Migrant press – the sign of our freedom
Lithuanian emigrants’ press is an important part of history of politics, culture, and literature. After the occupation of Lithuania, our press spread all over the world and traditions of independent Lithuanian press were continued; it was an unrestricted way of self-expression – said scientist Silvija Vėlavičienė. Migrant literature is the reflection of our freedom during difficult times in Lithuania. It is the symbol of Lithuanian emigrants’ fight.
Prints, published in foreign countries by Lithuanian emigrants that are kept in The Old and Rare Prints Department, can be divided into two parts: the ones that were published during the years 1920–1945 (more than 1200 titles) and during the time period of 1946–1989 (more than 3000 titles).
The beginning of migrant press
During the years 1905–1945 USA were the main destination for Lithuanian emigrants, therefore cultural life and publishing there was more intense. Lithuanians mostly gathered in Chicago and New York. Other Lithuanian communities, who also lived active cultural life, were based in Russia, Latvia, United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, France, Poland, Belarus, Czechoslovakia (at that time), Denmark, Netherlands, Finland, and Sweden.
God’s Birds – the heart of culture during difficult times
From cultural and historical point of view, a very significant part of Lithuanian post-war publications are prints published during the years 1945–1952 in DP (Displaced Persons) camps, which were based in Germany. These publications became the origins of Lithuanian migrant press. The term DP is still the subject of many discussions. According to Alina Šalavėjienė (librarian from Šiauliai University), people who lived in DP camps are often called exiles, refugees, emigrants, dipukai, political refugees, but Lithuanian emigrants themselves often used the term God’s Birds (Displaced Persons has the same first letters as Lithuanian words Dievo Paukšteliai – God‘s Birds).
More than 60 thousand Lithuanians found shelter for themselves in these DP camps, where they recreated cultural autonomy, education system, and press. Education was one of the main reasons for publishing various prints. During this period, the amounts of prints published in Germany were even more impressive than in pre-war Lithuania. Texts published during this period reflected painful tragedy of loss, hope for nation unity, and feeling of obscurity. However, emigrants hadn’t talked about diaspora yet, people lived with hope to come back home soon.
Professor Remigijus Misiūnas, who researched Lithuanian DP literature, identified books which perfectly represented this period and are still relevant these days. The Old and Rare Prints Department is proud to have a significant part of books that professor mentioned: “Lietuvių kalbos vadovas“, published in 1950 (“Lithuanian language guide”); “Atsiminimai ir mintys” by Kazys Grinius (“Memories and thoughts”); “Kryžiai“ by Vincas Ramonas (“Crosses”); first publications of Henrikas Nagys, A. Nyka-Niliūnas, Antanas Škėma, Marius Katiliškis. Migrant press is especially valuable because of its circumstances of publishing and provenance and marginalia which are found in books.
Treasures of migrant press
The richest part of migrant press fund are books, which were released in USA during the years 1946–1989. Many Lithuanians left refugee camps and moved to USA during the years 1948–1950. They formed the biggest and the most active Lithuanian diaspora.
There are books by Bernardas Brazdžionis, one of the most famous Lithuanian authors who moved to USA, kept in The Old and Rare Prints Department. There are even very rare copies of poet’s books kept in the fund. Fund is also full of valuable writings by poet Henrikas Nagys (who lived in Canada). These publications came from personal Jonas Pranas Paulukaitis’ collection. Other books are by various Lithuanian authors who were living all over the world: Canada, Australia, South America, and Europe (Germany, United Kingdom, Austria). Some books came from personal Vytautas Skuodis’ collection.
Migrant press, mostly affected by World War II, shows intellectual power, patriotism, and urge to reflect experiences. Books, kept in The Old and Rare Prints Department, vary: there is plenty of fiction literature which reflects emigrants’ experiences; there textbooks and various studies; there are memoirs, diaries, biographies, history studies, philosophical essays, and publications reflecting emigrants’ problems.