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Washington, DC

Washington, DC is the political heart of the United States but for 50 years (1940-1990) it was also the political heart of Lithuania. In that era Lithuania was occupied by foreign powers with Soviet occupation lasting 46 years. USA never recognised this act of aggression so the Lithuanian embassy in Washington (622 16th St., N.W.) continued to represent the independent Lithuania - in fact, Lithuanian embassy in Washington was its de facto government. Among its jobs in that era of hardship was to lobby USA to support Lithuanian freedom.

The embassy is also the oldest Lithuanian representation abroad. Lithuanians acquired this 5 floored towered italianate villa in 1924 (6 years after establishing independence in 1918). Relations with the USA have always been of utmost importance to Lithuania because of the extensive Lithuanian American community (193 600 people in 1930 or 6% of contemporary Lithuania's population) which provided great help in advancing Lithuanian political and economic aspirations.

In 2008 the embassy received a new wing, doubling its size (1116 sq. m to 2488 sq. m). The old wing is now used for ceremonial purposes only. It is still the authentic building by architect George Oakley Totten, Jr completed in 1909 for senator John B. Henderson (although part of the building was demolished in 1950).

Historical Lithuanian embassy in Washington. The Old Wing now looks strangely slim near the massive adjoining building (leftmost). This building has replaced the other half of the historical villa in the 1950s. The New Wing is behind the Old Wing. Vytis (Lithuanian Coat of Arms) covers the front balcony. Google Street View.

Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception is the largest Roman Catholic church in North America and the tallest building in Washington, DC (100 m). Built in a period of 41 years (1920-1961) the National Shrine is also famous for its many chapels dedicated to the ethnic communities of the USA and their original homelands. Lithuanian chapel is named after Our Lady of Šiluva, the earliest church-recognised apparition of Virgin Mary in Europe (Šiluva village, Lithuania, year 1608). In addition to her statue interior decor includes many other elements inspired by nostalgia for former homeland: mosaics of famous Lithuanian buildings, Lithuania's symbols, Lithuanian cultural traditions and traditional arts.

Washington, DC was never an industrial city so it failed to attract a larger Lithuanian community. Therefore, save for the largely ceremonial chapel in its National Shrine it lacks a Lithuanian church. Lithuanian mission with monthly mass operates at Epiphany parish (2712 Dumbarton St., NW) since 1985 however.

Washington, DC and its suburbs house various pro-Baltic umbrella organizations such as The Joint Baltic American National Committee (est. 1961) which unites Lithuanian, Latvian and Estonian members. These three nations have been united by history as all three suffered Russian Imperial, German and Soviet occupations.

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