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!
At the end of WWII, the Baltic States found themselves in the Soviet grip, isolated from the free world. The people who remained in the country lost the opportunity to travel freely. Soviet oppression and restrictions on freedom of movement prompted many Lithuanians to flee Lithuania. The book “Breaking Through the Iron Curtain” prepared by Dr. Darius Juodis examines the flight of the Lithuanian population from the Soviet Union.
The book presents several periods: the first escapes (1940-1941); the period after WWII; the partisan escapes; the flight of the Lithuanian population to the West from 1950s to 1990s and the subsequent escapes.
Two components stand out in the structure of the book: research and the analysis of situation and a biographical description of each flight. The latter part lists the persons who successfully fled abroad. Dr. Juodis’ book presents various stories of escapees, photos of persons who fled and border crossings and KGB documents from the Lithuanian Special Archives, other memory institutions and personal archives.
This year Lithuania celebrates a world-renowned American-Lithuanian archaeologist, anthropologist, a pioneer of archaeomithology, Marija Birutė Alseikaitė-Gimbutienė (Marija Gimbutas).
Marija Birutė Alseikaitė-Gimbutienė was born on January 23, 1921 in Vilnius. She began to study at Vilnius Vytautas Magnus Gymnasium. In 1931, the family moved to the provisional capital of Lithuania, Kaunas. There, Gimbutienė studied at Aušra Gymnasium, which she finished in 1938. In the same year she started studying linguistics at the Faculty of Humanities of Vytautas Magnus University. In 1936, she participated in archeological research in Lithuania, in 1938-1939, she took part in the excavation works of prehistoric burial grounds in Kaunas. After Lithuania regained Vilnius, Gimbutienė went to study archeology at Vilnius University. In 1942, she defended her MA thesis “Modes of Burials in Lithuania in the Iron Age.” In 1944, when the Soviets were approaching Lithuania, the Gimbutas family left the country.
The archive of Justė Kostikovaitė, the cultural attaché of the Republic of Lithuania in the United Kingdom, covering the period from 2016 to 2020, has arrived at the National Library of Lithuania. Kostikovaitė noted that during the four years of her term as a cultural attaché, the need for contemporary cultural content had arisen. The events focused on the virtual content distribution have become very important, particularly during the on-going pandemic.
While in the office, Kostikovaitė was able to introduce new communication tools now used by almost the entire network of Lithuanian cultural attachés. One of them is an e-newsletter, which helps to inform the audience about Lithuania. There is also a huge array of archival and communication material in social media, such as a Facebook “Lithuanian Art and Culture in the UK,” Twitter—“@LtCultureUK,” and Instagram—“lithuanian_art_in_the_uk,” created and administered by Kostikovaitė.
Kostikovaitė also noted that in recent years there has been a great need to form a digital archive of cultural and other special attachés, which currently contains a large number of material on dissemination and documentation of the events.
The article was originally published in December 2013 issue of“Lapas” (2013, no. 65, p. 10.)
With the announcement on page 2 that subscriptions for Lapas are increasing next year, I would like to acquaint readers with the history of Lapas and how it came into existence.
When I arrived in Brisbane [Australia] in 1990 and first went to the Lithuanian Club in September of that year, I met a number of Lithuanians around my age then (37), give or take a few years either way, who spoke little or no Lithuanian. Some of them told me they grew up feeling they did not fit in as they were brought up Lithuanian, but without speaking the language, so there was an inner turmoil of where they belonged. I related to this too. Although born in Australia, I was brought up Lithuanian also, and when I started school, I didn‘t know a word of English, so I never really fitted in either.
The article was originally published in premier issue of “Lithuanian Heritage Magazine” (2014, vol. 1, no. 1, p. 2), as an editorial signed by the publishers and editors.
1994 marks the 120th anniversary of Lithuanian press in America. In 1874 a one-page leaflet by an anonymous author, written in the Lithuanian language, was printed in Shenandoah, Pennsylvania.
From that humble beginning, newspapers and magazines of every type, size and ideological context began to be published. They would serve the needs of the hundreds of thousands of Lithuanian immigrants arriving to the shores of the New World.
The purpose of those publications was threefold: First, to keep the newcomers up-to-date on conditions and events occurring in Lithuania – particularly in the ancestral homes and farms they left behind; second, to preserve and perpetuate the language, customs and traditions of those who had already settled in America and had begun to assimilate into its fastpaced environment; and third, – since Lithuania was under Russian czarist oppression at the time – to awaken the immigrants’ patriotic spirit and to nurture the idea of a future free and independent Lithuania.