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Rhode Island

Rhode Island is the smallest US state. Providence is its only conurbation. Like other New England cities, it has a Lithuanian community. Until being closed down in 2017, St. Casimir church was its hub. Unlike in the other neighboring states, there were never any more Lithuanian churches in Rhode Island and this one continued to celebrate mass in Lithuanian language until its closure. ~3500 Lithuanians live in Rhode Island today, no longer concentrated in any single district. Lithuanian social clubs have been closed.

Providence St. Casimir Lithuanian church

Providence St. Casimir Lithuanian church

Next to St. Casimir church stands a memorial to the Lithuanians that commemorates all the groups of Lithuanian people the Providence Lithuanians though to be especially worthy of commemoration. Like many Lithuanian memorials in the USA, it is dedicated to "Lithuanians who fought and died for freedom and those who perished in labor and concentration camps during 50 years of Lithuania's occupation". It is also dedicated to the 5 Lithuanian men from the parish who perished while fighting for the USA in World War 2. And it is dedicated to "Lithuanian Americans who built St. Casimir's church and endowed it with strong faith and rich traditions". The monumental stone is crowned by a traditional Lithuanian sun-cross, mering the Christian and pagan symbolics.

Providence Lithuanian memorial

Providence Lithuanian memorial

Despite a small Lithuanian community Rhode Island is unique for having Lithuanian independence day as an official holiday. The law § 25-2-28 "Lithuanian Independence Day" declares: "The sixteenth day of February shall annually be set aside as a day to be known as "Lithuanian Independence Day." The day is to be observed by the people of this state with appropriate exercises in public places".

 


Map of the Lithuanian sites

All the Lithuanian locations, described in this article, are marked on this interactive map, made by the "Destination - America" expedition (click the link):

Map of Rhode Island Lithuanian sites

 


Destination America 2017 expedition diary

Destination America map

We've left Connecticut to Rhode Island and reached its capital Providence after dark. During "Destination America 2017", we always lacked time. We used to get up before the dawn, and we used to go to sleep after midnight (only by then we completed all the works). Still, I have scheduled everything in such a way that we would visit only certain places outside of daytime - ones that are not needed to be visited during the day.

Unfortunately, the Providence Lithuanian church was among such places. It had been closed, so no way to get inside at any time. It had been closed this year. "You are late just by a couple of months", we were told by the Lithuanian sisters in Putnam. From the outside, St. Casimir church still looked as it did for nearly a century, and a memorial for Soviet-persecuted Lithuanians still stood at its front. The great numbers of such memorials were a surprise for us in the USA, as many of them were not described anywhere so far (neither online nor in books) - unlike, for example, Lithuanian churches. Therefore, we didn't know about many of these memorials (including the Providence one) in advance.

After taking pictures of everything we had a dinner in a regular fast food restaurant and went to spend a night in a motel. Of course, we wrote down our findings of the day beforehand (when you hear 10-20 stories every day, you'd simply forget them if you wouldn't write them down immediately). We also published some information on Facebook. Such was the more prosaic side of "Destination - America 2017". Next day another state was waiting for us - Massachusetts.

Augustinas Žemaitis, 2017 09 21.

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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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