Global True Lithuania Lithuanian communities and heritage worldwide

Connecticut

Connecticut is a small state and although the number of Lithuanians is only ~33 000, this means 1% of the entire population (the largest share among US states).

Connecticut has been an old colony and its Lithuanian community is also old. Lithuanian churches tower among historic townhouses where families likely once lived with their servants. These churches are massive; built in various revival styles in 1900-1930 period, they look as if teleported from a Lithuanian countryside. The size makes you think they have been constructed for an entire town of tens of thousands rather than a single minority. They are surrounded by equally old parish houses and Lithuanian schools. Interestingly, these were established at roughly the same time as the first Lithuanian schools in Lithuania itself where Lithuanian language has been banned by the ruling Russian Empire until 1904 (something that surely played a role in increasing emigration to the USA).

Lithuanian churches in Connecticut

After the massive "First wave of immigration" Lithuanians ceased to enter Connecticut. Small towns famous for their Autumn leafs were not as attractive as Chicago or New York. Perhaps this has saved the old churches: they haven't been rebuilt into modern-yet-less-appealing ones. Out of the six Lithuanian churches ever built in Connecticut, four are still open, four have just recently been officially Lithuanian and three even had Lithuanian mass until some 2015 despite the community being third or fourth generation already. It's very different from Chicagoland where merely four churches survive out of fourteen, even though the number of Lithuanians is twice that big. Perhaps a more compact provincial life helped Lituanity to survive longer.

The city with most Lithuanians is Waterbury (2 500 out of 100 000). It has an entire Lithuanian district with a large red St. Joseph church with a traditional wooden "roof-post" in front (a form of ethnic art) and great stained glass windows with Lithuanian inscriptions inside. First Lithuanian mass has been celebrated in Waterbury in 1894 (also the first in Connecticut). The church built in 1904-1905, the oldest in Connecticut. Beyond it stands an elaborate school building (1925), now closed and crumbling but still having Vytis in front. The nearby street once had 3 Lithuanian clubs popularly named after the streetnumbers of their houses: one leftist, one nationalist, and one Catholic (Vyčiai). Only the last one is still open, as the leftist one long closed (as the Soviet persecutions in Lithuania made the socialism less popular) and the nationalist one burned down.

Waterbury also has a Lithuanian cemetery, the only one in Connecticut. Established by the atheists (there is even a gravestone with hammer and sickle) it was later blessed and used by the Catholics as well. Clubhouse of the burned-down club stands at the cemtery entrance.

St. Joseph school bears a Lithuanian coat of arms over the entrance and is surrounded by may sculptures. Google Street View.

Lituanity still exists in the state capital Hartford (pop. 124 000). Red gothic revival Holy Trinity church slightly reminds in its form of old French cathedrals. A nearby old house is a parish home; both US and Lithuanian flags are waving in front of it. The land has been purchased in 1900, the church constructed 1915-1928; parish school was open until 1964.

Holy Trinity church and rectory in Hartford. Google Street View.

Romance revival New Britain St. Andrew Lithuanian church (396 Church street) dates to 1911, a recreation center is nearby. The interior of the church is especially pretty, as it was constructed to be a visual church that could show often ilitterate Lithuanians of the early 20th century the stories of the Bible. The church is, however, locked outside of the mass and it is likely condemned to close in the upcoming years, the parish relocating to a much smaller and simpler church that looks like a house. On a large parking on the opposite side of the street from the ST. Andrew church stands a Lithuanian traditional wooden chapel-post surrounded by Lithuanian and US flags, illuminated at night.

St. Andrew Lithuanian church and the parking monument. Google Street View.

White towers of the St. Anthony church of Ansonia (199 North Main Street) were started in 1912 without a bishop permit (the bishop sought to unify Lithuanians into a non-Lithuanian parish). In 1915 permit has been granted by Vatican itself where the Lithuanians appealed; teh church opened the same year. This shows just how much Lithuanians of the era wanted their own parishes which were important for their self-expression and preservation of culture. Unfortunately, the church was closed in 2015, becoming an Abundant Life church. A Lithuanian monument adorned by the columns of Gediminas still stands in the yard.

St. Anthony Lithuanian church in Ansonia. Google Street View.

New Haven St. Casimir church has been closed in 2005 and transformed into apartments. Quality reconstruction preserved the front facade (even the crosses) but the massive gable has been transformed by adding rooms on the sides. Nothing visibly Lithuanian remains there.

Bridgeport St. George church is still operating and, in fact, open most of the time. Inside, one could see more Lithuanina details than in many churches of Lithuania, including Lithuanian inscriptions about benefactors incorportated into the stained glass windows, a Lithuanian chapel-post, Lithuanian words on the altar. All this despite the fact that the church is now mostly Hispanic. The Hispanic immigrants that came to the area and the remnants of Lithuanian community are on good terms, however, and the Lithuanian mass is celebrated once monthly.

New Haven St. Casimir church after reconstruction into apartments. Look for the roof windows. Google Street View.

Putnam monastery - Lithuania outside Lithuania

Putnam town in eastern Connecticut is famous for its Lithuanian monastery (nunnery) of Immaculate conception. The surrounding lawn hosts annual Lithuanian festivals attracting thousands of Lithuanians. It includes a romantic model of Lithuanian castle, a monument to Šiluva Maryan vision, a cemetery, and other symbols. The monastery has been established in 1936 as a dependency of Lithuanian monastery (which has been closed down by the occupying Soviets in 1940, leading to independence of the Putnam monastery). The monastery building includes a LithuanianAmerican cultural archive (with a library and art museum). The things from Lithuanian pavilion of EXPO 1939 New York has been moved here: busts of King Midaugas and President Anatnas Smetona, sculptures "Grand Duke Vytautas" and "Lithuania", paintings of Napoleon in Vilnius, Vytautas after Žalgiris battle, establishment of Vilnius university, a model of Gediminas castle tower of Vilnius. It breathes the interwar atmosphere and also has contemporary maps and other things necessary to teach the Americans of 1939 something about Lithuania, a country most of them would have never been able to visit. The monastery also includes J. Matulaitis pensioner's home and a summer camp "Neringa".

The nuns of this monastery published a "Siberian book of prayers" in 1959. This book by Adelė Dirsytė was written after her exile to cold and dreary Siberia by the Soviet occupational regime for her disapproval of communism. She wrote her hopes and prayers onto a manuscript in 1953 but only by 1959 could it go beyond the Iron Curtain (the author deceased in 1955 unable to withstand the harsh conditions after being moved to a lager). The prayer book has been a major success, it had been translated into many languages (even Chinese), had a massive circulation (450 000 Dutch books alone) and many issues (5 times issued in Germany), helping the world to learn about both the tragedy and determination of the Lithuanian nation. This is likely the most widely published Lithuanian book.

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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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