by Mark A. Granquist
Located in northeastern Europe on the east coast of the Baltic Sea, Lithuania is the most southern of the Baltic Republics—a trio of countries that were formed in 1918. Lithuania measures 25,174 square miles (64,445 square kilometers) and is bordered by Latvia to the north, Belarus to the east, and Russia and Poland to the south and southwest. Its capital is Vilnius, which has a population of 590,000, making it the largest city in the country.
The 1993 census estimated the population of Lithuania at just over 3.75 million people; approximately 80 percent of the citizens are ethnic Lithuanians, 9 percent are Russians, and the remaining 11 percent are largely of Polish, Latvian, and Ukrainian descent. Roman Catholics constitute the largest religious group in Lithuania (85 percent), with smaller numbers of Lutherans, Orthodox Christians, and Jews. The official language of the country is Lithuanian, and the country's flag consists of three equal horizontal bands—yellow on the top, green in the middle, and red on the bottom.
The Lithuanians are ethnically part of the Baltic group of Indo-European peoples, most closely related to the Prussians (a people with Polish and German roots who populated a former northern European state) and the Latvians. The Lithuanians settled along the Neman River perhaps as early as 1500 B.C., founding small agricultural settlements in the area's thick forests. The eastward expansion of medieval German Christianity—under the guise of the crusading religious-military Teutonic Order—brought a number of important changes to the Lithuanians. This outside pressure forced the Lithuanians to unite and sparked Lithuanian expansion south and eastward, into the Belarus and Kievan territories.
Lithuania soon became one of the largest kingdoms in medieval Europe and remained pagan despite attempts by the Catholics and the Orthodox church to Christianize it. The region forged a close alliance with Poland, and the two crowns united in 1386. Lithuania accepted Roman Catholicism at that time, and the combined forces began to push back German incursions, most notably at the battle of Tannenberg-Grünberg in 1410. By 1569 the union of Lithuania and Poland was complete, and the Polish language and culture began to dominate the Lithuanian upper classes, although the peasantry remained culturally and linguistically Lithuanian.
The rise of Russia, combined with the weakness of the Polish-Lithuanian state, led to increasing Russian domination of Lithuania in the eighteenth century. This movement was completed in 1795, when the Russians executed their third division of Poland, effectively ending Polish sovereignty. Some of the northern regions of the division's Lithuanian-speaking territory came under German control as a part of East Prussia. Russia attempted a program of so-called "Russification" of the Baltic states throughout the next century, including the prohibition of Lithuanian language and literature, the imposition of Russian legal codes, and the forcible integration of Uniate (or Byzantine Rite) Catholicism into the Orthodox church. Lithuanian consciousness was maintained in ethnic regional cultures and through a variety of linguistic groupings, but not with a particular sense of national feeling. Beginning in the 1880s, however, a rising nationalistic movement emerged, challenging both Polish cultural domination and Russian governmental controls. With the Revolution of 1905 and the organization of the Lietuvių Socialistaų Partija Amerikoje (Lithuanian Socialist Party of America), a Lithuanian assembly convened and demanded a greater degree of territorial and cultural autonomy.
Russian rule of Lithuania came to an end with the German invasion and occupation of the territory during World War I, and 1918 marked the proclamation of the Lithuanian Republic. Achieving actual independence proved more complicated, with opposing forces of Germany, Poland, and the Soviet Union involved, but within two years the region was exercising self-rule.
The dawn of World War II brought political upheaval to Lithuania. In 1940 the Soviet Union took over control of the country—only to lose it to the Germans from 1941 to 1944. Soviet forces then retook Lithuania, though many thousands of Lithuanian refugees fled westward along with the retreating German army. Soviet authorities ordered the deportation of many Lithuanian people from their homeland and from eastern Europe in general between 1945 and 1949, at which time they also collectivized Lithuanian agriculture. During the late 1980s, growing Lithuanian nationalism forced the communists to grant concessions, and, after two years of contention with Soviet authorities, Lithuania finally declared its independence in 1991.
SIGNIFICANT IMMIGRATION WAVES
A number of Lithuanians immigrated to the New World before the American Revolution. The first may have been a Lithuanian physician, Dr. Aleksandras Kursius, who is believed to have lived in New York as early as 1660. Most of the other Lithuanians who ventured to the Americas during this period were members of the noble class or practitioners of particular trades. The first really significant wave of Lithuanian immigration to the United States began in the late 1860s, after the Civil War. During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, an estimated 300,000 Lithuanians journeyed to America—a flow that was later halted by the combined effects of World War I, the restriction of immigration into the United States, and the achievement in 1918 of Lithuanian independence. This number is hard to document fully because census records did not officially recognize Lithuanians as a separate nationality until the twentieth century, and the country's people may have been reported as Russian, Polish, or Jewish.
Several key factors brought about the first surge of Lithuanian immigration to the United States. These included the abolition of serfdom in 1861, which resulted in a rise in Lithuania's free population; the growth of transportation, especially railroads; and a famine that broke out in the country in the 1860s. Later, other conditions, such as a depressed farm economy and increased Russian repression, prompted even more Lithuanians to leave their home soil. In 1930 the U.S. Census Bureau listed 193,600 Lithuanians in the United States. This figure represents six percent of the total population of Lithuania at the time.
The initial wave of immigrants to the United States can also be viewed as part of a larger movement of the Lithuanian peasantry off the land, in search of a better life. Lithuanian peasants moved into Russia and western Europe as agricultural and industrial workers, often intending to return to their native country when they had earned enough money. Their pattern was cyclical, with the numbers of migrating workers shifting along with the seasons and economic cycles. This wave of intra-European immigration consisted mostly of young males, either single or having left their families behind; approximately 48 percent of them were illiterate.
The second wave of immigration had a greater impact on U.S. census figures. Following World War II, a flood of displaced refugees fled west to escape the Russian reoccupation of Lithuania. Eventually 30,000 Dipukai (war refugees or displaced persons) settled in the United States, primarily in cities in the East and the Midwest. These immigrants included many trained and educated leaders and professionals who hoped to return someday to Lithuania. The heightening of tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union—known as the Cold War—dampened these expectations, and many Lithuanians sought to create a semipermanent life in the United States. By 1990 the U.S. Bureau of the Census listed 811,865 Americans claiming "Lithuanian" as a first or second ancestry.
The main areas of Lithuanian settlement in the United States included industrial towns of the Northeast, the larger cities of the Northeast and the Midwest, and the coal fields of Pennsylvania and southern Illinois. According to the 1930 census report, only about 13 percent of Lithuanians lived in rural areas, and even fewer—about two percent—were involved in agriculture.
Many of the first immigrants were very mobile, searching for work all over the United States and returning to Lithuania from time to time. Slowly, however, settlement patterns became apparent, and stable Lithuanian American communities were established in the smaller industrial towns in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. But by 1930 almost 50 percent of all Lithuanian Americans lived in just ten metropolitan areas. The large cities of Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Pittsburgh, New York, and Boston saw the greatest rise in Lithuanian American population. Nearly 20 percent of all Lithuanian immigrants settled in Chicago alone.
When the World War II refugees started entering the United States after 1945, they set up their own communities in many of the same areas as the previous immigrants. The 1990 census lists the leading areas of Lithuanian American settlement as Illinois (109,400), Pennsylvania (103,200), New York (70,300), Massachusetts (68,400), California (63,800), and New Jersey (49,800).
INTERACTIONS WITH SETTLED AMERICANS
Lithuanian immigrants were seen by settled Anglo-Americans as part of the "immigration problem" of the late nineteenth century: the poverty and illiteracy of many of the new arrivals, their Eastern European language and culture, and their devotion to Roman Catholicism put them at a distinct disadvantage in a country where scores of immigrant groups were competing for jobs, housing, and a better life—the so-called "American Dream." Because Lithuanians often took low-paying, unskilled laboring positions, they were not considered as "desirable" as other immigrants. In addition, their involvement in the U.S. labor movement at the turn of the twentieth century led to even more discrimination and resentment from a frightened and suspicious American public. (Lithuanians played an important role in the growth of the United Mine Workers Union and the United Garment Workers Union and were involved in labor unrest in the meat packing and steel industries.)
Throughout the twentieth century, however, Lithuanian Americans began to climb up the economic ladder and gain an important place in their local communities. This mobility allowed them to enter the American mainstream. Members of the post-1945 immigration surge—with their fierce opposition to Russian communism and their middle-class professionalism—have adjusted smoothly and rapidly to the American way of life.
Acculturation and Assimilation
In 1930 only about 47 percent of Lithuanian immigrants had become American citizens, despite the formation of Lithuanian citizens clubs to promote naturalization. But with their rise toward economic and social success in the twentieth century, Lithuanian Americans began to adapt more easily to life in the States. The American-born second generation, which by 1930 made up the majority of the immigrant community, assimilated much more quickly than their predecessors.
But along with assimilation came the development of an extensive network of immigrant institutions that sought to preserve and advance the immigrant community's native traditions. Foremost among these institutions were the Lithuanian parishes of the Roman Catholic church, which were joined together by various religious orders and lay and clerical organizations. Each immigrant community also boasted numerous immigrant social and fraternal organizations, newspapers, and workers' societies, all of which helped to buttress an immigrant identity.
Two important developments in Lithuania led to the growth of a strong Lithuanian American ethnic identity: the late nineteenth-century rise of Lithuanian national consciousness and the achievement of Lithuanian independence in 1920. Lithuanian Americans were staunch supporters of their newly independent homeland during the 1920s and 1930s, and some even returned to assist in the restructuring of the country's economy and government.
The post-World War II wave of Lithuanian immigrants—the Dipukai —also experienced a surge of Lithuanian consciousness. These later immigrants saw themselves as an exiled community and clung to their memory of two decades of freedom in Lithuania. They developed an extensive network of schools, churches, and cultural institutions for the maintenance of Lithuanian identity in the United States. But among the second and third generations of this community, assimilation and acculturation have taken deep hold; ethnic identity, while still important, is no longer central to the community's existence. Given the mass of those American citizens who claim at least partial Lithuanian heritage, most observers feel that this ethnic identity will not be completely forgotten, but many of the institutions that maintained the earlier generations of immigrants have declined in numbers and vitality.
Walter Wallace in 1923, cited in Ellis Island: An Illustrated History of the Immigrant Experience, edited by Ivan Chermayeff et al. (New York: Macmillan, 1991).
"I t was kind of bad for awhile till we got to know people and speak the language and quit being called greenhorns. People say, you ought to preserve your own heritage or something, but all we could think of was, we didn't want to be different, we wanted to be like the rest of the Americans."
Lithuanian cuisine is influenced by the foods of the land itself and by the various cuisines of its neighbors. More than the other Baltic nations, Lithuanian cooking looks to the east and the south, having much in common with the cooking of Russia, Belarus, and the Ukraine; this is not surprising, as these were the directions taken by the expansion of the medieval kingdom of Lithuania. Lithuanian recipes rely heavily on pork, potatoes, and dairy products such as eggs, milk, cream, and butter. (One specialty is a white cottage-type cheese called suris. ) Dark, flavorful mushrooms, herring, eels, sausages, and dark rye breads are also central to the Lithuanian diet. Holiday foods included jellied pigs feet, goose stuffed with prunes, and roasted suckling pig.
The colorful regional dress of Lithuania was used at times of festivals, market days, and special events in the old country. Some immigrants may have brought these costumes with them when they immigrated, but the wearing of such dress was not common in the United States, except for ethnic festivals. The daily working clothes of the immigrants never really differed from that of other Americans holding the same positions.
Along with the traditional Catholic and American holidays, there are several festival days of special significance to the Lithuanian American community. February 16 is Lithuanian Independence Day, marking the formal declaration of independence in 1918. September 8 is known as Lithuanian Kingdom Day. Roman Catholics celebrate the Feast of St. Casimir on March 4, with special celebrations led by the Knights of Lithuania fraternal organization.
With the formation of a solid Lithuanian American community at the end of the nineteenth century, the need for health care among immigrants became a key issue. Immigrant fraternal and benefit societies sought to provide help for sick or injured Lithuanians, as did social and charitable organizations. Roman Catholics organized Holy Cross Hospital in Chicago, as well as homes for the aged and infirm. Many of these activities came under the control of Lithuanian Roman Catholic orders, especially the Sisters of St. Casimir. Few Lithuanian medical professionals set up practice in the United States until after 1945, when a postwar influx of Lithuanian doctors from the European refugee community took place.
The Lithuanian language—a part of the Baltic branch of the Indo-European language family—is closely related to Latvian and the now-extinct language known as Old Prussian. Wider relationships, whether to German or the Slavic languages, are difficult to establish. Spoken Lithuanian is a very ancient language; it maintains many early features of speech and grammar that other Indo-European languages have lost. Although written Lithuanian came into existence in the sixteenth century, strong Polish cultural influences and Russian Imperial domination effectively suppressed the development of Lithuanian as a written, literary language—at least until the rise of Lithuanian nationalism in the late nineteenth century.
Lithuanian is divided into Low and High dialects, with numerous subdialects. The language uses 11 vowels ("a," "ą," "e," "ę," "ė," "i," "į," "y," "o," "u," "ų," "ū") along with six diphthongs ("ai," "au," "ei," "ui," ie," and "uo"). In addition to most of the standard consonants of the English language, Lithuanian makes use of "č," "š," and "ž," however, the consonants "f" and "h" and the combination "ch" are used only in foreign words.
The preservation of the Lithuanian language was a key concern among the initial wave of immigrants to the United States. The cultural domination of the Poles led to considerable dissension among the members of the Lithuanian American community. Especially in the Roman Catholic church, Polish prevailed as the official language used in worship and religious education, a practice that came under bitter attack from Lithuanian Americans. Religious organizations and their priests were divided along this issue; eventually, however, the Polophile party lost, and modern Lithuanian became the language of the community. The later immigrants who came after World War II have worked to keep the Lithuanian language alive within the community by developing a network of schools to encourage the preservation of the language. There are still quite a few Lithuanian American publications issued at least partially in Lithuanian, including some local Lithuanian daily newspapers. Several universities and colleges offer Lithuanian language courses, including Yale University, University of Illinois-Chicago, Indiana University-Bloomington, Tulane University, Cornell University, and Ohio State University. There are also dozens of public libraries with Lithuanian language collections, including the Los Angeles Public Library, Chicago Public Library, Donnell Library Center at the New York Public Library, Ennoch Pratt Free Library, and the Detroit Public Library.
GREETINGS AND OTHER POPULAR EXPRESSIONS
Common Lithuanian greetings and other expressions include: labą rytą ("lahba reehta")—good morning; labą vakara ("lahba vahkahra")—good evening; labanaktis ("lahba-nahktees")—good night; sudievu ("sood-yeeh-voo")—goodbye; kaip tamsta gyvuoji ("kaip tahmstah geeh-vu-oyee")—how are you; labai gerai ("lahbai gar-ai")—quite well; dėkui ("deh-kooy")—thanks; atsiprašau ("ahtsee-prah-show")—excuse me; sveikas ("saykahs")—welcome; taip ("taip")—yes; ne ("nah")—no; turiu eiti ("toor-i-oo ay-tee")—I must go.
Family and Community Dynamics
During the first wave of Lithuanian immigration to the United States, a stable immigrant community developed rather slowly. Since many of the first immigrants were young males seeking temporary employment, an immigrant community identity was hard to establish. Long hours, grinding poverty, and isolation increased the pressures that fragmented the immigrants. Slowly, as the immigrants began to settle permanently in the United States, family, religious, and community institutions were formed. A growing sense of nationalism within the community allowed the Lithuanians to see themselves as a people separate from the Poles and the Russians.
The immigrant community of the early twentieth century was beginning to mature, with second and third generations rapidly becoming Americanized. The arrival of Lithuanian refugees after World War II brought a fresh wave of immigrants and an intensified sense of Lithuanian nationalism. The size and strength of the Lithuanian American community has allowed its people to maintain a certain sense of ethnic heritage, even as the immigrant population evolves and its succeeding generations become thoroughly Americanized.
INTERACTION WITH OTHER ETHNIC GROUPS
In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the Lithuanian American community was closely tied to the Polish community. Since the borders of these nations were fluid—and since a long history of Polish religious and cultural dominance existed in Lithuania—Polish American and Lithuanian American immigrants tended to settle in many of the same areas of the United States. The early struggle for Lithuanians in America involved a move away from the Polish community and toward the definition of a pure Lithuanian national and ethnic identity. In later years a significant relationship developed between Lithuanian Americans and the other Baltic immigrants, Estonians and Latvians. These groups banded together in the interest of freeing the Baltic Republics from Soviet rule: their solidarity is especially evident in the creation of groups such as the Joint Baltic-American National Committee (1961) and other joint organizations.
Like many other immigrant groups, Lithuanians have seen that the road to success in America lies with education. Many of the immigrants, especially before 1920, arrived in the States as illiterate peasants. Despite their limited resources, the community soon established a system of parochial schools among the Lithuanian Roman Catholic parishes in the United States, many of which were run by the Sisters of St. Casimir. A smaller network of Lithuanian American Roman Catholic high schools and academies appeared later, numbering approximately ten by 1940.
Responding to a plea from the immigrant community, the Marian Fathers opened a high school and college in Hinsdale, Illinois, in 1926. Later the college was relocated to Thompson, Connecticut, and renamed Marianapolis College. Another early center of Lithuanian education was Indiana's Valparaiso University. Though not an ethnic institution, this university attracted a number of Lithuanian students early in the twentieth century; between 1902 and 1915 the school graduated 29 Lithuanian doctors, 15 lawyers, and 14 engineers. Lithuanian refugees of World War II—many of whom were highly educated, skilled professionals—exhibited an intense interest in education. Their main educational contribution to the community was the formation of a series of Lithuanian schools to transmit Lithuanian language and culture to succeeding generations of Lithuanian Americans.
THE ROLE OF WOMEN
Coming from an extremely traditional agricultural society, the first wave of Lithuanian immigrants brought with them a very rigid set of beliefs about women's roles in the community. Male domination of the family was a given, and women's roles were strictly defined. This social system was very hard for the immigrants to maintain in the United States, especially in the urban areas where the majority of the immigrants settled. As the immigrants became assimilated into the mainstream of American life, women's roles began to change and grow, though not without stress and conflict. One new independent role for women came through the formation of Lithuanian American religious orders, which afforded Lithuanian women a leading role in the immigrant religious community, and beyond: they headed parochial schools and established institutions of mercy, such as hospitals, orphanages, and nursing homes. Later, lay women's organizations—such as the American Lithuanian Roman Catholic Women's Alliance (founded in 1914) and the Federation of Lithuanian Women's Clubs (founded in 1947)—began to spring up in Lithuanian American communities, further empowering the female population.
The large majority of Lithuanian immigrants to America were Roman Catholics; there were also small numbers of Lutherans, Jews, and Orthodox Christians. The dominance of Roman Catholicism in the Lithuanian American community is even more pronounced because of the influence of Catholicism in the formation of the institutions of Lithuanian identity. However, the Roman Catholic presence was neither monolithic nor universal, and significant tensions existed within the Catholic community.
Lithuania adopted Roman Catholicism along the lines of its western neighbor, Poland, and for many centuries Lithuanian Catholicism was Polish in language and orientation. Lithuanian was considered to be a barbarous language, unworthy of religious use, so Polish was used for all official religious business. This dominance in religious matters extended to the immigrant communities of America as well; early Lithuanian immigrants tended to merge into Polish-language Roman Catholic parishes, and Polish-leaning priests dominated many of the early institutions of the Lithuanian American community.
But the rising tide of Lithuanian nationalism and ethnic identity toward the end of the nineteenth century sparked profound changes in the Lithuanian American religious community. Under the leadership of Aleksandras Burba, a priest from Lithuania, some Lithuanian Americans began to pull away from Polish parishes and Polish-dominated institutions and establish their own Lithuanian parishes. More than 100 Lithuanian parishes were formed by 1920. This movement created considerable tension within the immigrant community but also helped heighten and define a sense of ethnic consciousness among Lithuanian Americans. Not all Lithuanians wanted to distance themselves from Polish Roman Catholicism though, and divisiveness soon clouded the ranks of many Lithuanian American institutions and organizations.
The development of Lithuanian Roman Catholicism took hold early in the twentieth century, cementing a Lithuanian ethnic consciousness in America. Many of these efforts were led by an immigrant priest, Father Antanas Staniukynas, who formed the Lithuanian American Roman Catholic Priest's League in 1909. Staniukynas also contributed to the establishment of religious orders in the immigrant community, including the Sisters of St. Casimir and an American branch of the Lithuanian Marian Fathers. Around the same time, many lay Roman Catholic organizations were also founded; fraternal and social organizations were formed for men, women, workers, students, and other lay groups. But probably the most lasting and impressive achievement was the formation of a large parochial school system in affiliation with the Lithuanian American Roman Catholic parishes, a system run largely by the immigrant religious orders.
Religious life in the United States was not without conflict for the Lithuanian Roman Catholics. The old style of autocratic priestly leadership soon gave way to the realities of a democratic and pluralistic America, and the laity demanded an increased role in parish government. After 1945 the influx of war refugees brought new members to Lithuanian American Roman Catholicism; new religious orders, such as the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception and the Lithuanian Franciscan and Jesuit priestly orders were also established.
In 1914 the Lithuanian National Catholic Church was formed in Scranton, Pennsylvania. This movement, which broke away from the Roman Catholic hierarchy in the United States, stressed the national dimension of Lithuanian Catholicism. Lithuanian National Catholic parishes flourished in areas of heavy Lithuanian settlement early in the twentieth century.
Lithuanian Lutherans hailed mainly from the northern and western areas of Lithuania, areas that had been influenced by German and Latvian Lutheranism. The Lutheran reformation—a sixteenth-century Protestant reform movement—took hold in Lithuania until it was largely eliminated by the counter-reformation, yet over the centuries a small Lutheran minority remained. When these immigrants came to America during the initial surge of Lithuanian immigration, they tended to develop separate Lutheran congregations apart from the mainstream Lithuanian American community. The German-speaking Lutheran Missouri Synod sponsored several pastors who sought to reach out to this community. After 1945 a second wave of Lithuanian Lutherans formed the Lithuanian Evangelical Lutheran Church in Exile, headquartered near Chicago. This church has 19 congregations and 10,000 members worldwide.
Although a sizable Jewish community was established in Lithuania prior to World War II, it was forced to coexist with the Christian ethic of the country's wider Roman Catholic world. Many members of the Lithuanian Jewish community immigrated to America during the latter part of the nineteenth century and formed their own communities in the United States, mainly in the cities of the Northeast and the Midwest. One estimate from about 1940 puts the number of Lithuanian American Jews at around 25,000. During the assimilation process, these communities became affiliated with the larger Jewish communities throughout the United States. At the same time back in Europe, the Nazi-engineered Holocaust of World War II had a devastating effect on the Lithuanian Jewish community, leaving it almost completely destroyed by war's end.
Employment and Economic Traditions
The first wave of Lithuanian immigration, which ended around 1920, included mostly unskilled and often illiterate immigrants who settled in the cities and coal fields of the East and the Midwest and provided the raw muscle power of urban American factories; they were especially drawn to the garment trade in the East, the steel mills and forges of the Midwest, and the packing houses of Chicago and Omaha. Other immigrants opened businesses within their communities, supplying the growing needs of Lithuanian Americans.
To assist their people in the economic transition to life in the United States, the immigrants established many institutions, including fraternal and benefit societies and building and loan associations. The fraternal societies assisted needy immigrants and provided inexpensive insurance and death benefit protection. The building and loan associations met the immigrants' banking needs and helped them to purchase their own homes. By 1920 there were at least 30 such associations within the Lithuanian immigrant community.
The war refugees who came to the United States after 1945 were a different class of immigrants, mainly educated and professional. Although they had been the leaders of an independent Lithuania from 1918 to 1940, many of these new immigrants had difficulty finding suitable employment in the United States. The language barrier and professional differences meant that many of them had to take positions that were beneath their level of training and education. These refugees were an enterprising group, however, and they began a tradition of economic success in the United States.
Politics and Government
Much of the initial political activity of the Lithuanian Americans was confined to the immigrant community itself, as immigrants sought to define themselves, especially in terms of the rising tide of Lithuanian nationalism that dominated the latter part of the nineteenth century. But slowly the immigrant community began to look outside itself toward the wider American world. The first examples of immigrant political activity came in areas that directly affected the new immigrants—namely labor issues and the condition of American relations with the new Lithuanian state. Lithuanians were active in the formation of some of the American labor unions, especially in coal mining and the garment trade. For some, this activity grew into a wider push for socialism (a political and economic doctrine espousing collective rather than private ownership of property), especially with the formation of the Lithuanian Socialist Party of America in 1905. This prewar socialism collapsed, though, after 1918, as the so-called "Red Scare" put great pressure on all socialist groups. The first major political push among Lithuanian Americans came after 1918, when they tried to influence American foreign policy to recognize and support Lithuanian independence.
Since the Lithuanian immigrant community was mostly urban and working class, many Lithuanians aligned themselves with the Democratic partyduring the twentieth century. Although they were not a real force in national politics, Lithuanian Americans used their numbers to dominate local politics, electing local officials, state legislators, judges, and occasionally members of the U.S. House of Representatives. In turn they became loyal supporters of the local Democratic political machines in areas such as Chicago, Cleveland, and Detroit. In many communities Lithuanians formed their own Democratic clubs for the support of political and ethnic priorities. A smaller number of Lithuanians were attracted to the Republican party, especially after 1945. Along with some members of the other Baltic groups, these Lithuanians blamed the Democrats for the "betrayal" of Lithuanian independence in the Yalta agreement of 1945, which extended Soviet territories to the West. Post-World War II immigrants, because of their strongly anticommunist feelings, favored mostly the Republicans.
Lithuanian immigrants were involved in a number of industries that saw a great deal of union activity at the end of the nineteenth century. The Lithuanian coal miners of Pennsylvania and Illinois became members of the United Mine Workers unions, and local unions of Lithuanian garment workers soon merged with either the Amalgamated Clothing Workers Union or the United Garment Workers Union. In other industries, such as steel or meat packing, union organization was slower, but Lithuanian workers were an omnipresent force in labor agitation. A number of nationalist, Roman Catholic, and socialist immigrant organizations were developed to provide support to laborers. Socialist and radical workers groups, such as the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), succeeded in recruiting Lithuanian workers in the first part of the twentieth century, but these groups declined rapidly after 1920. The Lithuanian community was generally sympathetic to the union cause and supported their fellow immigrants during labor unrest.
Lithuanians have served in the American armed forces in every war since the Civil War; in that war 373 Lithuanians fought on the Union side, and 44 fought on the side of the Confederacy. Lithuanian Americans were especially interested in both World Wars, since they directly influenced the fate of Lithuanian independence. In 1918 a group of 200 Lithuanian Americans who had served in the American military went to Lithuania to help in the fight for freedom.
RELATIONS WITH LITHUANIA
Relations with Lithuania have always been important to the Lithuanian American community. Tensions ran especially high among Lithuanians in the United States during those periods when the Russian state had control over Lithuania. Immigrant communities in America were fertile ground for nationalistic sentiment, and during the last decades of the nineteenth century many radical Lithuanian nationalists sought refuge in the United States from political oppression in Russia. Most Lithuanian Americans supported the nationalist cause, although a small group of radical communists backed Soviet attempts to forcibly annex Lithuania to the Soviet Union.
When Lithuania was declared a republic in 1918, the immigrant community supported independence with financial, military, and political help. A number of the leaders of independent Lithuania had even lived and studied for a time in the United States. Lithuanian Americans pressured the American government to recognize Lithuanian independence and support Lithuanian border claims in the dispute with Poland. This support of the homeland helped strengthen Lithuanian American group solidarity in the United States during the 1920s and 1930s.
With the Soviet invasion of Lithuania in 1940, the Lithuanian American community had new cause for common action. War refugees from Lithuania flooded the United States after 1945, and many new groups and organizations were formed to rally for an independent Lithuania—and to support this cause with money and publicity. Lithuanian Americans worked to keep the dream of an independent Lithuania alive with publicity, lobbying efforts, and various political and cultural activities. These actions moved Lithuanian Americans into the wider sphere of the Lithuanian exile community worldwide, uniting American organizations with others in Europe and elsewhere. Agitation efforts also brought Lithuanian Americans into closer contact with other Baltic Americans, with whom they shared the dream of independence for the Baltic states.
Individual and Group Contributions
BUSINESS AND INDUSTRY
Lane Bryant (1879-1951), born Lena Himmelstein, arrived in New York in 1895 and began working in the garment industry. With the help of her second husband, Lithuanian-born Albert Maislin (1879-1923), Bryant expanded her business, introducing the first maternity wear and later manufacturing larger-sized women's clothing. The family of Nicholas Pritzker, a Lithuanian immigrant born in 1871, started numerous businesses that now comprise the Hyatt Corporation.
Actor Laurence Harvey (1928-1973) was born Laurynas Skinkis in Lithuania. He had an active career in England and the United States, appearing in such films as Room at the Top, Butterfield 8, and The Manchurian Candidate. Charles Bronson (1920– ), born Casimir Businskis, is a popular movie actor known for his action roles in such movies as The Great Escape, Once Upon a Time in the West, Death Wish, and Hard Times. Actress Ruta Lee, born Ruta Kilmonis, appeared in the 1950s and 1960s motion pictures Witness for the Prosecution, Marjorie Morningstar, and Operation Eichmann.
Alexander Bruce Bialaski, an American of Lithuanian descent, was the first director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), serving in that capacity from 1912 to 1919. Sydney Hillman (1887-1946), a Lithuanian Jewish immigrant, was the leader of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers Union for over 30 years. He moved into the national political arena in 1941, when he became director of the U.S. Office of Production Management.
Lithuanian photographer and journalist Vitas Valaitis (1931-1965) worked for several major publications, including Newsweek, Saturday Evening Post, and U.S. News and World Report, and won numerous prizes for his work.
Father Jonas Zilinskas (1870-1932) was instrumental in developing the Lithuanian Alliance of America and served as its president. Emma Goldman (1869-1940) was a radical anarchist and supporter of communism. She immigrated to America in 1886 and quickly became a leader in radical movements in the United States. Her bold lectures promoting atheism, revolution, birth control, and "free love" often led to trouble with the authorities. Goldman was imprisoned in 1917 and deported to Russia in 1919. An early supporter of Soviet ideals, she eventually grew disenchanted with the course of the revolution. When she died in 1940 her body was returned to the United States for burial.
Johnny Unitas (1933– ) was one of the greatest quarterbacks in the National Football League (NFL). As a star player for the Baltimore Colts in the 1960s, he set a number of professional records and was repeatedly named to the all-star team. Dick Butkas (1942– ), a key player for the Chicago Bears during the 1960s and 1970s, is widely regarded as the best middle-linebacker ever to play professional football. Johnny Podres (1932– ) pitched for the Brooklyn Dodgers and other professional baseball teams. Jack Sharkey (born Juozas Žukauskas; 1902– ) was a World Heavyweight champion boxer whose career peaked in the 1920s and 1930s. Billie Burke, born Vincas Burkauskas, made her mark as a professional golfer on the women's circuit. Vitas Gerulaitis (1954-1994) was a top-ranked tennis professional whose career flourished in the 1970s and 1980s.
Elizabeth Swados (1951– ) is an award-winning composer, writer, and director whose works include the Broadway musicals Doonesbury and The Beautiful Lady. She has also written music for many classical dramatic productions and television specials.
Victor D. Brenner (1871-1924; surname originally Baranauskas) designed the Lincoln penny in 1909. Many of the first Lincoln pennies, now collector's items, bear his initials, "VDB."
A Lithuanian American news journal.
Contact: Rimantas Stirbys, Editor.
Address: 2715 East Allegheny Avenue, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19134.
Telephone: (215) 739-9353.
Fax: (215) 739-6587.
Dirva ( The Field ).
Lithuanian-language newspaper that contains items of interest to the Lithuanian community.
Contact: Vytautas Gedgaudas, Editor.
Address: Viltis, Inc., 19807 Cherokee Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio 44119-1090.
Telephone: (216) 531-8150.
Fax: (216) 531-8428.
Draugas ( The Friend ).
Newspaper published by the Lithuanian Catholic Press Society.
Contact: Ms. Danute Bindokas, Editor.
Address: 4545 West 63rd Street, Chicago, Illinois 60629-5589.
Telephone: (312) 585-9500.
Fax: (312) 585-8284.
E-mail: [email protected]
Garsas ( The Echo ).
Published by the Lithuanian Alliance of America, this monthly bilingual publication contains general news for and about the Lithuanian American community.
Contact: Florence Eckert, Editor.
Address: 71-73 South Washington Street, Wilkes Barre, Pennsylvania 18701.
Telephone: (717) 823-8876.
I Laisve ( Toward Freedom ).
Lithuanian-language magazine of politics that contains articles of interest to the Lithuanian community.
Contact: Vacys Rociunas, Editor.
Address: Friends of the Lithuanian Front, 1634 49th Avenue, Cicero, Illinois 60650.
Journal of Baltic Studies.
Published by the Association for the Advancement of Baltic Studies, this quarterly provides a forum for scholarly discussion of topics regarding the Baltic Republics and their peoples.
Contact: William Urban and Roger Noel, Editors.
Address: Executive Offices of the ARABS, 111 Knob Hill Road, Hacketstown, NJ 07840.
Lietuviu Dienos ( Lithuanian Days ).
A general interest, bilingual monthly publication that covers Lithuania and the Lithuanian American community.
Contact: Ruta Skurius, Editor.
Address: 4364 Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood, California 90029.
Telephone: (213) 664-2919.
Lituanus: Lithuanian Quarterly Journal of Arts and Sciences.
Established in 1954, this quarterly publication features scholarly articles about Lithuania and Lithuanians around the world. Published by the Lituanus Foundation, Inc.
Address: P.O. Box 9318, Chicago, Illinois 60690.
Lithuanian-language scholarly publication.
Contact: Vytautas Kavolis, Editor.
Address: A M & M Publications, 7338 South Sacramento, Chicago, Illinois 60629.
Telephone: (312) 436-5369.
Sandara ( The League ).
Monthly fraternal magazine published by the Lithuanian National League of America in English and Lithuanian; first published in 1914.
Contact: G. J. Lazauskas, Editor.
Address: 208 W. Natoma Avenue, Addison, Illinois 60101.
Telephone: (630) 543-8198
Fax: (630) 543-8198
Weekly Lithuanian interest newspaper published by the Lithuanian Alliance of America.
Address: 307 West 30th Street, New York, New York 10001.
Telephone: (212) 563-2210.
Established in 1953 by the Lithuanian World Community, Inc., this is a monthly publication that seeks to unite Lithuanians around the world for ethnic solidarity.
Address: 6804 Maplewood Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60629.
Telephone: (312) 776-4028.
KTYM-AM (1460). Contact: Bobby A. Howe. One-half hour of Lithuanian programming weekly.
Address: 6803 West Boulevard, Inglewood, California 90302-1895.
Telephone: (213) 678-3731.
Seven hours of Lithuanian programming weekly.
Address: 5356 West Belmont Avenue, Cicero, Illinois 60641-4103.
Telephone: (312) 282-6700.
Fax: (773) 282-0123.
One hour of Lithuanian programming weekly.
Address: 7 Parkway Center, Suite 625, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 15220.
Telephone: (412) 937-1500.
Fax: (412) 937-1576.
Organizations and Associations
Institute of Lithuanian Studies (ILS).
Seeks to sponsor and encourage research on Lithuanian language, literature, folklore, history, and other fields related to Lithuania and its culture.
Contact: Violeta Kelertas, President.
Address: University of Illinois at Chicago, Department of Slavic and Baltic Studies (m/c 306), 601 South Morgan, Chicago, Illinois 60607-7116.
Telephone: (312) 996-7856.
Fax: (312) 996-0953.
Lithuanian Alliance of America.
Founded in 1886, the LAA was one of the first social organizations established by Lithuanians in America. Though originally a fraternal benefit association, the alliance quickly became the center of organized Lithuanian life in the United States, especially in the early part of the twentieth century.
Contact: Genevieve Meiliunas, Secretary.
Address: 307 West 30th Street, New York, New York 10001.
Telephone: (212) 563-2210.
Lithuanian American Community (LAC).
Founded in 1952, this organization focuses on educational and cultural activities, sponsoring regional cultural festivals, providing grants and scholarships to support academic and cultural activities, and calling for freedom in Lithuania.
Contact: Joseph Gaila, President.
Address: 2713 West 71st Street, Chicago, Illinois 60629.
Telephone: (312) 436-0197.
Lithuanian American Council (LAC).
Founded in 1940, the LAC functions as an umbrella organization to coordinate the work of Lithuanian American groups, clubs, and religious and fraternal organizations. Its primary purpose is to unite the Lithuanian American community and to advance Lithuanian independence.
Contact: John A. Rackauskas, President.
Address: 6500 South Pulaski, Chicago, Illinois 60629.
Telephone: (312) 735-6677.
E-mail: [email protected]
Lithuanian National Foundation (LNF).
Collects, researches, analyzes, and disseminates information on Lithuania and the Lithuanian nation.
Contact: Mr. Vilgalys Jonas, Chairman.
Address: 351 Highland Boulevard, Brooklyn, New York 11207-1910.
Telephone: (718) 277-0682.
Fax: (718) 277-0682.
Lithuanian Roman Catholic Federation of America.
Founded in 1906. Composed of Lithuanian-American Catholic organizations, parishes, religious orders, and publications; agencies and institutions; individuals. Seeks to unite Lithuanian-American Catholics; promotes Catholic action; upholds Lithuanian culture. Operates a camp and retreat center in Michigan; collects archival material about immigration history; is establishing audio- and videocassette library in Lithuanian and English on educational and religious topics.
Contact: Saulius V. Kuprys, President.
Address: 71-73 South Washington Street, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania 18703.
Telephone: (717) 823-8876.
Lithuanian World Community (LWC).
Founded in 1949, LWC is the largest ethnic organization for the Lithuanian community in exile. It was formed by immigrants who fled Lithuania following the Soviet takeover during World War II. It seeks to unite the Lithuanian exile community around the world and helps maintain an extensive Lithuanian educational presence in the United States.
Contact: V. J. Bieliauskas, President.
Address: 14911 127th Street, Lemont, Illinois 60439.
Telephone: (708) 257-8457.
Lituanus Foundation (LF).
Organizes, sponsors, and publishes research material on the language, history, politics, geography, economics, folklore, literature, and arts of Lithuania and the Baltic States.
Contact: A. Damulis, Administrator.
Address: 6621 South Troy Street, Chicago, Illinois 60629-2913.
Telephone: (312) 434-0706.
National Lithuanian Society of America (NSLA).
Fosters Lithuanian fine arts, handicraft, cultural, and educational activities. Publishes bimonthly newsletter.
Contact: Peter Buckas, President.
Address: 13400 Parker Road, Lemont, Illinois 60439.
Telephone: (708) 301-8183.
Museums and Research Centers
Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture.
A museum and research library dedicated to the study of Lithuania and Lithuanian Americans. Displays feature Lithuanian art, collectibles, and memorabilia.
Contact: Stanley Balzekas, Jr., Director.
Address: 6500 South Pulaski Road, Chicago, Illinois 60629.
Telephone: (312) 582-6500.
Immigration History Research Center.
Located at the University of Minnesota, it is a valuable library and archival resource on eastern and southern Europeans, including Lithuanians. In addition to serials and newspapers, the center has a large holding of books and monographs on the immigrant community, along with archival resources and manuscripts.
Contact: Joel Wurl, Curator.
Address: 826 Berry Street, St. Paul, Minnesota 55114.
Telephone: (612) 627-4208.
Lithuanian American Cultural Archives.
Run by the Lithuanian Marian Fathers, it focuses on Lithuanians in America. It has an extensive collection of early materials on the immigrant community, especially on Lithuanians in the Northeast and Middle Atlantic states.
Address: Thurber Road, Putnam, Connecticut 06260.
Telephone: (203) 928-9317.
Founded to promote and further an understanding of the Lithuanian American immigrant experience, it sponsors both permanent and traveling exhibits and also houses a library. The Lithuanian Museum is affiliated with the World Lithuanian Archives, a major repository of materials by and about the Lithuanian American community, gathered by the Lithuanian Jesuit Fathers Provincial House in Chicago.
Contact: Nijole Mackevincius, Director.
Address: 5620 South Claremont Avenue, Chicago, Illinois 60636.
Telephone: (773) 434-4545.
Fax: (773) 434-9363.
E-mail: [email protected]
Van Pelt Library, University of Pennsylvania.
The library houses one of the largest collections of materials about Lithuania and Lithuanian Americans in the United States.
Address: 3420 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104.
Telephone: (215) 898-7088.
Sources for Additional Study
Alilunas, Leo J. Lithuanians in the United States: Selected Studies. San Francisco: R&E Research Associates, 1978.
Budreckis, Algirdas. The Lithuanians in America, 1651-1975: A Chronology and Factbook. Dobbs Ferry, New York: Oceana Publications, Inc., 1975.
Encyclopedia Lithuanica, six volumes, edited by Simas Suziedelius. Boston: Juozas Kapocius, 1970-78.
Fainhauz, David. Lithuanians in the U.S.A.: Aspects of Ethnic Identity. Chicago: Lithuanian Library Press, Inc., 1991.
Kučas, Antanas. Lithuanians in America. San Francisco: R&E Research Associates, 1975.
Lithuanian Cooking. New York: Darbininkas, 1976.
Wolkovich-Valkavičius, William. Lithuanian Religious Life in America: a Compendium of 150 Roman Catholic Parishes and Institutions. Norwood, MA: Corporate Fulfillment Systems, 1991-98.