So, rather than replicate what has already been published on the SA Lithuanian History blog, what follows here is a brief commentary and summary of early Lithuanian migration to South Australia.
Lithuanian histories in South Australia before the First World War are problematic:
- the story of Lithuanians amongst the early religious migrants to South Australia has gained much currency, both in Australia and Lithuania. Luda Popenhagen (Australian Lithuanians, pp16-17), for example, wrote that the first Lithuanians to settle in South Australia were religious refugees from Prussia who arrived with other Lutherans aboard the Skjold in October 1841. The Lithuanian VARNAS/VARNO family together with other German Lutheran migrants apparently established a new settlement near Adelaide, which they called Lobethal ('valley of praise'). This account appears to have originated from a 1958 article in the Australian Lithuanian weekly Mūsų Pastogė which reported research by Jonas Vanagas, the founder of the Lobethal museum. However more recent attempts to confirm the existence of this early Lithuanian family have not been successful. The search continues ..
- another hint of early Lithuanians in South Australia appeared in the US-published Lithuanian Encyclopedia (quoted in Metraštis No 1, p11) which recorded that Lithuanians were employed in an Adelaide glass factory in the late 1880s and that they had established their own club and chapel. Again, this claim has not been verified by more recent research.
Previous posts have looked at the Lithuanian Anzacs who reached South Australia in the second decade of the twentieth century and enlisted there:
- John BRENKA (arrived in Australia 1914);
- William Frank JAKS (1914);
- Heyman WOLFSON (1910);
- Charles Oscar ZANDER (1911); and
- Stanley ŽYGAS (1911).
Of these, only Stanley Žygas settled in Adelaide after the war.
Nevertheless, there are fragments of information which show an earlier presence. Previous posts have looked at nineteenth century settlers from the Memel (Klaipėda) region who came to South Australia, such as John RUSSELL (arrived 1859) and Otto REIGERT (married at Light Pass in 1886). Later arrivals with links to Lithuania include:
- Lena OBERMAN (nee Todras), born at Kedainiai in 1855, arrived in Australia with her husband Louis and son Joseph in 1892; Lena died in Adelaide in 1934 and Joseph in 1943 (source: www.oberman.org.au/lithuania.htm);
- Frank GRIFF, possibly from Zagarė, who had arrived in Australia in 1904 and established himself as a successful businessman in Broken Hill, moved to Adelaide with his wife Sophie in the late 1930s (source: Jews of the Outback, pp 131-132)
- Jacob David GOCHIN, born at Papilė in 1883, married Hannah Morgenstein at Adelaide in 1924 (source: Ancestry.com);
- Antanas (Antone) VIRBICKAS, born at Aukštakalnis around 1888, arrived in Australia 1924 and worked as a wharf labourer at Port Adelaide at least until 1953 (source: Trove);
- Frank (Pranas) ŠEŠKAS and Max Martynas KORALLUS were living in Port Pirie in 1928 (source: Trove).
Metraštis No 1 (p11) refers to a 1953 article in Mūsų Pastogė which reported that there had been Lithuanians living in Adelaide in 1930 but that unemployment, poverty and hardship had forced most to move to the eastern states; by the early 1950s there were only a few of the early Lithuanians remaining in Adelaide.