Toronto has multpile large patriotically named Lithuanian hubs established by post-WW2 Lithuanian refugees. Fleeing the Soviet occupation they saw themselves as deportees rather than migrants and devoted their lifes to rebuild a part of Lithuania on Canadian soil. Most Toronto Lithuanian heritage dates to 1950s-1970s and is an interesting testament to that occupation diaspora culture. Toronto Lithuanian community and its heritage is the largest in Canada.
The Mississauga suburb has a major Lithuanian center Anapilis (2185 Stavebank Rd.) which surrounds a modernist Lithuanian Martyrs Church. Constructed in 1974 it was the first church in the world to have this name which had a symbollic meaning while Lithuania was occupied: martyrs may also mean Lithuanians murdered by the Soviets for their beliefs. Lithuanian center in these areas is older: the local St. John Lithuanian cemetary had been opened in 1960. Beside the massive Lithuanian gravestones it has a monument for those died in the name of Lithuanian Freedom and a chapel. Next to the church the sole Lithuanian-Canadian newspaper "Tėvynės žiburiai" (Homeland lights) is located (published since 1949), car park for parish members. There are also three large halls for both Lithuanian and non-Lithuanian events and a Lithuanian-Canadian museum.
This was not the first church in Toronto as the first one (St. John the Baptist) has been established in 1935 (acquired from presbyterians) but with the arrival of WW2 refugges it became far too small and is now closed.
Anapilis center is the largest Lithuanian hub in Canada and one of the largest in the world. However Toronto area has another major Lithuanian hub near the W Brooke St and Keele Street crossroads. A Lithuanian House (1573 Bloor Street West) here houses a "Lokys" Lithuanian bar (serving Lithuanian beer), Lithuania's consulate general, Lithuanian banquet halls, Lithuanian credit union.
A few blocks westwards a Lithuanian Lutheran Christ Redeemer church (1691 Bloor St W), however, its parish gets smaller (129 members in 2008, 92 in 2012). This church has been established in 1951 and looks as a smallish dark red home; the mass is both in Lithuanian and English.
Nearby high-rise Vilnius Manor (1700 Bloor Street West) has a Columns of Gediminas sign as it houses a Lithuanian old age home (Columns of Gediminas is an old symbol of the Lithuanian nation).
A few blocks north from here near Glenlake Avenue there is a Lithuania Park. It has been named so in 1973 when there was a worldwide campaign by Lithuanian diaspora communities to set up Lithuania-related streetnames in their cities, this way reminding the world about the plight of occupied Lithuania. The park is taken care of by local Lithuanians. However in 2013 the Toronto council received a petition by 130 persons to rename the park back to its previous Oakmount Park name.
Toronto area has one Lithuanian church elsewhere. Christ Ressurection church (1 Resurrection Road) is today surrounded by high-rise residentials. It has been established in 1953 and, as it is common, formed the hub for a larger center of Lituanity with a hall and a credit union.
Article by Augustinas Žemaitis
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