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Lithuanian streets and memorials outside Lithuania

There aren't many streets outside Lithuania named after Lithuanians. Most of such are located in neighboring countries that were once ruled by the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. Many of them are in Poland (as Soviets had "wiped out" streetnames of that "politically incorrect" period from Ukraine and Belarus, although some have reappeared there). The same Central European countries also have the most monuments for Lithuanians; some of these statues have been funded by Lithuanian government after the 1990 independence restoration (in Belarus, Hungary, Kaliningrad Oblast of Russia).

The Old Castle of Hrodna (Belarus) with Lithuanian-funded Grand Duke Vytautas the Great wooden memorial visible on left. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Most of these names are related to famous Lithuanians who lived in the 19th century or before. However, the term "Lithuanian" had a wider meaning at the time. It included persons of Lithuanian heritage who have switched to Polish language over generations (their descendants today would be considered Poles of Lithuania). Nobility was the most Polonized part of the Lithuanian nation - and it was also the only class that had means to "inscribe their names" into history back then. Therefore many of the famous people of the era that have their streets and monuments across the Central Europe are now considered Poles by Poland and Lithuanians by Lithuania (in some cases also Belarusians by Belarus).

For similar reasons Russia has a mountain range named after a National Revival-era symbolist painter Mikalojus Konstantinas Čiurlionis. While everybody agrees that Čiurlionis was an ethnic Lithuanian (he was a Lithuanian-speaker from a national revival era), Čiurlionis lived at the time Lithuania was ruled by the Russian Empire (and is therefore seen by Russia as a Russian citizen).

The Lithuanian names that are to be found in far away lands are commonly not those of the most famous Lithuanians but rather of Lithuanians most closely related to those locations. Some of them are famous both in Lithuania and abroad: Tadas Kosciuška (Tadeusz Kosciuszko), Ignas Domeika (Ignacy Domeyko) have their local and global merits. Both have tall mountains named after them (in Australia and Chile respectively).

Arguably more famous in Lithuania than abroad are the Lithuanian-language writers who created their best works outside modern-day Lithuanian borders. For example Liudvikas Rėza (who has a Lithuanian-funded statue for him in Kaliningrad Oblast) or the Lithuanian emigre authors who are commemorated by plaques and monuments in Georgia. Georgia also has named a street after president Valdas Adamkus, thankful for his support during the 2008 Russian invasion.

President Adamkus Boulevard (Anaklia, Georgia). ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

However, many Lithuanians enshrined in foreign streetnames and memorials are little known in Lithuania itself. For example, one street in Sao Paulo is named after priest Pijus Ragažinskas (Pio Ragazinskas) who was an editor of a local Lithuanian newspaper. Chicago has a honarary Maria Kaupas road as she (Lithuanian: Marija Kaupaitė) established a monastery there.

However, not even Google is able to find information on who were some of the Lithuanians that gave their names to localities abroad. For example, Pennsylvania has a lake named after some Kasulaitis whereas Brockton (Massachusetts) has a Pukis playground. It is possible these people were just ordinary Lithuanian immigrants who happened to live at the respective locations.

There are at least two Lithuanians however who are equally respected by the Lithuanians from Lithuania and diaspora. These are Steponas Darius and Stasys Girėnas who attempted a doomed New York - Kaunas direct flight, pioneering transatlantic air mail. Lithuanian Americans have constructed them memorials in Chicago, New York, Beverly Shores. One more monument has been built at the disaster site in Poland. All these areas also have streets and/or parks named after Darius and Girėnas or their aircraft ("Lituanica"). The two pilots are likely the most famous emigrant Lithuanians of all time and thus are an important part of Lithuanian diaspora identity.

Darius and Girėnas monument on the Marquette Park corner in Chicago, Illinois. ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

Lithuanian diaspora however also respects the non-emigrant Lithuanians who helped forge the Lithuanian nation, and made initiatives to have streets named and memorials built for them as well. 19th century National Revival heroes (Maironis, Vincas Kudirka, Jonas Basanavičius) are venerated the most, with medieval grand dukes (e.g. Gediminas) coming second. In any case, such streets are mainly small (e.g. Gediminas street in Worcester, Massachusetts), symbolically located near existing or former Lithuanian churches. These (together with Lithuanian cemeteries) are also locations for the majority of Lithuanian monuments. Other monuments have been constructed in locations specifically designed for reminiscences of different countries. The national gardens of Cleveland also have a Lithuanian garden (with busts of famous Lithuanians), Minieurope park at Brussels has a model of Vilnius University while the miniatures park of Canberra has a copy of Trakai castle.

Lithuanian communities abroad like streetnames related to mythology. Brockton (Massachusetts) and Germany both have Romuva parks. While Romuva means a temple of Lithuanian pagans both parks have been established by Christian populations celebrating mythology as their heritage. Canberra also hosts a statue for Eglė, the Queen of Serpents.

Still the favorite subject for such monuments is the suffering. Many Lithuanian American churches and cemeteries boast memorials and commemorative plaques for Lithuanians who were murdered or expelled by the Soviets. At the time these were erected the occupation of Lithuania was a contemporary issue rather than a part of history.
Fighting for Lithuanian rights seemed to be a sacred duty for many Lithuanians, whether they would live.

Monument to those died for Lithuanian freedom next to the former Lithuanian church in Brockton, Massachusetts. Google Street View.

Inside the Soviet Union itself there could have been no such memorials. However, after that regime had collapsed in 1991 the former Lithuanian expellees constructed many crosses and small memorials in Siberia and other places of exile. However, such activities had no support from the Russian state and sometimes Russia actively opposed them; that's why many such memorials have already been destroyed. The cemeteries of dead Lithuanian expellees themselves act as memorials, although they are crumbling as well.

Another type of "struggle" memorials are ones for Lithuanian independence wars (~1920) soldiers who fell rebutting Poland and Russians in the lands beyond modern-day Lithuania. These exist in Latvia and Poland near their gravesites.

Article by ©Augustinas Žemaitis.

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