Monday, 27 November 2017

USAT General Stuart Heintzelman - 70 years

Yesterday at the Adelaide Lithuanian House we celebrated the arrival of the General Stuart Heintzelman ship 70 years ago.  Below is the speech presented at the event.

World War II for many in Europe brought sweeping changes. For the Baltic States their independence of 22 years was crushed by Soviet Russians, during the months of June and July 1940. As the war progressed, the German Army replaced the Russians and by 1944, the reverse happened, the Germans were replaced once again by the Russians. It was at this time that many people left Lithuania, making their way west, to Germany.

The refugees became known as Displaced Person’s, or D.P’s.  

The displacement was thought to be temporary, that they would soon be able to return home. When the D.P’s realised that their return would not be in the near future they considered immigration.

Australia’s vulnerability of foreign invasion was highlighted during the Second World War. This fear combined with the desire of economic growth saw the introduction of a large scale immigration scheme, proposed by Arthur Calwell, the Minister of Immigration at that time.

It was hoped the scheme would attract British migrants, but this was not to be, as they were still feeling the repercussions of war, other sources were sought. The search for similar compatible people was found in the refugee’s camps of Europe.

Between 1947 and 1951, 54 000 Lithuanians were resettled around the world. Just over 10 000 came to Australia, 9906 came under the Government scheme, while 140 came unassisted. 

The General Stuart Heintzelman was the first ship that carried Displaced Persons from war torn Europe to settle in Australia. 

The General Heintzelman was commissioned first in the US Navy as a troop transport ship for Army personnel. At the end of 1946 the ship was converted to the DP operations in Germany and Australia.

The ship is named after US Army General Stuart Heintzelman, born in November 1876. He fought in WWI and was promoted to Major General in 1921, the rank he held until his death in 1935.

At 4:00pm on the 30th of October the ship General Heintzelman left the port of Bremehaven in Germany.

The first transport brought 843 refugees to Australia, 87% were men, 13% women. Lithuanians were the largest contingent, numbering 439, followed by 262 Latvians and 142 Estonians. The oldest on board was 40, the youngest 12 years old. 

A 15 page booklet was produced on board to commemorate the journey. On page 1 it is written;

We have ceased counting the days, which have passed since we lost sight of the European coastline. With each hour more and more miles increase the distance between us and the hopelessness and idleness in Germany, bringing us nearer to a new worthy life in a new land. We are animated by gratitude for the rehabilitation, which we are offered by the Australian Government in conjunction with the IRO. We are determined to become good citizens of our new country and we fervently desire to take once more our place in a community, which will accept us as its members, each one of us working to the best of our ability with regard to our individual aptitudes.

These abilities and aptitudes are a heritage from our native countries on the shores of the Baltic Sea, our only native countries for which there will always be a feeling of longing and reverence in our hearts. We are all sons and daughters of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania and such we will remain, remembering with pride the prosperity and achievements that once were ours. The fate and sufferings of the Baltic peoples are known to the greater part of the world, to the rest we shall untiringly tell them until the day our native countries regain their freedom and independence.

This ship is a link between our distant native country and our new refuge. 

The booklet continues about daily activities on the ship

The days pass, one very much like any other, sunny and bright. Mealtimes with their inevitable queues, clatter of metal plates and thronging in the mess hall have become milestones in the course of each day. English lessons, choir rehearsals, basking in the sun and the mild wind fill the other parts of the day, and in the evening, we suddenly realise that one more day has passed.  

We can always be assured that each day our reliable engines are bringing us 400 miles nearer to our destination, where a new life and new responsibilities await us. We shall arrive there refreshed, tanned and imbued with renewed self reliance in our strength, impaired by the years of despair and misery in Germany. (Page 5)

On board, the Lithuanians formed a choir, published a news sheet called Baltic Vikings and commemorated All Saint's Day, and the Lithuanian Armed Forces Day on 23rd November. 

Before the departure of the first transport for Australia, Borisas Dainutis was authorised by both the Lithuanian Scouting movement and the International Scouting Bureau to organise and lead Lithuanian scouts in Australia. A scout leaders' committee meeting was held on 9 November 1947, on board the ship. The following day an order was created to establish a Scout Rovers troop (Skautų Vyčių Draugovė) incorporating all scouts. 

The first meeting of the Division was held on deck on 10 November 1947 with strong, emotional words. Dainutis reminded listeners of their purpose in Australia, of the importance of maintaining high scouting ideals for the sake of their homeland. The echoes of scout and folk songs resonated across the waves of the Red Sea, uniting all in friendship.

At a meeting on 15 November, the leaders discussed practical matters. It was decided to document personal and scouting details of all scouts and guides. Each scout unit was to study scouting theory and were to prepare a joint campfire with the Latvians and Estonians.  

25 years old Antanas Kanisauskas, was onboard that ship, he wrote a diary on the journey.

Antanas made Adelaide his new home. 

Shortly into the journey he wrote.

We are sailing on the Mediterranean Sea and only sea water and water, nothing else around us. Australia is still 3 weeks away. I am not certain I am doing the right thing, travelling so far. We will have to start from scratch.

On the 26th November, the day before arriving in Fremantle he wrote;

We will start a new life in a foreign country. This is something that I never thought of, to travel and live so far away.

Today my fellow travellers are cleaning up, showering and shaving before disembarking and tonight they organised a dance in the mess hall as a farewell. All the young people are dancing, happy to disembark in their new home country to be.

My mind always yearns for my own dear Lithuania where my family live. I will never forget my birth place, where I grew up.

The following day;

Thank God the journey has ended. Today in the morning we reached the shores of Australia. At 10:00 o’clock we disembarked. Almost immediately my thoughts have changed when I saw how people lived. Now I think that it was not a mistake to come to Australia.

The ship docked in Freemantle where the migrants spent a week before being placed on the ship Kanimbla sailing to Melbourne. Here they were met by Immigration Minister Arthur Calwell. Calwell told them that they would be undertaking hard jobs that Australians didn’t want. From the ship they were placed onto a train bound for the processing camp at Bonegilla.

The Lithuanians did not forget their homeland, this house where we meet is a testimony to that.

I can only imagine what it would be like to leave everything behind, to start again in a new country, with a new language, new culture. But this is what 10,000 Lithuanians did. They did not forget their homeland, their roots and their culture. They survived and prospered. And 70 years later, their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren say Aciu, thankyou, we are proud of you and we will not forget out roots.


Attending the event were four men who were on the ship. From left Jonas Kildisas,
Algimantas Pranckunas, Aleksas Saulius, Juozas Doniela


Below are some of the Lithuanians from that transport who settled in South Australia.



Monday, 28 August 2017

St Dominics College New Australian’s

St Dominic's Priory College first opened its doors in Molesworth Street, North Adelaide in February 1884. A Catholic school run by the Dominicans sisters the heritage buildings of the school make an imposing impression in a corner of North Adelaide. The students would have been from the same background since the school opened, that is until the arrival of post WWII migrants. They were obviously different enough to  warrant a mention in their history book. 

In 1945 we see Petruskivius, Plokstis, Dobrowonlny, Tretjakevitis and Bloffwithch, and by 1955 there were at least twenty such discernible names.  In the 1948-49 magazine we read of Nijole Plokstis.

                Commences first year intermediate work this year with us; has lately arrived from Lithuania.  Welcome Nijole!

In the following year, Nijole writes a short account of her arrival in Australia entitled ‘From a New Australian’ in which she sates:
I was very sad to leave my lovely country and come so far away.  The Sisters were good to me and my sister Regina, and gave us a place in the boarding school.

From the year book;

Gaile Mikeliunas: Is fast becoming an ‘Old Australian’ and a very nice one too.
Danute Navakas: Is gracious and earnest and quite one if us, although she has been little more than a year in our land.

Viliya Petruskevicius: A most promising pupil [As spelt in the book]

Raminta Rukstele: Struggling valiantly with our language.

While the girls may have struggled in their new environment, I do hope that they were comforted be each others presence.  

Chapel, cloisters and classroom reflections on the Dominican sisters at North Adelaide by Stephanie Burley and Katherine Teague
Image from Flickr MM_Andamon  

Monday, 24 July 2017

III Australian Pan Pacific Scout Jamboree 1948/49

On a rainy day on December 28th, 1948, the Pan Pacific Jamboree began, 30 km from Melbourne at Wonga Park.
11,000 scouts gathered for the twelve-day camp, representing over 20 countries.  Amongst them were a contingent of 30 Lithuanian scouts who hadn’t been in Australia for more than a year. 
Borisas Dainutis leader of Lithuanian scouts in Australia, had kept in touch with scouts and guides by correspondence since arriving in Australia.   It was the first time many of them had seen each other since they left Europe.    Special permission was granted to the Lithuanian contingent to participate as a separate unit.  Vytas Neverauskas who later settled in Adelaide, acted as contingent leader.

The Lithuanian camp at the Jamboree was described as ‘one of the finest’.  The gateway, decorated with gum tree sprays held a carved name plate with the word ‘Lietuva’ and a sun symbol.  Inside the camp two flag poles were erected, flying the Lithuanian and Australian flags.  A wooden cross housing a carved ‘Rupintojėlis’ (Pensive Christ) was carved by Jonas Urbonas, who was working in South Australia.  Close to the flag poles, red bricks pieces, small stones and sea shells were styled into a Vytis. 
In the scout tradition, each scout made their own bed from wood and rope.  An altar was constructed as were benches, crockery stand, shoe rack and towel rail.  A scout table was dug around which all meals were taken. 

One tent was set aside to display traditional Lithuanian folk craft, symbols, dolls in traditional dresses and amber.  Also included was literature about Lithuania, scout literature, Lithuanian money and postage stamps.  This was organised by Vytas Neverauskas, and received between 2-3000 visitors per day.
Dainutis presented a doll dressed in Lithuanian national costume to Australia’s governor General, His Excellency Mr W.J McKell at the official opening of the Jamboree.

In the evenings the Lithuanian camp came alive with singing, dancing and skits performed around a camp fire.  Jonas Mockunas and Algis Grigonis played the accordion. 
The camp ended on January 9th, 1949.

Monday, 10 April 2017

The Choir's little black book

Adelaide Lithuanian Choir

The Lithuanian choir established in August 1949 as a male choir and later a mixed choir, conducted by Vaclovas Simkus.  After several performances, the choir having given the name, Lituania.   Amongst the choir where several talented members, who had studied singing or music before fleeing Lithuania at the end of WWII.

The choir created a hard-bound book with Lituania embossed in gold letters across the front. 

Beginning in 1949 the book Commemorating milestones was important to the community. Significant years were celebrated with concerts that were recorded with the program and signatures of audiences.  Ornately hand written congratulations and compliments were lovingly recorded by Lithuanian and Australians. It was important to the Lithuanians to make a commanding impression in their adopted country.  They were proud of their culture and their talents, and wanted to be recognized as being more than the labourers that they were on arrival to Australia.

The choir performed at a variety of non-Lithuanian events such Royal South Australian Society of Arts Annual Christmas Party, International concert in aid of the World Student Relief at the Teachers College, Good Neighbour Council of SA and the Loreto Mothers Club Concert held at Loreto on Saturday 14th June 1952.

Hand written in blue ink, Constance W. McCarthy, President of the Loreto Convent Mothers Club and Monica B Walsh, Secretary left this note.

 This has been a most enjoyable evening the singing was very lovely and the dancing so interesting.  Our only regret was the entertainment was all too short.  We do sincerely thankyou and hope you will come again.



Monday, 27 March 2017

Australian Guides assist make new Australians

New Australians make keen Guides

Every second Saturday at Woodside, the Girl Guide Movement is helping new Australians conquer their shyness and showing them the way to good citizenship.

Many of the girls have been Guides and Brownies in their own country and so have a link with their new land.  Others are learning the Guides lessons of good fellowship for the first time.
At a recent meeting of the Woodside Guide company the only Guide uniforms were those worn by two Guiders.

The three patrol leaders Irena, Genovaite and Lolita wore their colourful Latvian and Lithuanian costumes.
Round them were girls, large and small, most of them with scarves tied round their heads and wearing long, woollen stockings.

The plaits, braided across their hair and the tiny, hoop earrings distinguished them from Australian girls.

Learning the signs
Adelaide Guiders who visit Woodside to conduct these meetings were rather puzzled how to begin, because many of the children did not understand English.

They drew some of the Guide tracking signs, and immediately there was a ripple of excitement, and a dozen more signs appeared.

Hand signals and whistles have also proved helpful. Now more children understand the commands, act as interpreters for the others.

It was a very lively meeting that I watched. When the Guiders arrived, there seemed to be children everywhere.  Finally they resolved themselves into two crowds — 22 Guides and 34 Brownies, not to mention at least six small brothers, who insisted on joining in.

Like competitions
The children co-operated in games and Guide training.  They were shown the Australian flag, and listened to an explanation of its significance.  The Southern Cross fascinated them. They will be looking for it in our skies now.

They have a delightful sense of fun, and when the various patrols had a competition to collect the most brown objects there were ' peals of laughter, and the resulting piles included a heap of earth in a handkerchief, one brown stocking, a camera case, several brown shoes, and some tree bark.

The task of calling the Brownies' roll has been solved by the Brown Owl (Miss Marjorie Noel) .  By the name of each Brownie, there is a space for each meeting. In this space each one draws something — a tree, a cat, a bird.
Guiding in Europe began after World War I., and followed the ideals of the movement, which began in England in 1909 as an offshoot of Scouting.

In Lithuania the special task of the Guides was the preservation of their traditional games and dances, and national costumes were worn at all their festivals.
A characteristic feature of Lithuanian Guide camps is the arrangement of patterned borders along the paths.

These are strips of gleaming white sand with designs made with pine cones and coloured patterns of black charcoal, red, and pounded brick and green pine tips.
Soon the Woodside Guides will have Guide scarves, which South Australian Guides are helping to buy for them. On Christmas Eve, the Adelaide Guides are planning a party for them which will make their first Christmas in Australia one they will remember.

Miss Elise Wollaston is in charge of the Woodside company. She sometimes covers the nine miles from her home at Bridgewater by bicycle.
Not only are these young new Australians enjoying all the fun of guiding, but they are learning that, when they go to their new homes, there will be Australian Guide companies waiting to greet them as friends and fellow Australians. — Helen Caterer.

Mail, Saturday 17 December 1949 p. 17

Monday, 6 February 2017

Sunday Voice, Catholic newspaper

Šventadieno Balsas (Sunday Voice)

Soon after arrival in Australia it became evident to Lithuanians that a newspaper in their own language was needed, as many did not speak English at the time.

When Father Jatulis arrived in Adelaide there was no Lithuanian church and he would conduct mass in Lithuanian in several Australian churches.  A newspaper would serve to keep parishioners informed.  On 29 March 1953, Father Jatulis began to print a bulletin on a copying machine, the Sunday Voice (Šventadieno Balsas) was born. 

Jatulis produced the bulletin until he was recalled to Rome, when the following priest, Father Kungys took up the role.   The editors was always the priest, following Kungys was Kazlauskas, Dauknys, Spurgis.  If they were will or away the task was passed on to Pranas Pušdešris.
Each edition would feature a religious article, thankyous, coming events and notifications.  Some advertisements were used to offset the cost of production.

The bulletin was funded by Lithuanian Caritas Inc which comes from the parishioner’s donations.  For many years two couples Valerija and Bronius Masionis and Petronelė and Antanas Dancevičius would fold and post each paper.