Volume 27, No. 1 - Spring 1981
Editor of this issue: Antanas Klimas
ISSN 0024-5089
Copyright © 1981 LITUANUS Foundation, Inc.

LITHUANIANS IN THE UNITED STATES: SELECTED STUDIES Edited by Leo J. Alilunas; R. & E. Associates, 4843 Mission St., San Francisco, CA 94112. 185 pages. $10.00.

Because of the scarcity of published material about Lithuanian immigrants in America, each new title will be a "must" for some time to come, for any serious student of less known ethnic groups. Professor Alilunas, a sociologist at the State University of New York College at Fredonia, furnishes a welcome "first" with his reader of thirteen lengthy excerpts, mostly from unpublished theses and dissertations. He provides good balance, dividing his selections into three units on European background, early and late immigrants. Alilunas leans heavily on the labors of a fellow sociologist, allotting three chapters to passages from Peter Paul Jonitis' unpublished doctoral study, "The Acculturation of the Lithuanians of Chester, Pennsylvania, (Univ. of Penna., 1951). The Jonitis selections pertain to: 1) psychological traits, 2) causes for emigration, 3) the family. Other authors inserted in this anthology are: Jonas Puzinas on Lithuanian origins, Benedict Mačiuika et al, on Lithuanian history, Joseph S. Rouček on a survey of the immigrants in America, Vivien M. Palmer on a field study of Chicago immigrants, Casimir Širvaitis on religious folk customs, John P. White on Chicago politics, and Aleksandras Plateris on an occupational adjustment study of professional newcomers. Twice the editor relies on Dana Tautvilas for a history of the immigrant press and an essay on new arrivals after World War II. Alilunas flavors his reader with a half dozen pages from Upton Sinclair's celebrated novel The Jungle.

It is commendable of the compiler to bring to light some otherwise little known and unavailable research. These selected studies are useful introductory tools, and should be promptly received by history and sociology students concerned about ethnic experience. But despite the overall solid value of this volume, there are weaknesses which must be pointed out.

Among little flaws, one observes an inconsistency in the use of Lithuanian orthography. Most of the time the correct markings appear, yet annoyingly they are absent in some places. Spelling errors include Kaska instead of Kaskas (p. 46) and Daikraštis instead of Laikraštis (p. 132). One might quarrel too with the use of Niemen in place of Nemunas for the famous Lithuanian river.

But there are factual mistakes which tend to mar this otherwise worthwhile book. In his preface (p. vi) the editor asserts that the Balzekas repository is the first Lithuanian cultural museum in the nation. As a matter of fact, it was founded in 1966 over two decades after the extraordinary holdings of Rt. Rev. Francis P. Juras' ALKA first came to light in 1941. In this reviewer's opinion, the ALKA collection of Lithuaniana is unmatched anywhere in the United States in both extent and variety. On page 46 the compiler states that the Sisters of St. Casimir operate a hospital in Chicago, when indeed they have two such medical centers within a few miles of each other.

The two contributors with whom this reviewer has difficulty are Rouček and Tautvilas. In Rouček's selections on page 48, for instance, there is a claim for the start of the Lithuanian colonies at Boston and Waterbury dating from 1871. I know of no evidence to sustain such an early date. To attribute (p. 49) to Šliūpas' initiative "numerous Lithuanian parishes" is a claim which I think would surprise Šliūpas himself. That he was involved in the start of the Brooklyn parish is undisputed. But what proof is there that he was also an instigator elsewhere? His universally known anti-religious endeavors hardly harmonize with the backing of "numerous" parishes. The firsts schismatic "national" church was organized at Waterbury, Connecticut November 9, 1902 under the auspices of Vincas Dilionis, whereas Rouček (p. 53) gives the date of 1914 at Scranton for such a first separatist congregation. It was not even second, since there were independent churches at Providence, Rhode Island and Worcester, Massachusetts before 1914. Writing at the request of the Lithuanian Alliance of America, Rouček understandably ignores even the existence of a controversy in the alliance which led to the split in 1901. The fact is that both the Catholic and the liberal networks cling to being the authentic root from 1886, each considering the other a dissident. The first immigrant newspaper is carelessly assigned (p. 49) to Šliūpas in 1886, but correctly belongs to 1879 under Mykolas Tvarauskas.

The scope of the Tautvilas undertaking was really more suited to a doctoral program. An attempt to catalogue and briefly annotate all Lithuanian publications cannot be done even by a thorough combing of secondary sources. Such a restriction was bound to failure, given the amazing flair among the immigrants to try their luck at a newspaper or magazine. Thus many little known items are missing from the Tautvilas list, e.g. Vulcanas, 1897 at Dover Foxcroft, Maine and Aušrinė, 1918-19 at South Boston. The most accurate list is found in the study of Sister M. Timothy Audyaitis, to be mentioned later. With little original research, Tautvilas repeats errors from her secondary fonts, as for instance her statement (p. 122) that only fifteen issues of Unija appeared, when in fact there were at least 33 issues from late October, 1884 to July 11, 1885. Again (p. 123) she says that only three issues of Father Burba's Valtis (not Valtys) came out, when in fact it ran a whole year on a weekly basis. Finally, page 124 notes the editor of Bažnyčios Tarnas (not Tarnas Bažnyčios) as being Rev. A. Gricius (who was Joseph, not "A"), whereas the editor was actually Rev. Peter Saurusaitis.

Omissions in this Alilunas anthology are hard to assess, but in the choice of entries one wonders if there was not something worthy of inclusion from the following: the massive study (643 pages) or Sister M. Timothy Audyaitis, S.S.C., "Catholic Action of Lithuanians in the United States", (Loyola, Chicago, 1958); an intriguing thesis of Sister M. Annunciata Mazeika, C.J.C. on "Lithuanian Attitudes Toward America and American Writers", (Boston College, 1966); Joseph Bogušas' doctoral on "The Lithuanian Family in the United States", (Fordham, 1942); Fabian Kemėšis' dissertation on "Cooperation Among Lithuanians in the United States of America, (Catholic University, 1924). Though not especially well written, but highly valid in its description of the life of Lithuanian coal miners is the novel of Margaret R. Seebach, That Man Donaleitis, (sic) (Philadelphia, 1918). Perhaps a brief passage from this rare instance of fiction centering on Lithuanians might have been drawn into the Alilunas reader. It is regrettable that someone knowledgeable in Lithuanian immigrant history (such as Antanas Kučas or Vytautas Širvydas) evidently was not consulted. Errors might have been screened out, and possibly a wider selection of excerpts presented.

In his preface, Alilunas thrice employs the verb "to neglect", but in the passive voice, when referring to the dearth of attention to Lithuanian immigrants among scholars. But who after all is to shoulder responsibility if Lithuanians "have been neglected", "have been consistently neglected" and are a "much neglected" ethnic group? It is up to researchers of Lithuanian descent to do the digging into primary sources, otherwise inaccessible because of language, to say nothing about investigating various archives in church and civil institutions. Yet the number of Lithuanians in graduate programs pursuing history of sociology is small, and those choosing ethnic themes for their dissertations of theses is even more negligible. We need a dozen Alilunases, and more. Perhaps the Alilunas reader will be an impetus to some young investigator to delve into the life of Lithuanian immigrants, and if so, the New York sociologist will have accomplished a noble end.

William Wolkovich-Valkavičius