Global True Lithuania Lithuanian communities and heritage worldwide

Western Europe

Note: This includes areas that were not behind the Iron Curtain in the Cold War. For formerly socialist Europe, see Europe (East).

Western Europe is the prime magnet for Lithuanian migration today as the European Union regulations permit any Lithuanian to freely take a job in these richer societies. The largest Lithuanian populations are in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Norway and Spain.

While most of Lithuanians there are new immigrants (moved in after 1990 or more likely after 2004) the main Western European countries and cities drew Lithuanian elite and students (also some workers) for centuries. You may find such heritage in Rome (for centuries the center of the Catholic faith, dominant in Lithuania), Germany, London, Paris.

The modern communities are lively and they own Lithuanian restaurants and shops where you can buy Lithuanian goods (for a larger market they are frequently shared with other Eastern European communities). There are basketball clubs and federations. As under the Soviet atheist regime Lithuania became less religious Lithuanian churches are no longer constructed although the Lithuanian Catholic mass is celebrated in the local churches in the main cities.

There are also many political and cultural activities promoted by Lithuania itself in Western Europe, from M.K. Čiurlionis music concerts to Baltic Way photography expositions. Lithuania maintains embassies in most Western European countries. Being part of European Union, Council of Europe and United Nations many Lithuanians work in these institutions or represent Lithuania there. Some of the main headquarters of these international organizations are in Brussels, Strasbourg, Luxembourg and Geneva. Lithuanian flag waves at such buildings along with the flags of other member states, while special Lithuanian embassies are allocated to such organizations.

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United Kingdom

The United Kingdom with its robust economy and official English language became a magnet for Lithuanian migrants after 2004 when Lithuania joined the European Union. Some 100 000 Lithuanians left their homeland for the UK - more than ever to any single country except for the pre-WW1 migration to the USA.

However, unlike the Lithuanian-Americans, the Lithuanians of the UK are not building massive Lithuanian schools and churches - for now at least. However, there is Lithuanian heritage in the UK: it has been created by much smaller groups of 1880s-1950s emigrants who chose what was then British Empire over the USA for their new lives (such a migration was cheaper). Back in Lithuania (then ruled by the Russian Empire) ethnic Lithuanians faced discrimination, had their language banned, lacked any industrial jobs, while males could have been conscripted for many years.

Exact figures of Lithuanians are hard to get as the British census asks for broad racial categories rather than ethnicities (Lithuanians are among "Other Whites").

Lithuanian heritage in London and its suburbs

Most of the UK Lithuanians live in the capital London (40 000 - 80 000) where they make up ~0,5% of the population. There is no Lithuanian neighborhood there, however, although the traditionally poor East London has somewhat larger Lithuanian populations. The Lithuanian St. Casimir church is also located there, having been constructed by pre-WW1 immigrants in 1912. New Lithuanian migration saved it as a viable parish. London also has a historical Lithuanian cemetery where (among others) some famous interwar Lithuanian diplomats are buried (Soviets did not permit them back home). Today however Lithuanians are buried in all cemeteries.

The Lithuanian parish of London owns a farmstead-hotel in Headley Park suburb since 1955 (Guildford GU35 8TE). Lithuanian holidays are held here, with Pentecost being the most important.

Lithuanian heritage in Scotland

Prior to the World War 1 some 8 000 Lithuanians lived in Scotland. Most of the adult males worked in the coal mines of North Lanarkshire near Glasgow. The Mossend district of Bellshill town there still has a Lithuanian Social Club (79A Calder Road). Since 1904 the nearby Holy Family church has Lithuanian mass. Lithuanian priests (especially Gutauskas) who once made this possible have a cross and a monument dedicated to them. Pre-WW1 Lithuanians sought to build their own church like their brethren in the USA were doing. However, the UK of the era was far less tolerant and the local bishop prevented establishing ethnic churches. Bothwell cemetery still has Lithuanian graves that look very British: with long descriptions of birth and death dates, additional information. The areas top pilgrimage site, the Carfin grotto, has a Lithuanian inscription in addition to other languages.

Lithuanian shrine and cross in Scotland. ©Paul Lucas.

Unfortunately, the pre-WW1 Lithuanian community in Scotland had a rather terrible fate. There was still no independent Lithuania therefore, as BBC notes, Lithuanians were "Russians" to the government and "Poles" to most Scots. The founder of Labour Party Keir Hardie denounced the import of these "Poles from Russia" (i.e. Lithuanians). In 1917 Britain signed a deal with Russia forcing the Scotland's Lithuanian males to serve the Russian army. ~1200 have been sent away, some found Russian Empire already collapsed, but few were able or wanted to return to Scotland. As Lithuania gained its independence in 1918 some established their lives there, others perished. The diminished Lithuanian community in Scotland has been somewhat rejuvenated ~1950 by refugees from Soviet-occupied Lithuania. Like elsewhere in the UK post-2004 migrants now form the majority of Lithuanians in Scotland.

Lithuanian Social Club in Mossend. Google Street View.

Among the pre-WW1 Lithuanians in Scotland was the infamous communist Vincas Mickevičius Kapsukas. Having failed to promote communism in Lithuania ~1918 he was accepted into the "Soviet pantheon" after the Soviet Union occupied Lithuania (1940) and even had a town named after him there in 1955 (which the local people voted to rename back to Marijampolė immediately after the democracy returned ~1989).

Lithuania-related places elsewhere in Britain

Other British locations never had Lithuanian communities large enough to leave massive heritage. The actions of modern Lithuanian emigrants are not yet visible in stone. Such a massive community made it possible to establish commercially viable Lithuanian Sunday schools, a small shop chain "Lituanica". However "Lituanica" stores also have Polish and Russian adverts and sell various Eastern European goods. When there are no Lithuanian neighborhoods with a concentrated Lithuanian market such multi-ethnic orientation is a necessity for a profitable business. Lithuanian shops, stores, bars, and schools are all operating in rented premises, Lithuanian mass is held in non-Lithuanian churches. Should this continue it is likely that after the Lituanity will start its inevitable decline (Lithuanian kids born in Britain are already assimilating) and the institutions will start closing down this massive community will leave little heritage.

Lituanica store under a railroad in Birmingham. Google Street View.

British laws aren't especially convenient for Lithuanians. Lithuanian is not allowed as a medium-of-instruction at schools (except for special Sunday schools). Discrimination of Lithuanians and other Eastern Europeans isn't regarded as seriously as discrimination of, for example, Black immigrants. There is also less government support for Eastern European minorities culture.

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London, England, United Kingdom

London houses the largest ethnic Lithuanian population outside the Republic of Lithuania numbering 40 000 - 80 000 (0,5% - 1% of all Londoners). Most of them immigrated after 1990 (independence restoration of Lithuania) and especially after 2004 (Lithuania's accession to the European Union).

Lithuanian community in London is, however, much older than most other immigrant groups there. Oldest building associated to it is the St. Casimir Roman Catholic church built in 1912. Somewhat reminiscent of a multi-storey building the church is smaller than the Lithuanian American churches of the era as the majority of emigrants used to leave for America at the time. Still, the docks and factories of what was the world's largest city between 1825 and 1925 attracted some Lithuanians. The church is in East End (Bethnal Green) where immigrant communities used to settle and still settle (now the area is more populated by people from Africa and Indian Subcontinent).

St. Casimir Lithuanian church in Bethnal Green. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

In 1955 the parish acquired a large countryside house southwest of London (Guildford GU35 8TE). Now known as Headley Park Hotel this location still celebrates Lithuanian holidays the traditional way (especially the Pentecost).

Since 1963 London has a Lithuanian cemetery or, more correctly, a Lithuanian zone in the old St. Patrick Roman Catholic cemetery (Langthorne Road, Leytonstone). Some 200 Lithuanians have been buried there including ambassadors to Great Britain Bronius Balutis and Vincas Balickas whose bodies were precluded from repatriation by the Soviet occupation of Lithuania. Today Lithuanians are buried in various London cemeteries, however (and in St. Patrick's outside the Lithuanian sector).

Modern Lithuanian community has not built any buildings or monuments but founded numerous live institutions. Multiple newspapers and magazines circulate (largest newspaper is the weekly "Tiesa" which may be found free of charge in central London). There are Lithuanian shops, restaurants (sometimes shared with other Eastern European communities). The language is taught at Saturday schools while Lithuanian newspapers are full of adverts for Lithuanian legal offices, dentistry, and other services. There are also Lithuanian clubs such as the London City Lithuanian Club dedicated to Lithuanians working in London's financial heart. In addition to the old Catholic parish, a new Lithuanian Christian church was established meeting at Methodist premises.

Lithuanian restaurant Smiltė in northeastern London suburbs. Google Street View.

Basketball (Lithuania's national sport which is dubbed "second religion") is also well represented. British-Lithuanian Basketball League (BLKL) was established in 2007 in East London. Now it has some 20 teams (some named after Lithuanian cities and famous professional teams) and multiple sponsors. All games are played in an arena at Dagenham Parsloes Avenue RM9 5QT, tickets are not free. Among the reasons to establish their own league was the ban on loud fans in British leagues. In Britain football is where the most active fans go while Lithuanians typically enjoy basketball the same way: with chants, screams, painted faces and even drums. Brits, however, view basketball differently (some Lithuanian fans who were arrested in 2012 London Olympics for loud chants learned this the hard way).

While the number of London Lithuanians increased greatly after 2004 the participants in official Lithuanian community did not increase. The new immigrants of diverse groups (temporary students, permanent blue collar and white collar employees) typically integrate more thoroughly into London society as a whole, speaking good English. Some of them do not feel such loyalty to the Lithuanian nation as the earlier immigrants feel.

United Kingdom census of 2011 revealed that most Lithuania-born people live in East London: 8348 in the borough of Newham (where they comprise 2,7% of total population), 4028 in Barking and Dangenham (2,2%), 3500 in Waltham Forest (1,3%), 2827 in Redbridge (1%), 1979 in Greenwich (0,8%), 1332 in Lewisham (0,5%). Total number for London was 39 817 (0,5%). Even the British local councils, however, doubt these statistics and believe that the true number of Lithuanians may be twice as large; among the reasons of underrepresentation is the pressure of landlords on immigrants not to complete census forms. Additionally, the census counted place of birth rather than ethnicity so it includes Lithuania-born Russians and Poles but excludes ethnic Lithuanians born abroad.

Thanks to the large emigrant community London is the most easily reached foreign city from Lithuanian airports. There are 5 to 7 daily services by planes of some 180 seats. They are operated by low-cost carriers offering return tickets for prices less than 100 Pounds. Coupled with a flight time of under 3 hours it is common for London Lithuanians to frequently visit their original homeland. They do that during vacations and major holidays as well as for medical, cosmetical, spa and similar services (such services are much cheaper and sometimes of better quality in Lithuania).

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Rome, Italy

Rome has been the center of Catholic world for 2000 years. In the Middle Ages, this also meant a political heart of Europe. With the Christianization of Lithuania (13th-15th centuries) the Grand Dukes of Lithuania participated in many then-important deliberations: possible Catholic-Orthodox union, wars against Ottomans. Rome's importance continued throughout the 20th century when Vatican refused to recognize the Soviet occupation of Lithuania (1940-1990) and the church supported Lithuanians' plight for freedom.

In 1970 when the Soviet military might and human rights abuses made it hard to even dream about free Lithuania the Vatican opened a Lithuanian chapel in its famous St. Peter Basilica (the most important Catholic church in the world). Our Lady of the Gate of Dawn proudly hangs behind its altar (a copy of a sacred painting that is the religious heart of Vilnius), giving its name to the chapel (which is also known as Lithuanian Martyrs chapel). Walls are decorated in bas-reliefs of Lithuanian rulers, bishops, martyrs, saints, first Lithuanian churches and patriotic symbols, all created by Lithuanian-American sculptor V. Jonynas. Large Rūpintojėlis (a traditional Lithuanian figure of a sad God) by Italian Alcide Ticò fails to fully adhere to the convention. Travertine stone is used for all decor akin to the Roman catacombs where early Christians used to hide from Imperial persecutions (events that were a 1700-year-old history in Rome but a modern truth in Lithuania where Soviets led a major anti-Christian drive which included murdering the religious).

Consecration of the chapel was attended by 500 Lithuanians - all of them emigrants (from North and South America, Western Europe, Australia and Africa) as the Soviet occupational regime forbade most Lithuanians from traveling to the Western world. The idea of Lithuanian chapel was therefore developed by the emigrants and they were a prime source of pilgrimages to the chapel for the upcoming 20 years. After Lithuanian independence (1990) Lithuanian citizens were quick to discover the Eternal City and this chapel (~1995 the first Lithuanian language guidebook to be published about a Western location had Rome as its topic). Popes pray at the Lithuanian chapel as well - it was one of the first locations where the Polish pope John Paul II prayed after being elected.

Beautiful Villa Lituania is another building in Rome that is closely related to the Soviet occupation of Lithuania. It is commonly referred to as the "Final occupied territory of Lithuania". This estate at Via Nomentana 116 which includes a 90 are park has been bought by Lithuania in 1937 (for 3 million liras) to serve as an embassy. However in 1945 Italy illegally transferred the building to the Soviets under Soviet pressure. Russian diplomats still use the building. Italian government recognize the illegality of its predecessor's actions but could not offer a restitution instead suggesting some alternative proposals (a cheap lease of a derelict building further away from downtown) that were not acceptable to the Lithuanian side.

Diplomats at Villa Lituania. The building, surrounded by a park, still exists although trees largely cover it from the street. Historical image.

Villa Lituania is also a name of a Catholic guest house (Piazza Asti 25). Its impressive historical towered facade is crowned by the Lithuanian coat of arms, its balustrades by crosses of Vytis. Administered by St. Casimir nuns, the institution helps Lithuanians to see the Pope while a local chapel celebrates the Lithuanian holy mass. The building also houses the Lithuanian St. Casimir College, the home to Lithuanian priests in Rome.

Villa Lituania palatial guest house in Rome. Google Street View.

Lithuanians work in other Catholic institutions as well. Radio Vatican offers some programming in the Lithuanian language.

Through the centuries of Christian Lithuania, the burial grounds of Eternal City had many famous Lithuanians interred. St. Lawrence (Verano) cemetery includes a chapel of St. Casimir Lithuanian College where these people lie: bishop Vincentas Podolskis, signatory of Lithuanian independence declaration priest Kazimieras Šaulys, leader of Lithuanian-Italian community priest Vincas Mincevičius, Lithuanian ambassador to the Holy See Stasys Girdvainis, chairman of the American Lithuanian charity fund Juozas Končius, Lithuanian Brazilian general vicar and vicerector of the St. Casimir Lithuanian college Zenonas Ignatavičius, priest Jonas Buikus, diacon Augustinas Lišauskas and nun Eulalia.

One of the most visited churches of Rome Chiesa del Gesù (the heart of the Jesuits) is also the final resting place of the first Lithuanian cardinal and a bishop of Vilnius Jurgis Radvila (epitaphy on the floor: "Cardinalis Radzivili Episcopi Cravoviensis Ducis Olicae Et Niesvisii" - "Cardinal Radvila, the Bishop of Cracow and Duke of Olyka and Nesvyžius"). In the peak of his career, he was one of the Europe's important elite and he died in the Eternal City in 1600. It is symbolic that this church is considered to be the first Baroque church in the world and Baroque would later have a major architectural impact over Vilnius. By the way, the second Baroque church in the world was built in Nesvyžius (modern-day Belarus), in a manor owned by Radvila family.

From these times until some 1930s nobles and priests used to be the Lithuanians who explored Rome the most. The first sizeable gentile community was formed in the 1940s when post-war refugees arrived at Rome. It soon established ties not just with Vatican but also with Italian Christian Democrats. Disregarding the protests of local far left activists the Christian Democrats supported Lithuanian independence. A relic of these times is a square in Rome named Piazza Lituania.

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Brussels, Belgium

Brussels, the capital of Belgium, is the center of two major international organizations: the European Union and NATO. Lithuania is a member of both organizations since 2004. The participation is threefold: Lithuanian politicians participate in the high institutions of these organizations as per their treaties, Lithuanian citizens also work in clerk and back office jobs, while the interests of Lithuania are additionally safeguarded by two diplomatic representative offices (equal to embassies in rank).

It is estimated that in total 10% (200 000) of Brussels population are expatriates with their work related to international organizations (their members, workers, journalists, advisors, etc. Lobbyists alone number 20 000). Furthermore, 50% of the population are immigrants with works not directly related to the international organizations.

Brussels capitalizes heavily on its "Capital of Europe" image. Various public places bear flagpoles with flags of every European Union member state, including Lithuanian. Words and placenames in various foreign languages (among them Lithuanian) are used for architectural decor in main locations. As this is created by workers who are not related to Lithuania anyhow mishaps happen, including upside-down flags and mistranslations into Lithuanian.

EU flags in a square in front of Brussels's Gare Du Midi railway station. Lithuanian tricolor (yellow-green-red) is hoisted upside down. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

The most popular Europe-related attraction in Brussels is the Mini-Europe theme park which contains 1:25 miniatures of some 350 famous buildings from 80 cities all over EU. Lithuania is represented by a miniature of Vilnius University renaissance campus. It stands next to the Latvian (Riga Freedom Statue) and Estonian (fragment of Tallinn fortification) miniatures. All three are linked by a chain of miniature "people" symbolizing the Baltic Way, a protest against the Soviet occupation which took place in 1989. On that day some 2 million people from all three countries (equalling to 36% of their total ethnic population at the time) joined hand-in-hand from Vilnius to Riga to Tallinn. This was the first such protest in the world and it was later emulated in places such as Taiwan and Israel but the sheer number and percentage of participants were never matched.

A miniature of Vilnius UNiversity at the Mini-Europe park. Baltic Way is visible in lower left of the image. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

You may also listen to the Lithuanian anthem at the Mini Europe park and read some interesting facts on Lithuania in itsWhile the older EU members have up to 10 miniatures in the Mini-Europe park each Lithuania is unlikely to get new miniatures as the park expanded to its territorial limits.

Lithuanian representative office to the European Union is located in a turn-of-the-century house at Rue Belliard 41-43. Also housing the Lithuanian embassy to Belgium this is one of the largest Lithuanian governmental real estate properties outside Lithuania.

Lithuanian embassy at European Union and Belgium. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Lithuanian representative office to NATO is located at the NATO HQ at Boulevard Leopold III en-route to the Brussels Zaventem international airport.

As per the European Union main treaties, Lithuania is also represented at the main institutions of the European Union. European Council and Council of European Union are the most important legislatures of the European Union where every country sends a single person (either minister or head of state) but they have unequal voting power based on the population of their countries. European Parliament, on the other hand, has a constant membership of elected members. 12 out of 785 members are elected in Lithuania. Lithuania also has 18 (out of 688) members of the Europe's Regional Committee and 9 (out of 344) of the Europe's Social Committee and has representation in smaller institutions. Politicians typically have their clerks and advisors. The job at European Parliament is popular among famous Lithuanian politicians who lost popularity or are controversial at home. Lithuanian media is not interested in the European institutions as much as the local politics and thus working in Brussels provides a shelter from unwanted attention.

The European Union also has its "government" known as the European Commission. It has 27 Commissioners, one from each country (including Lithuania), and these Commissioners each have their own portfolio and are obliged to serve the Union rather than their own countries.

As Lithuanian is one of the 23 official languages of the European Union the EU institutions also have their Lithuanian name written on their entrance plaques while many EU regulations and directives are translated into Lithuanian. This requires a strong - in the European Parliament alone there are at the busy times as many interpreters working as there are MPs (~750).

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Ireland

Ireland is the only country in the world where there lived more people 200 years ago than today. And the difference is rather large in 1840 the island had 8,2 million inhabitants while today it hosts merely 5,6 million. The Irish were forced out from their homeland by poverty and malnutrition.

Prior to World War 2 no Lithuanians would have even considered moving to Ireland which was at the time poorer than Lithuania. Sadly, the subsequent decades of Soviet occupation and genocide in Lithuania (1940-1990) changed all this and Ireland left Lithuania far behind economically. After 1990 Lithuanian independence and 2004 EU membership permitted easy migration tens of thousands chose the English-speaking Ireland to start hopefully richer lives there.

The young age of Lithuanian-Irish community means there are no imposing centuries-old Lithuanian halls, cemeteries or churches in Ireland (unlike the US megalopolises). Lithuanian mass is however celebrated weekly in Dublin at St. Andrew church (Westland Row 2), there are some Lithuanian shops and restaurants.

Lituanica store in Dublin, its name inspired by the doomed Lithuanian flight of 1933 that attempted to cross Atlantic. Google Street View.

Republic of Ireland census of 2011 revealed that there are 36 683 citizens of Lithuania living there (0,82% of total population) and 31 635 native speakers of Lithuanian (0,7%; the third linguistic minority in size after Polish and French). 10% of all Lithuanian emigrants today leave for Ireland.

Lithuanian citizens are quite evenly spread across the country. By the sheer numbers, most of them live in Dublin (10 576, 0,85% of Dubliners). Castleknock is the most Lithuanian district with ~10% of its population Lithuanian citizens.

There are daily plane services between Lithuanian and Irish cities but the frequencies have been decreasing. The financial crisis in Ireland itself may have attributed to this.

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Germany

Lithuanian-German relations have varied very much.

Germany had occupied Lithuania during the World War 2 (1941-1944) and taken thousands to forced labor in Germany. Ironically, after a couple of years, the same German cities became the main refuge for Lithuanians as Lithuania was occupied by an even more brutal force: the Soviet Union. ~100 000 fled westwards as they knew they would be in the Soviet killing lists for their ethnicity, religiousness and/or the past (e.g. having had an intellectual job or participated in Boy Scouts movement). ~65 000 of them ended up in West German refugee camps (other sources claims ~200 000), established by Western Allies. There were 113 of them, aimed to maintain a quality of life for refugees not worse than that of ethnic Germans.

However, the life of those who have just lost their homeland was still hard and their future seemed unknown. Yet even under these conditions Lithuanians swiftly organized. By 1948 there were 158 Lithuanian schools in Germany, of them 26 colleges and even a Baltic University. All of this has been temporary, in refugee camp conditions and so did not remain. ~1952 USA, Canada, Australia and other countries agreed to accept Lithuanian refugees and so most of them departed.

However, February 16th gymnasium remains of that era (Lorscher Str. 1, Lampertheim-Hüttenfeld). It is a Catholic Lithuanian high school located in Renhof castle surrounded by a 5 ha Romuva park (named after Lithuanian pagan shrines). In 1953 when other Lithuanian schools in Germany were swiftly losing pupils to emigration and closing down this place has been acquired by Lithuanian priests in order to open a school for those Lithuanian families that remained in Germany. The language of instruction is German (as required b German law) but the connection to Lituanity remains strong. As the school serves a community that is spread all across Germany most pupils live in local dormitories, constructed in 1972 and 1987. Currently, the schools serve well beyond the German borders, having attracted Lithuanians from South America and after 1990 even from then-liberated Lithuania itself.

Prior to the 19th century, there was no single Germany - its place used to be taken by many small statelets each with its own royal family. One of them, Saxony, played an important role in Lithuanian history by effectively creating a union with Poland-Lithuania in the 17th century. Saxon kings August II the Strong and Augustus III also served as the Grand Dukes of Lithuania.

To this day Saxonian cities (e.g. Seftenberg, Sebnitz, Uebigau) are adorned by elaborate mileposts of the era, each of them covered with a coat of arms of Lithuania-Poland-Saxony. This coat of arms includes two Lithuanian coats of arms (Vytis). Such mileposts were first erected in 1721 to mark the distances from market square or city/town gates to the neighboring cities/towns. ~200 out of ~300 remains.

The Catholic church of Dresden (capital of Saxony) has the heart of August II the Strong interred (the body is in Wawel Cathedral, Krakow). A Vytis may also be seen near the tomb.

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France

France is an important European country for over 1000 years. The symbols of Lithuania (in many cases those of the old Grand Duchy) that remain in France are witnesses that it was well traversed by Lithuanian nobility.

Various Nancy city buildings (among them the Palace of Dukes of Lorraine and the City Hall) bear crosses of Vytis.

Vytis is there as a part of the Polish-Lithuanian united coat of arms. The Palace of Dukes of Lorraine was once used by Stanisław Leszczyński (Lithuanian: Stanislovas Leščinskis), famous for being the King of Poland and Grand Duke of Lithuania. During his two brief reigns (1704-1709 and 1733-1736) this French- and Swedish- supported king had many enemies (Russians, Austrians) which forced him to abdicate.

In that era defeated noble statesmen used to get statelets to rule. Leszczyński received Duchy of Lorraine (established precisely for him) from the French. This country consisted of Nancy city and its hinterland. Leszczyński served as its duke until his death in 1766, after which the territory was returned to France (as had been planned initially). During his reign there Leszczyński put Polish and Lithuanian symbols in many localities of the Duchy's capital city Nancy. The UNESCO-inscribed central square is still named after him (Stanislau) and has his statue.

Statue of Grand Duke of Lithuania and King of Poland Stanislovas Leščinskis / Stanisław Leszczyński in the Nancy main square. Google Street View.

Back in the 19th century, the French Capital Paris was among world's largest cities (3rd-6th by population) whereas the then-recent Great French Revolution allowed a proliferation of anti-government ideas there. Among those that made use of such "revolutionary megalopolis" were Lithuanians who (together with Poles) sought independence from the Russian Empire.

Some traces of the era are still left in Paris. There is Our Lady of Vilnius painting in St. Severin church (Latin district), put there by Andrius Tovianskis (Polish: Andrzej Towiański), a messianist religious leader. Tovianskis (and many other Lithuanians) fled to Paris from Russian Imperial repressions that followed the failed 1831 Polish-Lithuanian uprising. Those mutineers were mostly Lithuanian nobility which at the time used primarily Polish language for public speeches and publications. However the (Cross of) Vytis, Lithuania and Vilnius were equally dear to all Lithuanians, irrespective of the primary tongue used.

In the church of Parisian suburb of Montmorecy, another such refugee/expellee Adomas Čartoryskis (Adam Czartoryski) put a Vytis with Columns of Gediminas symbol and a Ducal crown.

The most famous refugee writer Adomas Mickevičius (Adam Mickiewicz) did not leave anything material in Paris. However, his literary works (such as the famous quote "Fatherland Lithuania, thee are dearer than health") inspired the future generations to erect something that would remind him. In 1929 the newly independent Poland gifted France a Mickiewicz monument (which now stands east of Place de l'Alma, also covered with the images from his literary Works). In the French-Polish library, a small Mickiewicz museum is available.

Statue of Adomas Mickevičius / Adam Mickiewicz in Central Paris. Google Street View.

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Switzerland

The importance of Switzerland to Lithuania peaked in 1880s-1930s. Main political decisions that shaped the contemporary Republic of Lithuania were made here while Lithuanian elite were frequent guests in the country.

With the 1890s advent of traveling and popular belief in the health-restoring powers of mountain air Lithuanians (mainly rich and/or famous) started to visit Switzerland. Maironis (Lithuania's most famous poet and national revival ideologist) spent time in Lucerne healing tuberculosis where he wrote poems about both Lithuania and Switzerland (Four Cantons lake, Rigi Kulm mountain). Swiss universities were also popular among Lithuanians.

When World War 1 was raging in Europe (and Lithuania was caught in its Eastern Front) neutral Switzerland played a key role in developing Lithuanian aspirations. Lithuanian Informational Bureau worked in Lausanne in 1915-1919, propagating the idea of independent Lithuania. Seven political conferences took place (4 of them in Lausanne) where key Lithuanian politicians reached consensus on future goals (borders of expected independent Lithuania, completely abandoning the idea of union with Poland, etc.).

In 1918 Lithuania declared its independence while in 1919 League of Nations (United Nations precursor) was established in Geneve. Lithuania now had its official representation and clearer goals than ever: to secure a wide recognition of its independence (1918-1922), to win support in territorial disputes over Vilnius (vs. Poland) and Klaipėda (vs. Germany).

After the Soviet occupation (1940) Lithuanian community in Switzerland was joined by new people who escaped the Soviet genocide. Lithuanian-Swiss have always been few in numbers (~300 people) but were mainly influental intellectuals who continued to advance Lithuanian independence goals through local media.

Even today the Lithuanians of Switzerland are disproportionately active in memorizing the Lithuanian-Swiss contacts in the past. St. Charles Hall villa where Maironis used to stay in Meggen suburb of Lucerne (6045 Meggen; Bezeholzstrasse) now has a memorial plaque and other locations are searched for. Multiple books have been published on Lithuanians in Switzerland.

One such work found out that Lithuanian-Swiss contacts far predated the 19th century. During the 16th-18th centuries, Italian architects and sculptors have been popular across Europe in building and decorating churches and manors. Many such artists came to Lithuania and left their works in Vilnius, Kaunas, Šiauliai and elsewhere. As much as 40 of these artists were actually not from Italy-proper but from the ethnically Italian Swiss canton of Ticino, where they left their other works.

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Iceland

Iceland is dear to Lithuanians for being the first new country in the world to recognize Lithuanian independence from the Soviet Union (in February 1991). Merely a year had been passed at the time from independence restoration (1990 03 11) and the Icelandic move (directed by foreign minister Jon Baldvin Hanibalsson) was bold indeed. The Soviet Union still considered Lithuania its territory and Iceland had to ensure another source for natural resources in case Soviet Union embargoed it as a revenge for recognition of Lithuania.

Lithuanians organized a "thank you Iceland" action in 2006, hoping to collect 300 000 "thank you" signatures - one for every Icelander. One out of 10 Lithuanians would have had to sign this and while only over 200 000 signatures have been collected this was also impressive. The signatures were presented to the president of Iceland. It is unclear where they are now.

~2006 the number of Lithuanians in Iceland started to increase rapidly.

Lithuania is a country of 3 million therefore even if a large percentage of Lithuanians emigrate somewhere in that location they usually make a much smaller minority. Not so in Iceland: only ~2300 Lithuanians moved there but they are already the Iceland's second-largest minority (after Poles) and makes up 0,7% of total population. However, after the 2009 crisis hit Iceland the number of Lithuanians there ceased to increase.

In 2012 direct air route was opened between Reykjavik (Icelandic capital) and Lithuania. The medium haul (2863 km) route is notable for two reasons: Iceland is the smallest (population-wise) country to have a direct air route to Lithuania and this route is also the longest non-stop route from Lithuania. It mainly serves the community of Lithuanian Icelanders.

There are Lithuanian musical groups and a language school for kids. There are no Lithuanian buildings however. There used to be bar "Vilnius" in Reykjavik that had Castle of Gediminas (that exists in Vilnius, Lithuania) as its symbol.

Former bar Vilnius in Reykjavik

Before WW2 Iceland used to be a remote Danish fishing colony with little non-Scandinavian population. Even then though a Lithuanian citizen Teodoras Bieliackinas used to live in Iceland and write articles on the country for the 1930s Lithuanian press. This personality has been researched in a recently published book.

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