After the fall of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in , most of Lithuania was incorporated into the Russian Empire. The beginnings of industrialization and commercial agriculture based on Stolypin's reforms, as well as the abolition of serfdom in , freed the peasants and turned them into migrant-laborers.
The pressures of industrialization , Lithuanian press ban , general discontent , suppression of religious freedom and poverty drove numerous Lithuanians to emigrate from the Russian Empire to the United States continuing until the outbreak of the First World War. The emigration continued despite the Tsarist attempts to control the border and prevent such a drastic loss of population. Since Lithuania as a country did not exist at the time, the people who arrived to the U.
Published Lithuanian Emigration Studies
This first wave of Lithuanian immigrants to the United States ceased when the U. The Immigration Act of was aimed at restricting the Eastern and Southern Europeans who had begun to enter the country in large numbers beginning in the s. A second wave of Lithuanians emigrated to the United States as a result of the events surrounding World War II — the Soviet occupation of Lithuania in and the Nazi occupation that followed in After the war's end and the subsequent reoccupation of Lithuania by the Soviet Union , these Displaced Persons were allowed to immigrate to the United States and to apply for American citizenship thanks to a special act of Congress which bypassed the quota system that was still in place until The Displaced Persons Act of ultimately led to the immigration of approximately 36, Lithuanians.
Before that, the nationality quota was only Lithuanians per year.
Jonathan Franzen: We've passed the point of no-return
Lithuanian Americans today were still a relatively small ethnic group in , since there were , Lithuanian Americans according to the U. Census; of these, 30, were foreign-born and , were born in the United States. This number was up from the figure of , The five states with the largest populations of Lithuanian Americans in both and in descending order were Illinois, Pennsylvania, New York, Massachusetts, and California.
Immigration of Lithuanians into the U. This wave of immigration has tapered off recently with tougher U.
Lithuanian Days in Pennsylvania is the longest-running ethnic festival in the United States. At the end of the 19th century Lithuanians differed from most immigrant groups in the United States in several ways. They moved to the U. They did not plan to remain permanently and become "Americanized.
Lithuanian immigrants who mostly moved to the United States from Imperial Russia lived in a social environment akin to early European feudal society, where classless Jews performed the essential middle roles of artisans, merchants and moneylenders. American employers considered Lithuanian immigrants, like the Poles , as better suited for arduous manual labor in coal-mines, slaughterhouses, and steel mills, particularly in the primary stages of steel manufacture.
Consequently, Lithuanian migrants were recruited for work in the coal mines of Pennsylvania and the heavy industries steel mills, iron foundries, slaughterhouses, oil and sugar refineries of the Northeastern United States as well the Great Lakes cities of Chicago , Pittsburgh , Detroit , Buffalo , Milwaukee , and Cleveland.
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Twenty years later, I suggested examining the questions of family and migration. That is precisely how the situation stands when viewed from the perspective of Lithuania.
Lithuania needs to address its demographic challenge and boost job quality - OECD
Social reality — mass emigration from Lithuania and the impact of global mobility on the family — became more than just a strategic problem for the nation-state. It also challenges the theory of family sociology, its research methodologies and practical work with individual families. Using the privilege bestowed on hosts organizing CFR seminars, I have suggested several topics, introduced here as intentions. The first topic is connected to a widespread belief in Lithuania that family is a small part of society, situated within a nation state. The image of nuclear family as a benchmark is officially established in the National Family Policy Conception , while the spirit of nationalism connects the family with one nation state and does not recognize the fact that humans are capable of creating family constructs across several nation states.
Established theoretical perhaps even ideological family schemes prevent from recognizing families as lived realities, brought about by mobility of individuals. I suggested the emphasis of the CFR Seminar on how families are shaped by mobility?
Whether identification of an individual and family with a fixed locality and nation state is still evident? How families are affected by multiple national residences and transnational identities, whether belonging to de-located families is in contradiction with feelings of belonging to nation state?
Secondly , my focus was on the reasoning that global mobility suggests the new modes of sociological analysis of families.
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I aimed to open the discussion about new phenomena and new concepts come up to emphasize the networks and boundaries of emerging family variations and seek to define their diverse lived realities. Whether these phenomena reveal the opportunities for families or mark the new sources of social stigma? The third topic. In my view, the topic of family and migration often attracts much more scrutiny in destination countries. Questions examining how emigrants integrate into new cultural environment, how they define relation with a titular nation, as well as social assistance to migrants and their families are often addressed in scientific journals and essays.
Holding the seminar in Lithuania presented an excellent opportunity to take a look at the other side of global mobility — examine the perspective of countries subject to citizen emigration as well as look into family doing practices of emigrating people and not view them solely as cheap labor force. Today, only 4, Jews live in Lithuania. But in the late s, as Lithuania moved toward independence from the USSR, some brave people, Jews and non-Jews, began working in an often hostile environment to create a new public discourse.
Challenging questions came to the fore: How does a country scarred by genocide take an honest look at its past? Can people honor their diverse heritages, and remember their dead, without perpetuating their fears and hatreds? It is important equally for Jews and for Lithuanians, because as long as you are hiding the truth, as long as you fail to come to terms with your past, you cannot build your future.
As the old people began to remember and to talk, he found, both generations began to question and to change. Commission staffers told me that to shape their future, Lithuanians need to examine what happened in both eras — and that unless people feel that their own grievances are being heard, they can find it difficult to attend to the grievances of others.
From the beginning, the commission brought together eminent historians, including Holocaust survivor Yitzhak Arad, a former director of Yad Vashem in Israel.
Recently, an agreement was reached and the Commission was reconstituted with the participation of Yad Vashem, the American Jewish Committee, and the U. Holocaust Memorial Museum. The proclamation reopening the commission explicitly emphasized the uniqueness of the Holocaust. The Lithuanian government has failed to bring former Nazi collaborators to justice, and recently, with full honors, reinterred the bones of a World War II era Lithuanian leader with a bad record with regard to Jews.
Hate speech flares on internet portals. Every spring, neo-Nazis parade down the main boulevards in Vilnius and Kaunas. As that long walk continues, a new generation of activists and educators are engaging in the project of Jewish remembrance. Last year, upon publication of a Lithuanian translation of my book, We Are Here: Memories of the Lithuanian Holocaust , I visited the country again and met some of them.
Laima Ardaviciene, a teacher in the city of Kedainiai, walked me through the corridors of her high school to show me the schoolwide curriculum on the Holocaust she was leading. Throughout Lithuania, I learned, the International Commission supports a network of tolerance centers in high schools like this one. Elected Members were encouraged to wear the stars in an act of remembrance and solidarity.
Many did. There are Jews who believe that the most important thing we can do is to call attention to the ugly things that happen in such places. Then there are still others who do find it possible, and desirable, to come closer, to reach out across cultural boundaries, to try to find those voices of tolerance and join with them. I do know that many people in Lithuania abhor the neo-Nazi creed.
The EU's Other Migration Problem
They believe, as I do, that the attempt we make to listen and to understand one another is where the hope for the future lies. Yet so many people who sang that song in the ghettos of Europe died, and so few survived.
For me, the song seems to ask all of us to connect ourselves to one another, and to appeal to one another as fellow beings with the capacity for moral choice. We are here. Her play, Beautiful Hills of Brooklyn , based on the diary of an elderly woman, was adapted into a short film that qualified for an Academy Award nomination. She lives and works near Washington, DC.