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Adelaide, South Australia

Adelaide city arguably hosts the richest Lithuanian heritage in Australia. It was created by a large Lithuanian community which arrived to South Australia ~1950, fleeing the brutal Soviet occupation of their home country.

Adelaide Lithuanian Catholic Church and Center

Adelaide has the only Lithuanian church in Australia (opened 1959). Lithuanian churches were considered a necessity for deeply religious Lithuanian diaspora communities. However, elsewhere in Australia Lithuanians were precluded from opening them as the official policy was to promote assimilation through immigrants joining English parishes. That said, Adelaide Lithuanians attracted more sympathy from the local bishop Matthew Beovich, himself of an Eastern European background.

Adelaide Lithuanian church is part of a larger Lithuanian Catholic Center. The two-floored brick building has been constructed ~1890 for a Hardwicke College for girls. After Australia accepted Lithuanian refugees ~1948 and they completed the initial mandatory years of labor, many have moved into cities like Adelaide and sought to acquire buildings for community affairs. By then Hardwicke College was in dire straits, thus sold its own building to Lithuanians.

Adelaide Lithuanian church and Lithuanian Catholic Center. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

In addition to the main church hall, the Lithuanian Catholic Center includes a meeting hall, a library, and other institutions common to Lithuanian-Australian clubs. Some of the premises are rented out. The courtyard is adorned by a monument to Lithuania (which includes a traditional "sad Jesus" sculpture known as Rūpintojėlis and Lithuanian coat of arms Vytis; erected 1962), Mission cross (originally constructed in 1959 at a summer camp the Lithuanian church owned in Christies Beach). The building facade includes a cross to commemorate victims of the January 13 massacre (when Russian soldiers murdered Lithuanian civilians in Vilnius) and a bas-relief to Saint Casimir, the patron saint of Lithuania (created 1984). History of the building (including its "Lithuanian period") is described on a freestanding plaque near the lot (such historical plaques are common in Adelaide).

Monuments at the yard and facade of Adelaide Lithuanian church. Left to right: the monument to Lithuania, Mission cross, St. Casimir bas-relief. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Adelaide Lithuanian House and Museum

Adelaide is also the only Australian city to have more than a single Lithuanian center. The second center, known as Adelaide Lithuanian House has been created in 1957 by Lithuanians who preferred secular control over secular ethnic affairs. While nearly all Lithuanians who fled the Soviet occupation were Roman Catholics, they had varying opinions on how much religious and secular affairs should be intermingled.

The Lithuanian House consists of several single-floored buildings. They include a Lithuanian museum (established in 1967 by J. K. Vanagas), open by appointment.

Inside the Adelaide Lithuanian museum. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

The museum exhibits include:
*Things that Lithuanian refugees took with them when fleeing Lithuania. These include Lithuanian mementos such as interwar military uniforms, folk costumes and even a rod previously owned by the president of Lithuania Antanas Smetona.
*Historical documents of Lithuanian Australians, such as the refugee cards.
*Art (paintings, sculptures) created by Lithuanian Australians. As artists and other intellectuals were among prime targets of Soviet discrimination, many good artists left for Australia, continuing their work there. Much of the art present in Lithuanian House is related to historical moments of Lithuania and incorporates Lithuanian symbols.
*General information about Lithuania and Lithuanians.
*Images from Lithuania and the life of Adelaide Lithuanians.

The art created by Lithuanian Australians in Lithuanian house and museum of Adelaide. Pictured by Augustinas Žemaitis. The author of left painting - Stasys Neliubšys, right painting - Vytas Šerelis.

Adelaide Lithuanian House also has a large meeting hall, bar (open on Sundays), library and other premises, most of them decorated with Lithuanian art and details, such as coats of arms of Lithuanian cities. The yard includes two monuments: a stone memorial to those who died defending Lithuanian freedom as well as a wooden roof-post (a popular form of Lithuanian folk art). The building itself was formerly a methodist church.

Paminklai Monuments in the yard of Lithuanian House in Adelaide. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Lithuanian exhibits at Adelaide Migration Museum

South Australia is the sole Australian state to have been settled only by free migrants rather than convicts. In the 19th century already people of many nationalities were attracted to Adelaide area by a promise for a religious freedom (which the Europe lacked at the time). The number of nationalities continued to increase in the 20th century. Due to a such multicultural history, the Migration museum was established in Adelaide in 1986. The museum includes many exhibits related to Lithuanians of Australia.

The Soviet refugee period is represented in Adelaide migration museum by a Lithuanian folk costume and amber beads once owned by Stasė Pocevičius. Image ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

At the museum's entrance, there are numerous memorial plaques commemorating the largely sad reasons for significant parts of various nations migrating to Australia. Lithuanians, Latvians, and Estonians have a common plaque commemorating the Soviet genocide.

Memorial plaque for the mass murders and expulsions of Lithuanians, Latvians and Estonians hangs between other similar plaques commemorating Serbians and Poles persecuted by the communist and nationalsocialist regimes (as a result, these two nations also have many migrants to Adelaide). ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

The Migration Museum also hosts temporary exhibitions, typically each of them created by a particular ethnicity (and dedicated to its culture). A public book lists all the former exhibitions, four of them organized by Lithuanians (topics: Lithuanian bookplates (1989-1990), Lithuanians alive (1990), Lithuanian festivals in Adelaide 1950-2002 (2002-2003), Lithuanian folk art). Latvians and Estonians also held a similar number of events. In general, the stories of peoples who migrated for political rather than economic reasons tend to be better represented in the museum (likely because "forced migrants" are more keen on celebrating the culture they lost).

Excerpt from the list of temporary exhibitions details the 2002 exhibition on Adelaide Lithuanian festivals. Picture ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

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