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Toronto, Ontario

Toronto has multpile 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 lifes 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 is the largest in Canada.

The Mississauga suburb has a major Lithuanian center Anapilis (2185 Stavebank Rd.) which surrounds a modernist Lithuanian Martyrs Church. Constructed in 1974 it was the first church in the world to have this name which had a symbollic 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 cemetary had been opened in 1960. Beside 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 in 1935 (acquired from presbyterians) but with the arrival of WW2 refugges 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), however, its parish gets smaller (129 members in 2008, 92 in 2012). This church has been established in 1951 and looks as a smallish dark red home; the mass is both in Lithuanian and English.

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 streetnames 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 residentials. 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.

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 has an Our Lady of Šiluva church (1414 Dundas Street East).

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 invisble 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), making it so far the last Lithuanian church to be established outside Lithuania-proper. 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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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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