“Lithuanians in Springfield” was the title of an exhibit Saturday, Feb. 22 at the Illinois State Museum. Sponsored, designed and manned by members of our Lithuanian-American Club, the exhibit was part of the museum’s annual Multicultural Day. However, this was the first time the club mounted a display.
While chronicling coal-mining immigrants to Springfield in the early 1900s, I haven’t written much about the Lithuanian immigrant women they married, whose lives were equally, if not more difficult. I am told that newly-arrived, unmarried immigrant girls boarded at the downtown Leland Hotel, where they could be seen outside on their hands and knees scrubbing the sidewalks.
On November 21st , Ambassador Žygimantas Pavilionis of Lithuania to the United States conferred the award of honor of the Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs - Lithuanian Diplomacy Star – on Honorable Rahm Emanuel, Mayor of Chicago.
Mayor Emanuel received the award for his outstanding dedication to advancing bilateral relations between ‘Sister Cities’ Chicago and Vilnius.
More than 50,000 Lithuanian-Americans fought for the United States in World War I. This remarkable number was later leveraged to lobby U.S. President Woodrow Wilson to recognize the newly independent Lithuanian state that emerged from the War’s aftermath. Ironically, the vast majority of the young Lithuanian men who served America in World War I were fighting for a country they barely knew. Most were very recent, impoverished immigrants—not yet citizens–who barely spoke or read English and who, even more ironically, had fled Lithuania to escape 25-year conscription by the Russian Czar.
Today and yesterday’s posts are part of a quest to digitally re-create the lost memorial plaque honoring the war dead from Springfield’s former St. Vincent de Paul Lithuanian Catholic Church. Although we have done our best research, finding the actual plaque would allow us to be sure of the names of the men who should never be forgotten. We could also then ask another Catholic Church in Springfield, perhaps the Cathedral, where the first Lithuanian Catholic immigrants organized more than 100 years ago, to re-mount the plaque in a sacred place of honor.