Lithua­nian her­itage

An­nual Lithua­nian Days set for this week­end

The Republican Herald - This Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - BY DANIEL P. PROSICK COPY EDI­TOR

One hun­dred years of in­de­pen­dence, 25 years of part­ner­ship, the moder­nity and past of a Baltic coun­try from which many em­i­grated to Schuylkill County will be cel­e­brated this week­end in a north­ern county com­mu­nity.

The 104th Lithua­nian Days, spon­sored by the Knights of Lithua­nia An­thracite Coun­cil 144, will be held from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Satur­day and noon to 4 p.m. Sun­day at An­nun­ci­a­tion Hall at St. Joseph the Worker Par­ish, 9 S. Broad Moun­tain Ave., Frackville. A $5 ad­mis­sion charge cov­ers the en­tire week­end, whether the ticket is bought Satur­day or Sun­day. How­ever, that $5 also gets the buyer five raf­fle tick­ets, with a chance to win a grand prize of $250, said Larry Do­ma­lakes, co-chair­man of the Lithua­nian Days com­mit­tee. Park­ing is avail­able on Line Street, Broad Moun­tain Av­enue and at the Se­nior Cit­i­zens build­ing at Frack Street and Broad Moun­tain Av­enue.

“It is a cel­e­bra­tion of Lithua­nian culture, her­itage, food, folk danc­ing and just be­ing Lithua­nian,” Do­ma­lakes said, adding “it’s the old­est con­sec­u­tive run­ning her­itage day type of event in the U.S. for Lithua­ni­ans, hav­ing started in 1913. Peo­ple from Bos­ton, Cleve­land, Bal­ti­more, Chicago come. We reach the Eastern United States with this thing.”

It was five years af­ter Lithua­nian Days be­gan that the coun­try as we know it gained its in­de­pen­dence af­ter World War I, and on that topic Maj. Alex Radz­ius, a Lithua­nian Par­ti­san reen­ac­tor, will be speak­ing, as well as on life in Lithua­nia un­der USSR rule.

As time passes, Do­ma­lakes said, many peo­ple for­get, but “dur­ing the Soviet oc­cu­pa­tion, there was ob­vi­ously an un­der­ground, a group of Lithua­nian Par­ti­sans, and they were ba­si­cally the Lithua­nian mil­i­tary but of course you couldn’t do any­thing and had to be un­der­ground other­wise you would be ex­e­cuted by the Sovi­ets.

“They’ll have a lot of con­ver­sa­tion about how the Lithua­nian Par­ti­sans op­er­ated dur­ing back in the 1950s dur­ing the Soviet rule. They’ll come up in their garb, they’ll have uni­forms and usu­ally have a lot of dis­plays,” Do­ma­lakes said, adding that many at­trac­tions will be ar­ranged through­out the hall­ways and class­rooms of the ad­join­ing for­mer Holy Fam­ily school.

How­ever, that won’t be the only mar­tial demon­stra­tion of the days, as the Penn­syl­va­nia Na­tional Guard will be on hand to talk about the 25th an­niver­sary of their State Part­ner­ship Pro­gram with Lithua­nia, which was started by the Depart­ment of De­fense fol­low­ing the dis­in­te­gra­tion of the rul­ing Soviet Union as a way to re­build af­fected coun­tries’ mil­i­taries and democ­racy.

“The dif­fer­ent Na­tional Guards in the United States have ba­si­cally adopted coun­tries. For­tu­nately for us, our Penn­syl­va­nia Na­tional Guard had adopted Lithua­nia,” Do­ma­lakes said. “It’s the 25th an­niver­sary for start­ing this. It started on a mil­i­tary ba­sis mostly. They would come over and talk about strat­egy and dif­fer­ent mil­i­tary tech­niques” at Fort In­diantown Gap.

Even­tu­ally, Do­ma­lakes said, a rap­port was built and the Lithua­ni­ans were brought to Frackville due to the town’s strong Lithua­nian char­ac­ter.

“They loved hav­ing hot dogs and ham­burg­ers and Yuengling beer” at the cook­outs they were in­vited to, Do­ma­lakes said.

The mil­i­tary part­ner­ship evolved into a “so­ci­etal type of change, and they started cre­at­ing sis­ter cities. For ex­am­ple, Beth­le­hem was a sis­ter city to Kau­nas in Lithua­nia. They would get on the non-mil­i­tary side where they would look at eco­nomic and so­cial is­sues that maybe were com­mon prob­lems be­tween the two cities and

how they han­dled things,” Do­ma­lakes said. “In the past, we had the Lithua­nian am­bas­sador to the United States at­tend.”

Cit­i­zens will round out the event with a mini Lithua­nian bazaar and mu­sic to boot.

Hail­ing from Bal­ti­more, the Malu­nas Dance En­sem­ble will per­form and in­vite crowd in­ter­ac­tion. Augis will play mu­sic, in­clud­ing sing-alongs, and Lynn Cox, roam­ing troubador, will play ac­cor­dion with some mu­si­cal ac­com­pa­ni­ment from the Par­ti­sans.

The coun­cil youth group, led by Karen Do­ma­lakes, will put on skits based on a folk­loric leg­end of the coun­try. There will also be demon­stra­tions from Spins and Nee­dles about sewing and knit­ting, while the Luschases will be do­ing etch­ings on eggs, called mar­gu­ciai — not to be con­fused with pysanky.

Myr­iad ven­dors will be sell­ing wares such as jew­elry, Lithua­nian clothes and art, lo­cal wood­works and carv­ings, am­ber jew­elry done with spe­cific Lithua­nian am­ber, linens and smoked pack­aged foods for take home. There will also be food for sale to ben­e­fit the Lithua­nian Coun­cil, with a few new recipes. The piero­gies will be sup­plied by Fisher’s Bos­ton Piero­gies, Shamokin, while M&M will be pro­vid­ing the halup­kies. The coun­cil mem­bers them­selves make ban­dukies, halushki, borscht and lapi­ene, a kale and potato soup, among other things. Shenan­doah food pur­vey­ors Lucky’s and Capi­tol Food Mar­ket will be pro­vid­ing kiel­basa and kugel, re­spec­tively. All fresh food is avail­able for take­out, Do­ma­lakes said.

At the end of the day, Do­ma­lakes said, he hopes the event can pull on the deep-seated culture that young peo­ple seem to miss out on.

Her­itage and “eth­nic ways seem to be lost on our younger so­ci­ety,” he said, and added that al­though many peo­ple at­tend­ing ex­pect the Lithua­nian culture from the time they’re an­ces­tors left to the U.S., it isn’t al­ways go­ing to be that way.

“It’s a mod­ern live coun­try. One of the fo­cuses of Lithua­nia when we were over there was that they were look­ing at an eco­nomic niche they wanted to cre­ate. They wanted to be the IT cap­i­tal of the world, or at least of Europe,” he em­pha­sized. “A lot of peo­ple, be­cause they come and see the old danc­ing and cos­tumes and that kind of stuff, they think of it as an old coun­try. It’s a vi­brant, mod­ern coun­try.”

For more in­for­ma­tion, visit www.kofl144.wee­bly.com.

JAC­QUE­LINE DORMER / STAFF PHO­TOG­RA­PHER

The Malu­nas Dance En­sem­ble will per­form at this year’s Lithua­nian Days cel­e­bra­tion, which will be held 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Satur­day and noon to 4 p.m. Sun­day at An­nun­ci­a­tion Hall, Frackville.

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