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.
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.
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.
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.