The “Destination Lithuanian America” interactive map of Lithuanian heritage in the USA has been created by the team of the “Global True Lithuania” website, with tremendous help from Lithuanian Americans, Lithuanian institutions, and others.
Hereunder is the list of the participants of the 2021 expeditions to the Western and Southern USA and the volunteers/sponsors who helped them. The lists from previous expeditions:
2017 East Coast
2019 Canada and nearby areas.
||Augustinas is the owner of “Global True Lithuania” website about the Lithuanian heritage and sites beyond Lithuania. His research on the Lithuanian heritage abroad has been published in “Vytis” and “Draugas” Lithuanian-American newspapers as well as the top Lithuanian media. He also has the True Lithuania website which is a massive introduction to Lithuania in the English language. He is an avid traveler who visited over 110 countries. He is interested in cultures and has authored a Lithuanian book on the Writing systems of the world, also owns a Lithuanian website on national anthems and many other websites.
He is the leader in the “Destination Lithuanian America” project. He contacted the local Lithuanians, took pictures, wrote the site descriptions, filmed, controlled the social media of the project, and created this interactive map.
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org .
||Aistė is an attorney who works with the cases of Lithuanian citizenship restoration.
“Destination Lithuanian America” volunteer, she drove the car and interviewed the locals as well as filmed them. She did the legal support for the project and kept contact with the media.
E-mail: email@example.com .
Government of Lithuania
The government of Lithuania helped with post-production costs of the project. This is the third year “Destination Lithuanian America” is supported by the government of Lithuania.
Lithuanian Foundation is the biggest Lithuanian-American foundation that supports Lithuanian-related activities. For a second time, it has helped with the post-production costs of the project.
A Lithuanian immigrant to the USA who supports Lithuanian activities. He is the main Patron of the project through “Patreon” platform, supporting the expedition expenses.
A Lithuanian real estate developer in Santa Monica, who was among those who discovered this then a largely-unknown resort in the 1960s. He built numerous Lithuanian-named buildings, established a Lithuanian Credit Union, and organized helping Lithuania after its independence. He also funds Lithuanian activities in America and helped with the expedition costs of “Destination Lithuanian America 2021”.
Ramūnas Kondratas (Vilnius, LT)
Jane Yasinowski (Oglesby, IL)
Tomas Dundzila (Kennebunkport, ME)
|Aušrelė Liulevičienė (Nashville, TN)||Annunciation Lithuanian parish community (Brooklyn, NY)||
Marquette Park Lithuanian community (Chicago, IL)
|Mary Agnes Mikalauskas (Dayton, OH)||St. Anthony Lithuanian parish community (Cicero, IL)||St. Petersburg Lithuanian club (St. Petersburg, FL)||Balzekas Museum of Lithuanian Culture (Chicago, IL)|
|Omaha Lithuanian Women’s Club (Omaha, NE)||Vilius Žalpys and Luana Žalpienė (Portland, OR)||Laurynas Misevičius and Ingrida Misevičienė (Portland, OR)||Vilmantas Babarskas and Giedrė Babarskienė (Portland, OR)|
|Jonas Bračiulis and Gražina Bračiulienė (Portland, OR)||Elena Rėklaitis (Lemont, IL)||Tautvydas Stubrys||Vaiva Vitkutė|
|Genovaitė Untulienė (Chicago, IL)||Artūras Dovydaitis (Chicago, IL)||Jaunius Kelpšas (Chicago, IL)||Kazys (Chicago, IL) ir dar dvi anoniminės aukos|
“Destination Lithuanian America 2021” was also supported by Jonas Treška, Almis Kuolas, Darius Kučinskas, Linas Manionis, Gintarė, Gilija Krūmaitienė, Eduardas Krūmaitis, Long Island Lithuanian community, Robert and Trish Yasinski, Jonas Šarka, Sigita Balzekas, Vitas and Dalia Alekna, Sandy Baksys, Robert Colatino, Carol Wojcyk, Vytenis Kirvelaitis, Tomas Kubilius, Robertas Sobutas, Alvida Baukus, Romualdas Matulis, Petras Puckorius, Marius Milončius, Diane Baksys, Lou Ann, Jolanta Sadauskas, Kęstutis Maksimavičius, Vladislav Linauskas, and several anonymous donors.
“Destination Lithuanian America 2021” thanks for lodging provided to our volunteers by Sandy Chow (Orange County, CA – 3 nights), Aistė Vitkauskė (Los Angeles, CA – 2 nights), Zenonas Misius (Phoenix, AZ), Jake Zelman (Dallas, TX), Lithuanian club of the Central Illinois (Springfield, IL), Danute Lasky (East St. Louis, IL), Giedrė Knieža and Algis Knieža (Lemont, IL – 10 nights), Arvydas Urbonavičius (Omaha, NE – 2 nights), Mindaugas Paulikas (Seattle, WA), Vilmantas Babarskas and Giedrė Babarskienė (Portland, OR), Lina Ramunė Miller (San Francisco, CA), Al Pechulis (Los Angeles, CA), Phil and Aldona Shapiro (St. Petersburg, FL – 4 nights), Dalius Staškevičius (Atlanta, GE).
In places not mentioned here, the lodging costs were covered by the donations of monetary sponsors listed in other lists above.
Additionally, thanks to Daina Miežlaiškis for a car provided in Chicago. Elsewhere, the transportation was funded by the donations of monetary sponsors listed in the lists above this one.
We also thank Phil and Aldona Shapiro for providing a cell phone connection.
These media outlets have published 10+ articles or TV shows on the project: Lithuanian-American newspaper “Draugas”.
Numerous additional newspapers, radio, and TV stations in both Lithuania and USA have published 1-9 articles or shows.
Thank you for all the coverage!
Local helpers in Canada and the USA
“Destination Lithuanian America 2021” volunteers have met some 500 people who helped in one way or another or came to our project presentations/lectures. Below is the list of people who helped us organize the visits to various “Lithuanian” cities, who led us or helped us to find the Lithuanian sites there, opened particular closed sites, told us the stories of such sites, or helped spread the word about our visits. In addition to them, we have met many other people, some of whom are also mentioned. We are sorry if someone is left unmentioned. We also apologize for the quality of some pictures, as we concentrated on imaging the Lithuanian sites. Please note that sponsors (including lodging sponsors) are listed separately above.
If you are one of these people and you would like to get your picture changed or additional Lithuania-related details to be mentioned, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org .
Los Angeles, California
| Al Pechulis
||The leader of the Lithuanian National Center in Los Angeles. In his ranch near the city, he used to organize Lithuanian singer-songwriter gigs. He was born in Lithuanian community of Punskas, Poland, and immigrated at the time Lithuania was still occupied by the Soviet Union and thus no direct migration from Lithuania took place. He helped us to learn about the Lithuanian National Center.|
| Justina Brazdžionis
||She told the story about how Bernardas Brazdžionis courtyard (dedicated to the famous Los Angeles Lithuanian poet) was created in Los Angeles – an eneavour she herself was an instrumental part of. She has immigrated from Lithuania and married into the Brazdžionis family herself.|
| Aistė Vitkauskė
||Employee of the Consulate General of Lithuania in Los Angeles, she helped us find out about some of the smaller Lithuanian heritage sites in Los Angeles. She also organized our presentation in the consulate and its PR.|
| Albinas Markevičius
||A Lithuanian real estate developer in Santa Monica, who was among those who discovered this then a largely-unknown resort in the 1960s. He built numerous Lithuanian-named buildings, established a Lithuanian Credit Union, and organized helping Lithuania after its independence. He informed us about the Lithuanian-named buildings in Los Angeles area as well as their stories.|
||An immigrant from Lithuania who joined the Los Angeles Lithuanian theater as an actor. He was instrumental in establishing Bernardas Brazdžionis courtyard and shared its story.|
||The leader of Western USA Lithuanian Scouts and a Lithuanian Scout since childhood (as she was born in the USA), she shown us around the “Rambynas” Lithuanian scout camp, answering the questions about it – a topic she knows very well since she essentially spent her lifetime (or at least parts of lifetimes’ summers) in “Rambynas”.|
|We also thank these people for providing us information by e-mail or other means||Daiva Navarette, the Lithuanian honorary consul in Los Angeles
Raymond Silkaitis, the leader of Lithuanian Days event
||An immigrant from Lithuania to Arizona, he was told the story of short-lived Arizona Lithuanian club building by the older Arizona Lithuanians. Thus, he was able to confirm us that the club building still stands and where is it.|
Rincon, New Mexico
||Hatch village is a self-styled Chili capital of the world. And ______ thus is an owner of a chili plant. 65 years ago, he was married to his wife Irene by a Lithuanian priest Klumbis – the same one who has also constructed Our Lady of Šiluva (Our Lady of Lithuania) sculpture there. He and his family still care for the statue and the nearby church, repairing it – stories he has shared with us.|
| Patricia (Patsy) Hand
||Patsy almost single-handedly rewrote the history of Lithuanian-Americans in the 1960s as she discovered her (and later numerous neighbors’) family roots were Lithuanian. As these families immigrated in the 1850s, that meant Texas (Yorktown) Lithuanian-American community was even older than the Pennsylvania coal miner one, widely held to be the first one. Having startedst her researches in the 1960s, by 1994 she even managed to build a commemorative plaque of Yorktown Lithuanians (and also her work attracted numerous researchers and filmmakers from Lithuania and Lithuanian-Americans alike). She met us and told us about the results of her lifetime work.|
||The leader of Yorktown Historical Museum, she ensured a good Lithuanian exhibit would exist there telling a story of the America’s oldest known Lithuanian community. For generations since the 19th century, her family has lived in Yorktown and continued farming (farmland was what attracted the Lithuanians there) – and the younger generations continue that as well. She met us at the museum sharing the local Lithuanian history.|
|Cheryl Lynn Highley
||She studied her Lithuanian family history so well that she wrote a bigger book about it than any other genealogy books we saw during “Destination Lithuanian America” expeditions. She also researched the stories behind all the people buried in Yorktown Lithuanian cemetery and shared the most interesting ones with us, also telling the story of the cemetery.|
| Jim Kurilko
||A half-Lithuanian half-Lemko (Ukrainian) Orthodox Okie from Hartshorne area who is interested in both sides of his family. He showed us all the Lithuania-related places of the area, including cemeteries where many Lithuanians died early due to high risks (so did Kurilko’s grandfather). Kurilko also told us stories about the history of this part of Oklahoma.|
| Trish Buzidragis
||The local Middle School is named after her grandfather and she told us about him and the reasons it is named that way. Our visit inspired her to write a book about him.|
Kansas City, Kansas
||Her family was instrumental in re-founding Kansas City Lithuanian organization in the 1980s since the Lithuanian organized life there dissipated in the 1940s after the Lithuanian church was closed and Lithuanians left their traditional district. Sally told us about that re-founding also shown us various places the refounded Lithuanian community helped to create/save, such as Lithuania-related exhibits in two museums (one of which has the Lithuanian church’s original bell, saved by Lithuanians of today).|
|Boleslovas Strumila (Bill Strumilo)
||Kansas City Lithuanian in his 90s, one of the last people who still remember Kansas City Lithuanian church and could show it. That is what he did – as well as shared stories with us about those times. For example, his name was Boleslovas but then misspelled as Bill and from that lenghtened to William…|
|Strawberry Hills museum||The leader of Strawberry Hill ethnic museum, she allowed us inside while the museum was still closed for COVID and helped us learn the story behind this museum that also has a Lithuanian room.|
|He works in Wyandotte County Museum and permitted us in even though the museum was closed on Sunday.|
||She organized us a meeting with the Lithuanian Club of Central Illinois as well as provided information about the Lithuanian cross in Shetlerville (that was, unfortunately, recently demolished). Having spent her pre-retirement life in public relations, she also helped us with disemminating the information about the expedition.|
East St. Louis, Ilinois
| Danute Lasky
||An immigrant from Lithuania and a long-term leader of the local Lithuanian community, she helped us organize a meeting with local Lithuanians. This was the second time we met her since 2018, when she helped us get inside the Lithuanian church.|
West Frankfort, Illinois
| Teresa Renik
||We met Teresa the first time on 2018 expedition and she was eager to meet again after learning we will pass by West Frankfort again. She showed us improvements to the West Frankfort Lithuanian cemetery that she and other board members did after our last visit, including the Lithuanian flag and additional signs. She also broke us bad news: numerous people we met and recorded in 2018 are already dead.||Charles Sakoniy
||Teresa’s older brother who is especially interested in family history and graves. He believes his grandparent is buried in Ledford cemetery. He was especially impressed by how Žalpys’s team completely flipped over that cemetery (it is so different from what it was before) and had more ideas for further improvements.|
| Gilius Aleksa
||The Vice-president of the Baltic Club of the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign Gilius Aleksa told us about the club and its historic clubhouses as well as organized our lecture for the club members. Gilius is interested in Lithuania and its history and uses truelithuania.com for that – even though he is a third-generation Lithuanian-American, i.e. it ws his grandparents (all four) who immigrated.|
||He grew up with the Lithaunian (Youth) Center and after becoming its leader, seeks to rejuvenate it for the new generations, thus continuing the Lithuanian secular institution presence in Chicago itself. He shown us around the center and the Jesuit chapel and told its stories.|
| Clemente Dedela
||Born in the Lithuanian-Argentine community he migrated to the USA and has lived in many of the Lithuanian districts of Chicago, often working in various Lithuanian media outlets. He told us their stories and also read a poem he wrote for Marquette Park.|
||The founder of Lithuanian-American Hall of Fame he not only met us when we visted the hall’s new location but also helped to establish contact with the “Ramova” owners and “Berenice Tavern” in Bridgeport.|
||After her husband’s father Stanley Balzekas Jr. died, she became instrumental in the operations of the Lithunian Museum of Chicago that he founded. She invited us to its archives and helped arrange our lectures there.|
| Regina Butkus
||She helped us arrange the visit at the Lithuanian Research center, where she volunteers at.|
| Liudas Miliauskas
||The pastor of Lithuanian Lutheran Tėviškė parish, he essentially came to close down the parish. However, instead of that, he essentially helped it undergo a rebirth: as the old building in Marquette Park was sold and the parish moved into rental premises at the suburbs, the fiery sermons of Miliauskas attracted those Lithuanians who were never Lutherans, expanding the parish. Miliauskas gave us an interview and showed us around the yet another church of Tėviškė parish, as it has moved again to bigger premises since we have visited in 2018.|
||She helped us arrange the lecture in Cicero St. Anthony Lithuanian church.|
||The main editor of the world’s oldest Lithuanian-language newspaper “Draugas”, Ramunė Lapas took our interviews and publishes our articles about the Lithuanian heritage in the USA. She also shared us the inforamtion about the Lithuanian areas in Waldheim Jewish Cemetery.|
||He is the owner of “Berenice’s Tavern”, arguably the longest-Lithuanian-run tavern of Chicago in the historic Bridgeport Lithuanian neighborhood, where he is one of the final Lithuanians remaining. He told us the story of the tavern that involved its low-points (when the district was unsafe and there was even a shooting inside) and its high-points such as now, when the district is becoming “cool” again and youth visits Berenice Tavern’s live music nights.|
||His parents ran the Lithuanian Auditorium of Bridgeport (demolished in 1994) while he himself is a part of many Lithuanian organizations, among them the Lithuanian Craftsmen (Freemason) Club that has a monument built for it in the Lithuanian National Cemetery. He told us the stories behind these institutions and the related heritage.|
||An Ateitininkė who allowed us into the Ateitininkai Home in Lemont, she also works at the St. Casimir Lithuanian sisters motherhouse where she invited to do pictures of the cleaned Lithuanian sculptures. She is also a mom of 5 kids for whom Lithuanian culture is an important part of heritage (her daughter leads the Lithuanian-American youth).|
||The soul behind “Seklyčia”, one of the few Lithuanian sites of the Marquette Park area that still survive, albeit barely. What was once the hub of Lithuanian-American support for Lithuania’s independence, orphans, partisans, and sick children, later a restaurant, is now open just once a week for elderly Lithuanian meetings. Yet, Juozas Polikaitis remembers all the epochs of Seklyčia history and shared them with us, unlocking the place so we could get inside.|
||He is the leader of investor collective that acquired “Ramova” Lithuanian cinema that had been abandoned since the 1980s. They will restore it and keep the Lithaunian name alive despite not being Lithuanians. For them, it is important to preserve the history of Chicago (and thus Lithuanian-Chicagoans as well) instead of demolishing everything and building yet another concrete box. Tyler Nevius allowed us inside the building where construction works are in full progress and told us his ideas for the Ramova’s future.|
| Vida Kuprys
||The chief editor of Draugas News English newspaper who also shares stories about the “Destination Lithuanian America” project.|
|Karilė Vaitkutė and Arvydas Reneckis
||A Lithuanian immigrant family in Chicago that works with preserving the information on the heritage of the past generations of Lithuanians. Karilė works in Balzekas museum of Lithuanian culture while Arvydas is a freelance cameraman who often films Lithuanian-related events. They helped to arrange and spread the information about our lectures in Balzekas museum.|
|We also thank these people for providing us information by e-mail or other means||Audra of the Maruette Park Lithuanian parish who let us inside the Lithuanian church upper floor there.|
||Arvydas is the president of the Lithuanian-American Community which operates like a state without territory. While he is an imigrant to the USA himself, albeit he immigrated decades ago, through his contacts, he helped us contact the “old Lithuanians” of Omaha and Sioux City, therefore learning the histories of the Lithuanian-American heritage sites there.|
|Vytas and Algis Mackevičius
||Two brothers, co-owners of the historic Lithuanian Bakery of Omaha, having inherited it from their father. It is one of the last surviving Lithuanian catering institutions in the USA outside Chicago, and one of the longest operating such institutions continuously owned by a Lithuanian family. They told the history of the bakery and its mural and gave us “Napoleonas”.|
||She is a leader in Omaha Lithuanian Women Club and tries to keep the Lithuanian flame of Omaha burning, learning and spreading the information about Omaha Lithuanian history online, organizing events, Lithuanian exhibits and more. Having spent her life in Omaha, she told us about the history of Omaha Lithuanians.|
||He spent his life in Omaha and this knows the history of Omaha Lithuaians, especially the Lithuanian parish and church, first-hand. He told us the main important bits of this history so we could add that to “Global True Lithuania” encyclopedia.|
Sioux City, Iowa
||He said he is one of just two Lithuanians remaining in Sioux City and perhaps the only one still speaking Lithuanian. That is because Sioux City was mostly a community of pre-WW1 Lithuanian migrants and received only 10 DP (post-WW2 refugee) families. After the Lithuanian church closed in 1998, Lithuanian life dissipated in Sioux City. However, Leonas Skuodas remained attached to it, he has visited Lithuanian activities in Omaha. Furthermore, after the St. Casimir Lithuanian church of Sioux City had been demolished in 2007, Leonas made it his life mission to save as many details of the church as possible: using his lifetime experience in construction works to remove the church’s iconic dome, stained-glass windows, stones with the inscriptions of the church name, etc. He seeks to rebuild everything as a memorial in Trinity Heights park of religious sculptures where some parts of the church are already accepted – however, that is taking time. So, Leonas brought us to various places where the parts of the church are kept, ranging from a yard near the railway to his nephew’s farm.|
| Vilius Žalpys
||Vilius Žalpys – a descendent of the pre-WW1 Lithuanian immigrants – works as a director in Portland cemeteries. This experience led him into saving the old Lithuanian cemeteries, which became his major pastime. It all started with the Lithuanian cemetery in Roslyn. Vilnius is not content with simply clearing the cemeteries of weed. He researched those who are buried there, met their descendants, and organized them into a Lithuanian club. He built a cemetery memorial and built gravestones for those who had no surviving gravestones left. Once Roslyn Lithuanian cemetery became cleared, Vilius Žalpys went on to the region’s other cemeteries where Lithuanians are buried and then continued the Lithuanian cemetery-saving in Oklahoma and Southern Illinois – in addition to doing other research, such as the one about Our Lady of Šiluva statue in New Mexico. We actually met Vilnius Žalpys three times during our trip, and each time he was able to tell something new: in Los Angeles (where he grew up and was visiting the Lithuanian days) he led us around the Lithuanian parish. In Roslyn and Cle Elum area he told us what he researched the longest: the history of local Lithuanians and their cemeteries (some of these Lithuanians he invited to meet us). In Portland, he told about the Lithuanian chapel-post in the Grotto. Furthermore, he helped us have a smooth time in Oklahoma and New Mexico by telling us who we should meet in order to learn the most. And, last but not the least, he did all that in the Lithuanian language – being one of just a few descendants of the pre-WW1 Lithuanian immigrants we met who speak fluent Lithuanian.|
||An immigrant from Lithuania (together with her husband Vilmantas) she currently leads the Portland Lithuanian community and she helped us organize the lecture on Lithuanian-American heritage in Portland area.|
||An immigrant from Lithuania instrumental in the Lithuanian-American sporting organizations as well as, currently, also trying to spread the word through Lithuanian media about the Lithuanian-Americans and their activities, he filmed us and helped promote the project through the Lithuanian television.|
Spring Valley and Oglesby, Illinois
| Jurgita Nauyalis
||She is an immigrant from Lithuania who married into a First Wave (pre-WW1) Lithuanian-American family (her husband is Joseph). We have met for the first time during our 2018 expedition when we had a stop in Spring Valley, originally one of the most Lithuanian towns in America. Before this year’s expedition, we discovered the existence of a Lithuanian church building and club (opera house) building in nearby Oglesby. Jurgita helped us find Lithuanians in Oglesby (where she, by the way, works) and do preliminary research about Oglesby, as well as meet more Lithuanians in Spring Valley cemetery.|
| Jane Yasinowski
||A full-blooded descendent of Oglesby Lithuanian coal miners who immigrated before World War 1. Despite Oglesby losing Lithuanian sites and activities soon after WW2, Jane kept the traditions alive. When Lithuanian independence became reachable ~1990, Jane participated in protests against US-Soviet ties. Soon after Lithuanian became independent, she visited, and then returned several times. A nuclear physicist, she consulted the Lithuanian government in training Lithuanian workers for then-Russian-dominated Ignalina Nuclear Power Plant. She speaks some Lithuanian – something rare for the descendants of First Wavers. She met us in Oglesby and shared what she remembered about Oglesby’s Lithuanian landmarks from her childhood.|
| Kathleen Ann Martinaitis
||A caretaker of Spring VAlley St. Ann Lithuanian cemetery, she shown us around there.|
| Juras Palukaitis
||The leader of the Lithuanian community in America’s South, Juras Palukaitis helped us discover probably the single Lithuania-related site in the US Deep South – the Lithuanian names inscribed on the Atlantia Olympics memorials. He also invited us to Joninės of Atlanta Lithuanians where we were able to tell about “Destination Lithuanian America”.|
New York City, New York
||Her family came to Long Island after World War 2. Her mother told us that story while she brought us to the Great Neck area Lithuanian heritage sites she knew, ranging from Wesey (Vasiliauskas) street to the Vitas Gerulaitis’s (who was her friend) house. She told us the stories behind these places, as well as the story of the unsuccessful attempt to save the Our Lady of Vilnius Church of New York (which has since been sold and demolished) – an attempt she has actually led.|
West Palm Beach, Florida
| Jūratė Miklas
||She immigrated to the USA herself but she married to Kęstutis Miklas, instrumental in the Lithuanian Community, and thus she met many important Lithuanian-Americans who told us the stories about the Lithuanian-American sites and history in Florida. With many of those people who told her these stories now dead, it was Jūratė herself who met us at the Lithuanian cemetery zone of West Palm Beach and told us about the Lithuanian monument there, as well as helped us arrange a visit to the Lake Worth Museum where Lithuanian exhibits are held.|
||A volunteer who takes care of the Lake Worth museum, he tries to improve the exhibits and learn the information about them. he allowed us inside (despite the museum being closed for COVID) and told us what he knew about the Lithuanian exhibits there.|
St. Petersburg, Florida
| Angelė Karnienė
||Angelė Karnienė (Karnius) is a head of St. Petersburg Lithuanian club. She showed the club to Aistė and Augustinas at the beginning of 2020 and explained how many Lithuanian gatherings took place in here. She told more about a former monthly newspaper “Lithuanian news in Florida” which once used to attract many Lithuanians to come to Florida and spend their golden years in the state. This allowed first wavers to meet second wavers, and later on third wavers joined them as well. Angelė has recently returned to this high post of the Lithuanian club, still, she hopes soon to be changed by younger generation Lithuanians.|
| Aleksas Gedmintas
||Aleksas Gedmintas, a sociologist himself, has spent years in researching the ethnicity group of Lithuanians in the USA. He is a member of many Lithuanian organisations in the USA and shows an example to others.|