There is a new project afoot, called Destination Lithuanian America. The name refers to the continent, and includes Canada in its search for all things Lithuanian. The authors of this project, Aiste and Augustinas Zemaitis of Vilnius, Lithuania, have been traveling through various areas of North America to document various monuments and institutions (over 600 in all) that reflect the history of Lithuanians who settled here at different points in time. They visited Canada, specifically Ontario and Quebec in the autumn of 2019, and met local Lithuanians to collect photos and stories connected to the people who lived there.
Augustinas Zemaitis described their visit in an article published in Teviskes ziburiai (Lights of Homeland) on December 10, 2019. They toured a total of 14 chapels and churches from St. Catharines to Montreal, as well as “Romuva” Scout Camp near Huntsville, Ontario, in a whirlwind trip of a mere 10 days.
For Augustinas, the most impressive location was St. John’s Cemetery in Mississauga. The Lithuanian Martyrs’ Church, the Anapilis complex and Lithuanian Museum-Archives of Canada were listed next, as were Our Lady of the Gates of Dawn Church in Hamilton with its beautiful stained glass windows, the Scout Camp “Romuva”, Our Lady of the Gates of Dawn Church in Montreal, which reminded them of Vilnius, and the Lithuanian Cross at the Martyrs’ Shrine in Midland, Ontario, commemorating Lithuanian martyrs.
He noted that for him, the seven most surprising places they visited were Lake Dainava near Montreal, Quebec; the Lithuanian Mission and monument to Lithuania in St. Catharines, Ontario; St. Casimir’s Church in Delhi, Ontario; “Vilnius Manor” retirement home in Toronto; the Lithuanian credit unions; “Giedraitis” Hunt Club near Hamilton, Ontario, and the Church of the Good Shepherd in Wasaga Beach, Ontario.
The visitors were also impressed by the fact that they could speak to most of their hosts here in Lithuanian. They met representatives of and were shown the Lithuanian House in Toronto, St. Casimir’s Church in Montreal and Toronto’s Resurrection Parish, and were in London, Ontario, where there was a celebration with Lithuanian Community members.
During this trip, Aiste and Augustinas documented a total of 64 Lithuanian sites in Ontario, 9 in Quebec, and about 20 new places in the US. They presented the project to about 300 participants in seven locations in Canada, and five in USA, and conducted over 30 interviews with Canadian and US Lithuanians working to preserve Lithuanian heritage. Segments of those interviews are being shown on the Lithuanian Radio and Television (LRT) broadcast “Pasaulio lietuvių žinios“ (World Lithuanian News), together with twelve 10-minute episodes of their series on Canada, in all, almost a two-hour of documentary. Full interviews will be broadcast on their YouTube channel “Global True Lithuania“.
Information about Lithuanian heritage in Canada has been posted on their Facebook page truelithuania, and read by thousands of visitors.
Readers are encouraged to send information about other Lithuanian organizations and landmarks, which, if selected, will be included in the map at http://map.truelithuania.com and the encyclopedia of all sites in the diaspora at http://global.truelithuania.com. Comments and information may be sent to the author’s email: [email protected].
Aiste and Augustinas are grateful to everyone who helped with the project in Canada, and particularly the Montreal Lithuanian Credit Union “Litas”, the Lithuanian House in Toronto, the London Lithuanian Community, as well as US organizations: the Lithuanian Foundation, Rochester’s Lithuanian Heritage Society, and the communities in Michigan, Maine and Detroit. Every helper’s name is noted in the website as project participants and supporters. This virtual “plaque” will always be there as a testament to everyone who provided assistance.
The authors hope to travel to Canada again to reach additional sites in and near Edmonton and Winnipeg.
We encourage everyone to visit these websites http://map.truelithuania.com/en/canada-lithuanian-heritage-sites-map and http://global.truelithuania.com/category/canada to discover people and places you never knew about! Send in your comments and information to support this interesting and worthy endeavour.