|Jonas Balaika (left of picture), |
in Sydney, circa 1920.
(Source: Metrastis No 1)
Jonas was born on 13 December 1886 in southern Lithuania, near the city of Marijampolė and the current Lithuanian/Polish border, in the town of Kalvarija. He would have left czarist Russia by 1905. He arrived in Quebec, Canada, in July 1909 from Liverpool, England, with his occupation listed as cabinet-maker. By 1921 he was working as a cabinet-maker in Sydney, employed by an auction house in Redfern, and living at 259 Cleveland Street, Redfern. He took the Oath of Allegiance on 27 August 1921, thus becoming a naturalised Australian and a British subject. He travelled overseas around that time, possibly to Lithuania, and is recorded as a passenger on the Ormuz returning from London to Australia in December 1922.
By 1925 he had decided to permanently return to Lithuania, which had declared its independence in 1918. He took out Lithuanian citizenship in 1926, whereupon his Australian Certificate of Naturalisation was cancelled.
Jonas appears to have survived the Second World War and the horrors associated with the German and Soviet occupations of Lithuania. However he appears again in Australian files in 1947, living in the Marijampole region of Soviet Lithuania, aged 66, with a wife and 6 children. He is recorded as Ivan Ivanovich Balaika and his wife as Anna Ivanova Balaika; the eldest child, Maria, is aged 20 (ie born around 1927) and the youngest child Kazimir is aged 8 (ie born around 1939).
The reason for the Australian Government's interest in this family in 1947 was that Mrs Balaika had approached the Australian Legation in Moscow to ascertain her husband's nationality "as he desires to return to Australia with his family". The Australian Government's response was that Balaika's Certificate of Naturalisation and Australian passport had been cancelled in 1926 and that he was therefore no longer a British subject; nevertheless he could apply for permission to return to Australia with his wife and family, however "no assurance can be given that the application will be approved".
Given that there is no further annotation on this record, it appears that the family did not pursue the option of applying to return to Australia. Or if they did wish to apply, they were not allowed to return.
Today there are a number of people with the Balaika surname in the Kalvarija and Marijampolė region, but it is not clear whether any are related to Jonas Balaika.