Global True Lithuania Encyclopedia of Lithuanian heritage worldwide


History of the Lithuanian community in Canada is like a scaled-down version of the Lithuanian Americans history (today there are 47 000 Lithuanian Canadians). It also began later. The first Lithuanians came to Canada in some 1900 to work in Nova Scotia mines. The first ethnic parish was erected in 1913. Main immigration took place ater the Soviet occupation of Lithuania and like in the USA there was a post-1990 third wave. Most Lithuanian Canadians live in Ontario (~27 500) where there are numerous lively communities. Quebec Province, Alberta and British Columbia has between 4000 and 6000 each. The Maritimes still have ~1500 descendants of first Lithuanian immigrants but most are now of mixed heritage (less than 100 pure Lithuanians). Two Canadian towns - Wilno, Ontario and Vilna, Alberta - are named after Vilnius, the Lithuanian capital (Wilno is the Polish name of Vilnius while Vilna was the Russian name).

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Toronto, Ontario

Toronto has multiple large patriotically named Lithuanian hubs established by post-WW2 Lithuanian refugees. Fleeing the Soviet occupation they saw themselves as deportees rather than migrants and devoted their lives to rebuild a part of Lithuania on Canadian soil. Most Toronto Lithuanian heritage dates to 1950s-1970s and is an interesting testament to that occupation diaspora culture. Toronto Lithuanian community and its heritage are the largest in Canada.

The Mississauga suburb has a major Lithuanian center Anapilis (2185 Stavebank Rd.) which surrounds a modernist Lithuanian Martyrs Church and includes a Lithuanian museum. Constructed in 1974 it was the first church in the world to have this name which had a symbolic meaning while Lithuania was occupied: martyrs may also mean Lithuanians murdered by the Soviets for their beliefs. Lithuanian center in these areas is older: the local St. John Lithuanian cemetery had been opened in 1960. Besides the massive Lithuanian gravestones, it has a monument for those died in the name of Lithuanian Freedom and a chapel. Next to the church, the sole Lithuanian-Canadian newspaper "Tėvynės žiburiai" (Homeland lights) is located (published since 1949), car park for parish members. There are also three large halls for both Lithuanian and non-Lithuanian events and a Lithuanian-Canadian museum.

This was not the first church in Toronto as the first one (St. John the Baptist) has been established between the world wars (acquired from Presbyterians) but with the arrival of WW2 refugees it became far too small and is now closed.

Anapilis center is the largest Lithuanian hub in Canada and one of the largest in the world. However, Toronto area has another major Lithuanian hub near the W Brooke St and Keele Street crossroads. A Lithuanian House (1573 Bloor Street West) here houses a "Lokys" Lithuanian bar (serving Lithuanian beer), Lithuania's consulate general, Lithuanian banquet halls, Lithuanian credit union.

The old Lithuanian House (Club) in Toronto is clad in Lithuanian instiution names and also has Lithuanian and Canadian flags proudly waving. Google Street View.

A few blocks westwards a Lithuanian Lutheran Christ Redeemer church (1691 Bloor St W) stands, however, the Lithuanian parish has been closed down ~2017 as the parish became smaller (129 members in 2008, 92 in 2012). This church had been established in 1951 and looks like a smallish dark red home; the mass used to be held in both Lithuanian and English but only the English mass remains now.

Nearby high-rise Vilnius Manor (1700 Bloor Street West) has a Columns of Gediminas sign as it houses a Lithuanian old age home (Columns of Gediminas is an old symbol of the Lithuanian nation).

Vilnius Manor in Toronto. Google Street View.

A few blocks north from here near Glenlake Avenue there is a Lithuania Park. It has been named so in 1973 when there was a worldwide campaign by Lithuanian diaspora communities to set up Lithuania-related street names in their cities, this way reminding the world about the plight of occupied Lithuania. The park is taken care of by local Lithuanians. However, in 2013, the Toronto council received a petition by 130 persons to rename the park back to its previous Oakmount Park name.

Lithuania Park sign in Toronto. Google Street View.

Toronto area has one Lithuanian church elsewhere. Christ Ressurection church (1 Resurrection Road) is today surrounded by high-rise residential. It has been established in 1953 and, as it is common, formed the hub for a larger center of Lituanity with a hall and a credit union. Previously, the community used to have a church in central Toronto but the church was rebuilt in the suburbs after much of the community moved. The old church has been demolished. The current church has been constructed in 2001.

Christ Ressurection Lithuanian church in Toronto. Google Street View.

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Small town Ontario

In addition to Toronto after World War 2 Lithuanians also moved to small Ontario towns. Multiple such town have Lithuanian churches dating to ~1950s: somewhat modern, somewhat old in style appropriate for a time when the Lithuanian refugees were living with both the modern realities of Canada and their old traditions. A wooden corss or chapel-post stands in the yards to tell everyone that Lituanity has not been destroyedeven if there was no independent Lithuania at the time.

In Delhi the Lithuanians worked at tobacco plantations. In 1959 they used an opportunity to buy a small local church (as its parish moved into a larger building) thereby establishing St. Casimir church (41 Talbot Road).

St. Casimir Lithuanian church in Delhi with a traditional Lithuanian wooden cross. Google Street View.

Lithuanian Canadians loved church names related to Lithuania. A church named after St. Casimir (Lithuania's patron saint) also stands at Windsor (1043 Greendale Drive). London had an Our Lady of Šiluva church (1414 Dundas Street), destroyed ~2010.

Wasaga Beach is a small town but has many Lithuanians. ~1952 they were encouraged to buy summerhouses here by a Toronto priest Petras Ažubalis as this location reminded of Palanga (the Lithuania's prime seaside resort, then firmly behind the Iron curtain). Like the Baltic Sea nearby Lake Huron is so big that the other shore is invisible and the world's longest lakeside beach (14 km) reminded of the famous Palanga sandy shore. It was one of the rare times when Lithuanians moved in somewhere in an organized fashion. One summerhouse has converted in 1993 to a Good Shepherd church (2121 Mosley Street). It became needed as an increasing number of Lithuanians permanently left the major cities for their Wasaga Beach summer homes.

In St. Catherines near the famous Niagara Falls Lithuanian Franciscan monks, forced to flee their homeland by the Soviets, established their monastery and the Our Lady of Angels mission. The building has been sold in 2001 as the numbers of Lithuanians were declining, however, Lithuanians are still permitted to use it.

Hamilton city between Toronto and St. Catherines has an Our Lady of the Gate of Dawn church (58 Dundurn Street) established in 1948. It is named after the Virgin Mary painting that hangs on the final remaining gate of the Vilnius city.

Our Lady of the Gate of Dawn Lithuanian church in Hamilton witha traditional Lithuanian chapel-post in front of it. Google Street View.

Ontario also has a city named after the capital of Lithuania. However, it is "Wilno" rather than "Vilnius", "Wilno" being the Polish name of the city. This town has been established by Kashubians - a small ethnic group that lives near Gdansk. The nature here reminded them of their homeland - and it reminds of Lithuania as well. The settlers were led by Ludwik Dembski who had been born in Vilnius. Being too modest to name the town after himself he named it after his city of birth instead. Wilno has numerous crosses around it and also hosts the Canada's oldest Polish parish (est. 1875, current church built in 1937).

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Montreal, Quebec

Canada's second largest city Montreal attracted many Lithuanian refugees after World War 2. They have constructed patriotically-named churches that remain community hubs even today, making Montreal the world's only Francophone city to have sizeable Lithuanian heritage.

Tall spire of St. Casimir Lithuanian church rises above an old townhouse district (address: 3426 Parthenais). The parish is 100 year old however the church is more modern, having been expanded after the post-WW2 influx of Lithuanian refugees.

St. Casimir Lithuanian church in Montreal. Google Street View.

Southern Montreal (1465 Rue de Seve) hosts the mid-20th century Our Lady of Vilnius church. It is towerless, of rectangular proportions and a Lithuanian credit union is nearby. The church interior has Three Crosses (a copy of the famous Vilnius monument) behind its altar.

Our Lady of Vilnius church in Montreal. Google Street View.

Like elsewhere in Canada first Lithuanians settled in Quebec after USA curbed migration before World War 1. However their numbers extremely swelled after Lithuania was occupied by the Soviet Union and refugees fled to the West, including Canada. Protests for the Lithuanian independence became regular events. Lithuanians achieved that one street of terrace homes in Montreal LaSalle district would be renamed after Lithuania (Rue Lithuania).

Rue Lithuania in Montreal. Google Street View.

Canada is a bilingual state: most of its provinces are English-speaking (former colonies of England). However Quebec (where Montreal is located) has been initially a French colony and has French as official language. Sings on the Lithuanian churches are thus bilingual (Lithuanian and French) and Montreal Lithuanians are the only sizeable Lithuanian community in a French-speaking land (most Lithuanian diaspora is in English, Spanish or Portuguese speaking areas). However the majority of Montreal Lithuanians speak better English than French, Montreal Lithuanian website is also available in just Lithuanian and English. After all, English itself is the second language to older Lithuanians, making French more difficult to master well. Moreover, Englush is moree important in Canada (and North America) as a whole.

After the increase of separatist ideas in Quebec which led to increased requirements to speak French in many jobs some of the Montreal Lithuanians migrated to Ontario.

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Alberta (Canada)

The Lithuanian Home in Alberta's capital city Edmonton (83 Street Northwest) is a small building in a district of single-floored single-family homes. This was the maximum what a small local Lithuanian community could have acquired and the small space is well used: the house includes a chapel (that replaces the otherwise usual Lithuanian church for which there were no funds). The outside is covered by the columns of Gediminas, ethnic ornamentation.

Lithuanian Home in Edmonton, Alberta. Google Street View.

Alberta also has a village (pop. ~250) Vilna named after the Lithuania's capital city Vilnius. The settlement has been established in 1907 when Vilnius was ruled by the Russian Empire and the contemporary Russian name of the city was "Vilna". As Russian has been the official language of the entire Empire this was the name that the city appeared as on maps worldwide and so it was also chosen by mostly Eastern European Alberta settlers. By the way even today in a few languages Vilnius city is still officially known as "Vilna" (Finnish, Spanish, Tagalog and Latin; Latvians call the city Viļņa). In those languages Vilna in Alberta and Vilnius in Lithuania are still homonymous.

Entering Vilna (Vilnius) of Alberta. Google Street View.

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Map of Lithuanian heritage in eastern Midwest

Map of the Lithuanian heritage in eastern Midwest (Michigan, Ohio) and western Ontario.

More info on Lithuanian heritage in Ohio, Michigan, Ontario.

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Map of Lithuanian heritage in Mid-Atlantic

Map of the Lithuanian heritage in Mid-Atlantic (New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, DC) and western Ontario.

More info on Lithuanian heritage in Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Washington, DC, Ontario.

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Map of Lithuanian heritage in New England

Map of the Lithuanian heritage in New England (Connectictut, Massachusetts, Maine, Rhode Island, New Hampshire) and Quebec.

More info on Lithuanian heritage in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire,
Rhode Island, Quebec.

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