Global True Lithuania Encyclopedia of Lithuanian heritage worldwide

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 the 1880s-1950s emigrants who chose what was then the British Empire over the USA for their new lives (such 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 owned a farmstead-hotel in the Headley Park suburb since 1955 (Guildford GU35 8TE). Lithuanian holidays were held here, with Pentecost being the most important. Unfortunately, the farmstead, usually referred by Lithuanian name "Sodyba", was sold in the 2010s.

Lithuanian heritage in England outside London

After Lithuania was occupied by the Soviets, United Kingdom received some refugees although their numbers were far from those in the USA, Canada, or Australia.

Still, the small Lithuanian community, in cooperation with other communities from Soviet-occupied countries, managed to create some impact. They formed Anti-Bolshevik Bloc of Nations. Among its heritage is a plaque in Bradford Cathedral that was unveiled in 1983 commemorating the 40th anniversary of the organization. The plaque incorporates a Lithuanian flag in addition to those of Latvia, Belarus (white-red-white), Ukraine, Hungary, and Estonia. It reminds the readers that the nations in question are denied their freedom (the situation has since changed as the Soviet block collapsed ~1989-1991).

In Nottingham, Lithuanians established Lithuanian Catholic Center in a regular house at 16 Hound Road, West Bridgford, Nottingham.

Currently, one of the most Lithuanian cities of the United Kingdom is Peterborough where the 2011 census recorded 2% of the population (some 4000 people) as being Lithuania-born (the number of those with Lithuanian ethnicity would likely be higher). While these are generally recent immigrants, there were Lithuanian refugees (DPs) who came into Peterborough fleeing the Soviet Genocide in the 1940s as well. While small in numbers, their massive Lithuanian patriotism to greatly further the Lithuanian activities and promote UK support for Lithuanian independence. The last one among that DP generation of Peterborough Lithuanians Steponas Bronius Vaitkevičius passed away in 2017 (born 1922), after receiving a Lithuanian state award and Peterborough honorary citizen recognition for his efforts. "Švyturys" organization of recent Lithuanian immigrants to Peterborough marked the home where he used to live with a commemorative plaque in 2018, thus creating the first Lithuanian-heritage site in Peterborough. It is located at 325 Eastfield Road.

Vaitkevičius commemorative plaque in Peterborough

Vaitkevičius commemorative plaque in Peterborough

Lithuanian heritage in Scotland

Prior to 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 Scotland's Lithuanian males to serve the Russian army. ~1200 have been sent away, some found the 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 created by post-1990 immigrants

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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Comments (9) Trackbacks (0)
  1. Do you have records for Scotland ?

    • What records do you mean? I personally do not know much about the Lithaunian heritage in Scotland. If you know about places, buildings, placenames, cemetaries, churches, graves, monuments, etc. related to Lithuania that exist in Scotland, please inform me and I will add that info to the website.

  2. Augustinas, there was significant community in Scotrland before WW1 – 20,000 people – and there were other communities in Widnes and Middlesbrough in England. There is much information !

  3. Do you have an email address I can use ?

    • I know about the community but so far haven’t found much information on its heritage. I have contacted you by e-mail now.

  4. I will send you some articles by email

  5. new my grandfather/mum came over in the early 1900’s to Bridgeton area but even although got most of his as he was naturalised Micilius to Mitchell and got his marriage in 1908 cant see anything about his wife Dairutis (no note of her becoming British) although got her brother who I believe came over a few years prior marrying a Norkaitis in Scotland in1910;believe the Norkaitis came from Hamilton

  6. There was a considerable number of Lithuanian people in Widnes who came over in around 1900. They were mainly Catholic. They worked in the mines and chemical industry. Names such as Karalius, Skilki, Asterouski, Myler. Many 2nd generation were prominent rugby league players.

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