Friday, 14 June 2019

Sydney Lithuanians in 1915

An earlier post dealt with early Lithuanians in Sydney around the time of the First World War and included the photograph below. I had mentioned that they had written an article to the American Lithuanian newspaper Lietuva, which they are displaying at the base of the photo, and have now tracked down the article which provides some more detail about their lives here.

Lietuva (meaning Lithuania) was published in Chicago from 1892 to 1920. The article from Sydney was published on 16 April 1915 (not in 1914 as previously thought) and sets out what the authors knew about the small number of Lithuanians in Sydney at the time:
  • they knew of 21 people in their circle: 9 men (4 of whom were married and one a widower); 6 women and 6 children [we now know that there were in fact more Lithuanian-born people living in or near Sydney at the time];
  • they considered their standard of living to be good; six of their number had acquired property (four owned their own homes and two had parcels of land);
  • at least six of these community members worked in the tailoring trade where wages ranged from three to six pounds per week; although the wage rates were good, the cost of living was a little higher than in the UK, in particular accommodation rentals, and this was an incentive to acquire property as quickly as possible; 
  • the first Lithuanians they knew about had arrived back in 1887; these were Jonas Mickevičius (John McCowage) and his family - see the above post for more details on him. Jonas was the most well-to-do member of the community, having acquired a home near the centre of the city; one of his sons was a successful Sydney greengrocer. Another early immigrant, Stanislovas Urnėžius (Stanley Urniarz) had arrived in 1904 from Manchuria. All the other Lithuanians in this group had arrived more recently from England or Scotland;   
  • the authors contended that opportunities for new immigrants were improving as there was a shortage of labour and the standard of living in Australia was better than in other countries; they looked forward to welcoming more Lithuanian immigrants and growing the size of their community.

If you would like to read the full article (in Lithuanian) it is accessible through

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