Monday, 28 September 2015

Riauba takes on the Red Army

Juozas Riauba, born in 1910.  After withdrawing from Lithuania to Germany towards the end of WWII, he entered studies at the Munich Technical school.  At that time he also worked for United Nations Relief & Rehabilitaiton (UNRRA) in the garage as senior mechanic. 
In 1949, he made the long journey on the transport ship, Wooster Victory to Australia, docking in Adelaide where he stayed.  He arrived here with his wife.   
Juozas again entered university, this time in Adelaide in 1959.  He entered the public service and worked with the SA Electricity Trust on mechanical projects. 
Outside of work he was heavily involved with the Lithuanian community in Adelaide.  He was a founding members of the sports Club Vytis, a member of the Adelaide Lithuanian students association from 1959 – 1961, parents committee of Vilniaus scouts and teacher at Lithuanian school.

In 1962 he acted as Vice-President of the ‘Voice of Witness of Communist expansion” and later the Australian European Freedom Alliance.  In 1966 he was Vice-President of Captive Nations.
Juozas was concerned with how Lithuania was represented in printed material, newspapers and books.  He would write to publishers pointing out mistakes or misguided information. In 1969 he began to correspond with the State Library of South Australia, suggesting books that the Library could purchase about Lithuania.  He had compiled a list of books that the Library held, relating to Lithuania,  40 books in all on various aspects of Lithuania.  Juozas also appealed to the Lithuanian community in Adelaide to donate books that might better represent Lithuania in the State Library.  He went one step further; writing to Publishers seeking to purchase books which he would then donate to the Library.  Within a short time the State Library increased its collection of book on Lithuanian to 67.

In 1969, it was publicised that the Red Army choir would be coming to Adelaide to perform.  Juozas strongly opposed this and wrote numerous letters to politicians and newspapers expressing his disapproval.  To him it was “an insult to all of us, originally from the countries behind the iron curtain.  Our relatives and loved ones have suffered persecution.  We, the Australian citizen from behind the Iron Curtain now living in Adelaide have been forced to leave our homeland by the advancing Red Army and have lost everything, except our lives”.
He signed these letters as Ju-Ra, as he feared reprisals for his relatives still in Lithuania.
The Baltic Council of Australia and the Captive nations Committee of SA also sought to stop the participation of the Red Army choir from performing in the Adelaide Festival of Arts in 1970. The Baltic Council published an advert in the Advertiser (20 February 1969) which states;  The choir was symbolic of totalitarian regimes and that it was a propaganda unit which existed to glorify the Soviet in song and dance. 

The chairman of the Adelaide Festival of Arts J C Irwin defended the decision to allow the group to perform.  The Red Army Choir did not perform in the Festival of Arts.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

A little bit of Lithuania in the outback

The town of Eucla is beautifully positioned on the top of an escarpment with ocean views, some 12 kilometres to the WA/SA border in the middle of Nullarbor Plain.  The township consists of six streets, with a Police Station and Motel Hotel complex with restaurant and Caravan Park catering to the needs of passing travellers.  With a population of just 50, it literally is the middle of nowhere. 

One might however see a touch of Lithuania in the town.  One of the streets is Patupis street, named after Gediminas or Steve as he was known.  Gediminas and his brother Vytautas  (Patupas, not quite sure how they ended up with different spellings of their names) arrived in Australia at the end of 1949.  Gediminas ended up owning Eucla's Amber Motel, just off the Eyre Highway.  The hotel is very much the heart of the small settlement.

If that’s not enough to convince you of a Lithuanian bond then the 20 foot high white metal cross with stylized tulips may persuade you.  This cross is dedicated to all Christians and to those whose efforts made the highway and a new Eucla, constructed on 13th October 1969.  Despite its name ‘Travellers cross’ it has become a memorial to Eucla residents.  Two of those memorials are dedicated to Steve. They both feature the Gedimino stulpai (Columns of Gediminas) an iconic Lithuanian symbol.  I couldn't find out who made the cross, but a reasonable guess would be that Steve had a hand in it.

Steve passed away in 2005. 

Cross at sunset 2

Sunday, 6 September 2015

Adelaide Festival of Arts and the Lithuanian State Theatre

The biannual Adelaide Festival of Arts features international performance from around the world.  In 1992 the State Theatre of Lithuania performed two plays as part of the festival, Uncle Vanya and the Square. 

Uncle Vanya written by Anton Chekhov and Directed by Eimuntas Nekrosius, had a cast of 12 actors.  The Square written and directed by Eimuntas Nekrosius, with four actors, two of whom also performed in Uncle Vanya.
The performances received rave reviews, ‘nothing short of superb’ Nick Griffith Advertiser, ‘one of the great theatre events of the 1992 Adelaide Festival’, Peter Ward of the Australian.  Peter Goers, controversial Adelaide theatre critic referred to it as a ‘turkey’ and not worth checking out.  The following day in the letters to the press, Goers was attacked for his ‘ill considered, egotistical, ignorant piece of work’. 

Both plays were performed in Lithuanian with the audience wearing headphones with simultaneous translations.  Performed in the Scott Theatre and Union Hall of Adelaide University, the troop gave eight performance of Uncle Vanya, a play of 3 hours and 15 minutes, and four of the Square, a much shorter performance of 1 hour and 40 minutes. 

The actors
Jurate Aniulyte
Vladas Bagdonas
Saulius Bareikis
Dalia Storyk
Calia Overaite
Elvyra Zebertaviciute
Vidas Petkevicius
Kostas Smorginas
Juozas Pocius
Irena Tamosiunaite
Rimgaudas Karvelis
Vytautas Taukinaitis
Janina Matekonyte
Remigijus Vilkaitis