A talk on how to search for Lithuanian data in US archives

Vaitkutė gave a talk on the search of Lithuanian data in US archives. Photo: National Library of Lithuania/ Vygaudas Juozaitis

This summer, the National Library of Lithuania hosted a talk on how to search for Lithuanian data in US archives and genealogical websites presented by Karilė Vaitkutė, head of the Genealogy Department at the Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture in Chicago (USA).

Vaitkutė shared her experience with how to search for Lithuanian material in various US archives, as well as paid and free-of-charge genealogical websites, how to decipher the documents found, how to determine whether they belong to a family member under consideration, and how to overcome the obstacles that occur during the research. In her talk, she also answered more specific questions concerning the search for Lithuanian relatives in the USA and gave an overview of the different sources available.

For the past ten years, Vaitkutė has been working in the field of genealogy, helping Lithuanian Americans whose grandparents and great-grandparents came to the USA before World War I or after World War II to find their roots in Lithuania and Lithuanians who are looking for their relatives in the USA.

Historical letters handedover to the National Libraryof Lithuania

The signing of the document. Photo: National Library of Lithuania/ Vygaudas Juozaitis

This year, Lithuanian American Nijolė Bražėnaitė-Lukšienė-Paronetto turned a hundred years old. On this occasion, the National Library of Lithuania invited Nijolė’s friends and all those interested to an evening to commemorate this anniversary. The event featured a presentation of the book “Apie anuos nepamirštamus laikus: Juozo Lukšos-Daumanto ir Nijolės Bražėnaitės susirašinėjimas” (About Those Unforgettable Times: The Correspondence between Juozas Lukša- Daumantas and Nijolė Bražėnaitė) compiled by Laima Vincė.

During the event, the author of the book handed over a valuable gift to the Library—letters written by Bražėnaitė to Juozas Lukša-Daumantas, which testify not only to the romantic love story of the two young people but also to the great sacrifice they made in the name of their homeland, Lithuania.

On July 18, the formal handing over of the letters and the signing of the documents occurred. The document was signed by the donor, Laima Vincė Sruoginis, and Aidas Sinkevičius, Deputy Director General of the National Library of Lithuania.

Documentary Series “Hope on Both Sides of the Atlantic”

The Lithuanian National Broadcaster, the Lithuanian National Radio and Television, has created a series of documentaries “Viltis abipus Atlanto” (Hope on Both Sides of the Atlantic) which narrate stories of famous American-Lithuanians and Lithuanian cultural phenomena in the US. Three films are dedicated to the first wave of economic emigrants from Lithuania and its three descendants, doctor Aldona Šliūpaitė, collector and journalist Aleksandras Mykolas Račkus, and Stanley Balzekas Jr., the founder of the Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture in Chicago. Other series present the second wave of political refugees, American-Lithuanian poet Kazys Bradūnas and the American-Lithuanian activist Juozas Polikaitis. The other two documentaries are dedicated to the oldest and longest-running Lithuanian newspaper Draugas and the Lithuanian neighborhood in Chicago, Marquette Park.

All series were directed by Justinas Lingys; screenwriters: Audronė Kosciuškienė and Aušra Kalinauskienė. The series can be viewed online at: https://www.lrt.lt/mediateka/video/viltis-abipus-atlanto (only in Lithuanian).

The New Book about Lithuania’s Mass Emigration

The new book discusses the mass waves of Lithuanian emigration in 1868-2020, their emergence and the public reaction to them. The author of the book, prof. Alfonsas Eidintas, raises a series of important questions: How do the emigration centers affect the current emigration; What is the impact of the emigration on the homeland; How does it affect the nation; Is emigration useful or damaging to nation’s and state’s development?

The book distinguishes two periods of Lithuanian mass emigration: from 1868 to 1915 and from 1990 to 2020. Prof. Eidintas does not doubt that both of them have been extremely significant for the life of the Lithuanian nation and the state.

The first wave of mass emigration significantly reduced the number of Lithuanians in Lithuania. Emigration to America was economically, politically and culturally the most significant in the life of the Lithuanian nation. First of all, Lithuanian colonies were established in America, which became a magnet for new emigrants. Mass exodus from Lithuania was not viewed ambiguously. Although it weakened Lithuanian nation, Lithuanians in the United States, mobilized by their own organizations, helped culturally and economically to achieve the nation’s aspirations. Prof. Eidintas notes that not only cultural and economic but also political support was received and constantly expected from Lithuanian colonies in the US.

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New Home of the Baltic University Archive

Baltic University was founded in Hamburg, Germany, on March 14, 1946. Later on, it moved to Pinneberg and functioned there until October 1949. Pranas Jurkus was a student at the Baltic University. He never forgot his first Alma Mater. Throughout his life, Jurkus was collecting material about the University professors and students and was instrumental in arranging the commemorations of the University anniversaries. In March of 2021, he donated the Baltic University archive to the Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture in Chicago, USA, where it will be available to the researchers.

In the video, Pranas Jurkus tells the story of Baltic University and his life-long attachment to it: https://www.facebook.com/100057524774883/videos/2683309528648027/ (in Lithuanian)

A Book About Lithuanian War Refugees in Britain

A new book “West Midlands Ho!” is a compelling work of local history, focused on a particular corner of England but set against a background of tumultuous international events. In the book, Lithuanian author Aldona Grupas reveals the personal tales of Lithuanian migrants who moved to Britain in the wake of WWII. Unable to return to their homeland due to the Soviet occupation, from 1947 onwards, several thousand refugees swapped the refugee camps of Allied-occupied Germany for basic accommodation in Britain, along with jobs in manufacturing and agriculture. In the following decades, they put down roots in Britain, all the while keeping their Lithuanian identity alive. In a series of interviews, Grupas teases out the personal experiences of five members of this migrant community in the West Midlands of England.

The book begins with an overview of Lithuanian history, taking in WWII and the post-war Soviet period. Drawing on existing literature, Grupas explains why so many Lithuanians were stuck in Germany in the post-war period and were subsequently offered new lives in Britain under resettlement programs like Balt Cygnet and Westward Ho!

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