Lithuanian

Lithuanian

Subtitle
The Lithuanian Community

Park Lithuanian at Keele Street and Glenlake Avenue signifies the presence and accomplishments of Toronto’s 10,000 Lithuanians. Close by is a seniors’ residence and the impressive Lithuanian community centre with a credit union and five halls. The Lithuanian Church of the Resurrection contains one of best collections of Lithuanian art in Canada, and in Mississauga, the Lithuanian Martyrs’ Parish and the adjoining “Anapilis” Cultural Centre contain one of the largest halls in all Mississauga, as well as the Lithuanian Museum Archives of Canada. All the Lithuanian centres in the Greater Toronto area were built through the fundraising efforts of the community.
The first recorded Lithuanians in Canada were soldiers serving in the British Army in the early 19th century. The first wave of immigration occurred between 1900 and 1930. It was made up initially of people fleeing the mandatory 25-year service in the czar’s army, and later of those looking to earn money to buy land back in Lithuania. Most of the early settlers found work on farms, the railways, in coal mines, and in the factories of Toronto and Montreal. Lithuanians—many of whom had come via England, Scotland, and the United States—began settling in the city around 1900.
The first Toronto Lithuanian organization was St. Joseph’s Society, formed in 1907. It served as a mutual benefit relief organization providing insurance for its members. Another early organization was the St. John the Baptist Relief Society, from which grew the first Toronto Lithuanian parish. In 1928, the parish purchased a small Presbyterian church at Dundas Street and Gorevale Avenue. The basement hall was converted into a language school, and the church hall became a centre for social events and a meeting place for the choir, folk dance group, Boy Scouts, and Girl Guides. A small library was established at the parish and, in 1948, the sports club (VYTIS) was formed, attracting many young Lithuanian Canadians. In the interwar period there were also secular Lithuanian organizations, such as the Sons and Daughters of Lithuanians and the S.L.A. (Susivienijimas Lietuviu Amerikoje), mutual benefit societies which also organized many cultural events.
The largest group of Lithuanians arrived in Canada after the Second World War, and consisted of political refugees who refused to return to Lithuania after Soviet occupation ended the brief freedom of the Lithuanian Republic (1918–1940). Canada accepted Lithuanian workers under labour contracts in mining, lumber, agriculture, and domestic services. Of the 20,000 Lithuanians who came to Canada at this time, approximately 5,000 settled in Toronto.
In 1952 the Lithuanian Canadian Community was founded. It is still the main umbrella organization of all Lithuanians in Canada, with branches in all major cities including Toronto. In 1949 the weekly Lithuanian newspaper, Teviskes Ziburiai, was established in Toronto and is still going strong (although its offices are now in Mississauga), with subscribers all over the world.
In 1953, the Resurrection Parish officially opened and held services in a Parkdale theatre. The parish bought 25 acres of land on Georgian Bay at New Wasaga for a youth camp and formed the Ausra Sports Club. Other organizations located at the Resurrection Parish included the Lithuanian Catholic Women’s Association, a library and bookshop, youth organizations, the pensioners’ club, the Toronto Lithuanian Philatelistic Club, and the parish co-operative credit union.
Every year, Lithuanian culture is displayed at colourful cultural celebrations such as the World Fall Dance Festival which takes place in various cities and brings together 2,000 Lithuanian dancers from across Canada and the United States.

History

The first recorded Lithuanians in Canada were soldiers serving in the British Army in the early 19th century. The first wave of immigration occurred between 1900 and 1930. It was made up initially of people fleeing the mandatory 25-year service in the czar’s army, and later of those looking to earn money to buy land back in Lithuania. Most of the early settlers found work on farms, the railways, in coal mines, and in the factories of Toronto and Montreal. Lithuanians—many of whom had come via England, Scotland, and the United States—began settling in the city around 1900.

The first Toronto Lithuanian organization was St. Joseph’s Society, formed in 1907. It served as a mutual benefit relief organization providing insurance for its members. Another early organization was the St. John the Baptist Relief Society, from which grew the first Toronto Lithuanian parish. In 1928, the parish purchased a small Presbyterian church at Dundas Street and Gorevale Avenue. The basement hall was converted into a language school, and the church hall became a centre for social events and a meeting place for the choir, folk dance group, Boy Scouts, and Girl Guides. A small library was established at the parish and, in 1948, the sports club (VYTIS) was formed, attracting many young Lithuanian Canadians. In the interwar period there were also secular Lithuanian organizations, such as the Sons and Daughters of Lithuanians and the S.L.A. (Susivienijimas Lietuviu Amerikoje), mutual benefit societies which also organized many cultural events.

The largest group of Lithuanians arrived in Canada after the Second World War, and consisted of political refugees who refused to return to Lithuania after Soviet occupation ended the brief freedom of the Lithuanian Republic (1918–1940). Canada accepted Lithuanian workers under labour contracts in mining, lumber, agriculture, and domestic services. Of the 20,000 Lithuanians who came to Canada at this time, approximately 5,000 settled in Toronto.

In 1952 the Lithuanian Canadian Community was founded. It is still the main umbrella organization of all Lithuanians in Canada, with branches in all major cities including Toronto. In 1949 the weekly Lithuanian newspaper, Teviskes Ziburiai, was established in Toronto and is still going strong (although its offices are now in Mississauga), with subscribers all over the world.

In 1953, the Resurrection Parish officially opened and held services in a Parkdale theatre. The parish bought 25 acres of land on Georgian Bay at New Wasaga for a youth camp and formed the Ausra Sports Club. Other organizations located at the Resurrection Parish included the Lithuanian Catholic Women’s Association, a library and bookshop, youth organizations, the pensioners’ club, the Toronto Lithuanian Philatelistic Club, and the parish co-operative credit union.

Every year, Lithuanian culture is displayed at colourful cultural celebrations such as the World Fall Dance Festival which takes place in various cities and brings together 2,000 Lithuanian dancers from across Canada and the United States

Prominent Torontonians
Juozas Bakis, sculptor; John Govidas, musician; Algis Pacevicius, Prominent Lawyer: Al Pace Law Firm; V. Rudinskos, Lawyer; Erin Link, Senior member of OPS; Leo Rautins, first Canadian to play in the National Basketball Association; Snaige Sileika, artist
Languages
Al Pacevicius (Pace), prominent lawyer, former president of the Canadian Lithuanian community.