Thursday, 20 March 2014

He put his hand up; The story of Jonas Valinskas

He put his hand up; The story of Jonas Valinskas
Roy Criddle

Jonas Valinskas a refugee from WWII came to Australia on the first Australian Government sponsored ship, the General Heintzelman in 1947.  He was 19 years old. He fulfilled his two year migration contract with the government then worked his way around Australia and worked on projects such as the Woomera Rocket Range and Rum Jungle Uranium project.  
Jonas settled in 1953 in Western Australia where he eventually worked for West Australian Petroleum Pty (WAPET) for over 30 years.

The book tells of Jonas life, the reasons why he fled Lithuania at the end of WWII, time in the Displaced Persons camps in Germany and arrival in Australia.  His two year contract was spend in South Australia working as a labourer for the Water Supply.  Here the new migrants were housed in tent villages often in parklands near their work.

The book continues Jonas life into retirement and a return journey for Jonas to Lithuania.  
The book is a good insight into what life was like for some post WWII migrants.

Published by Educant, Roy Criddle PO Boc 7061, Safety Bay, WA 6169
Copies $25 from Roy Criddle

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

From the library of

Ex libris is a Latin phrase meaning ‘from the books of’. An exlibris or a bookplate indicates the ownership of a book.

It wasn’t until the beginning of the 20th century that the first bookplate appeared bearing a Lithuanian inscription by an unknown artist.  In 1928 the first Lithuanian bookplate exhibition was held in the Čiurlionis gallery in Kaunas from the collection of Galaimė.

During the period of Lithuanians independence (1918-1940) there were numerous Lithuanian artists creating bookplates.  Between the Second World War until 1960, Lithuanian bookplate creation lay idle.  After that time they developed into a rich variety of styles and techniques.  In Lithuania the bookplate has become not only a separate art form, but the artists gesture to his friends as well as a memento of some important commemoration.  1979 was the 400th anniversary of the Vilnius University and many bookplates were made to commemorate this. 

Lithuanian bookplates are considered among the best in the world. 

Lidija Šimkutė-Pocienė has collected Lithuanian bookplates for many years.  She has compiled a considerable collection of Lithuania’s best known Ex libris artists.  Lidija’s collection has been exhibited in various venues across Australia.
  • ‘The Link’ Canberra Theatre, Nov 1-27th 1982
  • State Library of South Australia, 1981
  • Australian Lithuanian Days held in Adelaide 1987 (6th Lithuanian World Youth congress) 
  • Geelong Library 1998

Lidija has donated her collection of several hundred bookplates to the Australian Lithuanian Museum and Archives.  The donation includes a collection of articles and books on bookplates in Lithuanian and English.  
Ex Libris Lidija Simkute-Pociene
Program cover to the Ex libris exhibition held in Adelaide

Ex Libris Lidija Simkute-Pociene

Sunday, 9 March 2014

To Bonegilla from Somewhere

To Bonegilla from Somewhere by Wanda Skowronska
Connor Court Publishing, Ballarat, 2013

This book is the story of the authors parents, Bogdan Skowronski from Poland and Valerie Klucnieka from Latvia.  Like thousands of other Displaced Persons from eastern Europe these people lived for several years in camps before immigrating to Australia. 

The book recounts something of how Bonegilla came to be, of what life was like for those who passed through.  Bonegilla being the largest immigration camp in Australia later WWII.  Three quarters of the book focuses on the background of Bogdan and Valerie and the years previous to WWII.  The political environment that forced them to leave their homes. 

Wanda provides great detail of what Bonegilla was like, which gives the reader a clear picture in one’s mind. 

‘In each block there was a mess hall, kitchen, pit toilets and supervisors office.  Each of the huts held about 26 people, dormitory style, and each person was allocated linen and grey woollen blankets as well as crockery and cutlery and a cup.  The centre’s facilities eventually included a large hospital, three churches, a movie theatre, library, primary school, canteen, butcher, barber, police station and three banks’.  p. 199

Wanda’s parents met and married in Bonegilla, she was born there and spent the first few years of her life there, until 1957.  She records her memories of Bonegilla in the book including some family photographs.  The book ends as the family moves out of the camp.
The history and details that the book covers is impressive and certainly gives you a great idea of what life was like in Europe and passing through the camp.  I would certainly recommend this book f or someone wanting to know about this period. 

Wanda talks about her book on youtube

Sunday, 2 March 2014

Coincidence or luck?

While filing documents for the Adelaide Lithuanian Archives there was a copy of a letter relating to Vincas Laurinaitis.    The letter is from the United Lithuanian Relief Fund of America, written to the Resettlement office in IRO Area 5, Munich October 1948.  The letter in English is asking for support in processing applications for Argentinian visas for persons on the enclosed list.    The following page, in Spanish, lists 40 names; among them;  Malela Vytautas, born 1888, a chemist residing at Augsburg DP Hospital, his wife Vladislava born 1894, son Romualdas born 1932, a labourer and Vladislava born 1926.  The list is of Lithuanian Catholics on the North American zone of Germany who wish to relocate to Argentina.  (Thanks Google translate).  I stopped at the name Malela, as it is in my family history.  My grandmothers aunt married a Malela.  I knew he was a chemist and had been in partnership in the firm Germapo, a large chemist firm in Lithuania before WWII.  I pulled out what notes I had on that family name, and what little I had on them matched.

Using Ancestry and Family search, I found that Romualdas went to the USA, he became a US citizen on July 13, 1965, living in Cicero Illinois and died on 29 February 2004.  Family search had an image of a visa application of Vladislava travelling to the USA, with a photo attached.  Going back through notes that my grandmother had compiled, I did indeed find a Senora Vlada Survila, with her address in Buenos Aires.   I had no idea she was a relative.

A search in the current Buenos Aires white pages shows four Survila’s listed.  Now to write a letter to see if I can find out more.  

Family history research has always astounded me in the number of coincidences that seem to happen.  The chances of finding your family name on a letter that has ended up in Adelaide, to a family that has no connections with this country just astounds me.  I know that if my father had read the letter he would have made no connection with the family.  The randomness and luck in family history makes it so much more exciting.