Born in 1898, in Užventis, Lithuania (near Šiauliai), Sophie (Laurinavičiūtė) Barcus immigrated to the United States as a young girl with her parents. By 1932, with husband Augustinas, she started the radio program which ran for 54 consecutive years in Chicago. By 1961, an additional English-language radio program, called “Round the World with Music,” was added. Not only was Sophie Barcus a popular radio personality but she was also a community activist. For example, she organized the Lithuanian Radio Housewives Red Cross Unit, which had over 300 members and operated from the years 1942-1957. Besides raising enough funds to purchase an ambulance that was donated to the American Red Cross, in Chicago, an event which was covered widely in the American press, this unit also sewed and collected clothing to be sent to the peoples in Europe during and post World War II. Sophie Barcus was one of the most loved and respected members of the Lithuanian community in Chicago. Her fundraising efforts, along with her radio program, helped post-WWII émigrés adjust and forge new lives in America.
After Sophie Barcus’ death, the radio programs were hosted by her daughter Aldona and husband Feliksas (Felix) Daukus (Dobkevičius). Feliksas Daukus was a displaced person who emigrated from Lithuania as a result of the aftermath of World War II. His involvement with the radio program ensured that it remained relevant to the new generation of Lithuanian emigres. According to Chicago Vadovas (Guide to Chicago) published in 1952 by the Lithuanian Chamber of Commerce of Illinois, by 1952 the Sophie Barcus Radio Program was broadcast from W.G.E.S. six days a week — Monday through Friday from 8:45 a.m. to 9:30 a.m., and Lietuviškos Vakaruškos from 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. on Saturday evening.
The Darius-Girėnas American Legion Post 271 (Chicago) Collection, from 1935 to the present
LAP has received authorization from the Darius-Girėnas American Legion Post 271 of Chicago the right to reformat and translate its massive (over 80 years) holdings. When Darius and Girėnas perished on July 17, 1933, their fellow veterans of the U.S. Army formed the Darius-Girėnas American Legion Post 271 in Chicago. Stretching back to its holdings from 1935, there are original documents, original photos, many film materials (kept for many years in WWI ammunition casings). LAP feels a deep sense of responsibility to insure that their original historical artifacts are digitized and shared with future generations. The deep veteran connection is apparent when one looks at the pilot cap insignia of Steponas Darius (the great seal of the United States from his WWI Army uniform). Stepas Girinas, also a WWI veteran (with Milwaukee emblazoned on his pilot cap) motivated the Darius-Girėnas post activity and holdings. Among the many rare items (never before viewed) is a composite photo of Darius and his entire Illinois Field Artillery Unit. Wallowing in a basement in Chicago for many years, this massive collection – a labor of love – by veterans of the Darius-Girėnas Post 271 cries out to be digitized.
Film Archives of Lithuanian Riflemen’s Union / Lietuvos Šauliu Sajunga (LSS) / In Lithuania and in the Diaspora
The Riflemen’s Union (LSS) is a civilian paramilitary organization with youth activities that run parallel to boy and girl scout training as well as training for future entry into the regular armed forces and national guard. The union also has chapters for veterans in diaspora centers such as Chicago, Los Angeles, Toronto, Sydney, London, and other locations. LSS was founded in 1919 directly subordinate to the Commander of the Armed Forces. During the years of independence (1919-1940) its membership rose to 62,000 members in 72 riflemen’s chapters. The civic side of its activity included 125 choirs, 105 music orchestras, 350 libraries and 4 theaters. In 1940 the U.S.S.R. killed or exiled to Siberia 80% of the LSS members. Thousands formed the backbone of a partisan war against the Red Army from 1944 into the early 1950’s. In 1954 the Lithuanian Riflemen’s Union was reformed in Chicago as the center of a world-wide diaspora. It was reformed in Lithuania in 1989 as a challenge to occupying Soviet forces. In 1991, the LSS guarded the Lithuanian Parliament which was surrounded by Soviet armed forces. Other key communications installations were also guarded by Union members to prevent entry by the Red Army. Members of the Union were killed guarding strategic objects as well as on the country’s borders. LAP’s film and video archives contain unique footage from the personal archives of decorated partisan and war veteran Capt. Povilas Juodvalkis, who survived Lithuania’s occupation by Nazi and Soviet forces. Footage and audio includes personal interviews with civilian, partisan, and military prime movers. The nearly 100 year old Chicagoan also entrusted LAP with his secretly recorded film and audio footage of KGB interrogations. Capt. Juodvalkis served as a LSS member in every period of its evolution, from the 1930’s to the present. Being almost seven feet tall he is known as the “giant with gigantic accomplishments” by members of the LSS.
The Marytė Kucinienė (Stankaitytė) Collection
Marytė Kucinienė (Stankaitytė) was born in 1932 in Kudurkos Naumiestys, Lithuania. As a result of World War II, she was forced to leave Lithuania while she was in 2nd grade and immigrate to Germany, where she continued to go to school. In 1949 Marytė moved to the city of Montreal in Quebec, Canada and was active in the Lithuanian community there. Finally settling down with her husband Eugenijus Kucinas in Chicago, Illinois in 1957, Marytė found her calling with the Montessori way of teaching after visiting the home of Varnas and Petrutis. When her daughter Rita began to go to Židinėlis, Marytė and Eugenijus immersed themselves in activities related to the Montessori Method. Their son Marius also began going to Židinėlis, whose founders, among others, were Marytė and Eugenijus. In 1966, she began taking courses in the Montessori way of teaching in Oak Park, Illinois. She completed her studies in Varnas Montessori Centre under the guidance of Marija Varnienė and Domicilė Petrutytė. Marytė began working in the Seton Montessori Children’s House in Clarendon Hills, Illinois in 1970, where she became a part of the MECA courses that trained Montessori teachers. There she taught many classes related to music. Marytė is also an honorary member of the Lithuanian Montessori Association.
Žiburėlis Lithuanian Montessori Collection
The Lithuanian Montessori Society of America was founded in 1958 by Professors Adomas and Maria Varnas and Domicele Petrutis in Chicago, Illinois. Its goal was to promote the Montessori Method of education and to provide full immersion in Lithuanian language and culture by establishing Montessori schools in the Chicagoland area. The Lithuanian Montessori Children’s Center opened in 1963, and the Žiburėlis Lithuanian Montessori School followed in 1983. Žiburėlis Lithuanian Montessori School, located in Lemont, Illinois, is a full-immersion Lithuanian preschool, with the goal of both fostering children’s education using the Montessori Method and providing full immersion in the Lithuanian language and culture.
The Immaculate Conception Church (Brighton Park) Chicago Collection
The Sisters of St. Casimir (SSC) Collection (Chicago)
The Sisters of Saint Casimir (SSC) of Chicago, founded in 1907 in Scranton, Pennsylvania, is a Congregation of women religious serving in the United States and in Argentina, South America and engaging in education, health care and other ministries which reflect the spirit and faith-filled vision of their foundress, Venerable Mother Maria Kaupas. The Sisters of St. Casimir have played a pivotal role in Chicago’s Lithuanian community as well as in the community at-large since the building of the SSC Motherhouse located at 2601 W. Marquette Road in 1911, and Maria High School in 1952.
Vytautas Landsbergis in Chicago Collection
In 1989, Vytautas Landsbergis helped to organize the peaceful Baltic Way demonstration during which over a million people joined hands to form a 600-kilometer-long chain across Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia in order to draw attention to their struggle to gain independence from the USSR. In 1991, as the first democratically elected president of Lithuania after its separation from the USSR, V. Landsbergis visited Chicago on a tour of the US, during which he hoped to establish diplomatic recognition for the newly independent Lithuania and forge business ties. The official student photographer assigned to cover V. Landsbergis’ visit to the United States, Julija Izokaitis-Corcoran, donated these photos to the Lithuanian Archives Project.
Marija Žolpienė Collection
Marija Zopliene was born in 1898 in Chicago. Her father, Juozas Galinskas, was from the Muiliavos area, near Kvėdarnos town. In 1884, he came to the United States of America so he could escape tsarist military service. Her father worked in the slaughterhouses.
Father married Eleonora Sakalauskaitė in 1895, who was also from the Žemaitija region, Kvėdarnos town. Juozas and Eleanora had two children, a son who passed away after three weeks of life, and a daughter, Marija. The young parents lived and worked in the Chicago neighborhood called Bridgeport. Tragically, Juozas died of a head wound while working in the slaughterhouse in 1902 and his wife Eleanora was left a widow with four-year-old daughter, Marija. After Juozas’ death, Eleanora briefly returned to Lithuania and then back to Bridgeport by 1903. She took up residence at Fisk street (now Aberdeen). She took in renters and prepared meals for 18 men. In those days, rent for a four-bedroom apartment in Bridgeport cost $6.50. She took in $3.00 from her renters. However, women’s shoes (the high shoes with hooks) cost $3.00, and a good quality blouse (not fancy) cost $1.50. Eleanora lived in a heavily Polish area of Bridgeport. Although Eleanora was only somewhat literate, her daughter Marija learned to read and write Lithuanian from a primer borrowed from St. George Church. Marija also learned to read the Russian alphabet through letters that they received from Lithuania, some of which were written in Lithuanian, but using the Cyrillic alphabet. At age six, Marija began to attend school in Chicago. When Eleanora noticed that all instruction was in the English language, she began to teach Marija at home in the Lithuanian language. On Sundays, everyone would sit around the table dressed in their best clothing and read the Lithuanian newspaper aloud. Eleanora was particularly insistent that Marija learn the language of her forefathers, and passed down a deep love for her culture and traditions to her daughter. [TO BE CONTINUED]
Lithuanian Marian Monastery (St. Casimir Province) Collection
The Marians of the Immaculate Conception (MIC), formally titled The Congregation of the Marian Clerics Regular under the title of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, is a Roman Catholic congregation founded by St. Stanislaus Papczynski in Poland in 1673. After being persecuted by Russian authorities, the congregation was reduced to just one member. The Marians were saved from extinction by Blessed Jurgis Matulaitis-Matulevičius, who renovated and refounded the order in 1910. The Marian Fathers currently operate in nineteen countries on six continents. The Marian Fathers came to United States in 1913 and established themselves on Chicago’s south side. They took over the publication of Draugas in 1920, the same year they also began publishing Laivas. Between 1924 and 1955, the Marian Fathers established a novitiate, high school, college, and seminary. They also sent a missionary band to Argentina. The St. Casimir Province was established in Chicago in 1930. The Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Mercy Province was established in 2006 in Stockbridge, Massachusetts as a result of the unification between Chicago’s St. Casimir Province and Stockbridge’s St. Stanislaus Kostka Province. As of 2016, there is only one Marian province in the United States that has no formal associations with the Lithuanian language.
Audra Adomenas, professional librarian and archivist (MLIS Dominican University 2005) rescued the partial library holdings of the Lithuanian Marian Fathers in Chicago after the Lithuanian Marian Fathers had vacated the building and it was in the process of being reappropriated for use from a monastery to a retreat center. In August 2009, the Hispanic Marriage encounter group was handed over the monastery that was full of Lithuanian-language materials that they could neither read nor have any use for since the last of the Lithuanian Marians were either in nursing homes on the East Coast or deceased. A concerned member of the Hispanic community requested that Audra, as a professional librarian who speaks and writes the Lithuanian language fluently, come to take a look at the materials. As Audra arrived on site, the process of emptying the contents left behind in the monastery were being dumped in large dumpsters in preparation of getting the building cleaned up and ready for their own group’s use. Audra expresses gratitude to members of the Hispanic community for alerting her, as they were overwhelmed by finding a building that was turned over for their use but full of materials which were useless to them. Had it not been for concerned members of the Mexican-American community the materials would have been lost to the trash heap. A ten-year-old girl, Karen Contreras, asked her father to take action because she, a lover of books, was saddened by children playing in piles of books and drawing on them. After Audra received the call from little Karen’s father, she came on site and recognized that the materials were in the Lithuanian language and had an enormous historical significance to the Lithuanian community. Audra and four volunteers worked to salvage what they could. Afterwards, Audra’s family rented a climate-controlled storage locker on Chicago’s North side where the materials were transported in the boxes and rented truck. The contents of the boxes are the living legacy of the Chicago Lithuanian Marians, and Audra felt compelled and spiritually obligated to make sure they are not lost to posterity. Fortunately, her professional background allowed her to do more than wishful thinking. The Lithuanian Archives Project (LAP), a not-for-profit organization in the State of Illinois has been preserving the partial library holdings of the Lithuanian Marian Fathers since 2009. LAP also has a partnership with Audra’s alma mater, Dominican University, and their MLIS students specializing in archival studies. Audra’s Father, Professor Antanas J. VanReenan (now retired) was very close to Rev. Dr. Vytautas Bagdonavicius, MIC (now deceased), a Lithuanian Marian who lived for many years at the site where the books were discarded. Indeed, some of the interviews which Prof. VanReenan used for his doctoral dissertation at the University of Chicago on the Lithuanian Diaspora also took place at the same monastery through the 1970’s and 1980’s. Audra recalls visiting the monastery as a girl while her father conducted his research there, and feels that it is her debt to her Lithuanian heritage to be of assistance to the Marian Fathers in completing their new directive from from Rome — namely, to preserve their archives.
Rev. Anthony M. Švedas Personal Papers (a subset of the Lithuanian Marian Fathers (St. Casimir Province) Collection
Rev. Anthony M. Švedas was born on August 13, 1909. Švedas studied philosophy in Montreal, Canada and later theology in Rome, where he was ordained to the Marian priesthood in 1934. The following year, Švedas taught at Marianoplis Preparatory School in Thompson, Conneticut and did so for four years. He later became Novice master at the Marian Hills House. During World War II, the government required ten percent of every religious congregation to serve as military chaplains. In 1942, Švedas was the first Marian priest of his order to volunteer. He became the army chaplain of task force 8408 and also of the 21st infantry regiment, 24th division. As a chaplain Švedas participated in some of the bloodiest campaigns of WWII in the Pacific Theater including Guadalcanal, Midanao, Bougainville, New Caledonia, and Solomon Islands. Švedas was also charter member and chaplain of the Don Varnas American Legion post since its founding in 1945 in Illinois. After eight years as an army chaplain, Švedas served for two years as pastor and Superior of Our Lady of Vilna Catholic Church a Lithuanian parish in Chicago (23rd St. and Oakley Ave.). He later served as a chaplain in Alaska for a few years. Švedas was transferred to Argentina in 1960 where he spent the remainder of his life in Rosario holding many offices such as Superior and Novice Master. He died on November 21, 1993 at 84 years old in Rosario after celebrating 59 years in the priesthood.
The Rev. Anthony M. Svedas Papers consists of ## linear feet spanning the years 1925-1959. The collection consists of correspondence, photos, diaries, journals, books newspaper clippings, sacramental records, pamphlets, chaplain monthly reports, and a trophy. The main subjects included are World War II and Marianoplis Preparatory School. The collection is organized as a container list.
Jūratė Kazickas 1989-1991 Baltic Newspaper Clippings Collection
Jūratė Kazickas was born on February 18, 1943. Fleeing the Soviet Army, Kazickas and her family left Lithuania in 1944 to seek safety in Germany. After about three years in different displaced persons camps, the Kazickas family finally found refuge in the United States. There Kazickas graduated from Trinity College in Washington, D.C. Working as a journalist, Kazickas covered the Vietnam War, the Middle East and the Carter White House. She has also co-authored books such as Susan B. Anthony Slept Here and War Torn: Stories of War from the Women Reporters Who Covered Vietnam. Currently, Kazickas is involved in work related to refugees.
The Jūratė Kazickas 1989-1991 Baltic Independence Newspaper Clippings Collection consists of 1 linear foot and 1 inch spanning the years 1989-1991. The collection consists of newspaper and magazine clippings and various documents and letters. The main subjects included are Lithuanian Independence and U.S. relations with the Soviet Union and Lithuania. The collection is organized as a container list.
Salomėja (Salome) “Sally” Šmaižys Radio Program Collection
Salomėja (Salome) “Sally” Šmaižys was born in Lithuania on October 12, 1924. In the midst of World War II and just a few weeks after marrying Petras “Peter” Šmaižys in August of 1944, the newlyweds and her family were forced to flee Lithuania. First to Austria, then to Germany, they eventually found themselves in a displaced persons camp in the American zone in Bavaria after having walked for 400 miles to get there. Šmaižys and her family stayed in the DP camp for 5 years before emigrating to the United States in 1949. After briefly living in Cleveland, Ohio, the Šmaižys family relocated to Chicago where they lived until their retirement. At that point, in 1973, they moved to Hot Springs, Arkansas where there was a thriving Lithuanian community. Missing the Lithuanian radio broadcasts in Chicago, Salomėja created and directed a radio program called “Leiskit i Tevyne – Longing for the Homeland” alongside her husband in 1976. The program ran for 20 years and played Lithuanian music, announced local events and broadcast news from Lithuania. In 1984, she received the radio report prize of the Lithuanian American Community of the United States Cultural Council and was nominated as candidate for the Hot Springs/Garland County Outstanding Community Service Award in 1985.
The Salomėja (Salome) “Sally” Šmaižys Radio Program Collection consists of a radio program recording, cassette tapes and video tapes spanning the years 1988-1994.
The Algis Grigas Papers
Algis Grigas was born in Kaunas Lithuania July 14, 1919. He emigrated to the U. S. A. with his parents Julia (Gaigalaite) and Stasys Grigaravičiai and sister Milda (Grigaravičiūtė) Mikėniene. At age 16 he began voice training with Madam Alodja Dičiūtė. He obtained a scholarship to study for five years with Mario Lanza’s teacher, Maurice Sciappio at DePaul University, Chicago. He also studied at the Chicago Music Conservatory and Roosevelt University Music Department, and later went on to study under the famous Romanian opera soloist, Dimitri Onofrei. He was a frequent soloist at the LMA Dainava concerts and the performances of the Cleveland Čiurlionis Ensemble. He was also a frequent soloist in Chicago Lithuanian Opera Company performances. In 1984 he has released his recording with the Philharmonia Hungarica Symphony Orchestra. In 1985 he was the first exile soloist invited to sing in Vilnius, at the Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theater, appearing in the role of Germont in Verdi’s opera La Traviata. He has been a frequent soloist with Lyric Opera Company of Chicago.
Grigas had a significant and wide ranging influence due to the institutions he began. In the course of his work and to promote Lithuanian Opera in the U. S. A., he founded his own record label: AG Records. He also began his own travel agency, GT International Industries, to assist in the travel of Lithuanian Opera stars to perform here in the USA and and abroad. He also founded the Lithuanian Opera Company (and Workshop) to perform Operas on the south side of Chicago where he was the director and frequent soloist. In the 1990s he started the first Western tourism agency, Lufthansa City Center in Vilnius, where he has trained many tourism professionals.
Due to his own diabetes, he channeled his concern for Lithuanian youth and other sufferers of the disease via a collaboration with the endocrinologists from the Kaunas clinics under the guidance of Dr. Vladimir Petrenko and brought a delegation from the American Diabetes Association (USA) to Kaunas. A Youth Diabetes Camp was begun which has benefited young Lithuanians since the 1990s. Algis Grigas passed away January 18, 2019.