Global True Lithuania Lithuanian communities and heritage worldwide

Welcome to the Global True Lithuania website, dedicated to the Lithuanian heritage worldwide.

For a nation merely 3 million strong Lithuanians left a remarkable legacy as far away as America and Australia. These traces represents a unique history of a spectacular survival and major contributions to various other nations of the world. The Lithuanian heritage exits for You to find and explore.

Global True Lithuania welcomes additions, suggestions and corrections (write them in comments).

The website is developed by Augustinas Žemaitis who is also the author of all its articles.

History of Lithuanian diaspora and heritage abroad

Despite of being attached to their land culturally a large number of Lithuanians left or were forced to leave their homeland over the centuries. Therefore many places are related to Lithuania in lands as distant as Siberia, America or Australia, let alone Europe. Surely there is much more Spanish, French or British heritage all over the world than there is Lithuanian, but few other nations merely three million strong could compete with Lithuanians in the mark they left on far-away shores. Who knows, maybe you could find shards of Lithuania without even leaving your homeland?

In 13th-16th centuries Lithuania was an independent Grand Duchy that encompassed not only modern-day Lithuania, but also Belarus and Ukraine, parts of Russia, Poland, Moldova and Latvia. Noble Lithuanian families of the era had manors and build castles far outside ethnic boundaries, sometimes intermarrying with local nobility. Most of these can be found in modern-day Belarus and Ukraine.

Lithuanian peasantry dominated beyond current boundaries as well. The processes of assimilation, sometimes forced upon, eroded these ethnic exclaves by the second half of the 20th century, but a few of them remain, such as Punsk (Punskas) and Sejny (Seinai) in Poland. In much more of such villages and towns there are few if any Lithuanians left, but the history is nevertheless well visible. The best examples are in the Kaliningrad Oblast of Russia that forms the bulk of Lithuania Minor ethnic region.

In the 19th century Lithuanian words and culture spread much further than ever before. Railroads and ocean-going steamships allowed Lithuanians to leave their agricultural hinterland for the industrial and educational wonders elsewhere. Many were lured by the industry of modern-day Latvia in Riga and Liepaja. Others went to Saint Petersburg, the capital of the Russian Empire.

Starting in late 19th century more and more Lithuanians crossed the Atlantic for the USA. They settled primarilly in New England and Midwest, building their elaborate churches and cemetaries with massive tombstones. Lithuanian districts formed in cities like Chicago and Detroit. Lithuanian-inspired placenames appeared on the maps in Pennsylvania and Canada.

When USA curbed immigration from Eastern Europe in 1908 Lithuanians switched to South America building sizeable communities in Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Colombia and Venezuela.

During the same era Lithuania's Jews prefered South Africa as an emigration destination. Today as many as 70% of South Africa's Jews trace their descent to Lithuania.

The tragedy of World War 2 and Soviet occupation had terrible consequences on Lithuania and forced large numbers of additional people away. Hundreds of thousands Lithuanians were deported to Siberia by the Soviet regime. Stripped of most belongings these people left few traces except for humble crosses in permafrost.

Hundred of thousands others avoided the Soviet genocide by fleeing westwards - mostly to the USA via Germany. While those who were left beyond the Iron curtain were largely isolated from the outer world, the Lithuanian communities abroad, already some 1 million strong, contributed much to the world culture. Fluxus movement of modern art was started by a couple of Lithuanian Americans, for instance.

After the restoration of independence Lithuanian emigration restarted. New Lithuanian communities were established in United Kingdom, Ireland, Norway and Spain.

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  1. I am Lithuanian born [Ukmerge] living in New Zealand. There is a small dedicated Lithuanian community here and we are all related to communities in Lithuania, Australia and the U.S.A. Finding out our heritage is interesting and exciting and provides the tools for passing on information to our descendants,whose blood is being diluted with each generation that passes.

    • Thank you. As far as I understand the New Zealand Lithuanian community is new (post-1990). However, perhaps there is something in New Zealand that could be considered Lithuanian heritage, e.g. memorial plaques for Lithuanians, Lithuania-related monuments and locations, Lithuania-related placenames, graves of famous Lithuanians, buildings related to Lithuania? If so, please note it and I will add a page on New Zealand Lithuanian heriatage.

      • There was a postwar colony of Lithuanians in New Zealand and Genius Procuta, now of Toronto, Canada, was a child there. New Zealand distinguished itself because it permitted widows to immigrate along with their children after the war when most other countries did not. Procuta’s father had died of TB shortly after the war in Europe, and New Zealand came to the rescue of his family and that of others.

        • Thank you for sharing interesting information!

        • I emigrated to Chicago in 1950 at the age of 9 1/2 along with my parents and a younger brother. Among our acquaintances,there were several families consisting of widows and children,so apparently, America, was also one of these countries,with the same policy,as New Zealand.

  2. My dad is half Lithuanian from Chicago. My family moved from Kaunas in 1907 and regained contact with our relatives after independence was restored

  3. My great grandparents were of Lithuanian decent. The only information we have is that he came from Lithuania and traveled to the U.S. but that’s about it. I have names but was interested in how I can find out more Lithuanian ancestry. Thanks

  4. Labas Augustinai, We at the National Lithuanian American Hall of Fame love your website, and we post information from it. By the same token, you may find interesting information on our facebook page that you may want to share.

    I am encouraged to see that Lithuanians are sharing information and helping each other out. Sekmes!

    • Labas Jon. Thank you for sharing information from the global.truelithuania.com and truelithuania.com websites. Indeed I have noticed that as I check who links to truelithuania.com sometimes. I am also checking your Facebook page sometimes. I have also “liked” the National Lithuanian American Hall of Fame Facebook page on the official Truelithuania.com Facebook account. Continue the good job on providing information on Lithuania-related issues!

      P.S. If you know additional information about the Lithuanian heritage in locations that already have articles about them on global.truelithuania.com, or would like to share photos of things that still have no photos at the global.truelithuania.com site, please do so (copyright of photos will be noted). All kinds of Lithuanian heritage interests me: former and existing Lithuanian houses, clubs, churches, parks, museums, cemetaries, satues, memorials; Lithuanian inscriptions; streets/roads/plazas/towns named after Lithuania(ns); graves and former homes of famous Lithuanians. The goal (hardly achievable) is to document all such locations beyond the Lithuanian borders.

  5. Just wonder why you have no info about the Lithuanians in Colorado. My grandfather, Klemensas Paznokaitis,aka K. Paznokas, aka K. Clemens, worked for the United Mine Workers Union, and traveled all over Colorado during the early 1900’s trying to organize and get better working conditions for the miners. He was also the treasurer for the Lietuviu Socijalistu sajunga. I have his ledger book and the red cards. There were many Lithuanians who settled in Colorado and worked in the coal mines. I understand there is a growing Lithuanian community in the Denver area now.

    • Thank you for your information. The aim is to cover entire Lithuanian heritage abroad, so an article about a new place is added once every couple of weeks. There is much Lithuanian heritage though so while the site has been started 2 years ago there is still much to add until it will be complete.

      That said, this site is about Lithuanian heritage rather than simply Lithuanian history. That is, about Lithuanian churches, monuments, cemeteries, clubs, graves and (former) homes of famous Lithuanians, streets named after Lithuania(ns), memorial plaques for Lithuania(ns) and other things which are in a particular location and may be seen. Is there such heritage in Colorado? If you have information, please share.

      Currently the states that I plan to do articles on in the near future are Florida, Iowa, Maine, Texas and Missouri (I found information on Lithuanian heritage in each of them) as well as articles on cities/areas: Philadelphia, Scranton, Springfield, Grand Rapids, Lowell/Lawrence. Of course, if I’ll get information about Lithuanian heritage in Colorado I’d add it to the list as well.

    • I lost touch with Barbara Clow more than ten years ago and haven’t been able to find her until I saw this message. We research the same family and I have updates. Could Barbara please contact me at my email address? Thanks.

  6. I am proud of my lithuanian heritage. Having grown in Argentina with my widowed mother (no other family), since I was 5, the lithuanian community was my family, all the clubs, church, they were home to us. It was and still is really amazing in this trouble world, how we all stick together. Now living in New York, I miss all the events that are still part of Buenos Aires lithuanian clubs.

  7. My mother’s parents came from near Vilnius to Colorado (USA) about 1901. I don’t have any exact dates. They are all dead and I am sad that I don’t know more.
    My Grandfather worked in the mines near Lafayette (CO) and their home was there. My mother and her brother and sister grew up in Lafayette. I was surprise to see on the Lafayette website that no mention was made of the Lithuanians who lived and worked there and most died there. My aunt Mary went to school and became the Secretary-Treasurer of the Denver Stockyards! My mother and father had 2 companies that invented parts for and repaired diesel engines. My grandfather didn’t only work in the mines, he also ran hunting camps and any work he could find. He was self-educated, and very intelligent; a marvelous story-teller, as was my mother and her oldest brother.Their last name was changed by Immigration to Warsavage, but in Lithuania it was similar to Warsovich? There were cousins in Lithuania. I wish I could trace their ancestors, and mine. My mother and aunt and their mother were wonderfully creative and smart women. And their sense of humor is legendary!

    • Thanks for sharing. As for original surname it’s hard to tell. Direct Lithuanian transliteration would be something like Varsavičius, but Google search finds no such surname. Perhaps Ardzevičius? To mae the matters more complex Polish was frequently used as literary language back then, meaning that Lithuanians would use a Lithuanian version of their surname in some contexts and Polish in some others; moreover Lithuanian language itself was not yet standartized, meaning that surnames had no official spelling even back home. More info on pre-WW1 variations of Lithuanian surnames in the articles on Poles of Lithuania and Lithuanian Pennsylvanians.

      • my great grandfather came to the US in 1912 under the surname of Berekeviche. His wife followed in 1914 with a listed surname of Berekeciene. Can you explain the difference? any idea of direct transliteration?

    • My grandparents also settled in Lafayette. My mom probably knew your mom. I have started a genealogy of Colorado Lithuanians. I have documented many families in Lafayette including yours. Contact me if you are interested in knowing more about these families.

  8. Hello! My name is Vicki Sadilek Dunlap and I am trying to research my family history. I have run into a road block with my grandmothers side. Her name was Alvina Youdris Sadilek (married Vincent Sadilek Jr in 1926 in Chicago, IL). She was born in Chicago on August 1, 1905. Her parents listed on her birth certificate were Charles Youdrea (place of birth, Lithuania) and Barbara Patarak (place of birth, Lithuania). On her certificate of baptism it shows parent names as Casimir Juodraitis and Barbara Patrakiczie. I also have the names of her mothers parents that were listed on her death certificate. They were Casimer Paterakas and Brigitte Petraite both born in Lithuania. That is all the information I have on them. I am hoping you may assist me or lead me in the right direction to find out more. I appreciate any assistance you may give. Thanks so much for your time.

    • Hello,

      I will leave a few notes. Firstly, as is described in the article on Lithuanian heritage in Pennsylvania, early Lithuanian Americans commonly had their surnames changed during migration (migration officials commonly misheard them, for example, while iliterate and/or non-English-speaking migrants could not have corrected them). I think that is what happened to your forefathers as well. Juodraitis is likely the original surname (Youdrea – the corrupted version).

      Also, Lithuanian Christian names are different than the recorded English ones: Brigitte would be Brigita, Casimer / Casimir would be Kazimieras, Barbara would be Barbora. It is possible that Petraitė was Petraitytė. As for the original of Paterak / Paterakas / Patrakiczie I think it may be Patarakas for males and Patarakytė for female daughters of the family (see the article on Lithuanian language to learn more about how Lithuanian male/female surnames are formed).

  9. My grandparents on both sides came from Lithuania and settled in Rochester NY. They were part of St. George’s Lithuanian Church. I went to school there for 8 years. My father was Petras Zemaitis married to Mary Vascuyknas. My grandfather was Frank Vascukynas, and he is seen on the city census in 1918 as working at Hickey Freeman, the mens’ clothing company as a presser. I cannot find him on lists for Ellis Island, but he told me that he entered the US that way. He died in 1974. Any idea how they could have spelled his name when he first arrived?

    • It is impossible to know but it may be possible to guess. That is because immigrants from Lithuania were often asked what is their surname, and then the surname would be written down by US officials who didn’t know Lithuanian spelling. Thus they written down what they believed to be the correct spelling: it may use English or Polish orthography, it may drop Lithuanian ending, but is typically still pretty close to original in pronouncation. So a guesswork is needed. If you know approximate time of entry, it is easier. Also if he was born in Lirhuania “Frank” would likely be “Pranas” but it may also be spelled in various ways.

  10. my great grandfather came to the US in 1912 under the surname of Berekeviche. His wife followed in 1914 with a listed surname of Berekeciene. Can you explain the difference? any idea of direct transliteration? We have tracked my great grandmother through Ellis Island. Verbal history says Gramps traveled to Boston initially before meeting his wife 2 years later in Sheboygan, WI

  11. can someone help with these names like preiskel and lebow. Also perhaps with this ancestry

    I have a family tree (see partial image below) but am having problems with ancestors and some dates. All appear to be from Vilna, Vilniaus, Lithuania and the Ghetto. Many died in pogroms and holocaust. Do not have many relatives that were in Lithuania. Have checked Jewishgen and other sites to no avail. Lebow is NOT the original name for this family. They changed their name once they came to America and it has been spelled many ways. i am having problem with burial plots as well for some who died in USA… I have been told many were cremated and records were not kept:
    Aaron Lebow
    1912–1992
    BIRTH MAY 23, 1912 • Vilna, Vilniaus, Lithuania
    DEATH 7 APR 1992 • Solana Beach, San Diego, California, USA
    ****Parents of Aaron Lebow:
    Joseph Abba Lebow lebowicz lebowitz
    1888–1967
    BIRTH MAY 1, 1888 • Russia or Vilna, Vilniaus, Lithuania or Poland (Vilna Ghetto)
    DEATH OCTOBER 1967 • Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts, USA or brookline, norfolk, mass
    Keita Clara Preiskel Prescell (Preskell) (Prescal) Preiskell
    1886–1972
    BIRTH JULY 10, 1886 • Russia and Poland (Vilna Ghetto)
    DEATH SEPTEMBER 22, 1972 • Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts, USA
    ****Keita’s father:
    Moshe Yitzchak Preiskel Prescell (Preskell) (Prescal)
    ****Joseph Abba Lebow lebowicz lebowitz parents:
    NAIMAN (Menacham Nachum Nochum) Lebow (Lebowicz Leibovitz)
    Rebecca (Reva from Hebrew) PUNSKY (GOLDMAN)
    BIRTH Russia
    DEATH
    **** JOSEPH LEBOW’S BROTHER:
    Samuel Lebow Lebaw
    1882–1959
    BIRTH MARCH 16, 1882 • Vilna, Russia (POLAND)
    DEATH 14 OCT 1959 • Roxbury, Suffolk, MA, USA
    MOSHE had many sisters of which only 1 survived the death camps and slaughtering of Jews in what i am guessing was Vilna.

    • You have written the likely surnames yourself, such as Lebowicz / Lebowitz instead of Lebow (Lithuanian version would be Leibovičius / Lebovičius). As for Peskell, likely Lithuanian version would be Preiskelis (there are Jews with last names Preiskelis and Leibovičius currently living in Lithuania).

      However, it should noted that local Jews would have typically used the versions of their surnames in the language that was dominant at the time. So e.g. somebody who used Lebovičius as Lithuanian citizen may have also used Lebowicz (which is a Polish version of the same surname) while Vilnius was ruled by Poland, and such (and, as you already know, shortened to a more English-sounding Lebow in the USA).


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