Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Arrivals from China and Japan

The Australian Lithuanian Community Archives are located in Adelaide, South Australia, and managed by Daina Pocius. In 2016 Daina posted an interesting item on her blog 'SA Lithuanian History' about Lithuanians in Harbin, China, in the 1930s (click here for a link to that post). That prompted me to think about what other records might exist of Lithuanians arriving in Australia from Harbin (Manchuria) or elsewhere in East Asia.

China, early 1930s, with Japanese occupied Manchuria and Harbin (source:http://www.balticasia.lt/straipsniai/istorija/lietuviai-kinijoje-xix-1940-m/ ) 

A 2014 article 'Lithuanians in China, 19th Century to 1940' by Gediminas Giedraitis on the BalticAsia website (in Lithuanian) provided an introduction to how and why some people had made their way to eastern China, over 4000 km from their birthplace. The first group to arrive were participants or supporters of the 1863 uprising who had been banished to Siberia and from there escaped into China. They were followed by several other waves of deported or displaced Lithuanians who also decided that life in China was a better option. There was also one significant group of voluntary migrants, the construction workers who came to work on the East China Railway at the end of the 19th century and stayed. By the 1930s there were an estimated 1000 Lithuanians residing in eastern China, including perhaps 350 in Harbin and 150 in Shanghai.

Lithuanians in Shanghai (1920s/30s)

Then I consulted Elena Govor's book Russian Anzacs in Australian History and found that the route from the Russian Far East to Australia was not an unusual migratory route in the early 20th century (pp 22-23):
This choice of route was encouraged to some extent by the activities of emigration agents in far-eastern ports and the availability of steamship services to Australia. These Russians usually came via Harbin (China) and the Japanese port of Moji, from where Japanese steamships sailed ... [to] Darwin, Cairns, Townsville, Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne.  ... Almost all of them disembarked at Brisbane.

Here are some examples of these migration patterns. Although in many cases we have scant details, there is enough to see that this was a regular corridor for people who had either settled in China or used it as a transit route:

1910: The ROMASZKIEWICZ family arrived in Brisbane from Nagasaki, Japan, aboard the Kumano Maru. Sigismund Romaszkiewicz was born in Krekenava, Lithuania, in 1876 and appears to have lived in Harbin from at least 1900; this link to the Russian Anzacs website provides more details.

1911: The DAPKEWITCH family arrived in Brisbane aboard the Yawata Maru. Jan (John) Dapkewitch had been born in Vilkaviskis in 1877 and married Paulina Svershchevska in Harbin in 1905. They had had two children before arriving in Australia: Nina, born in Belarus in 1906, and John, born in Kamchatka in 1910 (source: Foster Family Tree on ancestry.com.au).

1911: Vladislav SCHILLER arrived as a single man in Melbourne on the regular steamer service operated by the Yawata Maru. He was born in Lida or Vilnius in 1889, had worked in Harbin on the railway, and soon found employment as a fitter and turner at West Footscray. He married Elizabeh Eldridge in 1915 and was naturalised in 1922. Vladislav later moved to Sydney and died there in 1968 (source: Turnbull Wasson Tree on Ancestry.com.au).

1911: Joseph MANJIKE, born in 1873 in Vilnius, arrived in Brisbane from Manchuria. See my earlier post on Joseph here.

1914: Edward Charles PHILLULE (?PILIULIS), born in 1881, arrived in Brisbane from Japan aboard the St Albans; see my earlier post on E C Phillule here.

1923: Josephine RUCKMAN, born in 1863 in Kaunas, arrived at Brisbane on the Yoshino Maru with her sons John and Felix and a daughter (source: National Archives of Australia).

1923: Bronislau KRETOVITCH, born in Vilnius in 1889, had first arrived in Brisbane on the Yawata Maru in 1911 leaving his wife Vida and family behind in Harbin. After service in the AIF during World War 1 (see the Russian Anzacs link here) he made a return visit to Harbin and then came back to Australia in 1923, arriving in Melbourne from Kobe on the Tango Maru.  He was followed by his daughter Jadvyga Kretovitch who arrived in Melbourne in 1928 on the Aki Maru.    

1938: The AGRANOFF family arrived in Sydney aboard the Kamo Maru. The Jewish parents Chaim and Rachel had been born in Lithuania, but their children Faivel (Paul) and Sara Lia were born and raised in Harbin (source: National Archives of Australia).

Harbin in the 1920s (commercial postcard)

In 2020 Laurynas Kudijanovas, a student at Vilnius University, wrote his Master's thesis about Lithuanians in Asia during the early 20th century 'Lietuviai Azijoje 19001939 metais: kultūrinės istorijos siužetai apie lietuvybės raišką ir diplomatus Rytų kraštuose'. His research sources included this blog and the Australian Lithuanian Archives.


Tuesday, 22 March 2016

New migrants meet old migrants

Blogs about history can easily become dull and dreary, at worst just a recitation of names and dates without much feeling or first-person involvement. That is why I was so fascinated to get this contribution from Zydre Pember. The memories recorded here, of post World War 2 migrants meeting Lithuanian families who had already been settled in Australia for decades, are important contributions to our shared history. Thanks, Zydre!


My mother, stepfather and I disembarked at Freemantle, Western Australia, from the Amarapoura, out of Naples, in July 1949.

Dad and I were taken, along with all the other migrants to Greylands' Migrant Camp, while mum was taken to Royal Perth Hospital. In the early stages of pregnancy she had suffered the combined effects of morning and seasickness, lost a lot of weight and was very weak. She needed medical attention.

Admission to hospital was a disaster for mum as she did not speak or understand English and Lithuanian interpreters were rather scarce on the ground. Amazingly there was a lady in the hospital, Anne, who had migrated, with her family, to Western Australia in 1928 and she still spoke some Lithuanian. Anne was Rosemary’s aunt and Rosemary remembers visiting with her mother, Anele. Apparently Anne told her sister, Anele that a Lithuanian had been admitted who did not speak English. Anele, who was mobile and whose Lithuanian was better than Anne’s went to see Mum and thus the communication problem was solved. I would venture to say that neither Anele nor Mum thought they would meet again.

After Mum recovered she was discharged to Greylands and eventually, Dad, with us in tow, was sent to work out his contract on the railways, based in the small country town of Corrigin in the wheat belt. Well, what a coincidence as this was the town where Anele, married to Heawood Abe and their two children, Roy and Rosemary, lived. How contact with the Abe family was reestablished is unknown to me. What I do know is that Rosemary and her mother came to visit us at the Migrant Camp (Tent City, as we all lived in tents and did so until about 1952) across the railway track from the actual town.

My brother was born in February 1950 at Corrigin Hospital and was the first New Australian to be born in the town. Perhaps because of Anele's influence through the CWA there was a collection by the townspeople and mum was presented with a pram.

Meanwhile, while mum was in hospital (in those days, after a confinement, a hospital stay of 2 weeks was mandatory) I was boarded with the Abe family. I don't remember all the details of my stay, but do remember the farmhouse and the surrounding home paddock. Apparently, I never shut up, talking, no doubt, in Lithuanian. Mrs Abe called me the Chatterbox and I wonder now what Roy and Rosemary made of this jabbering stranger thrust into their midst.

The Abe farmhouse, 1950:
 From left to right (back row): Anele Abe, Valerija Valiukenas with Rytas Valiukenas, Antanas Valiukenas;
(front row): Rosemary Abe, Zydre Zukaite, Roy Abe

In 1954 we left Corrigin to live in Perth and gradually lost touch with the Abe family. Still it seemed that fate had plans for our continued relationship.

In February 1965 I was enrolled as a trainee nurse at St John of God Hospital, Subiaco, a suburb of Perth. In those days all trainee nurses were required to live in the Nurses’ Home for the duration of their 3-year training period. There was a welcoming afternoon tea for new trainees, to which all parents were invited. Mum and Dad were with me at that event and we were absolutely amazed to discover Rosemary and her parents also present, as Rosemary was also part of my intake.

Three years later, Rosemary and I, along with the rest of our class, graduated as Registered Nurses. Our paths diverged then, with Rosemary travelling to Scotland to get her Midwifery Certificate, while I married and found myself in Canberra, along with my husband.

Intermittently, throughout all of these years, Rosemary and I have kept in touch. She has sent me the details of her family tree, as she knows it. Her mother Anele, lived past her 100th birthday and received a telegram from the Queen.

I often think about our connection and try to fathom whether it was coincidence or fate. To meet this family once could be called a coincidence, but to connect a second time and then a third time down to the next generation, surely must be fate. To what purpose is still to be discovered.

Rosemary has given me information about her mother's family. Their family name was Lazoraitis, which they subsequently changed to Brown.

Vincas Lazoraitis was born in 1856 (but the date is not certain) in Pilviski. He enlisted in the Russian Army on 30 November 1877 (Number 1354). He had married Agota Valaitis and on 29 September 1877 they had a son, Juozas, who was Rosemary's grandfather.

Juozas Lazoraitis arrived in Eddlewood (near Hamilton), Scotland in 1895 and worked as a coal miner at Allanton Colliery. He married Magdelena Palubinskaite on 3 February 1906, in Hamilton, Scotland. They lived at 15 Wylie Street Hamilton and had six children;

Olese (Alice), born 06.12.1906
Anele (Rosemary's mother), born 08.06.1908
Zuzanna (Susan), born 21.11.1909
Magdelena (Maggie), born 24.11.1911
Joseph, born 16.10.1915
Aleksijaus, born in 1918, but died that same year, along with Maggie and their mother, Magdelena, from the Spanish Flu.

Juozas then married Ona Kucinskiene (nee Ruguviciute) – her husband had disappeared while fighting in Russia) - on 17 May 1919.

Ona already had a child (Agnes), and she and Juozas then produced 6 more children.

On the 22 February 1928, the family migrated to Western Australia aboard the SS Beltana (voyage No. 36).

Juozas' daughter Olese had preceded them in 1924, on the SS Hobsons Bay. She either encouraged or sponsored the family to follow in her footsteps.
They lived at 74 Planet Street, Perth, at least for a time, then moved to Victoria Park. Juozas was naturalized on 05 July 1930 and died in Perth on 30 August 1943.

Anele (Rosemary's mother) married Heawood Abe, a farmer from Corrigan, on 6 July 1940. They had two children: Roy and Rosemary.

Tragically Roy was killed when he was 18, in a farm accident. Rosemary married and has 7 children and 10 grandchildren and now lives in Newcastle, NSW.
Rosemary's family, with uncle Joe Brown (Lazoraitis)

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Eighteenth century visitors to New Zealand and the South Pacific

The composition of Captain James Cook's second expedition to the South Pacific (1772-75) in search of the mythical Great Southern Continent (Terra Australis) included a remarkable last minute replacement. When the eminent naturalist Joseph Banks, who had accompanied Cook on his first voyage, became dissatisfied with arrangements for the second voyage and decided not to sail he was replaced by an almost unknown foreigner, Johann Reinhold Forster, who brought along his 17 year old son Georg. While the Forsters had some Scots heritage and considered themselves German, they were also citizens of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (having been born in northern Poland) who had been living in England for only a few years.

While en route to the South Pacific, the expedition's two ships, the Resolution and the Adventure, became separated in thick Antarctic fog and only met again 3 months later in New Zealand. In the interim, the Adventure under the command of Lt Furneaux had mapped the southern and eastern coasts of Tasmania (Adventure Bay on Bruny Island was named for her) and Cook had explored more Antarctic waters before resting the Resolution in New Zealand's waters. The Forsters, who sailed with Cook, had several weeks in which to collect specimens and describe in detail the flora, fauna and natural environment of the South Island before the two ships met off Queen Charlotte Sound in May 1773. Several sweeps of the South Pacific were then undertaken without any indication of a Great Southern Continent; after another stop in New Zealand the expedition headed back to England.

Cook's Second voyage
Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_voyage_of_James_Cook#Voyage, viewed 22/2/2016

On the expedition's return a series of arguments arose regarding the publication rights for the voyage and in the end Forster snr was banned from publishing anything about the expedition. He sought to circumvent that by publishing A voyage round the world under his son's name and in 1779 was able to take up a professorial appointment at the University of Halle, in Germany. The publication of the book also launched Georg Forster's career as a scientist; he was appointed to the Royal Society and took up a post as teacher of natural history in Kassel, Germany.  Unsatisfied with a minor teaching post and hoping to achieve a similar status to his father, Georg jumped at the opportunity when he was offered in 1783 the position of Professor of Natural History at Vilnius University.
Johann Reinhold Forster and Georg Forster in Tahiti, by John Francis Rigaud, 1780 Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georg_Forster, viewed 22/2/2016

Georg was at Vilnius University from 1784 to 1787, but these were not happy years for an ambitious young scientist wishing to be a force in the Age of Enlightenment. Laimonas Briedis in Vilnius; City of Strangers outlines Forster's experiences and some of the reasons for his disillusionment. The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth was in decay; whereas 100 years previously Vilnius had 80,000 inhabitants, in 1784 there were around 20,000.  Georg's language skills also placed him at a disadvantage; he was expected to lecture in Polish, but could not, so Latin was the next option. However neither he nor his students were proficient in Latin. The intellectual isolation was profound; Forster wrote that there was not a single bookstore in Vilnius, while in Warsaw there were only one or two 'who trade only in indecent novels'. While the academic authorities were progressive thinkers and actively sought to entice other European academics to Vilnius, financial resources and political will were lacking.  In addition, young Georg Forster was poorly trained to meet the expectations of the university; as well as teaching, his duties included the establishment of a botanical garden and an agronomy program and researching the industrial and mining potential of local natural resources.

Georg Forster left Vilnius in 1787, glad to be off. Nevertheless, his disillusionment followed him; a proposed Russian expedition to the Pacific with Forster as chief scientist did not eventuate, his wife left him, and he was declared an outlaw in Germany for having collaborated with the French Revolution. He died of pneumonia in Paris in early 1794 aged 39.  

A more detailed examination of Georg Forster's time in Vilnius can be found in a 2009 paper by Dalia ŠvambarytėGeorg Forster in Vilnius: Reverberations of the great age of ocean navigation