the dreaded deportation lists to Siberia and our family’s name is on one of them. I run home as fast as I can and blurt out this vital information to my family.  Without delay, we throw as many belongings as we can into a suitcase each.

It’s a hot day in June 1944 and now we’re fleeing Lithuania by crossing into Germany via the townships of Kudirka and Sirvinta. We stop to rest our two horses in Instermag. We can’t stop for long and then we have to travel onwards, until we find ourselves in East Prussia, where we’re taken in by a kind farmer, Herr Schmidt.  We sleep in his barn but in the morning, we all have lice. Everyone’s itching and cursing like mad. Dad, my brother George and I decide to shave off all our hair.  Mum just washes hers as much as possible in the stream nearby.  There’s no soap.  We make do.  On Schmidt’s farm there are two POWS who work alongside of us doing farm work. We get paid with food and shelter in their barn.

The grapevine provides us with valuable information. From other refugees, we learn that the Russian army is creeping up right behind us. Dad’s an ex Lithuanian army Lt Colonel and he knows that we can’t stay here any longer.  People advise us to travel through West Prussia, then cross into Pomerania. As long as we keep one step in front of the approaching Russian army, we will be safe.  When we get into Jastrow, the officials take away our two horses, telling us they’ll pay us AFTER the war ends.  Now that’s a laugh, who knows where we’ll be or whether any of us will still be alive by then? To compensate, they give our family official papers to travel on by train, that is, if one ever comes.

We sit there huddled on the platform, exhausted and terrified. The Germans won’t let anyone on. But Dad, being an experienced army man has a few tricks up his sleeve.  At nightfall we sneak below the platform and hide behind the wheels of the last train carriage. My parents are middle aged, but the urge to survive at any cost, kicks in. When the guards go off for a smoke, we take the chance and haul ourselves into the last carriage.  By now the weather has changed and our feet are frozen.

When we arrive in Schonedemunde, we manage to get on another train to Greitz via Berlin. In Greitz we have relatives, my aunt Mary and our cousin Algimantas. Unfortunately, Mary is injured during one of the bombing raids on the city and dies of her injuries. We have to bury her and leave  Algimantas to fend for himself. He reassures us that he’ll be fine and not to worry.

Next we arrive in Ingolstadt. There the Germans try to haul us off to Dachau. We manage to escape this horrible fate, by Dad telling them in his perfect German, that we’re here to stay with relatives. As soon as it’s dark, we hurry out of there and find ourselves in a small village, where an old lady called Eglė lets us stay on her farm as long as we fix her windmill. Everywhere there’s utter chaos because we hear that the Germans have lost the war. No one is in charge. People run to save themselves and their families in any way possible. There’s a lot of looting and stealing.

At last the American army arrives. They want to repatriate us back to Lithuania.  We aren’t that stupid, despite all their assurances, made via the Russians, that we’d be welcome back home without any reprisals. We know our history. The Russian invaders have always been well known for their brutality, right throughout the ages. Dad knew he’d be executed and the rest of our family sent to Siberia. He had to serve in the czar’s army in WWI, he knows firsthand, what the Russian army and KGB are capable of.
We are lucky to find ourselves in a DP camp in a pretty town called Eichstätt. That’s where I meet Valdas Adamkus who would  later become one of Lithuania’s  presidents and Gabrys Žemkalnis, whose brother Vytautas Landsbergis would become the first president of a newly independent Lithuania in 1991.

In Eichstätt, I was able to finish high school and I was accepted into Eichstätt University to study philosophy or medicine. I really wanted to study medicine, but at that time DP’s like me, were being offered assisted passages to migrate to America and Australia. My parents wanted to get away as far as possible as they’d encountered the effects of Berlin Blockade and it looked like the Russian tentacles were spreading across Europe.

I listened to Dad’s advice and so April 1948, when I was 21, along with other men, including Gabrys Žemkalnis and Reverend Dauknys, we set sail for Australia on an American ship called the General Sturgis.  It was a sad 22nd birthday on the ship without my family. On 15th May 1948, we finally docked in Sydney.  There, along with other men, I was taken to the Bathurst Military Barracks which had been turned into a DP camp, housing refugees like myself. It was freezing in June, and we only had a thin blanket on our bunk beds. Later, I was transferred with other men to the Walter Morris Timber Mills in Adelaide, South Australia. It was a back breaking work. Later I was sent to Queensland to cut sugar cane and then came back to Adelaide to work on a farm at Tailem Bend. Afterwards I started work as a ganger at the railway yard at Mile End.

I started to worry about my parents and my younger brother George who had been left behind in the DP Camp in Eichstätt. Luckily, I was able to sponsor them out to Australia and had to be the guarantor for their welfare.  You see, in 1948, my parents at 52 were considered too old to immigrate to Australia which needed young people to work on the railways, the Snowy Mountains Scheme and other post war projects, and at 16, my brother George was considered too young. In 1949, the rest of my family were allowed to join me, but they were sent to the Bonegilla Migrant Camp in Albury, NSW at first.  Later, they were transferred to Adelaide where I found them jobs on the railways. In 1950, I met my future wife Liuda Giniotytė and her family who were from Palanga.  The same year my brother met Nijolė Plokštytė, but my parents would not give George their consent for him to marry Nijolė till he was 21! They had 2 sons; Victor and Andrew.
Alfredas and Liuda on the wedding day

In 1951, Liuda and I got married and afterwards, we all pooled our money to buy a house at 96 Childers St in North Adelaide. Our daughter Jura was born on 1952. In 1954, my parents and my family bought a house at 4 Henley St Torrensville. Unfortunately during that same year, I had a horrific motorbike accident on the way to work as a ganger with the railways.  The surgeon did not set my broken leg very well. I was out of work for a year.  Later, I was transferred to work in the Accounts office at Mile End, as I couldn’t work as ganger after my accident. We were lucky that my parents Ona and Marijonas Vitkunas were able to help us out. Our son Rimas was born in 1958. Four years later, in 1962 we were able to buy a house at 24 Bagot Ave, Mile End and that’s where our youngest son Robert was born.

Post script: Alfredas Vitkunas was one of the original dancers  in the Adelaide Lithuanian dancing group,  served on many committees within the Adelaide Lithuanian community, acted in the acting group, sang in the choir and for many years, was in charge of the Adelaide Lithuanian Museum at Lithuanian House in Norwood. In 2004, Alfredas was awarded a Padėkos Raštas (Certificate of Thanks) for his museum work, by the Lithuanian Ministry of Culture.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Australia land of tomorrow

Ruth Balint in her paper on ‘Industry and sunshine; Australia as home in the displaced persons camp of postwar Europe’  writes that the Australian government had to work hard to recruit the migrants they considered to be the ‘best types’ to immigrate to Australia.  
The Australian government created a publicity drive targeting the displaced persons in order to sell Australia as a new homeland.  The campaign included film, radio programs, booklets, posters and lectures.

Several films were produced, one of which was Mike and Stefani 1948/49.

Made just after World War Two, Mike and Stefani follows a family of displaced persons from their refugee camp in a devastated Germany to their new home in Australia. It features moving re-enactments of their travails in Europe, chronicling the wartime separation of the young Ukrainian couple, the difficulties of the labour camps, the loneliness and chaos, their eventual reunion and their application to emigrate. The final sequences, filmed as they actually occurred in Bavaria, shows their selection interview and journey to Australia with some of their family.


Joe Greenberg
The poster displays Australian Government promoting Australia as the land of prosperity and growth to prospective European migrants with the banners such as “Australia: Land of Tomorrows” and imagery of opportunity. The poster interprets the attempts by the Australian government to build up Australia’s population of European migrants at a time when the White Australia Policy was firmly enforced. 

You can access Ruth Balint article here.


Sunday, 11 May 2014

US tour for Vaskas

In 1963, World Lithuanian President Juozas Bačiunas invited her to perform in concerts around America.  She travelled with her accompanist Dorothy Oldham and gave 12 concerts to Lithuanian communities. 

September 21 Detroit
September 28 Cleveland
October 6 Hamilton
October 12 Rochester
October 13 Boston
November 9 & 10 Chicago
November 16 Omaha
November 23 Los Angeles

Concerts also in Torone, Philadelphia, New York and Baltimore.

Gene sang a variety of songs from Lithuanian composers as well as Tchaikovsky, Schubert, Puccini.

Dorothy Oldham, Juozas Baciunas, Gene Vasiliauskas