Thursday, 9 July 2020

Pranas and Natalija ŠEŠKAS

My previous blog post about migration patterns mentioned the Šeškas family; here are a few more details to fill out an interesting story about a couple who decided to make a home and raise a family in Western Australia.

Pranas (known as Frank in Australia, and at times as Seska) was born on 1 January 1892 near Gargždai in western Lithuania, not far from the Baltic Sea. We know little about his early years before arriving in Australia; possibly economic hardship led to him leaving home, or - like so many other young men nearing 20 years of age at that time - he may have left to avoid conscription into the Russian czar's army. Also like many other single men from the Baltics who settled in Australia he may have taken employment as a seaman before arriving in Fremantle in 1912. He remained in Australia for the next decade, somehow resisting the social and economic pressures to join the AIF during the First World War and, although working at manual jobs, seems to have done reasonably well for himself.  We next find him back in newly-independent Lithuania in 1922 and applying for a Lithuanian passport (up to that point in Australia he was classified as a Russian alien, having been born in the czarist empire).

Pranas - application for a Lithuanian passport, 1922

While in Lithuania Pranas would have met his future wife Natalija. She was born near Kybartai, by the Lithuanian-Prussian border in 1906. He returned to Australia in 1925 and was working at the Port Pirie smelters as a labourer earning a good wage (over 6 pounds per week) when he applied to the Australian government a year later to allow Natalija to emigrate to Australia. At the same time he also sought permission for another Lithuanian friend, Martinas Korallus, to emigrate with Natalija. Approval was granted and the pair arrived in early 1927; Pranas and Natalija married on 1 February 1927 in Port Pirie.

Natalija - her Lithuanian passport, 1926

Pranas' and Natalija's first child was born in Port Pirie in 1928. However that year was marred by a few unpleasant experiences, with Pranas appearing before the Port Pirie courts twice within a period of a month - appearing both as a plaintiff and defendant. In one case he took his friend Korallus to court for outstanding money lent as well as unpaid board and lodgings. Perhaps because of these experiences the family moved to Western Australia where they eventually settled near Perth, first at Muchea and later Baker's Hill.

Five more children were born to Natalija and Pranas in Western Australia from 1929. A recent newspaper feature on one of the Seskas boys [click here], born in 1930, records the lives of Depression-era children on the land and notes that he was raised speaking Lithuanian.  Pranas died in 1967, and Natalija (Natalie) in 1998.


  1. Elana Govor's book on the "Russian Anzacs" shows that there were more than social and economic pressures to join the AIF during the First World War". Once Russia allied with Britain, all male Russian nationals in Australia were told to either apply for the Australian Army or expect deportation back to Russia. Maybe wherever Šeškas was located at the time put him beyond the reach of Russian consuls in Australia.

  2. Thanks for the post, these were my grandparents and I knew nothing of Pranas/"Frank".